Series Preview #31: Toronto Blue Jays (43-45) at Cleveland Indians (46-43)
Bob Toth | On 09, Jul 2013
If it feels like it has been a long time since the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays met up, you are right.
The Indians (46-43) took two of three from the Blue Jays to open the season at Rogers Centre. Both Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez were stellar against the Jays, each pitching six innings and allowing one run on three hits. Masterson earned the win in his start, while Jimenez was hit with a no-decision after a ninth inning blown save. The team is 8-19 against the American League East.
The Blue Jays (43-45) had an impressive eleven-game winning streak in June. However, in the time since, they are just 5-9 and had not won a series until taking two of three from Minnesota this weekend.
Jimenez will get another shot at the Blue Jays as he makes the game’s first pitch against Josh Johnson. Jimenez (6-4, 4.67 ERA) has not pitched beyond the sixth inning since June 1st. Johnson (1-3, 4.89) gave up six runs in his last outing against Detroit, but only one of those runs was earned.
Masterson will take the mound against Toronto at 7:05 PM ET Wednesday against former Indians reliever Esmil Rogers. Masterson (10-7, 3.78) was roughed up in his previous start against Detroit, but was still honored with an AL All-Star team roster spot on Saturday. Rogers (3-4, 3.84) has been used more regularly over the last five weeks as a starting pitcher than reliever. He is 2-2 in seven starts with a 3.55 ERA, but 1-2 in 23 appearances in relief with a 4.23 ERA.
While the Indians had not announced a starter formally for the 12:05 PM ET start on Thursday at the time of this series preview, it is believed that 23-year-old pitching prospect Danny Salazar will be recalled from Triple-A Columbus to make his Major League debut. He is 5-5 with a 3.08 ERA between Akron and Columbus this season. R.A. Dickey was moved up a day in the rotation, taking the place of Mark Buehrle, who had thrown seven shutout innings against the Twins in his last start. No explanation was given at the time of this preview as to the reason for the change.
Each game will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Rogers Sportsnet. Radio broadcasts will be available on the radio affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays took two of three from the Minnesota Twins over the weekend.
Toronto won Friday’s series opener against Minnesota on Friday on the arm of Buehrle, who threw seven shutout innings and allowed six hits in pacing the Blue Jays to a 4-0 win. He struck out five and did not walk a batter. Jose Bautista hit his 20th home run of the season in the third inning to give Toronto its first run of the day.
Minnesota returned the favor on Saturday, blanking the Blue Jays 6-0. The win for the Twins ended a six-game losing skid. Dickey allowed six runs in seven innings. Mike Pelfrey of the Twins limited the Blue Jays to just three hits and three walks in his six innings of work and the bullpen allowed just one base runner over the final three innings.
Toronto rode the long ball to an 11-5 victory on Sunday. Colby Rasmus, Jose Reyes, and Rajai Davis each hit home runs. Rasmus was 3-for-4 on the game with three runs batted in. Edwin Encarnacion walked three times and had a triple in five plate appearances.
The long ball has been a staple of the Toronto offense this season. They trail only the Baltimore Orioles in total home runs hit this season in all of Major League Baseball.
The recent struggles by the Blue Jays have been attributed to the starting rotation. On the season, they sport the second-worst ERA in the AL with a 5.01 mark. By comparison, their bullpen has been the best in the AL this season with a 2.93 ERA.
The Blue Jays will be well represented in the All-Star Game this season, with Bautista and Encarnacion being joined by reliever Brett Cecil.
Steve Delabar, a middle reliever on the team, was selected as part of the five-player, fan-selected Final Vote. Delabar is 5-1 in 35 games this season with a 1.58 ERA.
The left-handed Cecil was selected by AL manager Jim Leyland. This season, he set a franchise record with 40 consecutive batters faced without allowing a base hit. He also had a 20 inning scoreless streak to his credit. He is 3-0 on the season with a 1.81 ERA and 0.87 WHIP through his first 39 games. It will be his first All-Star Game appearance.
The Indians dropped three of four against the Tigers after a tough loss on Monday with the series split on the line.
The Tigers won the opener 7-0 on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at Progressive Field who were treated to fireworks, dollar dogs, and no offense from the hometown team. Rick Porcello and two other relievers combined on a six-hit shutout. Masterson could not get out of the fifth, allowing six earned runs on seven hits with four walks.
Detroit took the afternoon start on Saturday by a 9-4 score that was not as close as the score made it appear. Carlos Carrasco allowed seven runs on ten hits in three and one-third innings in his fourth loss of the year. Nick Swisher hit his ninth home run in the sixth. Ryan Raburn hit a two-run shot in garbage time in the ninth. Torii Hunter finished a single short of the cycle.
After blowing a five-run lead, Michael Brantley played the hero, driving a go-ahead two-run homer into the seats in right to help give the Indians a 9-6 victory on Sunday. Corey Kluber deserved a win, allowing two earned runs while striking out ten in six and one-third innings. Vinnie Pestano allowed a game-tying three run home run with two outs in the top of the eighth. Brantley hit a pair of home runs, including the deciding shot, and drove in a career-high five runs on the afternoon.
The Indians prevented Max Scherzer from earning his 14th win of the season, but could not deal a loss to Detroit on Monday, as the Tigers scored two runs in the top of the tenth inning off of Matt Albers to give Detroit a 4-2 victory. After a brief rain delay in the second, Lonnie Chisenhall knocked two runs in on a single to right field. Scott Kazmir allowed a game-tying home run to Matt Tuiasosopo in the fourth and just two runs on four hits in five and two-thirds innings on the night.
The Indians fell to three and a half games out in the AL Central after Monday’s loss. They are just 3-9 on the season against the Tigers.
After an impressive run through the month of June, when he won two AL Player of the Week honors and took home the AL Player of the Month nod, second baseman Jason Kipnis was selected Saturday as a representative for the Indians in July 16th’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York City.
Starter Zach McAllister felt good after a simulated game on Monday. He threw three inning off of a mound against hitters from local Single-A Lake County. He did not throw any breaking balls during the outing, which has been reported to have been the pitch that causes the most problems for his sprained right middle finger.
Catcher Lou Marson threw from 90 feet prior to Tuesday’s game.
“We’ll try to set him up where he can have some success,” said Terry Francona Monday afternoon, “and let him start getting some confidence because I really do think when he’s in the eighth inning, pitching well, that’s our best team. At the moment we probably need to do something different.”
In the final series before the All-Star break, the Indians will host the Kansas City Royals. Toronto will conclude their unofficial first half with three straight games in Baltimore against the Orioles.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images