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DET@KC: Sanchez tosses seven innings of one-run ball

The Tigers will attempt to carry over their success from the first half of the season when they host the Indians at Comerica Park on Friday.

Detroit entered the All-Star break in first place in the American League Central -- 6 1/2 games ahead of the Royals -- after going 53-38 in the first half. They registered the most wins by any Tigers team since 2006, when they won 59.

"I've said you don't get overly excited about where you are in the standings until the end of the season, but you certainly can't complain being atop the division," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

Anibal Sanchez will be tasked with keeping his team on track when he faces the Tribe for the second time this season. He took a five-inning loss to the Indians on April 16. Sanchez (6-3) is coming off a gem of a start on Friday, when he pitched seven innings of one-run ball while allowing eight hits without walking a batter in a win over the Royals. He's 5-1 with 3.11 ERA in his last 10 outings.

It would normally be Max Scherzer's turn in the rotation, but since Scherzer will likely pitch in the All-Star Game, Ausmus opted for Sanchez.

"Originally, before [Scherzer's] All-Star selection, we were thinking Scherzer before Sanchez," he said. "We just flip-flopped them."

Detroit and Cleveland are no strangers, having split the season series 4-4 so far. They've played each other tight, with the Tigers outscoring the Indians, 46-42, over those eight games, six of which have been decided by a pair of runs of less.

Cleveland, which sits 7 1/2 games back in the division, will send Trevor Bauer to the mound. Bauer wrapped the first half of the season with a no-decision in the Indians' 3-2 win over the White Sox on Sunday. He pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out 10 while walking three. He's 2-3 with a 4.15 ERA over his last 10 starts.

The 23-year-old right-hander said he's settled into a bit of a groove of late.

"It takes me a little while to get comfortable in the game situation," Bauer said. "So when I did get comfortable, my velocity picked up a little bit, my stuff a little bit sharper and I was able to locate better."

Indians: Masterson's return to health, form key to Tribe
For the Indians, the first half of 2014 has been partly defined by their ever-changing rotation. Having a healthy and effective Justin Masterson back after the All-Star break would certainly be a step in the stabilizing direction.

Masterson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with right knee inflammation, threw another bullpen session on Sunday. The right-hander has struggled mightily with his command this season, posting a 5.51 ERA while issuing 56 walks in 98 innings. His location issues have possibly been tied into his health.

"We would expect Justin to be back sooner," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "It could be within a week after the break. A lot of it will depend on how his throwing goes as he ramps up."

Masterson is eligible to come off the DL on July 23, and Antonetti noted that he could potentially make one rehab start before rejoining the big league club.

Tigers: Martinez continues to produce in July
After putting up impressive numbers in the month of June, J.D. Martinez has continued his hot hitting in July.

In 12 games this month, Martinez is hitting .447 (21-for-47) with three doubles, a triple, four home runs and 11 RBIs. Since June 1, Martinez is hitting .382 (50-for-131) with 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.

He went 3-for-4 in the Tigers' 5-2 win over the Royals on Sunday, capping off a first half that saw him hit .346 in 55 games.

Worth noting
• The Indians still do not have a clear recovery timetable for Nyjer Morgan. The outfielder, who remains on the 60-day disabled list with a right knee injury he suffered in May, sought a second opinion from Dr. Christopher Parker last week.

• Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks played his fourth game with Class A Advanced Lakeland on Saturday and finished 1-for-4. Dirks underwent offseason back surgery and has not appeared in a Major League game this season. He's hitting .308 (4-for-13) during a rehab assignment that began on Tuesday.

• The Indians will hold an optional players' workout on Thursday evening at Comerica Park ahead of their four-game road series against the Tigers.

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