Series Preview #6: Cleveland Indians (5-9) at Detroit Tigers (11-5)
Bob Toth | On 24, Apr 2015
The weather returned to chilly in northeast Ohio and the Cleveland bats remained the same as the Indians continue to look lost at the plate. But, if there is a time to catch the Detroit Tigers reeling, now is as good of a time as any for the Cleveland Indians. The Indians head into Comerica Park this weekend for a three-game series to conclude their ten-game road trip, while the Tigers are just 3-4 on their current ten-game homestand.
The going has been tough for the Indians, but the tough have yet to get going as they continued to struggle through a long hitting drought and issues from the bullpen. They lost their fifth straight series opener on Monday night, dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 final after Cody Allen blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth, spoiling another stellar outing from Trevor Bauer. After falling in an early 1-0 hole, the Indians fought back with six runs, including a pair of solo homers, on the way to a 6-2 win on Tuesday. The Indians were blanked on Wednesday, 6-0, as Corey Kluber was outlasted by Jeff Samardzija.
Detroit hosted New York during the week and the Yankees proved that the Tigers could be beat, taking three of four from the club while outscoring them 21-9 in the four-game series. It is the first three-game losing streak for the Tigers since August 21st – 23rd of last season. They won the series opener 2-1 on Monday on a pair of RBI singles in the bottom of the seventh. New York evened up the series on Tuesday with a 5-2 win as the Tigers were able to push across just two runs off of their ten hits. The Yankee bats erupted for a baker’s dozen on Wednesday in a 13-4 rout, capped by eight runs off of David Price in two and one-third innings. Detroit was edged 2-1 on Thursday after a sixth inning balk tied the game and the deciding run scored on a groundout in the top of the eighth.
Friday, 4/24, 7:08 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (1-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. RHP Shane Greene (3-0, 0.39)
Saturday, 4/25, 1:08 PM ET – RHP Trevor Bauer (2-0, 0.95) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (3-0, 1.74)
Sunday, 4/26, 1:08 PM ET – RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 2.38) vs. LHP Kyle Lobstein (1-1, 3.27)
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio will air all three games in the set. Fox Sports Detroit will broadcast the first and third games in the series while Fox Sports 1 will show Saturday afternoon’s contest. MLB.TV will highlight Friday’s game as their Free Game of the Day. Radio options for the matchup will be available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Kansas City 12-4 .750 – W1
Detroit 11-5 .688 1.0 L3
Chicago 6-9 .400 5.5 L1
Minnesota 6-9 .400 5.5 W1
Cleveland 5-9 .357 6.0 L1
The Tigers, the Indians’ most frequently played and longest rival in their 115 years together in the American League, own a 1,100-1,050 advantage in the series. They hold a 596-472 lead in the all-time series at home.
Detroit was unkind to Cleveland the last time the two teams met up earlier this month, as they spoiled the Indians Home Opener weekend by sweeping the three-game series in resounding fashion. While Cleveland averaged five runs per game in the series, Detroit scored 25 runs in the three games while stringing together 43 hits. Simon and Lobstein both earned wins in the last series and Joakim Soria earned saves in the bookend games.
Slow starts and cold bats in the month of April are no new thing for the Cleveland Indians.
Through 14 games last season, the club improved to 7-7 with a win over Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers. The previous season, the club dropped to 5-9 by way of their fourth straight loss in a 6-3 fall to the Boston Red Sox. In both seasons, the club finished the season with winning records.
In 2012, the club lost 5-1 in Oakland to move to 8-6 after 14 games on the season and would finish the year 68-94. The year before, their 14th game moved them to 10-4 on the way to an 80-82 record. They were 6-8 after 14 games in 2010, 5-9 in 2009 and 2008, 7-7 in 2007, and 9-5 in 2006.
If the last ten seasons have taught us anything, cold Aprils refer to much more than just the weather in northeast Ohio. Just three times in that span have the Indians had a winning percentage above .500 after 14 games.
INJURY UPDATES and TRANSACTIONS
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) – activated from DL 4/24 and optioned to Triple-A Columbus.
Ian Krol (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Toledo (4/23)
Joe Nathan (CL) – 15-day disabled list (4/9) – torn ulnar collateral ligament; flexor pronator; needs UCL surgery
Bruce Rondon (RP) – 15-day disabled list (4/1) – right biceps tendinitis
Justin Verlander (SP) – 15-day disabled list (3/29) – strained right triceps; shut down from throwing
Alex Wilson (RP) – recalled from Toledo 4/23
Detroit has nearly identical numbers hitting off of Cleveland’s three starters for the series. Current Tigers have hit .310 off of Salazar, .314 off of Bauer, and .308 against Carrasco.
In what is little surprise, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera have accumulated the most hits on the club against Salazar. Martinez is 5-for-14 (.357) with a solo homer and a walk in 15 plate appearances. Cabrera has been all-or-nothing against him, totaling five hits in 13 at bats (.385) with a homer and two RBI, but has also struck out six times. Ian Kinsler has driven in a club-high four runs off of him. Salazar, however, is 1-1 against Detroit in his career with a 3.27 ERA and a complete game shutout to his credit.
Detroit has put together equally good numbers off of Bauer in his career. Alex Avila is 5-for-8 (.625) with a homer and four singles. J.D. Martinez, becoming a notorious Cleveland killer in recent years, is 5-for-11 (.455) with a homer and two RBI. Bauer is 1-0 at Comerica Park in his career and 2-0 against the Tigers in five career starts.
Cabrera is a .333 hitter off of Carrasco with a homer and two RBI. Three of Kinsler’s five hits are doubles. Avila has struck out in half of his 14 plate appearances against him. He has the worst numbers, career-wise, of the three Indians starters against the Tigers this weekend, posting a 2-5 record with a 6.86 ERA in 12 games (seven starts).
Michael Brantley owns the only hit by an active Indians player against Greene. Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, and David Murphy have all faced him before, with Greene having strikeouts against Santana and Murphy. Greene allowed two runs on four hits in six innings of a win with the Yankees in his lone career start against the Indians last season.
Brantley is the active team hitting leader against Simon in his career, batting .583 against the big righty with seven hits (three doubles) in 12 at bats with six runs batted in. Santana is 4-for-12, and Chisenhall has just two hits (double, homer) in ten at bats, but has driven in six runs. Simon improved his career record to 2-2 against the Indians with a win against them earlier this season.
Indians hitters have struck Lobstein to a .302 mark in his career. Santana has two singles, a homer, and three RBI against him. Brantley is 2-for-5 with a homer and two RBI. Ryan Raburn has driven in a pair in five ABs. The lefty is 1-0 in three starts against Cleveland while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning pitched, but has a lofty 5.28 ERA.
MOTORS HIGH IN MOTOWN
It is hardly a secret that Cabrera and the Martinezes have destroyed Cleveland pitching in the last several years.
Cabrera has hit .357 in his career against Cleveland with 37 home runs and 118 RBI. The home run mark is the most he has against any one club, while the RBI production is tied for his personal best with his overall production against Minnesota.
He was a man possessed in the two teams’ three-game series earlier in the month when he had eleven hits in 14 at bats (.786) with a pair of home runs and six RBI. Half of his total number of hits for the season have come off of Indians pitching. In his other 13 games this year, he has just eleven hits in 46 at bats (.239) with no home runs and four RBI.
A former fan favorite in Cleveland, Victor Martinez has been unkind to his former club, hitting .353 in 68 career games against Cleveland with 12 home runs and 56 RBI. He hit .364 with a pair of RBI in the first series of the season against the Indians.
J.D. Martinez has hit .298 in 25 career games against Cleveland with eleven home runs and 29 RBI, the latter two numbers both being career-bests. He had a homer and three RBI in the earlier matchup and has five homers on the season.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OMAR!
The series opening game on Friday marks the 48th birthday of 24-year MLB veteran and fan favorite in Cleveland, Omar Vizquel.
The Venezuelan-born flashy shortstop put together his best years in Cleveland, making three All-Star teams, winning eight of his eleven career Gold Gloves, and hitting at a .283 mark in his career. After his time in Cleveland ended in 2004, he bounced around the league a bit, playing four seasons in San Francisco, one in Texas, two in Chicago, and one final year in Toronto. He retired with 2,877 career hits (40th-best all-time) and a .985 fielding percentage (second-best amongst all shortstops). In addition to the bulk of his time at short, he also appeared in 150 games at third base, 76 at second, seven in the DH spot, three games at first base, and two in the outfield.
Following his playing career, he worked as a roving minor league infield instructor for the Angels and since 2014 has been the first base coach for the Detroit Tigers.
The Indians finally find their way home, but the challenges will not get any easier, as they host the Kansas City Royals in a three-game weekday set starting Monday night. The Tigers will hit the road for the second time in the month as they head to Minnesota for a three-game series beginning Monday night.
Photo: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh