The best team in baseball at home (21-11), just swept the Red Sox, Rockies and Tigers at home, giving them a nine game home winning streak and six straight overall. With that, the Indians have returned to .500 for the first time since they were 11-11 on April 24th. Cleveland is now in sole possession of third place in the AL Central, just a half game behind Chicago and 3.5 games behind Detroit. The most recent sweep against Boston included an extra inning walk-off win in the finale on a three run Asdrubal Cabrera home run in the 12th inning.
The Rangers have been the talk of the West for years and they looked poised to win the Division again this year after adding Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to an already potent lineup. Of course, things didn’t work out as well as they hoped as Fielder, along with 11 other players, are currently on the DL. Included in this massive list, is their closer, Martin Perez and superstar prospect, Jurickson Profar, who are both on the 60 day DL. Thinking their team was deeper than it ever needed to be, the Rangers let David Murphy go and the Indians picked him up. Now, Murphy has more RBI (33) than any member of the Rangers (Alexis Rios has 29). In fact, other than Rios, the Indians have three more productive players than the Ranger with the next more RBI, Adrien Beltre.
Game 1: Friday, June 6th, 8:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Trevor Bauer, RHP, 1-2, 3.63 ERA vs Yu Darvish, RHP, 5-2, 2.08 ERA
It’s a little disappointing that Corey Kluber went a day earlier as this could have been a match between two pitchers competing for the AL All-Star Game start, but Bauer will have to hold his own instead. Bauer would seem to be up to the task as he has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his four starts, but all those starts have been at home with his one road game coming against Baltimore when he gave up four in 4.1. None of this will prepare him for Texas in the summer time, a place where he won’t get lucky on fast balls left up in the zone. Mistakes that would be caught at the wall in Cleveland fly ten rows into the crowd in Texas as everything is amplified.
Darvish is coming off an incredible 2013 campaign and is making a move on the Cy Young now that Detroit’s aces have dropped back to being just above average. Darvish is second in the AL in ERA to his fellow countryman, Masahiro Tanaka, and is seventh in strike outs. Combined, the current Indians have just five hits against Darvish going into their third match with the Japanese ace this time around.
Game 2: Saturday, June 7th, 4:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Josh Tomlin, RHP, 3-2, 3.06 ERA vs Nick Tepesch, RHP, 2-1, 4.43 ERA
Tomlin shut down one of the top offensive teams in baseball last time out as he held the Rockies to two earned runs in 5.2 innings. His control has been impressive as he has walked just five batters in six games this season, but even more impressive has been his control within the zone and his pitch selection, keeping him from getting hit hard and striking out eight in each of the last two games. Tomlin has never been much of a strike out pitcher, but he has been taking after the rest of the staff of late putting away batters late in counts rather than letting them put the ball in play.
Tepesch is in his second season in the Rangers’ rotation and he has been very average. The Indians are actually lucky to be facing him, rather than Alexi Ogando, who has been moved to the bullpen or Matt Harrison, Derek Holland or Tanner Scheppers who are all on the DL. Tepesch pitched well against Houston in his 2014 debut, but hasn’t handled the stronger offensive teams he has faced since, giving up ten runs in 15 innings to Seattle, Minnesota and Washington. He did pitch against the Indians once in 2013, giving up five runs and eight hits while taking the loss.
Game 3: Sunday, June 8th, 3:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Justin Masterson, RHP, 3-4, 4.72 ERA vs Joe Saunders, RHP, 0-1, 3.68 LHP
Masterson’s ERA is not very indicative of his performance this season as he has become an Ubaldo Jimenez all or nothing style pitcher. Seven of his starts have been in the style of his last amazing start against Boston (7 IP, 0 ER, 10 K) as he has allowed two or fewer runs and pitched at least six innings (excluding the rain delayed start in Chicago last week) and five or more runs in each of his other six starts. If the Masterson with control and a knock out slider shows up in Texas, the Rangers could be in trouble, but otherwise, there could be a new record for home runs in the first inning.
The Indians are familiar with Saunders as a pitcher with the Angels and Mariners, but will now see him with his third AL West team, the Rangers. At 33, Saunders is having a kind of resurgence, posting his best numbers since he won 17 games in 2008. While the Indians generally struggle against left handers, they have owned Saunders in the past, scoring 24 runs in 46.2 innings on the strength of 59 hits and 23 walks.
Game 4: Monday, June 9th, 8:05 PM EDT (tickets)
T.J. House, LHP, 0-1, 3.79 ERA vs Nick Martinez, RHP, 1-2, 3.22 RHP
House has been much better than expected after being thrust into the rotation after the injury to Zach McAllister. He has given up just three runs in his past two starts over twelve innings. He has been effective by working quickly and throwing strikes, leading to twelve strike outs over his past two starts. He is a pitching coach’s dream as a minor league replacement player who gets his job done without making much of an effort.
Like House, Martinez is in his rookie year and is also pitching well. He has made six starts this year, aiding the Rangers with their many injury issues. Including relief appearances, Martinez went from 4/28 through 5/24 giving up one or less runs in each appearance, giving up three total runs across 22.2 innings. While that stretch included appearances against some of the best offensive clubs in baseball, including Oakland, Colorado and Detroit, he has since struggled in two games against the Twins and Orioles, giving up ten runs total in his last two starts.
Who’s Hot? – Who’s Not?
Five Indians batted over .300 for the past week, but the best of the bunch was lead-off hitter, Michael Bourn. He hit his first career walk-off home run against the Rockies, then had an amazing game on his bobble head day against the Sox. In whole, he went 9/25 with 7 runs scored, five RBI, three walks and a steal. He also hit a double and a triple for a team high .600 SLG over the past week.
Josh Outman has only recorded three outs in the past week, but he has made the most out of each of them. In three games, Outman allowed two hits, including a solo home run that blew a save, pitching just a single inning. In the same week, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw each threw more than four innings and Marc Rzepczynski, Scott Atchison and Nick Hagadone each threw at least two in a very taxed bullpen.
On Deck: The Indians will stay on the road and in the Central Time Zone as they move North to take on the Kansas City Royals for three.