The Indians series against Oakland was filled with great pitching by the Athletics, poor defense by the Indians and a whole bunch of kids. Three different players made their Major League debuts (Jesus Aguilar, Kyle Crockett and T.J. House) and it doesn’t look to stop yet. Trevor Bauer is scheduled to return to the team on Tuesday, so the Indians will have to send down a reliever to make room. On a slightly older level, Jason Giambi is also set to return from the DL this week, so the Indians will have to make a decision about whether they prefer Aguilar or Giambi.
For the first couple weeks of the season, the Central division was as close as can be, with just three games separating first and last, but since then the Tigers have taken off. Since the Indians last visited Detroit, the Tigers have gone 20-7, jumping to 6.5 games ahead of the second place White Sox. Former Indians catcher, Victor Martinez is on fire while Miguel Cabrera is just playing like normal (for him) with 37 RBI and a .519 slugging percent.
Game 1: Monday, May 19th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Drew Smyly, LHP, 2-2, 2.70 ERA vs Corey Kluber, RHP, 4-3, 3.38 ERA
The Indians have struggled with left handed pitching all season and lucked out by avoiding Smyly in their first series in Detroit due to a rain out. They won’t get lucky this time, but they have been able to hit Smyly in the past, despite his handedness. In his career, he has given up 10 Indians runs in 17 innings, but almost all of that has been from a relief role, rather than his current place in the rotation. Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes have been hitting better of late, giving the Indians a slightly better chance than normal for the Indians to beat the young lefty.
Kluber has been on a tear of late, finishing three games in a row with at least nine strike outs and two or less runs scored. With Masterson pitching unpredictably and McAllister even worse, Kluber has become the defacto ace and stopper. The Tigers will be, by far, his toughest opponent this season, but he will have the easiest pitching opponent the Indians will face this series.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 20th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Justin Verlander, RHP, 5-2, 3.15 ERA vs Trevor Bauer, RHP, 0-1, 1.50 ERA
There is little else to say about Verlander, who is one of baseball’s highest paid players for a good reason. After an MVP, Cy Young and two years with a sub-2.65 ERA, Verlander’s ERA jumped to 3.46 in 2013, still good enough to be the ace of any AL team, except the Tigers. Now that he has been supplanted by Scherzer as the Tigers’ top starter, Verlander has pitched like a 31 year old version of himself, striking out less batters and walking more, but still getting outs with more efficiency than almost any other pitcher in the league.
The Indians have no player in the minors that has been as solid this season as Bauer and it was a surprise that Josh Tomlin got called up the last time the Indians needed a starter. Now, Danny Salazar has also been removed from the rotation and Bauer will be called up just prior to this game to take over his place. In Columbus, Bauer has allowed just 11 runs in 46 innings and most importantly, has walked just 14 to 44 K’s. If he can control his pitches within the strike zone, Bauer looks ready to be the dominant starter the Diamondbacks thought he would be when the took him in the first round in 2011.
Game 3: Wednesday, May 21st, 12:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Max Scherzer, RHP, 6-1, 1.83 ERA vs Zach McAllister, RHP, 3-4, 5.36 ERA
Everyone knew Schzerzer was good, but it seemed like there was no way he could repeat his Cy Young winning season from last year. To this point, he is. Scherzer has struck out more batters than any other American League pitcher (73) and still posted a 1.83 ERA, also the best in the league. While he hasn’t been quite as good against the Tribe in his career, posting a 4.44 ERA in 93.1 innings, but without Jason Kipnis and with multiple starters batting under .210, don’t expect that kind of success.
McAllister set a new mark for futility in his last outing, giving up eight runs in the second inning to the A’s. This shouldn’t be taken too seriously, although the five runs allowed in 4.1 against the Rays should be a little more so. The Athletics are one of the top offensive teams in the league and the Rays are not, to put it lightly. The Tigers are as good as anyone, so McAllister definitely won’t be getting a chance to get back on his feet before going straight into the fire.
Who’s Hot? - Who’s Not?
David Murphy has been one of the hottest hitters for the Tribe this year, so it isn’t surprising that he was the hottest hitter this past week. Against the Jays and A’s, Murphy went 12 for 26 with three doubles and six RBI. He remains second on the team in RBI with 25 and the Indians top signing this off-season.
When Jose Ramirez was brought up from AAA after Jason Kipnis was injured, it looked like he would be the starting second baseman, with Mike Aviles retaining his role as super utility man. Ramirez has since played himself out of this role and almost off the roster. He has batted just .080 this season, going 1-11 during the past week. With Giambi and Bauer set to rejoin the team this week, Ramirez could be the odd man out.
On Deck: After the quick six game home stand, the Indians will head off to Baltimore to take on the Orioles, just the second AL East team they’ve played this year.