Series Preview #8: Cleveland Indians (11-11) at San Francisco Giants (12-10)
Bob Toth | On 25, Apr 2014
The Cleveland Indians have picked an opportune time to start playing better baseball. Winners of four of their last five while climbing back to the .500 mark on the season, they return to the West Coast for the second time in April, beginning a three-game series Friday night in San Francisco against the Bay Area’s Giants.
Cleveland (11-11) won their four-game series against division rival Kansas City during the week, taking three games. They edged out a 4-3 win on Monday, giving Zach McAllister his third win of the season, on a sixth inning two-run home run by Jason Kipnis that proved to be the difference. James Shields bettered Danny Salazar in Tuesday’s 8-2 loss. The Indians claimed a 5-3 victory on Wednesday night, led by six and one-third strong innings from Justin Masterson and runs in each of their last three trips to the plate. A five-run fifth off of Bruce Chen and a complete game 101-pitch effort from Corey Kluber earned the Tribe a series win over the Royals on Thursday afternoon in a 5-1 final.
The Giants (12-10) will finally play their first non-divisional game after 22 straight against National League West opponents to start the season. They dropped two of three to the Rockies in Colorado during the week. Seven runs in the first three innings paced the Rockies to an 8-2 win over the Giants on Monday. The Rockies edged the Giants on Tuesday by a 2-1 final in a game decided by three solo home runs. Hunter Pence’s shot was the only offense for San Francisco. The Giants claimed the final game of the set on Wednesday, winning a slugfest 12-10 in extra innings. An eleventh-inning grand slam by Hector Sanchez broke an 8-8 tie. They had a day off on Thursday.
Long-time American Leaguer Tim Hudson (2-1, 2.40 ERA) will start for San Francisco in Friday’s 10:15 PM ET start time at AT&T Park. He took the loss in his last outing in San Diego, despite allowing two runs on eight hits in seven innings of work. Carlos Carrasco (0-2, 7.31) will counter for the Tribe. He allowed five runs on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks his last time out against Toronto.
Tim Lincecum (1-1, 6.43) will take the mound for manager Bruce Bochy at 4:05 PM ET on Saturday afternoon. He tallied his first win of 2014 in a six inning effort against the Padres last Sunday, marking his first quality start of the season. McAllister (3-0, 2.28) will take the ball for the Indians. He has been the best of the Cleveland rotation in the early going. He has allowed just three earned runs in his last three starts (1.37 ERA).
A third straight pair of righties will wrap up the series on Sunday at 4:05 PM ET. Ryan Vogelsong (0-1, 7.71) was roughed up his last time out in Colorado, posting the shortest outing in his Giants career. Salazar (0-3, 7.85) will take center stage for Indians manager Terry Francona. He has yet to complete five innings on the mound this season.
All three games in the series will be broadcast by Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Live radio broadcasts will air on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and on KNBR 680 and KTRB 860 in San Francisco.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURIES
The Indians have no players on the disabled list at the present.
The Giants placed former Indians left-handed pitcher David Huff on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a left quad strain. Outfielder Juan Perez was recalled from Triple-A Fresno to replace him on the 25-man roster.
Second baseman Marco Scutaro, a former Indians minor league farmhand, is on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain. He has been out of action the entire season after being placed on the DL on March 29th, retroactive to the 21st.
Starting center fielder Angel Pagan has been limited with right knee soreness, but could return to the lineup for Friday’s game after receiving treatment for the injury on Thursday. Pablo Sandoval left Wednesday’s game with a stomach virus and is status for the series is unknown at post time.
WHO TO WATCH
Hudson extended his consecutive innings streak without a walk to 30 innings with his seven innings against the Padres. He has limited exposure to current members of the Indians roster. Michael Bourn is 4-for-7 lifetime and Nick Swisher is 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI. His 6.33 ERA against the Indians is the single worst mark he has against any team he has pitched against more than one time.
San Francisco starting catcher and former National League MVP Buster Posey is in the midst of a 3-for-33 slump. He sat out the Giants’ 12-10 extra inning contest on Wednesday. Amongst qualifying players, he has the ninth-lowest batting average in interleague play with a .137 mark. Teammates Brandon Crawford (.156) and Sandoval (.164) have not fared much better.
The top three hitters in the Indians lineup woke up just in time for their series with the Royals. Bourn, Swisher, and Kipnis combined to hit 16-for-47 in the series, good for a .340 average. Bourn was 6-for-14 after a slow start in his return from the disabled list. He is 2-for-6 against Vogelsong.
For those worried about how the Indians lineup will produce for three games without a DH, the pitchers cannot perform much worse than the designated hitter position has. Through 22 games, Cleveland DH’s are 15-for-90 (.190) with just three runs batted in. If you remove the production provided by Lonnie Chisenhall from the numbers (9 hits in 21 at bats), the remaining six players who have had a day in the field off while still in the lineup have combined to get six hits in 58 at bats (.103).
Carrasco has not won a start since June 29, 2011. In his 16 starts since, he has earned an 0-11 record with an 8.25 ERA. Benefiting his cause to end the streak is a 3-1 lifetime mark with a 2.63 ERA in four career interleague games, although that one loss came in 2011 against the Giants.
None of Cleveland’s three starting pitchers scheduled to pitch in the series has a hit at the Major League level. They have combined to go 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts. Carrasco does have a pair of sacrifices.
The Indians relief corps has stranded 32 of the 35 runners it has inherited (91.4%) this season, a Major League best.
The Indians and Giants have played three regular season series, all since the Giants relocated from New York to San Francisco. The Giants have been the victors in five of the nine ball games.
The Indians swept the first matchup with the Giants in June of 2005, outscoring San Fran 22-11 in the three-game set. Three years later, the Giants came to Cleveland for the first time and took two of three. San Francisco has an active three game winning streak against the Indians, thanks to sweeping three straight from the Indians in California in 2011.
This will be the first regular season meeting between the two clubs outside of the month of June and the earliest trip for the Indians to a National League ball park.
GIANTS GIVING AWAY INDIANS BOBBLEHEAD?
The first 40,000 fans in attendance for Friday night’s contest between the Giants and Indians will receive a bobblehead of San Francisco broadcaster Duane Kuiper in his red Cleveland Indians jersey from his playing days.
“Kuip” was drafted six different times by five different teams before the Indians made him their first round selection (21st overall) in the 1972 January Secondary Amateur Draft following his graduation from Southern Illinois University. He spent eight seasons with the Indians from 1974 to 1981 before his trade to San Francisco for pitcher Ed Whitson. He spent 1982 until his release in June of 1985 with the Giants.
Kuiper may be best remembered for holding the Major League record for the most at bats in a career while having just one home run. The lone blast came with the Indians on August 29, 1977, with one out in the bottom of the first inning off of the Chicago White Sox’ Steve Stone, also well known for his post-career broadcasting work. The homer came in his 358th career game and in his 1,533rd career plate appearance.
Kuiper is a radio and television sports broadcaster for the Giants now and does play-by-play on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. He had seven home runs while in the Indians minor league farm system.
On Saturday afternoon, the Giants will commemorate the 60th anniversary of their 1954 World Series winning team, who swept the Cleveland Indians in four games, with a replica World Series ring giveaway to the first 30,000 fans.
The Indians won a still-franchise record 111 games that season with a winning percentage of .721, the best mark in the history of the club. It did not stand up in the postseason, as the Giants (97-57 in 1954) outscored the Tribe 21-9 in the four games for the sweep. Indians starters Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, and Early Wynn were charged with all of the losses, despite Lemon’s complete game effort in game one. The Giants clinched on the shores of Lake Erie in front of 78,102 fans.
Vic Wertz was the offensive star of the series for Cleveland, batting .500 with eight hits in 16 at bats. He had four singles, two doubles, a triple, one home run, and drove in a team-leading three runs. But he will forever be better remembered for the hit he did not get in the first game of the World Series. Already having three hits in the game, Wertz lifted a 425-foot blast to straightaway center field, a hit that would have left some of the parks of the day for a three-run home run. Instead, future Hall of Famer Willie Mays tracked down the drive at the spacious Polo Grounds, robbing the Indians first baseman with an over-the-shoulder catch in a 2-2 tie in the top of the 8th inning. Wertz would double in his next at bat in the 10th for his fourth hit of the game, but the Indians would lose in the bottom of the frame on a pinch-hit, three-run walkoff home run by Dusty Rhodes off of the Indians only pitcher of the game, Lemon.
The Indians will continue their West Coast trip with a three-game series starting Monday in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. The Giants will host their division mates, the San Diego Padres, in a three-game set starting Monday night before heading off for a ten-game road trip.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer