Each series so far has been effected by rain, including two doubleheaders just nine games into the season. Hopefully, the Indians will be able to avoid bad weather in Chicago, where they will play their first four game series of 2014. Last season, the Indians excelled in four game series including three sweeps against Chicago alone. The Indians won their last 14 against Chicago to end the season and will look to extend that winning streak into this year.
This won’t be as easy as in past years as the White Sox have been quietly rebuilding and now pose a formidable threat. Ace, Chris Sale, is as good as any pitcher in either league (and better than any on the Indians) and the rest of the rotation doesn’t lag too far behind. The one big weakness the Sox have is their bullpen. Knowing they wouldn’t be play-off ready yet, they traded their closer from last year to the Diamondbacks in the off-season and never really replaced him. Matt Lindstrom has been handling the limited chances to this point and has struggled, blowing a save while giving up three runs and six hits in three innings. The rest of the relief corps isn’t much better, so the secret to this series will be the late innings, a place the Indians have been very successful so far this year.
Game 1: Thursday, April 10th, 8:10 PM EDT
Danny Salazar, RHP, 0-0, 3.18 ERA vs John Danks, LHP, 0-0, 3.86 ERA
Salazar was originally slated to pitch against the Padres, but was bumped back by the range, despite the fact that he still would have been pitching on his scheduled date. This move was likely made because of the new 26th man rule as it will allow the Indians to use a six man rotation (with Trevor Bauer), giving all the starters an extra day of rest. The Indians have already had a few chances to skip Salazar and Carrasco, but have instead chosen to keep things normal. This is generally the type of thinking that values all games equally rather than trying to win every game in April.
This will just be Danks second game of the season, but the Indians shouldn’t need a scouting report as they have faced Danks more than almost any other pitcher in recent history. In those 18 starts, Danks has went 4-9 with a 5.07 ERA against the Tribe. Too much shouldn’t be looked into these numbers however as these aren’t the White Sox of the past few seasons. Newcome Jose Abreu is leading the way with 11 RBI, but fellow Cubans Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez are both hitting over .400, making this a much more potent line-up than in recent seasons. Danks himself is also entering the prime of his career and could show the Indians more than he has in the past.
Game 2: Friday, April 11th, 8:10 PM EDT
Carlos Carrasco, RHP, 0-1, 6.35 ERA vs Chris Sale, LHP, 2-0, 1.76 ERA
Carrasco showed signs of how good and how bad he can be during his first start and it will be up to him to improve the second time around. The White Sox are susceptible to striking out, so he may improve upon his seven strike outs, but if he doesn’t keep the ball low in the strike zone it could be a very short appearance.
Unfortunately for Carrasco, he will be matched up with Chris Sale, the White Sox ace. Sale should be considered a favorite for the AL Cy Young Award this year after his second fantastic season as a starter last year. At the age of 25, he looks even better this year and should provide a tough match-up for the Tribe. If the Indians want to give Jason Kipnis his first day off of the season, this could be a good game for that.
Game 3: Saturday, April 12th, 2:10 PM EDT
Justin Masterson, RHP, 0-0, 4.22 ERA vs Felipe Paulino, RHP, 0-1, 6.52 ERA
After an excellent debut, Masterson was all over the place in his second start and was lucky not to take the loss after giving up five runs in less than four innings. The Indians expect more than this out of Masterson and it wouldn’t surprise if he was back to normal in Chicago. In his career against the South Siders, Masterson is 8-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 129.2 innings. Last season, his best two games came against Chicago and it wouldn’t be too hard to see another shut out on the horizon.
Paulino is the only right handed starter the Indians are scheduled to face and, while the team is not as clueless against left handers as in the past, this should go a long way in removing a couple hot bats coming into the series. Both David Murphy (pictured on right) and Lonnie Chisenhall are in platoons of sorts and this will be their one game to shine this series. It may also be the time that Terry Francona chooses to give Yan Gomes a day off by playing Carlos Santana behind the plate.
Game 4: Sunday, April 13th, 2:10 PM EDT
Corey Kluber, RHP, 1-1, 7.71 ERA vs Jose Quintana, LHP, 1-0, 2.77 ERA
Kluber was better his second time around, but still allowed three runs in six innings to the light hitting Padres. He won’t be as lucky if he continues to pitch in the locations he has been against the tough White Sox lineup. The good news is that he started to settle down by the end of his last appearance and could be getting back to his old efficient self. Like Masterson, Kluber has pitched well against the White Sox in his short career and should be able to continue that trend as long as he focuses on throwing good strikes.
While not as familiar as Danks, Quintana has been a mainstay in the Sox rotation for the past two years and is one of the bright spots on a rebuilding Chicago team. He has made two starts this year and has allowed just four runs while striking out twelve. He is a poor match for the Indians, who have a tendency to swing and miss more often than the average team. The Indians are also a very patient team, but that won’t help against an accurate pitcher like Quintana.
Up Next: The Indians have an off-day Tuesday, following their first four game series of the season. After, they will finish up the short road trip with three in Detroit.