The last time the Tigers clashed with the Tribe at Progressive Field, it marked something of a turning point for both teams.
For Cleveland, its three-game sweep of Detroit, which featured a pair of extra-inning victories, helped spark an 18-11 record since May 19. For the Tigers, it began a month-long free fall that has seen the club go 10-20 since the start of that series.
The Tigers will have their shot at reversing their most recent showdown with the Tribe, as they return to Cleveland on Friday for a three-game set. Right-hander Rick Porcello will get the nod for Detroit in the opener, with Corey Kluber on the hill for the Tribe.
"In our game, teams go through periods," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "We won a bunch in a row to get back to .500. The Royals won a bunch in a row. The Tigers have had a setback. There's so many ups and downs. It's a long year, you don't know what happens."
The Tigers have dealt with a handful of issues over the past month that range from a struggling bullpen -- Detroit relievers have a 4.52 ERA this season, second worst in the American League -- to a lack of consistency in the lineup beyond sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
"There's a number of things that have gone wrong. It's tough in baseball to force your way out of something like this," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team went 20-9 to start the season. "But without question, if you look at the players on this team, we're way better than this. You can take the first month and [the first] half of last month, and you have two completely different teams."
Porcello (8-4, 4.03) was solid his last time out, throwing seven innings of three-run baseball against the Twins. He also carries an impressive track record against Cleveland, going 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in four meetings last season.
Kluber, meanwhile, struggled through an inefficient outing last weekend in Boston, needing 99 pitches to make it through 5 1/3 innings. He only allowed two runs on five hits, but he did not feel like he possessed his best stuff or location in the start.
"'Sloppy might be a good word," Kluber said of his performance. "On days when you probably feel like you don't have it, so to speak, you go out there and compete as best you can and try to keep the team in the game. I was able to do that."
Since turning in a remarkable May that featured a 2.09 ERA and 60 strikeouts, the 28-year-old Kluber has gone 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in three June starts.
Tigers: Hunter eyes Saturday return
Torii Hunter has been day-to-day since pulling his right hamstring on Monday night. The Tigers have said they are content to use Hunter in a situational role over the next couple of days, but the belief is the veteran outfielder could make his full return during Saturday's tilt in Cleveland.
Hunter ramped up his activity on Thursday and took batting practice on the field, but the club will still bring him along slowly so as not to aggravate the injury.
"I haven't talked to Torii yet today. I know he was better yesterday," Ausmus said. "I'm somewhat hopeful that if we needed him in a pinch-hit role, he could do that, but I can't say he will or he won't."
The 38-year-old Hunter has hit .266 with nine home runs in his second season with Detroit.
Indians: Raburn seeing more action
With Michael Brantley sidelined at least until Saturday due to a mild concussion, platoon outfielder Ryan Raburn has seen more playing time in recent days.
Raburn started in right field and batted fifth on Thursday after filling in for Brantley in left field on Tuesday. He has struggled to find his footing at the plate to this point in the season, hitting .211 with just one homer after managing 16 long bombs in 2013. But he went 1-for-3 in Cleveland's 5-3 win on Thursday and sparked a key double play with a nice catch.
"It's definitely not an easy job," Raburn said of his part-time role. "But it's definitely a job you have to accept. Just be prepared at any time. I'm probably more drained the days I don't play than when I do, just because I'm trying to be prepared for every situation. But when you're starting, you know you're in there."
• Brantley, who has been out of the Tribe's lineup since Monday, could potentially return to action on Saturday. Francona said Brantley would throw and work in the batting cages on Thursday and should be able to avoid the 7-day concussion disabled list.
• J.D. Martinez enters the series riding a nine-game hitting streak, which ties a career high for the Tigers outfielder. He has hit .412 with three homers and eight RBIs during that span, including a solo shot in Detroit's 2-1 win over the Royals on Thursday.
• Indians starters have surpassed the six-inning mark just twice in the past 11 games. Justin Masterson pitched seven innings in Thursday's win, and Trevor Bauer worked 6 2/3 frames in Tuesday's 4-3 victory over the Angels.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.