The Indians managed to pull one out against the Blue Jays in the opening series after playing a whopping 37 innings of baseball. Aided by an off day and great starting pitching, the Indians bullpen should be remarkably intact although three pitchers, including closer Chris Perez pitched in all three games. The White Sox lost their last game with the Rangers before coming to Cleveland and are tied with the Indians for third place in the Central with a 1-2 record after just one series. Each team will be going with a trio of young starters for this series as Ubaldo Jimenez is currently serving his 5 game suspension. Some players to look out for in this series include the “young as ever” Paul Konerko who hit .417 against the Rangers in the opening series and the resurgence of Adam Dunn, who has already hit his first home run. After a dismal 2011 where he only hit 11 total home runs to go along with a .159 batting average, the White Sox have placed renewed confidence in him, hitting him third in the lineup.
Sale will be making his first career start after being a part time closer in 2011. He is a young hard-throwing lefty, so it will be interesting to see how the Indians left handed heavy lineup matches up against him. The lineup that the Indians have put out for each of the first three games includes only Casey Kotchman and Shelley Duncan as right handed bats (along with the switch hitting Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana), so will see if Manny Acta intends on playing his strengths or if he will shuffle some things around to create what he perceives are better match-ups.
Josh Tomlin will be making his first start of 2012 as well and if the first three games are any indication, we should be in for a treat. Tomlin was somewhat of a surprise in 2011, but he doesn’t seem to be a fluke. His primary goal should be to throw strikes and let his defense work behind him. Tomlin doesn’t really have the stuff to strike batters out at will or comeback from behind, so it is integral that he get ahead often. If he is on, look for there to be very few base runners, but watch out for the occasional long ball if he makes a mistake.
Humber will be making his first start of the season as the White Sox fifth starter. He has been around since 2006, but never pitched more than 10 games in a season before last year. A success story for Chicago, Humber started 26 games, going 9-9 with an ERA under 4.00.
Justin Masterson will be making his second start for the Tribe, taking advantage of an early season off-day to move up in the rotation. His first start was spectacular and brought back memories of last season, when he was practically unhittable during April. Although he didn’t get the win, he did strike out 10 batters in 8 innings, good enough for second in the American League to this point. His sinker looked especially good last time out, which is great as it is his out pitch.
The White Sox ace will be going up against the Indians number five starter as the rotation gets shuffled and Jimenez finishes out his suspension (he will be able to pitch the second game of the next series). As a long-term member of a Central Division foe, the Indians have seen him many times in the past. In the past 3 seasons, Danks is 2-3 with a 4.06 ERA against the Tribe, although there are some new members on the team this year who have never faced him.
Jeanmar Gomez was the Indians most dominant pitcher during Spring Training this year and won his position handily, defeating David Huff and Kevin Slowey for a spot in the rotation. He has pitched in parts of the last two seasons and has seen some success, particularly against the White Sox, where he is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. He will be looking to prove himself to the team early as David Huff may challenge him for his spot when he comes off the disabled list in a couple weeks.