The Indians managed a split of two games in Detroit, impressive considering their 4-15 effort in 2013. The Tribe had similar struggles in that series as they have had in each series recently with the top of the line-up under performing and the starting pitching being inconsistent. The line-up has seen some surprise performers (mostly David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall) take up the slack, but there is no question that Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana are playing below their maximum level. As for the pitching, a fantastic bullpen has made generously pitched more innings, more effectively than could be expected, but at some point, the Indians starters are going to start having to average at least five innings per game.
Toronto is in a similar place as the Indians as an above average team in a tough division. They currently sit in second place, but are within a game of fourth as each team except the Red Sox has had a hot start. As a team, the Jays are right in the middle of the pack considering both hitting and pitching, but they do have a few standouts. Expected game two starter Mark Buehrle has been among the best pitchers in baseball over the first couple weeks and Todd Redmond has been dominant out of the bullpen. Offensively, Jose Bautista is doing what he does every April with five home runs and ten RBI already under his belt.
Game 1: Friday, April 18th, 7:05 PM EDT
Drew Hutchison, RHP, 1-1, 3.68 ERA vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 0-0, 5.87 ERA
Hutchinson is in his second season with the Blue Jays after making 11 starts in 2012, his rookie year. He has been solid so far with just one home run allowed and struck out 15, although he has averaged less than five innings per start. He has never faced the Indians, which has been an advantage for the pitcher in recent seasons. One benefit for the Tribe is that they will be able to use two of their best hitters so far, David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall against the young right hander.
After Masterson’s amazing debut this season, the Indians’ ace has struggled in his last two. Things were a little better in his start against Chicago, but he still threw just 4.2 innings. Masterson has generally been able to pitch deep into games during his career and he will have to get back to that old habit soon if the Indians are going to compete in the Central. If that isn’t enough motivation, a free agent starter who averages less than five innings per game and has a qualifying offer won’t be in much demand this off-season.
Game 2: Saturday, April 19th, 1:05 PM EDT
Mark Buehrle, LHP, 3-0, 0.86 ERA vs Corey Kluber, RHP, 1-1, 5.40 ERA
The Indians will meet an old foe on Saturday as Mark Buehrle comes into town with the Jays. He has pitched in more games against the Tribe than just about any other active pitcher and they are his third most paced foe (after KC and Minnesota). Buehrle is having his best start to a season in years, winning each of his first three games while averaging seven innings per start. This will be a test for the Indians as they struggled against the left handed dominant starters of the White Sox last week and despite the team’s success against Buehrle in the past, most of those at bats came with players who left the Indians years ago.
Kluber’s third start was one of the best by any Indians pitcher this season as he tossed 7.1 innings against the White Sox. After going 9.1 innings and allowing eight runs in his fist two starts, the quality start last time out showed the Kluber of old. He will have the biggest task out of the Indians starters this series as rain outs have caused a misalignment of aces.
Game 3: Sunday, April 20th, 1:05 PM EDT
Brandon Morrow, RHP, 1-1, 5.52 ERA vs Carlos Carrasco, RHP, 0-2, 7.84 ERA
Morrow has always shown a lot of potential without results to match and this season is starting out the same. Despite his high ERA, he has actually played well, allowing just a single home run and striking out 17 to six walks. He shouldn’t be underestimated, because eventually things are going to turn around and his stats will back-up his talent.
Carrasco’s creation of the first batter relief appearance was unsuccessful and the blame was placed on him being tired, rather than the fact that he wasted all his energy in the first two innings. To see if he has been over used, Carrasco was surpassed in the rotation by Masterson and Kluber and thanks to an off-day and a rain out, will finally make his next start more than a week after his last. Considering the strength of Trevor Bauer’s last start, this could be very important in seeing if Carrasco stays in the rotation or not.
Who’s Hot? – Who’s Not?
Michael Brantley has always been a solid average hitter, but he has added power to his game this year. In the past week he is batting 5/18 with four walks and a hit by pitch. Included in those hits were two home runs, five runs scored and eight RBI.
No Indians player had a terrible week, but John Axford sticks out for one bad outing. He blew his first save against Chicago with the worst relief appearance by any Indians pitcher this year. He did come back with an impressive one run save, but he is no longer perfect.
On Deck: The Indians will continue their home stand against the Royals on Tuesday at 7:05 PM.