Series Preview #8: Toronto Blue Jays (10-12) at Cleveland Indians (7-13)
Bob Toth | On 30, Apr 2015
“We won a game yesterday. We win one today, that’s “two in a row”. We win one tomorrow, that’s called a “winning streak”. It has happened before…” – Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona, probably. But actually, spoken by fictional Indians manager Lou Brown in the movie Major League II.
Maybe the Indians could use an unfamiliar face, as all of the usual suspects in April have been unfriendly. Cleveland will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to town on Thursday for a four-game set, marking the first non-American League Central rival to grace the grass at Progressive Field this season and just the second non-divisional opponent to suit up against the Indians this season.
The Indians’ struggles against an overall improved AL Central continued as the Kansas City Royals visited this week. Monday night, the Indians’ bats were limited to just four hits as Kansas City claimed a 6-2 victory. KC secured a series win with an 11-5 barrage on Tuesday as the Cleveland bullpen was blown up for eight earned runs. They avoided a sweep on Wednesday night, powered by home runs from Jason Kipnis and Roberto Perez and a pair of RBI doubles in a 7-5 win, just their second of the season at Progressive Field.
The Blue Jays, like the Indians, find themselves lost in the bottom of their division and did nothing to help their cause by dropping two of three to Boston during the week. After jumping out to a 5-2 lead after four, they allowed the Red Sox to chip away and ultimately win the game in walkoff fashion in the bottom of the ninth Monday, 6-5, on a game-winning single from Mookie Betts. Toronto took the middle game, 11-8, capped by nine runs in the third through fifth innings produced primarily by six RBI-singles. They lost in the rubber match on Wednesday, 4-1, as a Hanley Ramirez two-run homer in the third broke a 1-1 tie and dealt R.A. Dickey his third loss of the season.
Thursday, 4/30, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Daniel Norris (1-1, 4.43 ERA) vs. LHP T.J. House (0-3, 12.60)
Friday, 5/1, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Mark Buehrle (3-1, 4.94) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 4.60)
Saturday, 5/2, 4:10 PM ET – RHP Aaron Sanchez (1-2, 5.03) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (0-3, 4.24)
Sunday, 5/3, 1:10 PM ET – RHP Drew Hutchison (2-0, 6.67) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (2-0, 1.80)
Evening baseball returns to its traditional seven o’clock starting point after start times at six during their series with the Royals. Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio will air all four games of the series between the two clubs. SNet will handle the Blue Jays call of the games Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, while SNet-1 will broadcast Friday’s game. Radio calls will be available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and SN590 in Ontario.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Detroit 15-7 .682 – W1
Kansas City 14-7 .667 0.5 L1
Chicago 8-10 .444 5.0 L1
Minnesota 9-12 .429 5.5 L1
Cleveland 7-13 .350 7.0 W1
While they may not be divisional opponents, the Indians and Blue Jays have played each other like one. Cleveland’s third closest opponent in the MLB, following frequent visitor Detroit and infrequent guest Pittsburgh, Toronto has a slight 196-194 edge in the all-time series between the two teams. The Indians hold a 103-92 record at Cleveland Stadium and Jacobs/Progressive Field.
The teams met six times in 2014. The Jays took two of three in Cleveland, dealing losses to Marc Rzepczynski and Kluber in April, and won two of three at Rogers Centre in May, defeating Justin Masterson and Danny Salazar while Kluber earned a 15-4 win.
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
Jerry Sands (UTIL) – designated for assignment
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
Ryan Webb (RP) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus
Jonathan Diaz (SS) – contract selected from Triple-A Buffalo
Maicer Izturis (2B) – 15-day disabled list (March 27) – strained right groin
Dioner Navarro (C) – 15-day disabled list (April 22) – strained left hamstring
Jose Reyes (SS) – 15-day disabled list (April 28) – cracked left rib
Marcus Stroman (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right knee surgery
HOT AND COLD
With three walks against the Royals on Wednesday and five in his last two games, Carlos Santana leads the team and the league in walks with 18. He trails Washington’s Bryce Harper (21) for the Major League lead.
Michael Brantley is hitting .359 in his last ten games to push his batting average back up to .309. He is hitting .394 against right-handers this season.
Indians catchers (Gomes, Perez, Brett Hayes) have combined to hit 13-for-71 (.183) this season with four homers and seven runs batted in. They have struck out 23 times while walking just six. That collective average jumped 36 points last night after Perez went 3-for-3 against the Royals with a walk, single, double, homer, and two RBI.
The Jays have a pair of hitters at the top of the AL batting average leaderboard at the end of the first month of the season. Rookie second baseman Devon Travis is hitting .342 in 21 games with six home runs and 19 RBI. He has hit safely in six of his last eight games. Josh Donaldson is batting .333 in his first season north of the border with five homers and 16 RBI. He has multi-hit games in five of his last eleven.
Danny Valencia has appeared in just nine games, but has hit .455 in those contests with four doubles. He has a four-game hitting streak despite infrequent playing time. He is 2-for-3 in his career against House with a solo homer, but is 0-for-8 against Carrasco.
Jose Bautista is tied for second on the team with five homers and third with his 13 RBI, but is hitting just .155. He has made up for some of the lighter numbers in the hits department with his 13 walks, tied for fourth-most in the AL. He has ten homers and 31 RBI in his career against the Indians, the sixth and seventh most he has hit against any one team, respectively.
It will be the first career starts for House and Bauer against the Blue Jays and Norris and Sanchez against the Indians. Michael Saunders is 2-for-3 against Bauer with a single and a double from his time in Seattle. Neither of the Jays starters has faced a current Indians player previously.
Carrasco has allowed the eight Blue Jays to face him to hit a combined .217 with four strikeouts. Bautista and Josh Thole each have two singles off of him. Despite the good average against them, Carrasco is just 0-1 against Toronto in three games, two starts, with a 10.24 ERA, the worst he has against the 20 teams he has faced in his career.
Bautista and Donaldson each have multiple hits against Kluber. Donaldson is 3-for-9 with a homer and four runs batted in while Bautista is 2-for-6 with a double and two RBI. The rest of the batters to face him before have combined to hit 2-for-21 with one walk.
Buehrle is a well-recognized foe of the Cleveland Indians after spending the bulk of his career as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He is 9-7 in his career pitching in Cleveland and 16-17 lifetime against the Indians. Both Ryan Raburn and Lonnie Chisenhall have homered twice off of him in their careers, with the latter having six runs driven in against him. Brantley has the worst batting average on the team against him, hitting .190 in 22 plate appearances.
Hutchison has allowed a .440 average and .560 slugging percentage to current Indians players. David Murphy leads the way with three singles off of him in five at bats, while Michael Bourn, Mike Aviles, and Kipnis each have two hits apiece. Santana has a homer and two RBI off of him.
Jacoby is in his first season as hitting coach with Toronto after spending 2007 to 2013 in the same role with the Cincinnati Reds. An eleven-year Major Leaguer, Jacoby came to Cleveland in 1983 with Brett Butler and cash from the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Len Barker. He spent 1984 through 1992 in the Indians lineup, where he easily amassed his most MLB success. He was named to All-Star teams in 1986 and 1990 and hit .300 with 32 home runs on the ill-fated 1987 Cleveland team. He was traded by Cleveland to Oakland in 1991, but re-signed with the Indians after the season. He played with the Chunichi Dragons on the Japan Central League in his last season of professional ball in 1993.
Rivera, the Jays’ third base coach, played parts of eleven seasons with Montreal, Boston, the New York Mets, Houston, and Kansas City. Following his playing career, he spent six years in the Indians organization as a coach and manager, managing at Lake County and Kinston. He also spent four seasons as the Indians’ infield and first base coach.
The Blue Jays will make the short flight home to Toronto after the game Sunday to prepare for a six-game homestand against AL East rivals New York and Boston, beginning Monday night. Cleveland will hit the road after their brief two-team homestand, with no more than a dozen home games under their belt so far this season, and head to the midwest to rematch the Kansas City Royals in a three-game series starting Tuesday.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak