The Indians really turned things around after their off day Monday to win the series against Chicago. Every facet of the team improved, from starting to relief pitching, defense and offense. Jose Ramirez provided a spark as expected, making the loss of Jason Kipnis easier to handle. The Indians will have a few more losses to deal with against the Twins as both Jason Giambi and Michael Bourn are day-to-day coming into the series, but two other additions, Nyjer Morgan and George Kottaras have already impressed.
The Central Division is starting to sort itself out, with 6.5 games between first and fifth, considerably more spread out than the two game difference just a week ago, but still close and the Twins are right in the middle of things. Like all teams, the Twins are starting to have injury difficulties, including starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey, who was replaced just last week by Kris Johnson, the only Twins starter the Indians won’t face in this series.
Game 1: Monday, May 5th, 7:05 PM EDT Kyle Gibson, RHP, 3-2, 4.34 ERA vs Zach McAllister, RHP, 3-2, 3.82 ERA
Gibson made his season debut against the Indians in impressive fashion, allowing just one run in five innings and improved on that in each of his next two starts. His last two starts haven’t been as positive, however, as he allowed 12 in 9.2 innings against the Rays and Dodgers. His seven runs allowed in three innings against the Rays was his worst career start, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the impressive youngster get back to normal against the Tribe.
McAllister remains the Indians most consistent pitcher, but like Gibson, won his first three games before losing his last two. During the awful West coast road trip, McAllister allowed eight earned runs in 9.1 innings after allowing just six in his first 23.2. Like Gibson, he will be facing a considerably easier offense and should find some comfort in returning home.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 6th, 7:05 PM EDT Samuel Deduno, RHP, 0-1, 2.89 ERA vs Josh Tomlin, RHP, 2-1, 2.06 ERA (AAA)
Deduno was a 28 year old rookie when he came up with the Twins in 2012 and has been a thorn in the Indians side ever since. While the Indians did a little better in 2013 than they did against him in his first season, Deduno still holds a 3-2 record with a 3.89 ERA and 32 strike outs ins 37 innings against Cleveland. The lineup is a little different this time around and another year has gone by, so maybe this will be the time the Tribe offense figures the 30 year old out.
Tomlin will be making his Major League debut for 2014, replacing Carlos Carrasco in the rotation. Tomlin was in the running for the job with Trevor Bauer, who already made one MLB start this year, but Tomlin’s veteran presence won the role. Tomlin underwent Tommy John surgery prior to 2013, but still managed to join the Indians’ bullpen in September. When he has been healthy, he has been about a 4.50 ERA pitcher who strikes out about five batters per nine innings. Tomlin will immediately come back as the Indians softest tosser and will need to keep command of the strike zone to be successful again. His ability to throw strikes is his greatest asset and he has walked just 1.7 batters per nine innings over his career.
Game 3: Wednesday, May 6th, 7:05 PM EDT Ricky Nolasco, RHP, 2-3, 5.82 ERA vs Danny Salazar, RHP, 1-3, 5.93 ERA
Nolasco pitched his best game as a Twin last time around, but still took the loss after throwing a complete game, three run effort against the Orioles. Nolasco was a big money free agent for the O’s and is one of few pitchers that is actually pulling his weight for Minnesota. His worst game of the season came against the Tribe in that early season series, when they rocked him for five runs in four innings.
Salazar’s 5.93 ERA is a little misguiding as he has thrown 12 innings and allowed just four runs in his last two starts. While he hasn’t come close to returning to his 10 strike out, 3.2 inning performance, that could be a good thing as the new, pitch to contact, Salazar has been much more efficient and been able to get deeper into games. His first good game of the season came against the Twins, so there is no reason to think he should keep this current streak going through his next start.
Game 4: Thursday, May 7th, 12:05 PM EDT Kevin Correia, RHP, 1-3, 6.09 ERA vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 1-1 , 4.02 ERA
Correia has been the most disappointing starter for the Twins this season, although he was significantly better in his last turn. Against the Orioles, Corriea went seven innings and allowed just one run on five hits. He had come into the game with an ERA of 7.33, largely inflated by a two inning, seven run appearance against Detroit in his previous outing. It’s impossible to tell which version the Indians will see on Thursday, but either way, he is not the most dominant pitcher they will face this week.
Masterson had an excellent outing against the White Sox last time out, going 7.1 shut out innings. Indians have had issues going deep into games all season, so Masterson’s two consecutive games going into the eight inning is a good sign. He has pitched into at least the seventh in four straight and finally has his sinker working the way he wants it. If the Indians defense can back him up, Masterson should be able to make short work of a weakened Twins lineup.
Who’s Hot? - Who’s Not?
For the second series in a row, no Indians player has been hotter than Carlos Santana. In addition to his resurgence against Los Angeles, Santana was the biggest part of the Indians huge game one win against Chicago. In the past week he has went 6-27 with a team high eight RBI and five runs scored. Four of his six hits have went for extra bases.
Adding injury to insult, Jason Giambi hurt his calf in an 0-2 effort against Chicago that brought his season contribution to a lofty 0-10. Giambi has stranded four runners in scoring position, struck out twice and grounded into a double play. Giambi has reached base once this season, when he was hit in the foot by a pitch.
On Deck: The Indians will head back on the road after the four game series and hope the East coast treats them better than the West coast did. This is the turf trip as they will play both Tampa Bay and Toronto, the only two teams that still use artificial turf, for six games.