By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- Things have not gone well for the Cleveland Indians since sweeping the Detroit Tigers less than two weeks ago.
The Tigers have continued to struggle as well, but they'll try for their eighth straight home win over Cleveland in the opener of a three-game set Tuesday night.
The Indians took three games from the Tigers from May 22-24, giving themselves a 3 1/2-game lead in the AL Central. However, Cleveland has since dropped 2 1/2 back of Chicago for first place, due in large part to injuries and a struggling rotation.
After being swept by the White Sox on the road just after the Tigers series, the Indians (28-25) dropped two of three at home to both Kansas City and Minnesota last week.
"Against two teams at the bottom of the division, you need to take advantage of that," designated hitter Shelley Duncan said following a 6-3 loss to the Twins on Sunday. "We didn't play very good baseball on this homestand."
Pitching was a major factor during that 2-4 home stretch, with the staff posting a 5.17 ERA - 6.49 by the starters.
The Indians also scored three or fewer runs in three of those games - all against left-handed starters. Cleveland is hitting .214 against left-handers overall and will face another one in Drew Smyly (2-1, 3.46 ERA) on Tuesday.
The Indians have also been hampered by injuries, with Travis Hafner, Jack Hannahan and Carlos Santana on the disabled list. Johnny Damon sat out Sunday as well and will also be absent Tuesday after being placed on the paternity list.
Santana, hitting .245 with five homers, is close to returning from a concussion. He caught a bullpen session and took batting practice Sunday and if he passes MLB tests, could rejoin the team Tuesday.
The Indians are 3 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers (25-29), but their seven-game losing streak in Detroit has given them a 3-23 mark in their last 26 at Comerica Park.
That should be encouraging for a Tigers team that's dropped five of seven. Detroit suffered a 5-1 loss to New York on Sunday as Justin Verlander dropped his third straight start and Detroit managed only a solo homer by Price Fielder.
"That was not a good day of hitting," manager Jim Leyland said. "We did not make any adjustments. That upsets me a little bit."
Detroit has given up five or more runs in five of its last seven. It fell to 12-14 at home with Sunday's loss.
Smyly will be making his first appearance against the Indians. He gave up a pair of two-run homers in six innings of a 6-4 loss to Boston on Wednesday and didn't get a decision.
Smyly could get plenty of run support if Ubaldo Jimenez (5-4, 5.79) continues to struggle in Detroit.
The right-hander has lost all four of his starts with a 9.78 ERA at Comerica, and he's coming off one of his worst outings of the season, allowing seven runs in four innings of a 12-6 loss to the White Sox on May 27. Jimenez's scheduled start over the weekend was pushed back after he suffered cramps in his left side.
He did beat Detroit at home May 22, giving up three runs and overcoming six walks in a 5-3 victory.
Updated June 4, 2012