Series Preview #14: Oakland A’s (25-16) at Cleveland Indians (19-22)
Bob Toth | On 16, May 2014
After an abysmal 0-6 West Coast trip the last time the Cleveland Indians hit the road, their just completed 3-3 trip through Tampa and Toronto looks a whole lot better. Back in the United States, they have returned home to begin a difficult six-game homestand against two of the top teams in baseball. It all begins Friday night with three games against the Oakland Athletics.
The Indians (19-22) dropped two of three to the Blue Jays this week. Tuesday night they fell 5-4, as Toronto put a three-spot on the board in the sixth that was too much to overcome. The bats awoke on Wednesday night, as Cleveland clubbed 22 hits and 15 runs in a 15-4 victory. The long ball tripped up the Tribe on Thursday, as they lost a 4-2 decision to lose the series.
The A’s (25-16) continue to lead the pack in the American League West with a two and a half game advantage over second place Los Angeles. Oakland took two of three from the Chicago White Sox this week. They won a 5-4 ball game on Monday, holding off a late three-run rally from the White Sox in the ninth. Former Indians prospect Drew Pomeranz and three relievers combined on a four-hit, 11-0 shellacking of the Sox on Tuesday night. The A’s dropped Wednesday night’s game, 4-2, to end a six-game winning streak as Chicago’s Jose Abreu slugged a three-run home run in the top of the eighth for the difference.
Cleveland will throw Zach McAllister (3-3, 3.89 ERA) on the mound for Friday’s 7:05 PM ET start. After a strong start to his season, he has lost three of his last four decisions and has given up 13 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings over those games (5.75 ERA). Sonny Gray (4-1, 2.17) earned a no-decision in his first Opening Day start this season against Cleveland. He has pitched at least six innings and has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his eight starts this season.
Josh Tomlin (2-0, 2.13) will make his third start of the season in Saturday night’s ball game. He has allowed three earned runs and just one walk through his first 12 innings this season and has faced just four of the Oakland hitters. He will face a familiar foe in left-hander Scott Kazmir (5-1, 2.28). The 30-year-old has pitched at least six innings in seven of eight starts and has allowed more than three earned runs in a game one time this season. He has limited the nine Indians batters to face him to a .132 batting average. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
Justin Masterson (2-2, 4.31) will wrap the series up beginning at 1:05 PM ET on Sunday. He earned his first loss of May after allowing five earned runs in five and one-third innings in Tuesday’s loss to Toronto. Right-hander Jesse Chavez (3-1, 2.44) will counter for Oakland. His first scheduled start against Cleveland was pushed back due to the early season rainout at O.co Coliseum.
All three games of the series will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Comcast SportsNet California. Sunday’s series finale will also air on the MLB Network. For those away from television, both the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Oakland Athletics Radio Network, including their flagship station KGMZ 95.7 FM The Game, will provide audio for the series.
The Indians made another significant move in their starting rotation Friday afternoon, as the club optioned young right-hander Danny Salazar to Triple-A Columbus. Salazar, who took the loss Thursday, is 1-4 on the season with a 5.53 ERA and has yet to win a road start in his career. The Indians will not need to replace Salazar’s spot in the rotation until Tuesday.
Left-hander reliever Kyle Crockett was called up from Double-A Akron to take his spot on the roster. The 22-year-old has never pitched above the Double-A level after being selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. In 15 games at Akron this season, he has no record with six saves and a 0.54 ERA. He has struck out 17 batters in 15 2/3 innings on the mound and has allowed just one run on eight hits with three walks. Left-handed batters are hitting just .118 off of him this season. He allowed just one earned run in 24 2/3 innings pitched (0.36 ERA) over 21 games during the 2013 season.
Cleveland’s disabled list has become a little more crowded this week.
