The Indians turned the worst road trip possible into a very positive home stand, but will be heading out on the road again for this series against the Rays. The Indians improved in several key categories, including offensively, where, while not tearing the cover off the ball, they are at least averaged more than four runs per game (they averaged just 2.2 RPG on the road trip). Given their 16-19 record, it is surprising that the Indians series win against the Twins was their second out of three four game series so far in 2014. They will take that positive attitude to the dome in Florida.
The Indians aren’t the only team that has been disappointed with their start this season. The Rays, who have made the play-offs in four of the last six seasons, are sitting in dead last in the American League East with a record of 15-18. Like the Indians, however, they are still in the thick of things, sitting just 2.5 games behind the first place Orioles. While their offense has been league average, their usual strength, starting pitching, has become a weakness, falling to 24th in the league in team ERA.
Game 1: Friday, May 9th, 7:10 PM EDT
Corey Kluber, RHP, 2-3, 3.60 ERA vs Jake Odorizzi, RHP, 1-3, 6.83 ERA
Kluber has been incredible in two of his last three starts and even including the poor start in between has allowed just four earned runs in 21.2 innings. He has also moved his fastball onto another level, leading to 29 K’s during those three games. With his, and the rest of the rotation’s effort, the Indians now lead the league in strike outs with Kluber coming in 10th on an individual level.
Odorizzi went from being the Royals’ top pitching prospect to being the Rays’ last season and looked pretty good in his rookie campaign in 2013. This season is something completely different, however. After a great opener against Texas (6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H), Odorizzi has allowed 21 runs in 21 innings and has been a major part of the disappointing Rays starting staff. He has struggled against the Indians as well, averaging less than four innings per start with a 4.91 ERA, so he may have a hard time turning things around quite yet.
Game 2: Saturday, May 10th, 7:10 PM EDT
Zach McAllister, RHP, 3-2, 3.18 ERA vs Erik Bedard, LHP, 1-1, 4.35 ERA
The Indians couldn’t have a better starter to line up against the veteran left hander of the Rays rotation. McAllister remains the most consistent pitcher on the team and had one of his best starts this season, last time out against the Twins. Although he only pitched into the seventh, he didn’t allow an earned run and struck out a career high eight batters. Making things even better this time around, McAllister has owned the Rays in his career with his 2.86 ERA being his best against any team, except the White Sox (2.72), with at least four games.
Bedard is no stranger with a Tribe after 12 seasons in baseball, mostly as a part of the Orioles and Mariners, going 2-3 in 13 starts against Cleveland with a 5.00 ERA. Since these games have been occurring since 2002, his numbers against the Tribe don’t mean a whole lot, however. The current version of the Tribe has had some issues with left handers of late, largely because they remove Lonnie Chisenhall and David Murphy from the line-up. The Indians switch hitters will have to pick up the slack as Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana have all been playing below average this year.
Game 3: Sunday, May 11th, 1:40 PM EDT
Josh Tomlin, RHP, 1-0, 1.35 ERA vs Chris Archer, RHP, 2-1, 4.91 ERA
Tomlin will make his second appearance after a great first start, where he won his first game since June of 2012. Tommy John seems to have benefited Tomlin, who was throwing a little harder than before and with a little more break on his pitches. He still throws strikes constantly, like he needs to in order to be successful. Although he is the least likely Indians starter to strike someone out, he still K’d four in his debut.
Archer was originally drafted by the Tribe in 2006, but didn’t break out until last season with the Rays. After a 3.22 ERA in 128 innings that year, Archer has started off considerably slower this year, allowing 20 runs in his last 27.1 innings. He did pitch well in his first two games against Toronto and Kansas City (2 ER in 14 IP), but the most familiar teams he’s faced, like Baltimore and Boston, have had little trouble with him. He made one start against the Tribe last season and the Indians took him to town, scoring five runs on two home runs in four innings. It will be up to Archer to make the adjustments this time around.
Who’s Hot? – Who’s Not?
It may seem repetitive, but Michael Brantley isn’t just hot, he’s smoldering. In the past week he has went 12-30 (.400) with six runs scored and nine RBI. In the series against the Twins alone, he had four extra base hits, three runs and six RBI. In addition to leading the Indians in a number of stats, Brantley is currently third in the Majors with 29 RBI on the season.
The Indians closer is making his second trip to the “Who’s Not” list as John Axford blew two games and posted a 10.50 ERA over the past week. His problems came in a short period as he allowed two home runs over the span of three pitches, crossing two games. Each home run gave the opponent the lead, with the White Sox walking off if their series finale and the Twins going ahead in the tenth in the first game of that series.
On Deck: The turf trip continues as the Indians will head to Toronto for three with the Blue Jays after an off day on Monday.