After sweeping the Tigers, the Indians went on to split the four game series against Baltimore as the offense is really heating up. To make matters even better, Jason Kipnis is scheduled to return to the club on Tuesday, after one more rehab start in Columbus. Kipnis is just one of many Indians to have injury issues of late as both Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera missed games against Baltimore due to knee issues while Zach McAllister and Jason Giambi had recent stints to the DL. Despite all this, the Indians are playing their best baseball of the season winning five of their last seven.
The White Sox have been a surprising success, maintaining a winning percent of about .500 (25-26) and hanging with the rest of the division as second and fifth are separated by just a single game. One reason for their success has been their surprising offense, lead by super star rookie Jose Abreu who has 15 home runs and 42 RBI already. Luckily for the Indians, they will not be seeing Abreu in the series as he hit the DL a little more than a week ago with an ankle issue. Abreu can come off the DL on June second, but may stay longer to make sure he is healthy. While it is a benefit to the Indians to have the Sox best hitter out of the lineup, it is a negative for baseball to have such a promising young start miss significant time.
Game 1: Monday, May 26th, 2:10 PM EDT (tickets)
Josh Tomlin, RHP, 3-1 , 2.91 ERA vs Jose Quintana, LHP, 2-4, 3.67 ERA
Tomlin joined the team at the perfect time, waiting until the Indians offense found themselves and was able to give him some support. In addition to the run support, Tomlin has been fantastic and versatile, pitching in relief from the 11th through the 13th in his last outing. Outside of this, he has thrown at least six innings per game and allowed just six runs in three starts. More than any other pitcher, Tomlin deserves credit for saving the bullpen during this past week and he will help out even more now, taking over for Zach McAllister in the rotation.
Quintana was one of three left handers to throw against the Indians the first time the two teams matched up early in the season. The White Sox took three of those four, including Quintana’s start, in which he allowed just a single run on a solo home run by Michael Brantley. Quintana has been the Sox top starter outside of Sale and the Indians have had a tough time against lefties all season so this could be a difficult game for the Tribe to keep the offense rolling.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 27th, 8:10 PM EDT (tickets)
Justin Masterson, RHP, 2-3, 5.32 ERA vs Chris Sale, RHP, 4-0, 1.89 ERA
Here is a case where we have to look beyond the numbers, especially considering Masterson’s last start against Baltimore. While his final numbers looked terrible, he was fantastic through five innings, despite playing on just three days rest. He performance was necessary for the Tribe as they had to use Josh Tomlin in relief the day before and the bullpen was decimated after a 13 inning win against the Tigers. This time he will be going on normal rest, so a return to his regular self should be expected.
This will be Sale’s second start after returning from the DL and if it anything like his last, the Indians might as well not show up. In his return, he threw six innings of one hit baseball against the Yankees, striking out ten. The Indians best shot against him is the fact that the White Sox are likely to be cautious and pull him at a certain pitch count. If the Indians can be patient and work counts, they may be able to remove him by the fifth or sixth, even if they can’t score.
Game 3: Wednesday, May 28th, 8:10 PM EDT (tickets)
T.J. House, LHP, 0-1, 6.43 ERA vs Hector Noesi, RHP, 0-3, 5.14 ERA
House looked less than amazing in his first Major League start, but the Indians have little choice with McAllister now on the DL and Danny Salazar in AAA. House will give opponents a bit of a different look, as he is the first left handed starter used by the Indians this season. While he did lose to Baltimore, the White Sox are no where near as solid of an offense, especially with Abreu out.
Noesi missed the Tribe in their first two matches, but is scheduled to make a start this series, a very good thing for Cleveland. Noesi is essentially the worst starter in the White Sox rotation and he hasn’t played well of late, giving up 11 in his past three games. After facing Sale and Quintana, Noesi must be like facing a AAA pitcher for opposing batters.
Who’s Hot? – Who’s Not?
Lonnie Chisenhall has been hot all season, but now that he is finally been given a regular starting role higher in the lineup, he has begun producing like an All-Star as well. Chisenhall has knocked in six runs in the Indians past seven games, going 11/25 despite starting in just five games. In that span he hit his first two home runs of the season and four more doubles, giving him a team high 14 on the season, despite 70 less at bats than the rest of the leaders.
With the Indians offense clicking on all cylinders, it makes sense that the coldest Indian is a reliever. While Mark Lowe has yet to give up an earned run in his three appearances, he has given up four unearned runs, three of which came after his own error in the second game against Baltimore. In addition, in just 3.1 innings, he has already walked three batters (intentionally) and given up three doubles, likely leading to a very short MLB stint.
On Deck: After an off day on Thursday, the Tribe will come back home for some interleague play against the Rockies, starting Friday.