Joining second baseman Jason Kipnis (strained right oblique) and designated hitter Jason Giambi (right calf strain) on the DL on Thursday was outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who suffered a sprained right knee in Wednesday’s game after replacing Michael Brantley, who is day-to-day with tightness in his mid-back. Slugging prospect Jesus Aguilar was recalled from Triple-A Columbus and made his MLB debut on Thursday, going 0-for-2 with a walk.
Oakland has had their share of injuries, as their disabled list is primarily full of pitchers.
Reliever Ryan Cook was placed on the 15-day disabled list a week ago with a right forearm strain. Starters A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgeries. Eric O’Flaherty is on the 60-day disabled list with a possible June timetable for return in his recovery from a May 2013 Tommy John procedure.
Infielder Jake Elmore is on the DL with a strained left quadriceps.
Outfielder Coco Crisp may return this weekend. He has been out of the starting lineup for several days with a strained neck.
On Thursday, Oakland acquired first baseman Kyle Blanks from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor leaguer Jake Goebbert and a player to be named later. They designated first baseman Daric Barton for assignment to make room for Blanks.
AT THE PLATE
Josh Donaldson is 5-for-11 (.455) in his career against McAllister with a double and one run batted in. He is just 1-for-12 (.083) against Masterson.
John Jaso is 4-for-10 (.400) in 12 plate appearances with a double, an RBI, and a pair of walks against McAllister and 5-for-16 (.313) against Masterson, including a pair of home runs.
Crisp has two home runs as well with five runs batted in over 12 plate appearances against Masterson. He has hit .364 against him lifetime.
Brantley’s eleven-game hitting streak ended in Tuesday’s loss. He leads the team with his seven home runs and 30 RBI. He is 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles in limited action against Gray.
In 21 games this season, Michael Bourn has gone hitless just four times. He has an active five-game hitting streak going into this weekend’s action and has hit in nine of ten and 16 of his last 18.
Lonnie Chisenhall and David Murphy each had five hits in Cleveland’s win on Wednesday, the first time the Indians have had two players with five hits in a game since 1932 and the first time in a nine inning affair since 1928. Murphy added five RBI in the game and was 8-for-14 in the series.
The Indians took two of three from Oakland to open up the regular season, losing only to Kazmir in the middle game of the series. The Indians maintain an all-time edge in their series with the Athletics franchise, winning 1,022 of the 1,929 contests. This includes a 557-412 record in Cleveland.
HITLESS WITH HASSEY
Thursday marked the 33rd anniversary of Len Barker’s perfect game with the Indians at Cleveland Stadium on a rainy and sparsely attended contest on May 15, 1981. Barker’s backstop and signal caller for the night was catcher Ron Hassey, who was in his fourth year with the Indians, the team that drafted him in the 18th round of the 1976 draft.
Hassey was dealt by the Indians to the Chicago Cubs in 1984 in a trade that sent Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier to the Windy City and brought Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Don Schulze, and Darryl Banks to Cleveland.
After the season, he was dealt by Chicago to the New York Yankees. One year later, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Within two months he was traded back to the Yankees and, a little over five months later, was traded back to the White Sox.
He signed with the Oakland Athletics in December of 1987 and spent three seasons in the Bay Area, reaching the World Series in all three years and winning the title in 1989, although he did not play in the series.
Hassey has a unique place in baseball history as the only receiver to call two perfect games in Major League Baseball history. He just missed a third, as a Rickey Henderson fourth inning infield single was the lone baserunner in an Oakland 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees. Henderson was erased on a double play and pitchers Todd Burns, Rick Honeycutt, and Eric Plunk combined to face the minimum 27 batters.
Hassey concluded his MLB career with a season behind the plate for Montreal in 1991, where he caught the 2-0 perfect game thrown by a future Cleveland Indian, Dennis Martinez, against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The perfection by El Presidente was the 13th perfect game thrown of 23 in MLB history.
The Indians will welcome to town the Detroit Tigers for three games, starting Monday night. The Athletics will hit the road for Tampa to open a three-game series with the Rays on Tuesday night.
Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images