Series Preview #17: Cleveland Indians (26-19) at Boston Red Sox (28-19)
Bob Toth | On 23, May 2013
Terry Francona returns to another city he once called home as his Cleveland Indians head to Fenway Park to take on the Boston Red Sox.
The first-place Indians (26-19) lost their first series, during the week to the Tigers, since the last time they met up with the Red Sox. They maintain a one-half game lead over Detroit in the American League Central. They are 15-6 in the month of May.
The Red Sox (28-19) fell on some hard times after their previous meeting with the Indians. After finishing the month of April at 18-8, they are a game under in the month of May at 10-11. They have lost four series this month – in Texas, versus Minnesota and Toronto at home, and in Chicago against the White Sox in their last series. After charging out of the gate in first place in the AL East, they have fallen as far as three games back and are currently in second place, one-half game back of the New York Yankees.
Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.65) will start for Cleveland in Thursday’s opener. Ryan Dempster (2-4, 4.27 ERA) will take the ball at 7:10 PM ET for the Red Sox. McAllister earned his second consecutive no-decision despite another stellar outing his last time out. He has now allowed three runs or less and completed at least the fifth inning in all eight starts this season. Dempster has struggled in each of his last two starts, allowing eleven runs in nine and two-thirds innings of work. He walked six in his last outing, a no-decision against Minnesota.
Justin Masterson (7-2, 2.83) and John Lackey (2-4, 3.31) will be Friday’s starters in the 7:10 PM ET scheduled start. Masterson was honored with the AL Player of the Week honor after allowing just one run over 16 innings, including a complete game shutout against the Yankees. He struck out a season-high eleven in a win over Seattle on Sunday. Lackey was sharp in his last start, allowing just one hit and one hit batter in six innings of work against the Twins, earning the win.
Saturday will pair left-handers Scott Kazmir (2-2, 6.35) and Jon Lester (6-1, 3.15) in a 1:35 PM ET start. After a pair of quality starts with seven or more strikeouts, Kazmir has allowed nine earned runs in his last eight innings and lasted just three against Seattle on Monday. Lester allowed six runs in earning his first loss of the season his last time out. He defeated the Indians earlier this year.
In Sunday’s series finale, Corey Kluber (3-3, 5.19) will toe the rubber against Felix Doubront (3-2, 5.61) at 1:35 PM ET. Kluber lost a tough matchup against Detroit on Tuesday, allowing three earned runs in six and one-third innings with a season-high eight strikeouts. Doubront allowed a pair of runs in five innings earlier this year to Cleveland and got his first win of the season. He is winless in May after a 3-0 April.
All four games of the series will be shown on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and NESN. Radio listeners can listen in on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network or on WEEI 93.7 in New England. Thursday’s game will also be shown on the MLB Network.
The Indians lost a tough pair against their division rivals during the week, marking the team’s first series loss in over a month.
Detroit claimed Tuesday’s opener by a 5-1 final on a strong outing by Max Scherzer. Kluber allowed three extra base hits to lead off the top of the sixth – an Andy Dirks homer, Torii Hunter double, and Miguel Cabrera homer – to give the advantage to the Tigers. They added a pair of RBI singles in the ninth. Cleveland’s lone run came in the bottom of the first on a Michael Brantley sacrifice fly.
Weather interfered consistently throughout Wednesday’s game and seemingly killed several Cleveland rallies, as the club fell again to the Tigers, 11-7. Ubaldo Jimenez (3-3, 6.04) was not as sharp and lasted four innings on the night, allowing two runs in the first and four runs in the third. Justin Verlander, who got the win thanks to the offensive explosion by his offense, allowed five runs in five innings, including a two-run homer to Carlos Santana. Yan Gomes added a solo shot the next inning, his fourth of the season. Cabrera was gifted his second home run of the series, his 13th of the season.
Gomes continues to swing a hot bat when given a chance to crack the lineup. He is batting .462 over the last week (three games) and has three home runs and five runs driven in over his last two games. He is batting .406 in May in nine games.
In his last four games, Brantley is batting .438 with seven hits and nine RBI. He replaced Swisher as the cleanup hitter in the Detroit series.
Michael Bourn has stolen four bases over the last week while batting .370. Several of his ten hits on the week failed to leave the infield, but his all-out hustle earned him the single. He has reached base safely in his last six games.
Jason Kipnis is second in the MLB in RBI in the month of May with 20. His six home runs are good for fifth overall. He is a .394 career hitter at Fenway Park with four home runs and five RBI. He missed the previous series against Boston.
The Indians remain the MLB leaders in home runs (62), slugging percentage (.457), and OPS (.789). They have won 18 of their last 24.
Boston salvaged the series finale against Chicago after dropping the first two games of their series with the White Sox.
Lester earned his first loss of the season after allowing five earned runs and six total in six innings of work as Chicago defeated Boston 6-4 on Monday. A three-run home run in the first by Adam Dunn paced the White Sox. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run homer, his fifth, and Will Middlebrooks had a pair of RBI.
Jose Quintana had another impressive outing and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the White Sox prevailed over the Red Sox, 3-1, on Tuesday. Doubront earned the loss in six innings of work after allowing a two-run fifth inning homer. Boston had just four hits – all singles – on the night.
Clay Buchholz allowed just one run in seven innings and lowered his AL-leading ERA on the way to a 6-2 win for his Red Sox against the Pale Hose on Wednesday afternoon. David Ortiz knocked in a pair with a single in the first and Daniel Nava did the same in the ninth. Boston plated a pair in the eighth on a sacrifice fly and a passed ball.
Ortiz has been a hitting machine this season, despite a brief three game slump two weeks ago, and has hits in 24 of his 28 games this season. After starting the season with hits in each of his first 15 games, he was hitless for three straight before ripping off hits in nine of the next ten. He is batting .351 on the season and .375 in his last ten games. He missed the earlier matchup between the two clubs while on the disabled list.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia is batting .333 on the season and .326 in May. He is a lifetime .324 hitter against Cleveland, including a .452 season last year. He struck out six times in 15 plate appearances in three games at Progressive Field in April.
Mike Carp, who batted .458 in April in 24 at bats, has just two hits in 19 May at bats (.105). In his previous series against Cleveland, he had four hits in five at bats with a single, two doubles, and a triple in the three games. Against McAllister in his career, he has three strikeouts, a walk, and a home run in five plate appearances.
Several Indians hitters have not done well against Lackey in their careers. Mark Reynolds has batted .125 with six strikeouts in nine plate appearances and Nick Swisher has batted .164 with 25 strikeouts in 78 plate appearances. Jason Giambi, however, has been successful, with a .341 average through 51 times in the box with 14 hits (three home runs) and seven RBI.
The Red Sox are second in the AL in on-base percentage with a team mark of .342. The Indians are third at .332.
New papa Swisher is scheduled to return from the Paternity List for Friday’s game. He will miss an opportunity to see Dempster – in 12 career plate appearances, Swisher has three hits and three walks, including two home runs and nine RBI. Infielder Cord Phelps is expected to return to Columbus to make room for Swisher.
Lefty reliever David Huff was designated for assignment following Wednesday’s loss. He is out of options and can decline the assignment and declare free agency if he so chooses. Scott Barnes was called up from Triple-A Columbus to assume his roster spot.
Cleveland starting pitcher Brett Myers pitched in a rehab start on Wednesday at Double-A Akron. He threw 74 pitches (40 strikes) in four and one-third innings and allowed three earned runs, two hits, four walks, and two strikeouts. All three runs, both hits, and two of the four walks came in the first inning. He is still expected to make at least one more rehab start.
Catcher Lou Marson remains on the 15-day disabled list.
Boston’s Franklin Morales may return this month after suffering a bulging disc in his back. The reliever has been on the 15-day disabled list. One-time closer Joel Hanrahan will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing flexor tendon and Tommy John surgeries last week.
Former Indians reliever Rafael Perez was signed by the Red Sox on Friday to a minor league deal. He had been released from a AAA contract with the Minnesota Twins last week.
Backup catcher David Ross is eligible to rejoin the team from the 7-day concussion DL on Friday. He is scheduled to catch in a rehab start on Thursday in Double-A.
Outfielder Shane Victorino is day-to-day with tightness in his left hamstring.
Boston swept Cleveland during the teams’ previous meeting at Progressive Field in April and outscored the Indians, 19-8. Cleveland maintains the all-time advantage between the two franchises, 1,024-966.
The Indians return to Ohio after the series, but not to Cleveland. They begin an unusual home-and-home series with Cincinnati, playing two at Great American Ball Park before returning to Cleveland for a pair. The Red Sox will play a similar style series with the Phillies, playing two in Boston before heading to Philadelphia for another pair.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images