Series Preview #3: Chicago White Sox (2-4) at Cleveland Indians (2-4)
Bob Toth | On 14, Apr 2015
Most homecomings have a good deal of fanfare and jubilation. While fans were welcomed back into a new-look Progressive Field on Friday for the first time with live Cleveland Indians baseball in 2015, the on-the-field results paled in comparison to what many have considered a positive and successful ballpark renovation project amidst an awful winter of cold and snow.
As for the actual game action, the weekend could have gone a little bit better for the Cleveland Indians…
Okay, a lot.
With a key early season rivalry series at stake against Detroit, a celebratory weekend with the return of baseball to the shores of Lake Erie was spoiled and tainted as the Tigers pummeled the Indians into early submission and left Cleveland with some serious questions just one week into the season.
After winning two of three but scoring just seven runs in their previous series, the Indians bats were much more lively over the weekend. Their pitching, however, did not do its fair share as the club was outscored 25-15 in three straight losses to the Tigers. Detroit ruined the Cleveland home opener on Friday afternoon, pounding out 18 hits, including 15 singles, in an 8-4 win over Zach McAllister, who gave up five runs and 13 of the hits. After a slow start from Corey Kluber on Saturday, the Indians got to the Tigers pitching staff and tied the game at five all in the eighth, only to have an implosion from Cody Allen in the ninth as Detroit put four on the board to claim a 9-6 win. The results were overshadowed by the loss of the team’s starting catcher, Yan Gomes, to a knee injury. T.J. House was hit for six runs on six hits with three walks in an inning and a third on Sunday as the Tigers ran to an 8-5 win in the series finale.
The White Sox come to Cleveland after taking two of three from the Minnesota Twins as they opened up their home ballpark for the first time in 2015. They dropped their home opener 6-0 on Friday, losing their fourth straight game to start the season. They earned their first W of the year on Saturday afternoon, as former Indians outfielder J.B. Shuck delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning to score the go-ahead run in a 5-4 victory. Chris Sale made it two consecutive wins with six strong innings and offseason acquisition Adam LaRoche homered for the second day in a row in a 6-2 win on Sunday.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio will carry each of the two games in the series. WPWR in Chicago will air Tuesday’s game, while Comcast SportsNet will take care of Wednesday’s Jackie Robinson Day finale. The games can also be found on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network or on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago.
The Indians, against their second-most played rival in franchise history, are 30 games below the .500 mark with a 1,027-1,057 record all-time. The odds are much more stacked in the Indians’ favor at home, where they are 547-498.
Cleveland has an active four-game winning streak against Chicago, dating back to August 28th of last season. They also have a separate four-game winning streak at Progressive Field against the club going back to last July.
Michael Brantley (LF) – day-to-day – lower back stiffness
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Yan Gomes (C) – 15-day disabled list (April 12) – right MCL sprain
Nick Swisher (DH) – 15-day disabled list (April 2) – recovery from double knee surgery in August
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Zach Walters (UTIL) – 15-day disabled list (March 27) – right oblique strain
SHUFFLING THE DECK
It is very early in the season for the Indians to be playing roster roulette, but that time has already struck the Cleveland club over the weekend due to frequent bullpen use and ineffectiveness and the injury to Gomes.
On Friday, the Indians selected the contract of right-handed hitting Jerry Sands from Triple-A Columbus. To make room on the roster, reliever Austin Adams was optioned to the Clippers and Tomlin was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster.
By Sunday, Gomes had hit the DL after his right foot was slid into while forcing Detroit’s Rajai Davis out at home plate Saturday night. The injury allowed the club to recall Adams on the injury exception. They also selected the contract of veteran pitcher Shaun Marcum from Triple-A as an additional arm in the depleted bullpen. Reliever Kyle Crockett was optioned to Columbus to make room on the 25-man roster and pitcher Charles Brewer, acquired in the offseason from Arizona, was released from his contract to create another spot on the 40-man roster.
The Indians purchased the contract of catcher Brett Hayes from Columbus on Tuesday and designated Marcum for assignment to make room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters. He will back up Roberto Perez behind the plate. Cleveland also added free agent pitchers Ryan Webb and Jhoulys Chacin on minor league contracts.
The left-hander Quintana has a 3-0 lifetime record against the Indians in eleven games with a 3.24 ERA, but that has not stopped some Tribe hitters from seeing the ball well against him. Jose Ramirez has three hits in five at bats against him. Brantley is a lifetime .500 hitter (10-for-20) with a team-best five RBI against him. Mike Aviles could see action against him, thanks to a .421 career mark with eight singles in 19 trips to the plate.
Wednesday’s starter, the right-hander Noesi, has had some success against the current Tribe roster. Brantley is just 1-for-12 with a single. David Murphy has just two hits in eleven at bats, but one was a home run. Lonnie Chisenhall (3-for-9, 1 HR, 2 RBI) and Michael Bourn (4-for-7, 1 HR, 5 RBI) have both fared well against him.
White Sox hitters have seen Carrasco over the years, but newest Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera is the best of the bunch, hitting .500 against him with three singles, a double, a homer, and five RBI against the Tribe righty. Alexei Ramirez has logged more plate appearances against Carrasco than any other MLBer and has hit .238 in 23 trips to the dish. Carrasco is 2-4 in his career against the White Sox, but was 2-1 against them a season ago.
The Sox have had limited experience against Bauer, thanks to an ill-fated doubleheader start on June 28th, 2013, when Bauer lasted just two-thirds of an inning in the game’s first of two, allowing six hits and a walk on the way to five earned runs. The Indians would come back to win the game, 19-10. He was better in 2014, striking out ten in six and two-thirds scoreless innings. Jose Abreu has feasted in his limited chances, knocking three singles and striking out once in his four career ABs against him.
WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT
Avisail Garcia is hitting .368 on the young season with a pair of doubles and two RBI. Gordon Beckham, back with the White Sox after being dealt to the Los Angeles Angels last season, is hitting .375 in his first four games with a home run and three RBI.
Center fielder Adam Eaton is scuffling to start the year after signing a contract extension prior to the season. He has just two hits in his first 25 at bats. New first baseman LaRoche, who has provided homers in back-to-back games, has also struck out eleven times in his 22 plate appearances.
Jason Kipnis is off to a good start to his campaign, batting .308 with seven singles, a triple, and a pair of RBI. Despite having always put up good numbers against Chicago, he is hitless in 13 trips to the plate against Noesi, but has driven in four runs off of Quintana.
Sands made the most of his Indians debut over the weekend, hitting .444 with two singles, two doubles, and four runs batted in.
On March 1st, legendary outfielder Minnie Minoso passed away at the age of 89, or at 92, as his birth date has been a source of speculation throughout his lifetime. The fan favorite was a resident of both Cleveland and Chicago throughout his career and he was a visible figure in the game of baseball up until his death.
Minoso was brought into the game with the Indians organization in 1948 and reached the Majors in 1949, playing in nine games. He returned to the Bigs again in 1951, but was traded to Chicago as part of a three-team, seven-player trade. He would finish second that season in the Rookie of the Year voting after leading the American League in triples, stolen bases, and times hit by pitch, and was an All-Star for the first of seven times.
After the 1957 season, he was traded back to Cleveland with Fred Hatfield for Al Smith and Early Wynn. He would make an All-Star team with Cleveland in 1959, but was traded back to the White Sox following that season with three others for Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips, and John Romano. He played two seasons in Chicago, making his final All-Star squad in 1960 while leading the league in hits, before being purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent a year there and a year with the Washington Senators before returning again to Illinois with the Sox in 1964 for what appeared to be his final season. He returned to action a dozen years later, appearing in three games for the Pale Hose in 1976 at the age of 50 and in two more in 1980, making him one of just two players (Nick Altrock) to ever play in parts of five different decades.
The White Sox will get to experience what the Indians did last weekend, getting a taste of one of the hottest teams in baseball out of the gate, the Tigers, in a three-game set at Comerica Park starting Friday afternoon. The Indians will also have Thursday off before they resume their battles against AL Central foes as they take on Minnesota at Target Field for three games starting Friday.
They will see the same White Sox team again in less than a week, as they will head to the Windy City following the Twins series.
Photo: AP Photo/Mark Duncan