In games that Verlander has started since the All-Star break the Tigers are 6-1. Without him they are 10-14.
With an off-day last week, Leyland skipped Brad Penny against the Indians in favor of Verlander. One of his most strategic moves of the season, it saved two games in the standings as there's little doubt Penny would have lost that start.
Jim Leyland has a similar opportunity this week.
He can skip the struggling Rick Porcello on Sunday and instead pitch Justin Verlander (still on normal rest) against the Cleveland Indians and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez's only decent start as an Indian was against the Tigers where he let up no earned runs (three unearned) over eight and struck out six. His opponent that day? Rick Porcello, who single handedly jumped started Cleveland's offense. Porcello was "touched" up for 8 earned runs over 3.1 innings.
Porcello was also bad in his last start against Minnesota (6 R, 4 ER over 5.1 innings) on Monday. Just when it looked like Porcello had figured it out again, he's regressed significantly his last two starts.
This series against the Indians offers a chance for the Tigers to truly control their destiny.
Friday features Max Scherzer against Josh Tomlin, Cleveland's second best starter—they avoid Justin Masterson. The way it stands, it's the Tigers' best chance for a win but it's still a coin toss.
Scherzer is better at home but the Tigers haven't see Tomlin yet, so it could go either way.
Doug Fister takes the mound for the Tigers on Saturday against David Huff. This has loss written all over it. Huff has been unhittable in his three starts with the Indians. Fister has been extremely hittable in his three starts with the Tigers.
That would leave the hypothetical swing game on Sunday. Pitching Porcello against Jimenez in the finale appears to be an automatic loss, unless the offense can break out.
By skipping Porcello, Leyland would give his team a very good shot at a series win. The Tigers could head on a road trip with a 3 1/2 or 2 1/2, depending if Cleveland beats the White Sox Thursday. They could scuffle in Tampa without incurring too much damage.
If Cleveland does take 2 of 3 or sweep Detroit, the Tigers will be in a virtual tie with Cleveland or lose their lead completely.
Inexplicably, it appears that Leyland won't employ the same tactic despite Thursdays off-day giving him the opportunity.
After Sunday, the Tigers can't control the results of what Cleveland does until they play again in September.
Jim Leyland has made a lot of questionable calls this season, but this might go down as one of the worst.