The Indians took a close match against Minnesota on Sunday afternoon to win the series against the Twins, but that joy was somewhat marred by a Tigers sweep of the Mets. Oakland however, did lose their series, moving the Indians to the closest point to the Wild Card that they have been in over a week. With Detroit playing Oakland for four, the Indians should be able to make some progress one way or another. That being said, Cleveland shouldn't give up on the Central Division quite yet as it could still be in reach during the three game set with Detroit that will follow the upcoming series.
The Braves have been the top team in the National League most of the season and are current best in all of baseball (.597 W%), however, the Indians luck out on two accounts. First, they will avoid facing the Braves top two pitchers in Mike Minor and Julian Teheran, instead facing newly converted reliever Alex Wood and career 4.28 ERA starter Paul Maholm. In other good news, current NL batting champion Chris Johnson is dealing with an issue with his toe that forced him to miss the last few games and top batters Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward will still be on the disabled list. This means the team is significantly worse all around than it was when they started the season 75-47.
Game 1: Tuesday, August 27th 7:10 PM EDT
Danny Salazar, RHP, 1-1, 3.52 ERA vs Alex Wood, LHP, 2-2, 2.50 ERA
Game 2: Wednesday, August 28th 7:10 PM EDT
Justin Masterson, RHP, 14-9, 3.50 ERA vs Paul Maholm, LHP, 9-10, 4.51
Game 3: Thursday, August 29th 7:10 PM EDT
Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 9-8, 3.95 ERA vs Kris Medlen, RHP, 10-12, 3.74 ERA
- With one eye remaining on the Central Division title, the Indians will have to take advantage of a top team playing their worst baseball of the year. Cleveland needs to win two games to stay on pace with Detroit who will be playing a four game set with Oakland.
- In order to win two (or more games) primary focus should be on games one and two, which have the most favorable pitching match-ups with the Indians. Wood is the biggest unknown of the group as the 22 year old rookie has made just seven starts after spending the first half of 2013 in the bullpen. Lefthanders haven't been particularly daunting for the Tribe this year, so facing two in a row should not be that big of a deal.
- With two LHP to start of Atlanta, the Indians will be expected larger contributions from the bottom of the lineup (aka the right handed batters). This means Lonnie Chisenhall, Drew Stubbs and Yan Gomes will really have to step things up, trying to outdo the added detriment of having the pitcher bat ninth.
- If the Indians can maintain their offensive performance from the past two series and the three starters continue pitching as they have, they have a decent chance of repeating St. Louis' recent feat of winning three in a row against the Braves. Jimenez has especially been progressing well. Not only is his season ERA under 4.00 for the first time this year, but his career ERA with the Indians is finally under 5.00.
- The Indians goal for the Tigers/Athletics series is conflicted. For their best chance at a play-off spot, they should hope for a four game sweep by Detroit that would put them in prime position in the Wild Card chase, however, to maintain the drama in the Central, a 3-1 win by Oakland would be preferred.