Series Preview #6: Toronto Blue Jays (8-8) at Cleveland Indians (7-8)
Bob Toth | On 18, Apr 2014
The Cleveland Indians will play host to their first American League East opponent of the season this weekend as the Toronto Blue Jays come into town for a three-game series.
Toronto (8-8) dropped two of three games against the Minnesota Twins this week. They claimed the opener, 9-3, on Tuesday as the Jays erupted for five runs in the sixth inning and tacked on four more insurance runs in the ninth. Wednesday’s game was postponed due to weather problems and made up as part of a doubleheader on Thursday. Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson paced the Twins to a 7-0 shutout in the day’s first game with eight scoreless innings on the mound. A monumental eighth inning collapse by Toronto in the second game, which included three run-scoring wild pitches, eight walks, one hit, and six runs scored, handed Minnesota the doubleheader sweep, 9-5.
Cleveland (7-8) got a second day off as their third consecutive Tuesday game was postponed by Mother Nature, shortening their three game set at Comerica Park in Detroit to a brief two-gamer. The Indians won Wednesday 3-2 behind six strong innings from Zach McAllister and two runs driven in by catcher Yan Gomes. The Tribe fell back below the .500 mark on Thursday as Justin Verlander outlasted Danny Salazar, despite short outings from each starter. Ian Kinsler and Michael Brantley each had four RBI on the afternoon. Lonnie Chisenhall was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate as he continues to make a case for his stay on the roster.
Drew Hutchison (1-1, 3.68 ERA) will start for Toronto manager John Gibbons in Friday’s series opener. After allowing six runs against the New York Yankees in his second start, he bounced back with six shutout innings against Baltimore in a no-decision in his last start. Justin Masterson (0-0, 5.87) will make the first pitch of the night at 7:05 PM ET while looking for his first win on the young season.
Longtime Indians rival Mark Buehrle (3-0, 0.86) returns to Progressive Field on Saturday for his fourth start of the season. He enters the game with a 15-17 career record against Cleveland with a 4.87 ERA in 48 games. He allowed six runs against the Tribe in five and one-third innings last year. Corey Kluber (1-1, 5.40) will counter for the Tribe. He had his last start skipped after a third straight start was postponed due to inclement weather. It will be his first career start against Toronto. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.
Brandon Morrow (1-1, 5.52) will wrap up the series for the Blue Jays on Sunday. Control problems and a high pitch count, elevated after going to a full count on seven batters, ran him from his last start prior to completing the fourth inning. Carlos Carrasco (0-2, 7.84) will make his case for a stay in the rotation after being skipped a turn. First pitch in the finale is slated for 1:05 PM ET.
All three games will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Rogers Sportsnet. Radio broadcasts will be available courtesy of SN590 The Fan Radio Network and the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURIES
The injury bug has bitten the Blue Jays early this season.
Starting shortstop Jose Reyes was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left hamstring tightness on April 1st. He has been on a rehab assignment and could return Saturday. Second baseman Maicer Izturis was lost with an LCL tear in his left knee and could miss the remainder of the season.
Closer Casey Janssen, who was rehabbing both a left abdominal and lower back strain, had begun a rehab assignment at Class A but was shut down on Thursday.
Toronto recalled outfielder Anthony Gose from Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday.
The Indians disabled list continues to shrink and could get shorter soon. Jason Giambi may be activated from the DL as soon as Monday. He has been rehabbing his broken rib with the Akron RubberDucks.
KEY SERIES STATS
Melky Cabrera has seen Masterson and Carrasco well at the plate. He has 12 hits in 24 at bats against the Tribe’s number one starter with two doubles, one home run, and two runs batted in. He is 4-for-8 against Carrasco with a double, home run, and five RBI.
Edwin Encarnacion, on the other hand, has struggled against Masterson, with just two hits in 14 at bats.
Jose Bautista is crushing the ball. He is tied for the Major League lead with six home runs this season. He has pulled ahead of Carlos Santana for the league lead in walks. He now has 18, three ahead of Santana’s 15.
While Santana is slumping mightily at the plate, he is still averaging 4.42 pitches per plate appearance, the most pitches seen per trip by any American League player. He has grounded into an MLB-worst six double plays already this season.
Four Indians players are hitting .400 or better against Buehrle, including Santana (.400), Nick Swisher (.407), Michael Bourn (.444), and David Murphy (.667). The five Indians players on the roster to face Hutchison have combined to hit .615 off of him. Swisher is hitless with a walk in three plate appearances against him. Bourn, Murphy, and Mike Aviles have two hits in three at bats a piece, and Elliot Johnson has hits in each of his two plate appearances against him.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis earned his first career ejection at the hands of home plate umpire Lance Barrett in the third inning of Thursday’s game after striking out on three pitches from Verlander with the bases loaded and two outs.
The Indians and Blue Jays have split their 386 contests against one another right down the middle, with each club winning 192 games in their brief histories. The Indians have outscored the Jays by a grand total of five runs all-time. The Tribe holds the advantage in Cleveland with a 102 to 90 edge.
KEEPING TABS ON TABLER
Former Indian Pat Tabler has found a home in Toronto as a color commentator for Rogers Sportsnet. He began a studio career in 1993 after his Major League playing career ended and became a regular analyst on Toronto telecasts in 2001.
The Hamilton, Ohio native was a first round selection in the 1976 draft by the New York Yankees and eventually found his way back to his home state after being dealt by the Chicago White Sox to the Indians on April 1st, 1983 for infielder Jerry Dybzinski, a Cleveland native who attended Collinwood High School and Cleveland State University. The White Sox had acquired Tabler a little over two months prior in a six-player trade with the Chicago Cubs.
Tabler spent nearly half of his 12-year MLB career in Cleveland with some historically disappointing teams through the 1980’s. A corner infielder and outfielder by trade, he spent time each season as the team’s designated hitter as well. Never a prolific slugger, he excelled getting on base, hitting .326 in 130 games in 1986 and .307 in 151 games in 1987 with a career-best eleven home runs and 86 RBI. That season, the Sports Illustrated jinx sent the Tribe to a 61-101 record, but Tabler earned his first and only career All-Star appearance.
After a slow start to his 1988 season, he was dealt at the beginning of June to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitcher Buddy Black. He spent a little over two years with the Royals before being traded to the New York Mets. He would reach free agency following that season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for the 1991 and 1992 seasons, winning a World Series ring in his final season in professional baseball.
Tabler earned the nickname “Mr. Clutch” during his playing career due to his tendency for timely hits. He was a career .489 with the bases loaded with a pair of grand slams and 108 RBI in 109 plate appearances. The numbers were just as good with the bags full with one out (.486) and with two down (.434). He hit .700 with the bases full with nobody out. He was a .317 hitter with runners in scoring position.
COMING UP NEXT…
The Blue Jays will return home to the Rogers Centre in Toronto to host six straight games against divisional foes Baltimore and Boston beginning Tuesday evening. The Indians will remain at home to host the Kansas City Royals for four games, beginning on Monday night.
Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images