Series Preview #11: Oakland A’s (18-14) at Cleveland Indians (14-14)
Bob Toth | On 06, May 2013
Major League Baseball’s top scoring team brings its offensive show on the road to Cleveland, as the Oakland Athletics take on the upstart Indians in a four-game series this week.
The A’s (18-14) have cooled off after starting the season 12-4. While Oakland has dominated their AL West rivals, winning 13 of 16 matchups so far, they have struggled against the rest of the league. Their offense has remained productive throughout, as the team continues to be among the American League leaders this season in runs, walks, and runs batted in. They enter their series with Cleveland leading the MLB in runs scored with 171 through their first 32 games.
The Indians (14-14) saw their six-game winning streak end Sunday at the expense of Mike Pelfrey. During their winning streak, they outscored the opposition, 53-14, and had two shutouts. They were able to earn a split against Kansas City and to claim both series against Philadelphia and Minnesota during the week.
Oakland took two of three from the New York Yankees over the weekend, increasing their record to 5-11 outside of the AL West.
Friday night, A.J. Griffin outpitched CC Sabathia and combined with two other relievers on a six-hit shutout, 2-0. Oakland’s Adam Rosales homered on the first pitch of the game off of Sabathia. Griffin won his third game of the season and struck out four over seven innings.
The Yankees defeated the A’s, 4-2, on Saturday behind eight shutout innings from Phil Hughes. Bartolo Colon lost his first game of the year for Oakland. The Athletics mustered two runs in the top of the ninth, but could not do any additional damage against New York closer Mariano Rivera.
The Bringer of Rain, Josh Donaldson, sent the A’s home a winner with an eighth inning solo home run to break a 4-4 tie and give Oakland a 5-4 win over New York to win their series. Luke Montz hit his first home run since 2008 and Yoenis Cespedes added a two-run shot. Grant Balfour earned his fifth save of the season.
Left-handed pitcher Brett Anderson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right ankle. He had struggled in April, posting a 1-4 record with a 6.21 ERA in six starts.
Oakland also had to place a pair of outfielders on the 15-day DL this week. Former Indians outfielder Coco Crisp was placed on May 1st with a strained left hamstring. Chris Young joined him on May 4th with a strained left quad. Both moves are retroactive to April 30th.
Also on the disabled list is offseason signee Hiroyuki Nakajima, who has been out with a strained left hamstring. He began a rehab assignment on May 3rd.
Josh Reddick, the A’s outfielder who slugged 32 home runs and drove in 85 in his first season in Oakland last year, is off to a horrendous start. He has just two hits in his last 24 at bats. Of players with 78 at bats or more, Reddick has the third worst batting average in all of baseball at .148. Only Aaron Hicks (.118) and Adam Dunn (.146) are hitting worse in the Majors.
Reddick is a .317 lifetime hitter against the Indians in 19 games, including a .341 mark last season with three home runs. He is just 2-for-14 in his career against Justin Masterson, but both hits have been home runs.
Brandon Moss has been one of the best hitters on the road this season. He is second in the American League with a .409 road batting average. He has batted .222 with a home run in nine at bats at Progressive Field.
Donaldson feasted on Indians pitching last season, batting .367 in seven games. He had two home runs and seven RBI and on one particular evening, went 4-for-4 and broke an eighth inning tie with a bases loaded single on August 17th to give Oakland another late inning win. He is 4-for-5 against Zach McAllister in his career.
The Indians won the series against Minnesota, but lost their six-game winning streak in the process.
Cleveland walked off a winner in ten innings on Friday night, as a Drew Stubbs’ RBI double gave the Indians a 7-6 victory. Stubbs was 4-for-5 on the game with three doubles, a career high. Masterson relinquished a lead in the seventh after Mark Reynolds hit his ninth home run of the season. The win pulled the Indians back to even on the season.
Scott Kazmir gave the Indians six solid innings and Jason Kipnis had his second straight strong performance at the plate as the Indians defeated the Twins, 7-3, on Saturday. Kipnis finished just a double short of the cycle and had a triple in his second straight game. Kazmir faced one over the minimum after a tough second inning and struck out seven.
Minnesota won the finale of the series and ended Cleveland’s winning streak on Sunday, 4-2, behind a strong effort from Pelfrey. Corey Kluber allowed four earned runs in five and two-thirds innings and was dealt with the loss. Reynolds had a sacrifice fly and Carlos Santana hit his sixth home run of the season with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Indians’ streaks of six runs or more and 12 hits or more in six straight games both ended in the loss.
Cleveland reliever Vinnie Pestano missed all three games of the series against the Twins with a sore right elbow. Manager Terry Francona indicated after Sunday’s loss that he believed Pestano would be available to pitch Monday.
Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, who was claimed off of waivers prior to the series with the Twins, was designated for assignment before Sunday’s game. Scott Barnes was recalled from Columbus to assist in the bullpen in Pestano’s absence. Carrera had two hits in four at bats for Cleveland, improving his season batting average by 99 points.
Michael Bourn is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment in Columbus with the Triple-A Clippers on Monday. He is expected to see two to three games of action and, depending on how Bourn responds, could rejoin the team in time for their next series against the Detroit Tigers. He has played in just ten games this season and was batting .333.
Utility man Ryan Raburn was awarded with the AL Player of the Week Award on Monday, thanks to a .591 batting average (13 hits in 22 at bats) on the week. He hit four home runs over a two-game span, drove in nine runs, and scored five runs over five games. It is the first time in his career that he has earned that honor.
With a 3-for-11 series against the Twins, Santana’s batting average fell to .379 on the season. He now trails Miguel Cabrera for the highest average in baseball. He still leads the MLB in on-base percentage (.471), slugging percentage (.690), and on-base plus slugging (1.160).
Reynolds’ nine home runs are tied for the most in the American League. The Indians as a team are tied for the AL lead with 40 home runs on the season. Cleveland is averaging 1.43 home runs per game, the best rate in baseball.
The recent offensive production has moved the Indians to second in the AL in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, first in slugging, and first in OPS.
The Indians organization owns a 1,015-893 advantage over the A’s all-time. However, since moving to Oakland, the A’s have had the better of the series, winning 258 and losing 222. They maintained that advantage last season, winning their final eight games against Cleveland after losing the first two.
Jarrod Parker (1-4, 7.36) will take on Ubaldo Jimenez (1-2, 7.13) in Monday’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch. Neither righty has had much success this season, with ERA’s above seven, but both are coming off better efforts their last times out.
Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.69) will oppose McAllister (2-3, 3.30) Tuesday evening in the scheduled 7:05 PM ET start. Milone struck out ten Angels batters in a loss his last start. McAllister was the recipient of seven home runs of support in a win over Philadelphia.
Griffin (3-2, 3.79) and Masterson (4-2, 3.64) will square off at 7:05 PM ET Wednesday night. Griffin has allowed two runs or less in four of his six starts, including his last outing against New York. Masterson has allowed 12 earned runs and 17 hits in his last two starts.
Thursday’s 12:05 PM ET getaway day start time will feature former Indians pitcher Colon (3-1, 3.62) and Kazmir (1-1, 6.28). Colon is 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA and one complete game in his career against Cleveland. Kazmir makes his first start since collecting his first Major League win since September of 2010 on Saturday.
The first three games of the series will be aired on Comcast SportsNet California. All four games will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. Radio broadcasts can be heard on both the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians radio networks.
Oakland will finish its road trip with a stop in Seattle. Its homestand ended, Cleveland will head to Detroit for their first series against the Tigers on the season. The two will renew rivalries in mid-August for a three-game series in Oakland.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images