With the series win over Detroit (5-1 record against the Tigers so far in 2012) and the White Sox loss to Toronto the Indians move back to 1.5 games back in the Central behind Chicago. The Tribe will now go on to face St. Louis as interleague baseball rears its ugly head once again. The Indians do have a more flexible roster than last time around as Travis Hafner is on the DL and his replacement, Matt LaPorta can play first, left field or pinch hit if necessary. They also have two third basemen, one of which can play second or first as well. This leaves plenty of room for Manny Acta to play around with double switches and pinch hitters. With Indians starters rarely going past the 6th of late, they probably won’t see more than 2 at bats anyway.
Josh Tomlin will especially looking forward to getting a bat in his hands as he was the most successful Indians pitcher offensively last season. He went 2-2 with an RBI on two singles. He was later used as a pinch runner and scored a run as well. He will start in the first game of this series and could possibly give the Indians a surprise boost from the 9 hole. Of course since the Indians are playing in St. Louis, maybe they should bat Tomlin 8th. He does have a better track record over the last two years than Johnny Damon.
June 8th, 8:15 EST: Josh Tomlin, RHP, 2-3, 5.32 ERA vs Jake Westbrook, RHP, 4-5, 4.23
I wonder if Josh Tomlin ever looks in the mirror and thinks he’s Jake Westbrook. Both pitchers came up as young players with the Tribe and are ground ball specialists that have a fastball that tops out around 89 MPH. Hopefully Tomlin can avoid any further comparison so he doesn’t need to get Tommy John surgery and get traded to the Cardinals. This will be the first time Westbrook has faced his old team and Tomlin’s first time against the Redbirds as well.
Westbrook had an ERA of 1.76 through his first 6 games and he seemed to be at his career best, but it has all fallen apart recently. Over his last five games he has allowed at least 4 runs in each game and an uncharacteristic 5 home runs. Apparently the sinker isn’t sinking and the Indians will need to do everything they can to take advantage of him in this current state.
Justin Masterson was better his last time out than he was the time before that and we’ll just have to say he is improving. He will not be facing as weak an offense as the Twins this time out, but at least the no longer have Albert Pujols in St. Louis. Even without Pujols and Lance Berkman (out with a knee injury) the Cardinals still have some strong offensive pieces. Carlos Beltran is seeing a resurgence in his career as he already has 16 home runs and 44 RBI. David Freese is not too far behind with 12 homers and 40 RBI (two of the homeruns and 6 of the RBI came in yesterday’s rout of the Astros). The Indians luck out again as one of the Cardinals best average hitters, John Jay is on the DL as well.
The Indians know Kyle Lohse very well from his time in Minnesota. He has pitched almost 100 innings against the Tribe and is 7-9 with an ERA well over 5.00. This year his numbers have seemed to improve a little bit, but like Westbrook, he has been falling off a little as of late. Through his first 7 games he had an ERA of 2.08 and had only given up more than a single run twice. Since then he has given up 5 runs on two separate occasions, but most recently he found himself again as he threw a two hitter against the Mets.
June 10th, 2:15 EST: Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 6-4, 5.31 ERA vs Joe Kelly, RHP, 2-5, 2.86 ERA (AAA stats)
Ubaldo has pitched two great games this season and four good games. He has won all but one of these outings (he lost his first start of the year) and four of them occurred in his last six outings. His last game, which he pitched on long rest, was his second best of the season and it happened against a Tiger team that he has struggled with in the past. He is showing some signs of finding his form again and hopefully he can keep improving now that he is back in the regular 5 day rotation.
This spot in the Cardinals rotation was taken by Jaime Garcia to this point in the season, but he injured his shoulder during his last start and has been placed on the DL. Joe Kelly will be making his Major League debut in this start.