Series Preview #47: New York Mets (63-75) at Cleveland Indians (74-65)
Bob Toth | On 06, Sep 2013
Without getting into another attendance-related debate that will make most readers want to puke, it is important to note that the Cleveland Indians are still in the middle of a playoff race.
The Indians (74-65) took two of three in a key series with the Baltimore Orioles at the beginning of the week to do damage against some of their chief competition for one of the two American League Wild Card spots available.
Cleveland trails the second Wild Card team, the Tampa Bay Rays, by three games. They are tied with the Orioles in that spot and trail the New York Yankees by one-half game. The final stretch of the season for the Indians is perceived to be easier than those of their opponents. The Orioles play the Yankees and Rays four times each and the Red Sox for six. The Yankees play six with Boston, four with Baltimore, and three with Tampa. The Rays, by comparison, play three games with Boston and New York and four with Texas and Baltimore.
The Mets (63-75) have long since seen their season come to an end. They trail the Atlanta Braves by 21.5 games in the National League East and are 14.5 games back in the Wild Card. They come to Cleveland with a 35-37 record on the road this season and a 7-2 record all time against the Indians.
Scott Kazmir (7-7, 4.36 ERA) will take the bump for the Tribe in Friday night’s 7:05 PM ET start time. The Cleveland left-hander has dropped three of his last four decisions and has not won since August 4th. Rookie Zack Wheeler (7-3, 3.36) will oppose for Terry Collins’ Mets. The 23-year-old has fared better on the road than at home in his first trip through the big leagues, posting a 2.19 ERA in road games with a 2.59 ERA at night.
Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.54) will make the first pitch in the middle game in an unusual 6:05 PM ET start. It will be the first start off of the 15-day disabled list for Kluber, who had pitched a gem in his last start against Detroit prior to injuring a finger on his pitching hand. Jon Niese (6-6, 3.66) will take the mound for the Mets. The left-handed Ohio native has allowed a .292 batting average to right-handed hitters and a 5.40 ERA in road games.
Former Columbus Clippers teammates Danny Salazar and Daisuke Matsuzaka will conclude the three-game set on Sunday at 1:05 PM ET. Salazar (1-2, 3.00) pitched six scoreless innings against his idol, Justin Verlander, in his last outing on September 1st. Matsuzaka (0-3, 10.95) has been rocked in three straight starts for the Mets after being granted his release from the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate. He has allowed 15 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings in those three games.
Each game of the series will be aired on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Sportsnet New York (SNY). Radio versions of the games will be provided on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network affiliates as well as Sports Radio 66WFAN in New York.
The Mets come to Cleveland after dropping two of three to their division rivals, the Atlanta Braves.
Atlanta put six runs on the board against Matsuzaka on the way to a 13-5 victory at Turner Field on Monday. Josh Satin had a pair of hits, as did Juan Lagares. Five RBI by Freddie Freeman and three more from Andrelton Simmons paced the Braves.
Three runs crossed the plate via the long ball in the seventh inning as the Braves came back to beat the Mets on Tuesday, 3-1. Carlos Torres allowed a solo home run to Evan Gattis and, two batters later, a two-run shot by Simmons. Eric Young, Jr. and Omar Quintanilla each had two hits in the game.
Dillon Gee (11-9) gave the Mets seven strong innings and five early runs lasted on Wednesday, as the Mets defeated the Braves 5-2 to avoid the sweep. Andrew Brown and Lucas Duda homered for the Mets, who also had runs driven in by Lagares and Gee. Duda was a triple short of the cycle.
The Mets dealt some of their top offensive producers prior to the waivers trade deadline when they shipped Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates. They rank first and third respectively on the team in home runs and RBI.
Brown is batting .313 in the last month. In 17 games, he has three home runs and has driven in 13.
Duda is batting .381 in eight games since returning from a rehab assignment. The Mets first baseman missed two months while recovering from a left intercostal strain.
All-Star David Wright remains on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. He was sent to Port St. Lucie, Florida, at the end of August to continue his rehab from the injury. National League All-Star game starting pitcher Matt Harvey is also sidelined with a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. While he seems to believe he will be back on the mound for the Mets to start the 2014 season, Tommy John surgery on the arm had not yet been ruled out.
After an abysmal road trip through Atlanta and Detroit, Cleveland righted the ship at home and took two of three from one of the Wild Card teams blocking their path to October.
Trade deadline acquisition Bud Norris kept the Indians’ bats quiet for seven innings and his teammates gave him plenty of run support off of a slew of Cleveland relievers replacing the injured Justin Masterson, as the O’s took game one of the key series, 7-2, on Labor Day. Masterson exited without retiring a batter in the second inning and was charged with his tenth loss of the season, allowing one run on one hit, after leaving with a sore left rib cage. Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall both homered for the Indians in the loss. Eight different pitchers appeared in the game for Cleveland, with three different relievers being charged with two earned runs a piece.
Ubaldo Jimenez (10-9) was dominant again, as his six shutout innings lead the way as the Indians defeated the Orioles, 4-3, on Tuesday night. Jimenez issued just two walks and struck out four to win his tenth game of the year. Asdrubal Cabrera contributed with a pair of sacrifice flies to score the first two runs and Yan Gomes added a two-run double. Closer Chris Perez made it interesting in a non-save situation in the ninth, allowing a three-run home run to Nate McLouth before settling down to retire the next three batters in order.
Led by their batting practice chicken, the Indians rallied with two fifth inning runs after Manny Machado tied the game with a three-run blast off of Zach McAllister, as Cleveland defeated Baltimore, 6-4, on Wednesday night. The Indians pushed four runs across in the first inning via the Goon Squad, as Gomes, Ryan Raburn, and Mike Aviles all had RBI hits. Gomes delivered again in the fifth with his third consecutive hit in the ball game. McAllister allowed four runs and did not finish the fifth. The Cleveland bullpen pitched four and one-third innings of one-hit relief, capped off by Perez’s 22nd save.
Michael Brantley, who got the night off on Wednesday, is hitting .438 in the last week and .333 over his last ten games. He is expected to miss the series as he left the team in the afternoon on Friday to return to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
Gomes and Aviles have both driven in five runs in the last week, leading the team.
The Indians have driven in the fifth-most runs in all of baseball with 594 RBI. They have the second-worst batting average in the AL so far in September with a .220 mark.
The Indians’ pitching staff has the best second-half ERA (3.34) and batting average allowed (.238) in the American League. They rank second with 370 strikeouts. They have allowed an AL-low 27 home runs in that time.
The Mets will return home after the completion of their nine-game road trip to host an eleven-game homestand at Citi Field, beginning with four against the Washington Nationals. The Indians will welcome the third-place Kansas City Royals to town for three games before heading on the road.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images