Series Preview #1: Cleveland Indians (0-0) at Oakland Athletics (0-0)
Bob Toth | On 31, Mar 2014
Baseball is back!
Both the Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics will renew their pursuit of the playoffs together from O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California on Monday night as the two teams square off for a three-game set to open the 2014 season.
The Indians have made it clear that they have “Unfinished Business” to tend to. They will look to extend their regular season winning streak beyond ten games after an incredible stretch to wrap up the 2013 season that concluded with an American League Wild Card appearance. They finished the campaign 92-70, just one game in back of the Detroit Tigers in the tightest of the six divisional races in the Majors. Cleveland led all Major League teams in wins in spring training and will look to roll that momentum into the regular season.
The A’s will begin their defense of the American League West after being eliminated three games to two by Detroit in the AL Division Series. They led the West with a 96-66 record, five and a half games better than the Texas Rangers. They have claimed the division crown in each of the last two seasons. They will look to end a nine-game losing streak in season openers, last winning the debut of the 2004 season.
Twenty-four-year old right-hander Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.67 ERA in 2013 in 12 appearances) will make his first opening day start for the A’s in Monday’s 10:05 PM ET start time. Justin Masterson (14-10, 3.45) will make his third consecutive season opening start for Cleveland and his first regular season start since exiting his outing against Baltimore on September 2 with an injury. He is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his previous two Opening Day efforts.
Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.04 with Cleveland in 2013) will take on his former teammates in his first start in green and yellow for Oakland in Tuesday’s 10:05 PM ET first pitch. Corey Kluber (11-5, 3.85) will counter for Cleveland.
Thirty-year-old right-hander Jesse Chavez (2-4, 3.92 as a reliever) will make his first Major League start since June 24, 2012 in Wednesday’s 3:35 PM ET start. Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.75) will toe the rubber for the Indians.
All three games will be aired on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Comcast SportsNet California, barring sewage related issues interfering with scheduled games at O.co Coliseum. Tuesday’s game will also appear on the MLB Network. For those unable to view the games, radio versions will be broadcast on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians radio network as well as 95.7 FM The Game in Oakland.
Prior to Opening Day, several roster moves were made by both clubs.
The Indians announced that the contracts of reliever Scott Atchison, outfielder Nyjer Morgan, and designated hitter Jason Giambi were purchased from Triple-A Columbus. To make room on the 40-man roster, the club designated relievers Preston Guilmet, Frank Herrmann, and Colt Hynes for assignment.
Center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring) and Giambi (fractured rib) were both placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 21.
The club also made a pair of moves regarding the catching position. Yan Gomes has been inked to a six-year contract extension for a reported $23 million. The team has also added George Kottaras, released Wednesday by the Chicago Cubs, on a minor league contract to provide additional catching depth in the organization.
The Athletics purchased the contract of outfielder Sam Fuld from Triple-A Sacramento. Outfielder Michael Taylor was designated for assignment. Pitcher Joe Blanton, released by the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, was added on a minor league contract. He was originally drafted by the A’s in the first round of the 2002 draft.
Infielder Nick Punto is questionable for the opener due to left hamstring tightness. Center fielder Craig Gentry (lower back strain), starter A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle), and relievers Fernando Rodriguez (recovery from Tommy John) and Ryan Cook (right shoulder inflammation) were all placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 21. Number one starter Jarrod Parker was previously placed on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery earlier in March, as was reliever Eric O’Flaherty (recovery from May 2013 Tommy John surgery).
RANDOM STATS OF THE SERIES
The Indians hold a 1,020-895 all-time advantage over the Athletics. The A’s have fared 20 games better than the Indians when the home team. The Indians won the season series in 2013 by sweeping a four-game set in Cleveland. The A’s won two of three on their home field.
This will be the first time the Indians open the season in Oakland since April 2, 1997, when three Tribe home runs and three RBI from David Justice paced the Indians to a 9-7 win.
In the 21 year history of Progressive Field, Monday night’s game will mark the 15th time that the Indians open the regular season on the road.
Kazmir has allowed just 12 hits in 100 plate appearances against players on the Indians’ current roster. Asdrubal Cabrera is 0-for-9 against him with three strikeouts.
Ryan Raburn has three hits in five at bats against Chavez with four runs batted in. No Indians player has faced Gray at the Major League level.
Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson is 0-for-9 in his career against Masterson with a pair of strikeouts. He has owned the Indians’ other two starters for the series: he is 3-for-6 against Kluber with four RBI and 5-for-8 against McAllister. He is coming off of a breakout season in 2013, when he batted .301 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI while finishing fourth in the AL MVP voting.
Oakland will stay in town to host the new look Seattle Mariners for four games beginning Thursday night. Cleveland will head home for their first homestand of the season, beginning with three against the Minnesota Twins starting with Friday afternoon’s home opener.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images