After a sweep from the Giants, the 2014 have hit a new low. For the first time this year, they are three games out of first place, which is still pretty good considering they are in fifth place. The offense was the issue for the most part scoring just five runs in the series, which wouldn’t have been enough to win two out of the three games if they had all happened in one game, rather than spread out across three. While it would be easy to blame the lack of offense on the pitcher hitting, Indians pitchers actually had more hits (Zach McAllister hit a single), than the Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana combined during the series (0-29).
Like the Indians, the Angels have under-performed so far this season, but remain in solid contention in their division. They were severely hurt early on when their top hitter to that point, Josh Hamilton, broke his thumb sliding into first and needed surgery. To make up for the loss, Albert Pujols is showing a fire unseen in the past few seasons as he flew by 500 career home runs, hitting six in the first month. Even with Pujols hitting well, the Angels line-up is much weaker with just two of the best hitters in baseball instead of three.
Game 1: Monday, April 28th, 10:05 PM EDT
Justin Masterson, RHP, 0-0, 4.50 ERA vs Tyler Skaggs, LHP, 2-0, 3.21 ERA
Masterson finally started pitching like an ace his last time out, but still was unable to get out of the seventh, giving up two runs on eight hits while striking out six. Coming off a series loss to the Giants, it’s very important for the Indians to get back on track in LA if they want to stay among the leaders in the Central.
Skaggs is in his first season in the American League, after spending his first two years in Arizona. After just 13 games in those two years, he is already having the best season of his short career through four games. The Diamondbacks have made a lot of strange moves in Kevin Towers/Kirk Gibson era and this is another one that doesn’t appear to be working out as Mark Trumbo currently sits on the DL while Skaggs has become an above average starter for the Angels.
Game 2: Tuesday, April 29th, 10:05 PM EDT
Corey Kluber, RHP, 2-2, 3.90 ERA vs Jered Weaver, RHP, 1-2, 4.11 ERA
Finally, a bright spot in the rotation, Kluber threw a complete game shut out in his last start against Kansas City. He leads the team in innings (32.1) and strike outs (30), making him the most capable opponent to take on the hot hitting Angels. He has yet to pitch against Los Angeles, so this will be his first chance to take on the top young hitter in the league, Mike Trout and one of the best hitters in Major League history, Albert Pujols. How he deals with these two will dictate his overall results in this game.
Weaver may not be having his best start ever, but he is still the most dangerous pitcher in the Angels rotation. He has thrown almost 100 innings against the Tribe and kept an ERA of 3.05 with 75 strike outs. Weaver is just a year away from his 20 win season in 2012 when he lead the league in wins and WHIP and still one of the best right handers in the league.
Game 3: Wednesday, April 30th, 7:05 PM EDT
Carlos Carrasco, RHP, 0-3, 6.95 ERA vs C.J. Wilson, RHP, 3-2, 3.69 ERA
Despite his failings in each of his previous starts, Carrasco is going to get one more chance. He was a little bit better last time around, making it through a season high six innings and allowing just four runs against the slugging Giants. For those tired of Carrasco, Trevor Bauer is currently 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA through 25.2 innings with Columbus. He has struck out 28 batters and holds a WHIP of 0.97, showing he has very little left to gain in AAA. In addition, Josh Tomlin has a 2.77 ERA in 26 IP while T.J. House has a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings.
For those who love wins and losses as an evaluative stat, Wilson is the perfect pitcher. He has a decision in each start and they have directly been decided by his actions in the game. Each time he has pitched at least six innings, he has allowed two or less runs and earned the win. In his two losses, he has allowed nine earned runs in 10.2 innings. In this way, he is similar to Carrasco, so if he starts out bad, this could be a close game. If Wilson is on, however, this could be a slaughtering.
Who’s Hot? - Who’s Not?
The Indians lead-off hitter has been doing precisely what he is supposed to do, get on base. Michael Bourn has done so in 12 of his last 28 at bats and that doesn’t mean just jogging to first. Bourn hit two triples against the Giants, more than any other Indian has all season. He also hit his first double of the season and knocked in his first three runs. He has been largely responsible for the resurgence of the top third of the line-up, since Kipnis hitting well is just taken for granted.
Carlos Santana could win the “Who’s Not” for all of April at this point, but he was particularly disappointing in the previous series and the past week in whole. He went 1-20 (.050 AVG) with four walks and five strike outs. Whether the cause is his groin, playing third base or some personal issue, it will likely be necessary for Terry Francona to pull him out of the rally ruining, clean-up spot soon.
On Deck: The Indians open up the month of May with a day off on the first, then come home for a three game series with the White Sox.