The Tribe floundered in games 3 and 4 against Chicago after sweeping the double header to end up with a split of the four game series. Up next is another 4 gamer, one that was actually on the schedule when the season started. The Indians will take their Central Division leading 17-13 record into Boston where the Red Sox have struggled as of late losing 4 of their last 14. The Red Sox as a whole are not playing very well and are stuck in the cellar of the AL East while Tampa Bay rules and the Baltimore is seeing a resurgence. This is at least slightly reminiscent of 2011 when the Red Sox came into Cleveland yet to win a game and were sent on their way after a sweep. That season Boston finished one game out of the playoffs, but with the increase in competition across the American League, it will be much harder to mount such a comeback this season.
Derek Lowe was a pivotal member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series team. It was his last year with the team and he was no ace, but he did manage to win the deciding game in every round of the playoffs for them. He has still been the most consistent pitcher on the Indians this year (I’ll keep writing that every week until it’s not true anymore) and will look to maintain his success against his old team. There will be only four players from that 2004 Red Sox team on either roster in this weeks series. One was a young rookie by the name of Kevin Youkilis another the aged veteran (and even older now) David Ortiz. On the other side of the field, the 2004 starting centerfielder, Johnny Damon will be playing for the Indians and of course Lowe himself.
A note on Kevin Youkilis: The Indian killer will not be playing in this series as he is currently on the 15 day disabled list with a bad back and won’t be eligible to come off until after the series. Youkilis has struggled this season, but there is nothing better to bring him out of it than a four game series against the Tribe.
Lowe’s opponent was still in Florida when the Red Sox won their first championship in about a century, but he won his own a year before with the Marlins. Beckett has been a hard one to judge as he goes from being unhittable to getting destroyed on a regular basis. He has dealt with a lot of injuries over time, but since he has joined the Red Sox he was terrible (2006), great (2007), terrible (2008), great (2009), terrible (2010), great (2011) and is on his way to being a batting practice pitcher again in 2012. He has not been going deep into games (averages slightly over 5 IP per game) and has allowed over a home run per outing, including 5 against Detroit to open the season.
Ubaldo made some major changes in his mechanics during his last outing and was able to find a couple more MPH which in turn allowed him to miss some more bats as he struck out 6 and didn’t allow any runs through seven innings. Should he be able to keep his arm in line, he should see success in Boston. The Hardball Times did a great review of his mechanics after the game with Texas that can be found here. Everyone should definitely check it out.
Clay Buchholz (the hardest name to spell in baseball), is the owner of the worst qualified ERA in the AL. He has earned this title by allowing at least 5 runs in each of the 7 games he has started this year. His last time out was special because it was his shortest start of the season at 3.2 innings, showing that his leash may be tightening.
Tomlin had his best game of the season in his last start as he finally got past his career high of 7 strikeouts and set a new high of 8. Tomlin has walked about one batter per game and has only allowed three home runs this year, a vast improvement over last season. He should fare well against the patient Red Sox lineup as he has shown great control this season. They can take all the pitches they want, Tomlin will not walk people.
Doubront was moved from the bullpen into the starting rotation before the season started and has had mixed results. Three of his first four games were pretty good, but he gave up 5 runs in each of his last two. His ERA has increased in every game but one this season and the Indians will look to continue this trend. It may be tough, however as the Tribe struggle most with left handed pitching, especially ones they haven’t seen before.
The Indians ace had a good game out last time, but was doomed by bad run support early kept him to a no decision. He has managed to rattle off three good starts in a row, even though his strikeout numbers are not there yet.
Milestone Alert: Justin Masterson will hit the 500 innings pitched mark with the Tribe during his next start with anything more than 4 innings. This may not seem like much of a milestone, but only 82 pitchers have thrown 500 innings for the Indians. With even an average season this year, Masterson will move into 65th all time. He is still a far way off from Bob Feller‘s 3,827 IP, but he is already a significant pitcher in Indians history.
Bard is another reliever turned starter for 2012 as the Red Sox have decided to go with a youth movement rather than their overpriced free agents. Daisuke Matsuzaka is on the disabled list, but former staters Rich Hill and Vincente Padilla are being used in the bullpen. In fact, other than Beckett, the Red Sox rotation looks fairly home grown as they be getting away from their days of trying to outbuy the Yankees. Of course they also could have just spent all their money on Adrien Gonzalez’s $21 million salary. Some things will never change.