The Indians are in an odd stretch, winning every other one of their last six games. The offense has significantly improved of late, mostly due to Asdrubal Cabrera and Yan Gomes stepping up their play. The starting rotational has also been inconsistent of late and the Indians will not be using their best, Corey Kluber, or their worst, Danny Salazar, this series.
Oakland, on the other hand, has been on a tear since the teams first played to open up the season. They currently lead the league with 25 wins. These wins have been well earned as the A’s lead all American League teams in runs scored (205) and are second best in runs allowed (134). The Indians owned the AL West in 2013 and took two out of three against Oakland to start the year, but it won’t be easy to get the series win this time around.
Game 1: Friday, May 16th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Sonny Gray, RHP, 4-1, 2.17 ERA vs Zach McAllister, RHP, 3-3, 3.89 ERA
The Indians were fortunate enough to play against Gray on his first start of the year and he through six shut out innings to start the season. He has been just as good since then, and has now posted a 2.44 ERA in his first 20 career games. While his first season looked like it could have been a result of small sample size, his continued success makes him look more and more like the real thing. The Indians have two things favoring them coming into this match-up compared to last time. First, they always hit better against a pitcher the second time they face them. Second, the Tribe offense is as hot right now as it has been all season, so maybe they need a touch of Gray to cool them down.
McAllister has some experience against the A’s as well, posting a 4.91 ERA in 22 innings against Oakland. His first start this year also came against the Athletics and he was even worse than his career numbers, allowing three runs in four innings. Since then, he has only had two games where he pitched this poorly, one of which was his last start against Tampa Bay. In general, he has been a solid starter, and excluding his start against Oakland and one against the Angels, he has walked just six batters compared to 29 strike outs.
Game 2: Saturday, May 17th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Scott Kazmir, LHP, 5-1, 2.28 ERA vs Josh Tomlin, RHP, 2-0, 2.13 ERA
The Indians first series with the Athletics was dominated by great pitching and Kazmir was part of that. He started his season against the Tribe with 7.1 shut out innings and still maintains an ERA of under 2.50. He has thrown less than five innings in just one game (against Texas 4/29) and given up more than three runs just once as well (Seattle 5/5). Kazmir is earning his paycheck after coming back with the Tribe last year and is now one of the more difficult lefties in the league.
Josh Tomlin hadn’t won a game since 2012, but pitched so well in his first two starts this year, there was nothing keeping him from winning each game. He has allowed just three runs this year in 12.2 innings and walked just two batters, showing he is at least as good, if not better, than he was prior to Tommy John surgery. It certainly seems as if his fast ball has a little more zip than in the past, most likely due to his extensive rehab that continued all the way through the past Winter and Spring.
Game 3: Sunday, May 18th, 1:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Jesse Chavez, RHP, 3-1, 2.44 ERA vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 2-2, 4.31 ERA
Chavez has made an incredible turn around after posting ERAs above 9.00 in both 2011 and 2012. He was a solid starter last year for Oakland, but has stepped it up to another level this year, striking out 51 and allowing just 14 runs in 51.2 innings. He has had moments this year where he has fallen, giving up five runs to Houston and four in 5.2 innings against Seattle. Of course, these starts were sandwiched around a one hit, seven inning shut out against the Rangers.
Masterson has been the Indians most inconsistent starter this year, despite the ace moniker. In his past two starts against the Twins and Blue Jays, Masterson has allowed nine runs (seven earned), in 11.2 innings coming right after an amazing 7.1 innings of shut out baseball against the White Sox. In whole, Masterson has allowed two or less runs in five starts, going at least six innings in each, but allowed five in four other starts, throwing less than five innings in two of those games. It is impossible to know which Masterson is going to show up, but he did shut out the Athletics on just three hits in their first match-up this year, so he has that positive going for him.
Who’s Hot? - Who’s Not?
It is hard to pick just one hot player after the 15 run onslaught in Toronto, but Yan Gomes has had a great week even without that game. Impressively, Gomes hasn’t committed an error in the Indians last six games and has caught four of six attempted base stealers. Offensively, he has seven hits in the last six games including two home runs and five RBI.
With the offense clicking, it was up to the Indians pitching staff to cost the team a couple wins and the biggest offender this week was Justin Masterson. He has struggled in his past two starts as noted previously and the second game hurt especially as the Indians lost by just one run.
On Deck: The Indians will continue their home stand with three against the Central Division leading Tigers.