The Indians used two ninth inning wins to take the series against the Athletics and will move on to face the Twins who had a hard time with the White Sox including a walk-off Wednesday night. The Indians have had early issues with their offense, but the Twins have had trouble everywhere and are in full rebuild mode going into the 2014 season. With that in mind, this is a great opportunity for the Tribe to take advantage of an easy early opponent and move on from their 2-1 start to take an early lead in the Central Division.
Game 1: Friday, April 4th, 3:05 PM EDT
Mike Pelfrey, RHP, 1-0, 3.57 ERA (ST) vs Danny Salazar, RHP, 0-1, 5.23 ERA (ST)
Pelfrey was one of many free agent pick-ups by the Twins this off-season after testing the waters and finding them wanting. After spending seven years with the Mets, he is back with the Twins for 2014 and will be pitching his first game at the Indians Home Opener. Like the rest of the Twins rotation, Pelfrey struggled in 2013 and allowed an ERA of 5.19 in just 152 innings. This lead to the Twins tallying more relief innings than any other club last season and things don’t particularly look to be changing this year.
If the Home Opener wasn’t already exciting enough, the man all Indians fans want to see pitch will be taking the mound. No prospect has had the hype of Salazar since C.C. Sabathia and Salazar could surpass even Sabathia’s talent. His strike out numbers from last season were legendary and if he can continue that streak, he will be a very special pitcher indeed. This should be a great game overall for strike outs as both the Twins and Indians set team records for offensive strike outs in 2013 and the Indians set the record for pitching strike outs as well. On a team that strikes out a lot on both sides of the plate, Salazar is the best either way with a K/9 in 2013 of 11.3.
Game 2: Saturday, April 5th, 1:05 PM EDT
Kyle Gibson, RHP, 0-0, 2.20 ERA (ST) vs Carlos Carrasco, RHP, 3-1, 5.17 ERA (ST)
Gibson will be making his first start of 2014 after successfully joining the Twins rotation last year by making 10 starts with a 6.53 ERA. As the fifth starter, Gibson is the only Twins starter that was not brought in through free agency (Kevin Correia was re-signed late in Winter). He has played against Cleveland once and fared about the same as he did against everyone else, giving up three runs in five innings.
Carrasco’s Spring numbers are one of the few times that wins mean more than ERA. Carrasco gave up almost all the runs he allowed in the entire month in just one game. Against the rest of his Cactus League foes Carrasco was dominant, so he is lucky that he will be facing off a team that plays more rookies than the average Spring Training squad. While the Twins still have Josh Willingham and Joe Mauer, the rest of the lineup is largely unproven and should provide an easy warm up game for Carrasco’s re-emergence into the rotation.
Game 3: Sunday, April 6th, 1:05 PM EDT
Ricky Nolasco, RHP, 0-1, 7.50 ERA (RS) vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA (RS)
The Twins expected more of their new ace than he gave them against the White Sox on Opening Day. The unproven Chicago offense pushed across five runs in six innings and did so without any small ball. Nolasco gave up two home runs to Alejandro de Aza and a couple hits and the first career RBI of Cuban import Jose Abreu. Both the White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but the Sox are doing it the right way, building from within, while the Twins spent millions on free agent starters like Nolasco. If he has another bad game this Sunday, they will likely be regretting their decisions already.
Opening Day was a showcase for anyone who enjoys great pitching and Masterson was the best of everyone used. He threw seven innings and allowed just three hits, all three of which came from the better A’s hitters, Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp and John Jaso. Overall, the Athletics put out a very weak line-up and Masterson kept them down where they should be. There is no reason to think this shouldn’t continue against the Twins as their line-up is even weaker. The Indians ended 2013 playing an incredibly easy schedule through the month of September and have started 2014 the same way. The Athletics, Twins, Padres and White Sox (the Indians first four opponents) have some of the weakest offenses in all of professional baseball.
Up Next: The Indians will stay at home for one more series and take on the Padres, Tuesday night.