Series Preview #39: Baltimore Orioles (69-50) at Cleveland Indians (60-60)
Bob Toth | On 15, Aug 2014
The Cleveland Indians have a challenging and important weekend ahead of them as they host the American League East’s best, the Baltimore Orioles, in three games at Progressive Field.
The Indians (60-60) maintained their aversion to a winning record by splitting a pair of games with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday after Mother Nature interfered with more than three hours of rain delays on Tuesday night. Trevor Bauer struck out nine and pitched a career-high eight innings in a 3-2 walkoff win courtesy of a Zach Walters ninth inning homer in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. The two teams needed 12 innings to decide a victor in the second game, and the spoils went to the Diamondbacks on a one-out RBI single, giving Arizona the 1-0 win.
The Orioles (69-50) come into play Friday with a seven and a half game lead in the AL East. They took a pair from the third place New York Yankees after rains cancelled Tuesday’s contest. Three home runs helped to lead the Orioles to an 11-3 win on Monday night. A four-run eighth inning, powered by another two home runs at Camden Yards, snuck the O’s past the Yankees on Wednesday, 5-3.
The Indians will send one of the surprise stories in baseball this season, Corey Kluber, to the mound on Friday night. Kluber (13-6, 2.46 ERA) has won three straight games and has won six straight decisions. He is 2-0 in August with a 0.68 ERA. Lefty Wei-Yin Chen (12-4, 3.90) had won five consecutive starts until losing his last time out in Toronto. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
Carlos Carrasco (4-4, 3.60) earned a second start and will get it on Saturday night as he opposes former Tribemate Ubaldo Jimenez (4-8, 4.51). Carrasco allowed just two hits and struck out four Yankees in five scoreless innings in his first start since April 25th on August 10th. Jimenez has fared much better on the road than at home (3.70 ERA versus a 5.21 mark) and better at night (2.87 ERA) than in day games (9.22 ERA). Game time is set for a 7:05 PM ET start.
T.J. House (1-3, 4.13) will face Kevin Gausman (6-4, 3.90) in Sunday’s 1:05 PM ET start. House had his last start rained out after three-plus innings of scoreless ball. Gausman has faced the Indians just one time in his career. He allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in two and two-thirds innings of a relief appearance.
Television broadcasts of the series will be available on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and MASN 2. Radio broadcasts will be provided by the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Orioles Radio Net.
Both Friday night and Saturday night games will feature the yearly display of the Rock N’ Blast fireworks. Local band Welshly Arms will perform postgame on both nights.
The Orioles, throughout their history, have provided the Indians with one of their best all-time winning records. The Indians are 1,121-849 against the O’s franchise, good for a .569 winning percentage, fourth-best in club history and second-best against an American League opponent. The Indians are 585-400 in Cleveland against Baltimore.
As has been the trend for the majority of the season, the Indians and Orioles have split their season series so far. Kluber was responsible for one of those May wins in Baltimore in a 9-0 shutout. House and Bauer were both dealt losses.
On the disabled list report, right fielder David Murphy (right abdominal strain) and first baseman/DH Nick Swisher (right knee soreness) are on the 15-day disabled list. Designated hitter Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation) remains on the 60-day DL.
Outfielder Michael Bourn was activated from the DL prior to Friday’s game. He assumes the 25-man roster spot vacated by reliever John Axford, who was sent to Pittsburgh on Thursday when the Pirates placed a waiver claim on him.
The Orioles placed Manny Machado back on the disabled list after he sprained a ligament in his right knee at the plate. Former Indians infielder Cord Phelps was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take his place on the roster.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy is day-to-day with a sprained left thumb. He has been out of the Orioles lineup since Sunday but the club hopes he can return to action sometime this weekend.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
The Indians are 35-23 at home this season, still one of the best marks in the AL. The Orioles have been just as good on the road, going 35-24 this season to lead the AL in that category.
FILLING UP THE STAT SHEET
Tyler Holt was 4-for-8 at the plate in Wednesday’s doubleheader. The trips to the plate came in the first two starts of his Major League career.
Michael Brantley is hitting .421 in the last week as he continues to dominate the league in his breakout season. He has hits in each of his last six games.
Jose Ramirez is hitting .385 in the last week with five hits, including the decisive two-run home run in a win in New York. The shot was the first of his career. He has a modest three-game hitting streak, batting .500 in those three games.
Yan Gomes is hitting .375 since the All-Star break and continues to be amongst the offensive leaders behind the plate this season. He has hit in three straight games since his 13-game hitting streak ended against New York last Saturday.
Baltimore catcher Caleb Joseph homered in five straight games last week. The rookie has eight homers and 21 RBI on the season.
Nelson Cruz has slugged 31 home runs and 83 RBI already this season. He is just two blasts shy of tying his career best of 33 set in 2009 with Texas. His RBI total is just seven short from matching his best set in 2012.
Another All-Star, Adam Jones, has hit in five straight games and is hitting .287 on the season. His 23 home runs and 75 RBI are both second best on the team, trailing Cruz.
Outfielder Nick Markakis has hit safely in six straight games and in eleven of twelve games this month for Baltimore.
Long time Baltimore Orioles fan favorite Boog Powell spent two of his final three Major League seasons in Cleveland with the Indians.
Powell signed with Baltimore in 1959 and reached the Majors in four games in 1961 as a 19-year-old. He became a regular in the lineup the next season and by 1964 hit what would be a career-high 39 home runs while driving in 99 runs and leading the league with a .606 slugging mark.
His power numbers would come and go over the course of his career, but he still was able to become an AL All-Star in four consecutive seasons from 1968 to 1971. In his 1970 season, he hit .297 with 35 home runs and 114 RBI with a .412 on-base percentage and was named AL MVP, just one season after finishing in second in the voting.
Powell, wearing the always fashionable red Indians jerseys, played 229 games in Cleveland between 1975 and 1976. He hit 27 homers and drove in 86 while batting .297 in his first season before playing just 95 games the following year, hitting .215 with nine homers and 33 RBI. He won the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1975, the second time in his career he earned the honor.
He was released by the Indians just prior to the 1977 season. He signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers less than a week later and played with the club through the end of August. He appeared in just four games at first base and was used almost exclusively as a pinch hitter, logging 53 plate appearances and 41 at bats in 50 games played.
Powell will celebrate his 73rd birthday on Sunday.
The Indians will take Monday off before hitting the road to the Twin Cities to do battle with the Minnesota Twins for three games before returning home again next weekend. The Orioles will continue their road trip with a week in Chicago, first for three with the White Sox and then three with the Cubs, separated by a Thursday day off.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images