Game Preview #84: Tampa Bay Rays (44-40) at Cleveland Indians (43-40)
By Mike Brandyberry
Friday evening the Indians fell behind early and fell farther behind in the fifth inning when the pitching imploded, allowing a six run frame, en route to a 10-3 loss. Justin Masterson could not control his pitches and Nick Hagadone was batted around in relief. The Tribe’s in ability to get a big hit with runners on base kept them from getting back in the game.
To make matters worse, both the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers won last night. The Tigers finally got back to .500 and trail Cleveland by only a game and one-half. Meanwhile the White Sox extended their lead over the Tribe in the American League Central Division to three games.
Today the Tribe sends Ubaldo Jimenez (7-7, 4.59) to the hill to get the Indians back on track. Jimenez has found his consistency over his last six starts, pitching 6.0+ innings in each outing. He was the loser of a 3-0 contest on Monday to the Los Angeles Angels and Jered Weaver. Jimenez pitched seven and two-third innings, allowing eight hits and three earned runs, while striking out four. He’ll look to complete a first half that has had two different seasons, the first two months of struggle and the final six weeks of consistency.
Tampa Bay will counter with Matt Moore (5-5, 4.17 ERA). Despite the Tribe’s success against the Orioles left-handers last weekend—winning three games against southpaws—the Indians are still 8-16 against lefty starters. Moore will be making his first career start against the Indians. He defeated the Yankees last Monday 4-3, when he allowed only three runs over seven innings.
Cleveland optioned left-handed relief pitcher, Nick Hagadone to Triple-A Columbus. Hagadone started strong in late April and early May, but has struggled since, compiling a 6.39 ERA in 25.1 for the season. Indians manager Manny Acta sees two problems with Hagadone and his progression through the season.
“Lack of command and then confidence, too,” Acta said. “It is really tough for those guys to gain any confidence unless they are having success. Once success went away because of the lack of command, then the lack of confidence came in. Command of the fastball is the number one thing. He really struggled to throw his off-speed for strikes over the plate.”
The Indians will play with only 24 players on the roster this evening and only six pitchers in the bullpen. They expect to activate Scott Barnes before Sunday’s game. In an emergency situation this evening Acta felt some of the starters could be used with the impending All-Star Break. Barnes has to wait the necessary 10 days from his previous minor league demotion before being reactivated. However, once he is active Acta believes he has a chance to establish a role as a left-handed reliever, something the Tribe has been looking for all season.
“It has been a bit of a struggle, we have really missed Raffy (Perez) who has been a mainstay there for so long,” Acta said. “Nick (Hagadone) pitched well early in that role. We’re trying to find a way to get Tony back. I think Barnes has pitched well in the limited opportunity that he’s had up here. Coming up he’s going to have opportunity to see if he can improve the bullpen and that side of it.”
Jason Kipnis and Travis Hafner will each receive days off this evening against the left-handed Moore. Hafner has played in the three games since being activated July 4 from the disabled list. Tonight will only be the second day off for Kipnis in the first half.
Per the Fox Sports and Major League Baseball television agreement the Tribe game will not be televised this evening. Fox does not allow any televised baseball to compete with their Game of the Week. They’ll be broadcasting the second game of a doubleheader between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The game can still be heard on 1100-AM WTAM and the rest of the Indians Radio Network, beginning at 6:05 pm.
Cleveland Indians Starting Lineup
1. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Jose Lopez, 2B
4. Michael Brantley, CF
5. Carlos Santana, 1B
6. Shelley Duncan, DH
7. Lou Marson, C
8. Jack Hannahan, 3B
9. Aaron Cunningham, LF
Tampa Bay Rays Starting Lineup
1. Desmond Jennings, LF
2. Carlos Pena, 1B
3. Ben Zobrist, RF
4. B.J. Upton, CF
5. Jeff Keppinger, 3B
6. Luke Scott, DH
7. Jose Molina, C
8. Brooks Conrad, 2B
9. Sean Rodriguez, SS
Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images