Series Preview #16: Cleveland Indians (22-25) at Baltimore Orioles (23-21)
Bob Toth | On 22, May 2014
It is amazing how three games can change the entire outlook on a season. The Cleveland Indians look to ride the momentum of a huge three-game sweep as they head east to Baltimore for four games with the Orioles beginning Thursday night.
After being battered by the Oakland Athletics over the weekend, the Indians (22-25) hosted the American League’s best in the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers, riding a six-game winning streak and a 14-4 record on the road, could not have foreseen the results of the three-game set.
After Cody Allen blew the save on a home run in the ninth on Monday night, Michael Brantley sent the Indians home a 5-4 winner in the bottom of the tenth with a solo laser to the bullpen in right for his first career walk-off hit, off of Detroit’s Al Alburquerque. Six strong from Trevor Bauer aided five runs against Justin Verlander as Cleveland defeated Detroit, 6-2, on Tuesday. A wacky back-and-forth game featuring a game-tying two-run home run by David Murphy in the bottom of the ninth, a tying single by Brantley in the 13th, and a bases loaded, walk-off balk by Alburquerque gave the Indians the series sweep with an 11-10 victory.
“I don’t really know if that was a baseball game or a marathon combined with a circus,” said Murphy following Wednesday’s win.
The O’s (23-21) split a two-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates in their last action. Baltimore won 9-2 on Tuesday night, paced by four home runs, three off the bat of slugger Chris Davis. The Pirates clinched the split on Wednesday night, holding on for a 9-8 victory after breaking an eight-all tie in the seventh.
Lefty Wei-Yin Chen (5-2, 3.69 ERA) will toe the rubber in Thursday’s 7:05 PM ET start at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He has won each of his last two starts and has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last six starts. Justin Masterson (2-3, 5.06) will pitch on short rest to counter for the Tribe after the Indians used Josh Tomlin, the day’s original starter, in Wednesday’s 13 inning game. Masterson failed to complete the fifth inning in his last outing for the third time this season and surrendered a season-high seven earned runs and five walks while striking out just one Oakland hitter.
Bud Norris (2-4, 3.58) will start Friday’s 7:05 PM ET game. He was hit with a tough-luck loss in his last outing after allowing just one earned run against Kansas City. A starter for Cleveland had not been announced at the time of this post, but it is believed that T.J. House will make his first Major League start in a spot start after being re-added to the roster Thursday afternoon. He is 1-2 with a 2.40 ERA in seven starts for Columbus and appeared in one game in relief for Cleveland.
A familiar foe will take the mound Saturday afternoon for Baltimore, as Ubaldo Jimenez (2-5, 4.50) makes his first start against his former teammates. He is 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in four May starts after an 0-4 record with a 6.59 ERA in 5 April starts. Corey Kluber (4-3, 3.43) will be tasked with defeating his former rotation mate. He is averaging over seven innings per start in May while posting a 2-0 record with a 2.51 ERA and .229 batting average against. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 PM ET.
Miguel Gonzalez (2-3, 4.53) will conclude the series for the Orioles at 1:35 PM ET on Sunday. He won his first start in over a month on Tuesday night. Bauer (1-1, 2.25) will make his third start of the season and his second since being inserted into the starting rotation. He allowed two runs on seven hits with five strikeouts in six innings in a win Tuesday against Detroit.
Each of the four games of the series will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. MASN will air the first three games of the series in the Mobtown area. Sunday’s ballgame will also be aired by MASN 2 and the MLB Network. Radio broadcasts will be available on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Baltimore Orioles Radio Network.
After a massive six-player roster shuffle on Tuesday, the Indians made more waves on Thursday.
After the bullpen was depleted in Wednesday’s game, the Indians added reliever Mark Lowe from Columbus. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan (sprained PCL in right knee) was transfered to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster. Reliever Kyle Crockett was optioned to Columbus to make room on the 25-man roster.
Zach McAllister, who started Wednesday’s game, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain. Pitcher T.J. House was returned to the MLB roster because of the injury, despite being demoted on Tuesday afternoon.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment this weekend in Columbus with the Triple-A Clippers.
Baltimore added a sixth man to the disabled list on Thursday afternoon.
Catcher Matt Wieters is on the 15-day DL with a strained right elbow. He is hoping to avoid surgery. Third baseman Michael Almanzar (left patellar tendinitis) and outfielder Francisco Peguero (right wrist tendinitis) are also on the 15-day DL.
Brantley leads all of baseball with 15 RBI with the bases loaded and a .667 batting average. He and Murphy are tied for fifth in the AL with 27 RBI when hitting with runners in scoring position.
Nelson Cruz appears to be worth the money and draft pick compensation that he cost the Orioles in the offseason. Through the first quarter of the season, he leads the team in homers (14), runs batted in (41), runs scored (29), slugging (.576), and OPS (.919).
The Orioles have the fewest walks (94) and stolen bases (12) in all of baseball. Their pitching staff has struck out the second-fewest batters in the AL (302). The Indians pitching staff, by comparison, leads all of baseball with 410 Ks.
The Indians own an all-time record of 1,119-847 against the Baltimore Orioles franchise, their second-best mark ever against any American League team. Cleveland took four of seven last season from the Orioles, including a split of a four-game series in Baltimore.
Before Tribe manager Terry Francona took up the “Tito” moniker, another ball playing member of his family owned it first.
John Patsy “Tito” Francona was an outfielder and first baseman in the Major Leagues and best known now as the father of skipper Tito. The elder Tito had ties to both Baltimore and Cleveland franchises during his 15-year playing career. After completing military service, Francona debuted with the Orioles in 1956 as a 22-year-old rookie. He hit .258 in 139 games on the season and finished tied for second in the Rookie of the Year voting with Rocky Colavito.
Following the 1957 season, he was dealt by the Orioles to the Chicago White Sox with two others for a package that included Larry Doby. Just over six months later, he was shipped to Detroit with one another for former Indians infielder Ray Boone and Bob Shaw.
He made his way to Cleveland just prior to the 1959 season, when the Tigers dealt him to the Indians for Doby on March 21st, the second time in his career he was traded for the future Hall of Famer. Terry would be born April 22nd.
Francona found a home and regular playing time on the shores of Lake Erie. He spent six seasons in Cleveland (1959-1964), the longest single stop in his lengthy career and easily the best years of his career. He finished fifth in the MVP voting in his first season with the Tribe, establishing career highs in home runs (20), batting average (.363), slugging percentage (.566), and a then-career best 79 RBI in just 122 games. His average was better than the AL’s leader, Harvey Kuenn (.353) of Detroit, but he had too few plate appearances to qualify.
The next season, he led the league with 36 doubles and replicated his RBI production. He made his lone All-Star appearance in 1961, when he hit .301 with 16 home runs, 30 doubles, and a career-best eight triples and 85 RBI.
Francona was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals following the 1964 season. He had stops in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Oakland, and Milwaukee before his playing career ended after the 1970 season.
The Indians will continue their road trip with a three-game stop at the south side of Chicago against the White Sox, beginning Memorial Day. The Orioles will hit the road for a three-game interleague matchup with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer