After a quick two game series in Kansas City, the Indians are off to face the World Champions again after sweeping them in Cleveland just last week. The Indians appeared as hot as possible, scoring 17 against the Rangers in the final game of their four game series, but were swept by the Royals in two. While a few offensive performers stayed hot (generally Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana), they weren’t able to score enough to beat the Royals, who had solid hitting from Mike Moustakas and great base running all around. The Indians defense also showed weakness again, made even more obvious by the greatness of Kansas City’s.
The Indians will need all aspects of the team running at top ability to beat the Sox, despite the fact that Boston is in the midst of a 2-6 stretch, including three losses to Cleveland. Even with injuries to Clay Buchholz, Will Middlebrooks and Mike Carp, the Red Sox remain dangerous in ever factor with David Ortiz still as powerful as ever, a great rotation lead by Jon Lester and an even better bullpen headed by Koji Uehara. The Indians are capable of beating the Red Sox again as they did last week, but only if they play at the level they played in Texas instead of the level they played in Kansas City.
Game 1: Thursday, June 12th, 7:10 PM EDT (tickets)
Josh Tomlin, RHP, 4-2, 3.12 ERA vs , Jon Lester LHP, 6-7, 3.52 ERA
Tomlin has been incredibly proficient since his most recent recall from AAA, with four quality starts in his first seven games. He is yet to allow more than three runs in a tart, keeping the Indians around every time he takes the mound. He went a season high eight innings in his last appearance in Texas, a rare site in the Indians rotation. If he can continue to be an innings eater with an ERA under 3.50, he can be the perfect middle of the rotation pitcher.
The Indians got incredibly lucky in their last three game series with the Sox, but they won’t be missing Lester this time around. He has won six starts already against the Tribe and allowed an ERA of just 3.43. This season has had made two poor starts, against Detroit and New York, but seeing his past against the Indians, it is much more likely see the Lester who shut out the Rays over seven innings than the one who gave up five to the Tigers in 4.1.
Game 2: Friday, June 13th, 7:10 PM EDT (tickets)
Justin Masterson, RHP, 4-4, 4.61 ERA vs John Lackey, RHP, 7-4, 3.18 ERA
Masterson has been pitching the ace in his past three games, giving up just three runs in 15.2 innings while striking out 19 against the Rangers, Red Sox and White Sox. He had struggled early in the season, but has picked the perfect time to step things up as the Indians are right in the middle of a very tough stretch and are working their way back to catch up to the Tigers.
Lackey threw eight innings against the Indians last week, just one of four great starts in a row. He has had the ability to be amazing or completely fall apart on any given day, but has been great more often than awful this season. His poor games have all come against great offensive teams (New York, Baltimore and Detroit) and it is unknown whether the Indians are in that league yet, despite their outburst in Texas.
Game 2: Saturday, June 14th, 4:05 PM EDT (tickets)
T.J. House, RHP, 0-1, 5.24 ERA vs Jake Peavy, RHP, 1-4, 4.76 ERA
House is scheduled for this start, but has two marks against him that he might not make it. Zach McAllister made a fantastic rehab start on Tuesday, allowing just two runs through six innings. He will join the team in Boston and after House’s last start, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him brought back for this game. House was supported by 17 runs, but instead of relaxing and shutting down the Rangers, he was only able to throw 3.1 innings, allowing six runs (five earned). With the talent of the rest of the rotation, House will definitely be the pitcher replaced from the rotation, it is just a matter of when.
The Indians faced Peavy last time out and beat him handily, not a huge surprise given that he is right in the middle of one of the worst seasons of his career. He has given up at least three runs in each of his last seven starts and at least five in four of his last six. Peavy is definitely the easiest starter Cleveland will face this series, so it is lucky that they will have their worst starter going as well.
Game 2: Sunday, June 15th, 1:35 PM EDT (tickets)
Corey Kluber, RHP, 6-4, 3.35 ERA vs Brandon Workman, RHP, 1-0, 2.86 ERA
Kluber had one of the best months in Indians history last May, striking out 60 and dropping his ERA from 4.14 to 3.04, but that success has not continued into June. He has allowed ten runs (seven earned) in 11.1 innings spanning two starts.
Workman made his first career start against the Indians during the last three game series and Cleveland became just the second team to put up three runs against the first year starter. He came back out in his last start and shut out the Orioles through 6.2 innings, but it appears the Indians, or at least Michael Brantley, have his numbers.
On Deck: The Indians will come back home to play the Angels in their third four game series in the past two weeks.