Series Preview #13: Cleveland Indians (18-20) at Toronto Blue Jays (19-20)
Bob Toth | On 13, May 2014
Three consecutive series wins have the Cleveland Indians rolling in the month of May. They will look to continue their better play of late on the field as they open a three-game series at the Rogers Centre against the Toronto Blue Jays. It will be their final three games against the Jays this season.
The Indians (18-20) took two of three from the Rays over the weekend and have now won their last three series over Minnesota, Chicago, and Tampa after a dreadful winless West Coast trip to end April. Friday night, they rode a strong start from Corey Kluber and three home runs to a 6-3 victory. The Indians dropped a 7-1 decision on Saturday night, befuddled by the pitching of Tampa’s Erik Bedard. Cleveland held on for a 6-5 win on Sunday, despite three late inning runs from the Rays to make it a close contest.
The Blue Jays (19-20) avoided a four-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels by salvaging the finale on Monday. A sacrifice fly broke up a three all tie in the ninth to give the Angels a 4-3 win on Friday night over the Jays. Los Angeles held off a ninth inning Toronto rally on Saturday, winning 5-3. The Halos made sure to win definitively on Sunday, as five Hank Conger RBI led to a 9-3 victory. Toronto’s Mark Buehrle became baseball’s first seven-game winner of the season in Monday’s 7-3 finale behind six-plus innings on the mound.
R.A. Dickey (3-3, 4.72 ERA) will get the start in the series opener on Tuesday night at 7:07 PM ET. He threw 121 pitches his last time out against Philadelphia, earning a win with a season-high eight strikeouts. Justin Masterson (2-1, 3.86) has thrown quality starts in four of his last five outings and five of eight this season. He is 2-1 pitching in Toronto and 4-1 in 15 career games against them with a 2.79 ERA.
Dustin McGowan (2-1, 4.63) will make Wednesday night’s first pitch at 7:07 PM ET. He has allowed just three runs in 12 innings so far in May but is 0-2 against the Indians in four career games. Kluber (3-3, 3.48) has settled in with five quality starts out of eight total appearances this year and will take the mound for Tribe manager Terry Francona.
J.A. Happ (1-1, 4.63) will toe the slab in the series finale on Thursday night for his third start of the season and sixth appearance overall. He allowed four runs in two and one-third innings his last time out. Danny Salazar (1-3, 5.65) had his scheduled start pushed back from Tuesday to Thursday in order to keep Masterson and Kluber on their regularly scheduled starts after Monday’s off day. He has given up just two hits in 15 plate appearances to the six Blue Jays who have faced him. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 PM ET.
All three games of the series will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Rogers Sportsnet. Thursday’s game will also air on the MLB Network. Radio broadcasts will be available on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Blue Jays Radio Network.
Reliever Sergio Santos was placed on the 15-day disabled list by Toronto on Monday with a right elbow strain and forearm tenderness. Catcher Erik Kratz was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo. Reliever Chad Jenkins and infielder Jonathan Diaz were recalled to take their roster spots, but Diaz was demoted a day later to make room for outfielder Kevin Pillar.
IN THE BOX
Asdrubal Cabrera has three hits, all for extra bases, in six at bats against Dickey. He has hit a pair of home runs and driven in four. He has faced McGowan twice and has two singles and two runs batted in against him.
Michael Brantley is batting .357 in May with a team-leading 15 hits, three doubles, three home runs, and ten RBI. He is 2-for-4 against Dickey with a walk. Ryan Raburn is 4-for-8 against Dickey with a double and an RBI. Michael Bourn has more plate appearances against Dickey than any other player to step to the plate against him. He has ten hits, including a double and a triple, with a .286 batting average.
Mike Aviles is hitting .444 in May with 12 hits.
Colby Rasmus may miss the series with a hamstring injury and could require a trip to the disabled list. He has made some adjustments in his plate approach and it has paid off for the Blue Jays. He is leading the Majors with five home runs so far in the month of May and is tied for the team lead in RBI for the month with Edwin Encarnacion with a dozen. Encarnacion has four homers of his own in May.
Melky Cabrera has owned Masterson. He has 15 hits in 30 plate appearances (a .556 batting average overall) with two doubles, one home run, and a pair of RBI. He has never struck out against the Indians’ right-hander. He has a double and triple in four at bats against Kluber. He is hitting .311 for the month of May.
Jose Bautista is a career .316 hitter against Masterson with a .480 on-base percentage. He has six hits and six walks in 25 career plate appearances with a pair of home runs and five RBI. He is hitting .313 in May with ten RBI.
After Toronto took two of three in the middle of April from Cleveland, the edge in the all-time head-to-head series between the two clubs tilted in the Blue Jays’ favor. The Jays now hold a 194-193 edge in the 38th year of competition between the two franchises. Toronto holds a 12 game advantage in the win column at home. The Indians hold the lead in series’ wins with a 19-16-2 record all time.
CARTER A KEY TO 90s REBUILD
Former Cleveland fan favorite Joe Carter’s biggest claim to fame during his Major League career is easily his series-winning walk-off three-run home run against Philadelphia’s Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series while with the Blue Jays.
For Indians fans, Carter may be better known for the haul acquired for him in his December 1989 trade by the Indians with the San Diego Padres. Carter was previously acquired from the Chicago Cubs early in the 1984 season with outfielder Mel Hall and two pitchers for pitchers Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier and catcher Ron Hassey.
A pair of prospects were acquired in the trade – coveted catcher Sandy Alomar and minor league infielder Carlos Baerga, who both came over to have instrumental roles on the Indians roster through the majority of the 1990s. Reliever Greg Harris was alleged to be a top target, with Alomar, of the Indians in early discussions, but when the Padres balked on Harris, negotiations turned to outfielder Chris James and another prospect to join the catcher.
The corner outfielder and first baseman Carter was eligible for salary arbitration in 1990 in his final season before free agency and was reluctant to sign a contract extension with the Indians due to the changing marketplace. He made $1.63 million with Cleveland in 1989 after several disappointing seasons for the Indians, but productive seasons for the Tribe’s star. In five full seasons with Cleveland, he averaged 155 games per season with 28 home runs and 98 runs batted in. He was coming off of a career-high 35 home run season with his third 100+ RBI season and did not miss a game for the second time in his career.
The Indians reportedly had multiple other trade discussions at the time prior to the trade with San Diego, according to the Los Angeles Times. The California Angels were said to offer outfielder Devon White and second baseman Johnny Ray before withdrawing. Kansas City offered outfielder Danny Tartabull and reliever Jose de Jesus. St. Louis was said to be willing to move outfielders Willie McGee and Vince Coleman, while Toronto proposed infielder Manuel Lee, outfielder Junior Felix, and reliever Duane Ward.
Carter gave the Padres a potent outfield, joining future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and speedy Bip Roberts. He played in all 162 games with the disappointing Padres, batted .232 with 24 home runs and 115 RBI, and was dealt to the Blue Jays following the season with infielder Roberto Alomar for first baseman Fred McGriff and infielder Tony Fernandez.
The Indians will head home to a pair of fireworks nights and a dollar dog night this weekend as they host the Oakland Athletics. The Blue Jays will hit the road for a six-game road trip through Texas and Massachusetts.
Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara