Series Preview #12: Cleveland Indians (16-19) at Tampa Bay Rays (15-20)
Bob Toth | On 09, May 2014
The Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays find themselves in a far different situation than their last encounter in October of 2013.
The Indians (16-19) will head to Tampa to do battle with the Rays for the first time since their American League Wild Card round loss at home to end their season last year. After struggling throughout the first month of the season, they have now won five of their last seven, thanks to a series win this week against Minnesota, and have pulled themselves out of the cellar of the American League Central.
Cleveland dropped Monday’s series opener, 1-0, in ten innings courtesy of an Eduardo Escobar home run off of John Axford. They rebounded and rode Josh Tomlin’s first start since July 27, 2012, to a 4-2 victory on Tuesday night. A walk-off single by Mike Aviles with two outs in the ninth inning gave the Indians a 4-3 win on Wednesday night. A rare scoring outburst and multi-hit games from four different players in the lineup paced the Tribe to a 9-4 victory in Thursday afternoon’s finale.
The Rays (15-20) went head-to-head at home with the division rival Baltimore Orioles during the week. The results were not as they had hoped and left the club sitting in last place in the AL East. Baltimore won a 5-3 decision on Tuesday by breaking a 3-3 tie in the eighth. The O’s claimed Wednesday’s middle game by a 4-3 final, powered by three home runs. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched into the sixth inning on Thursday night as the Orioles defeated David Price and the Rays 3-1 to complete the three game sweep.
Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 6.83 ERA) will start Friday night’s 7:10 PM ET start at Tropicana Field. He is 0-1 in two career starts against Cleveland back in 2012 with a 4.91 ERA, which included his Major League debut. Corey Kluber (2-3, 3.60) will take the bump for manager Terry Francona and the Indians. He threw his fourth quality start in seven outings this year in a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox in his last outing with a career-high 13 strikeouts.
Veteran lefty Erik Bedard (1-1, 4.35) will take the mound for Saturday’s 7:10 PM ET first pitch. He is 2-3 in 13 career starts against the Indians with a 5.00 ERA. Zach McAllister (3-2, 3.18) will oppose. He earned a no-decision his last time out, despite not allowing a run in six and two-thirds innings of work in his fourth quality start of the season.
Former Indians farmhand Chris Archer (2-1, 4.91) will wrap up the series on Sunday afternoon. He lost his only career outing against his former club after allowing five runs in four innings last season at Progressive Field. Tomlin (1-0, 1.35) will make his second start of the season after a solid outing against the Twins. First pitch is scheduled for 1:40 PM ET.
The series between the Indians and Rays will get some national airplay this weekend. Friday’s game will be broadcast on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Sun Sports. Fox Sports 1 will air Saturday night’s game. Sunday’s viewing will be possible via Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio, Sun Sports, and the MLB Network. The affiliates of the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays Radio Networks will handle audio-exclusive broadcasts of all three games.
Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis remains on the 15-day disabled list with a right abdominal strain. Designated hitter Jason Giambi is also on the disabled list and will miss the series with a right calf strain.
The Rays have three different starting pitchers on the disabled list.
The Indians will avoid a rematch with Wild Card opponent Alex Cobb (1-1, 1.89) this weekend, as the right-hander just began throwing bullpen sessions this week in his return from a left oblique strain. He could return later this month. Jeremy Hellickson threw a third bullpen session this week while recovering from right elbow surgery in January. He is not expected back until the end of June. Matt Moore will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April.
Second baseman Tim Beckham, the first selection in the 2008 amateur draft, underwent right knee surgery in December to repair a torn ACL sustained in a workout. He has played just five games at the Major League level, with three singles in seven at bats.
Michael Brantley has put together an eight-game hitting streak. He is hitting .400 in the last week with 12 hits in 30 at bats. His two home runs increased his season total to a team-high six and his nine RBI pushed his season total to 29, the third highest total in the American League. He has driven in a Major League leading 14 runs with the bases loaded while hitting .667.
Aviles is ten for his last 17 in his last five games, good for a .588 batting average. He has three doubles during that stretch with one game-winning run batted in on Wednesday.
Asdrubal Cabrera broke out of a mini-slump with hits in six of his last nine at bats against the Twins with three doubles, a home run, and three runs batted in. He finished a triple short of the cycle in Thursday’s game.
Tampa’s David DeJesus has hit in four straight games and seven of nine. He has two of his three home runs and one-third of his season RBI total in that stretch.
First baseman James Loney has cooled after a hot streak a week ago. He has just one hit in his last 13 at bats after a five game hitting streak. He had eleven hits in 19 at bats during the brief hitting streak with four multi-hit games and three RBI.
Right fielder Wil Myers has hit successfully in six straight games with a pair of home runs and seven runs batted in. He is batting .357 during his streak (10-for-28). His home run on Sunday against the New York Yankees was of the inside-the-park variety.
The Indians lost four of six to the Rays during the regular season last year, with both victories coming via shutout. Four of the six games between the clubs were decided in that fashion. Cleveland holds a substantial advantage in the series between the two clubs with a 75-50 record, including a 32-30 mark on the road at Tropicana Field. Tampa has posted a 19-10 record over the last four years.
An old familiar Indians face has found a home as a member of the Rays’ broadcasting team on Sun Sports.
Former left-handed pitcher Brian Anderson, a product of Geneva High School and Wright State University in Ohio, was a first round draft pick of the California Angels in the 1993 amateur draft. He made his Major League debut that very same season and spent three total years in the Majors with the Angels before he was traded to the Indians on February 15, 1996, in exchange for pitchers Jason Grimsley and Pep Harris.
Anderson spent parts of the 1996 and 1997 seasons in an Indians uniform, posting a 7-3 record in 18 games. He pitched in six games for the Tribe in the 1997 postseason, including three in the ALCS and three in the World Series. He became the first pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft following the ’97 season.
He made a pair of postseason trips with the D’Backs in 1999 and again in 2001, winning a game in the NLCS against Atlanta and losing a start against the New York Yankees in the World Series, one that Arizona would ultimately win.
Anderson re-signed with Cleveland for the 2003 season but was traded to Kansas City in August for minor leaguers and cash. He played his final big league game on May 8, 2005.
Anderson did some work on Cleveland Indians broadcasts in 2007 before working as an assistant to Tampa Bay pitching coach Jim Hickey in 2008 and 2009. This is his third season as a full-time television color analyst and his fifth season overall as a member of the broadcasting team for the Rays.
The Indians will continue their road trip with a flight north of the border to Toronto against the Blue Jays beginning Tuesday night. The Rays will make the dreaded cross-country flight to Seattle to begin a seven-game West Coast trip with three games against the Mariners.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images