Series Preview #11: St. Louis Cardinals (22-9) at Cleveland Indians (11-19)
Bob Toth | On 12, May 2015
The Cleveland Indians just cannot catch a break, even coming off of a solid overall performance in their 8-2 win on Sunday afternoon to avoid the sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins. They will host the red hot red birds as the first place St. Louis Cardinals come to town for a rare visit.
The Indians (11-19), who had dropped each of the first two games in the series to run their losing streak to three straight, salvaged the series with a win on Sunday over the Twins. To get to that point, they lost Friday night, 9-3, as Torii Hunter almost singlehandedly dismantled Indians pitchers with a 4-for-4 day with four RBI. Minnesota ran up an early lead and never looked back on Saturday afternoon in a 7-4 win, putting up six runs against veteran lefty Bruce Chen in his Indians debut and spoiling a four-hit game from Nick Swisher. In Sunday’s victory, the Indians played arguably their most complete game of the season, as Danny Salazar retired 21 straight batters after a leadoff homer by Brian Dozier, striking out eleven, and the Indians offense had major contributions from Jason Kipnis (3-for-5, two runs, two runs batted in, a stolen base, and a homer short of the cycle), Carlos Santana (two hits, two RBI), Lonnie Chisenhall (three-run homer), and David Murphy (three singles and a double).
The Cardinals (22-9) come to town still one of the hottest teams in baseball even after their 1-2 trip through Pittsburgh over the weekend. After losing their staff ace to a torn Achilles tendon, the club has played inspired and has not missed a beat.
Their current two-game losing skid, courtesy of the Pirates, matches their season long. Three home runs and a four-run seventh inning powered the Cards past the Buccos on Friday, 8-4. The Pirates turned a 4-5-4 triple play and had a pair of three-run innings to win 7-5 on Saturday. A go-ahead single in the seventh pushed Pittsburgh past St. Louis on Sunday, 4-3, to claim the series.
Tuesday, 5/12, 6:10 PM ET – RHP Lance Lynn (1-3, 3.82 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 4.71)
Wednesday, 5/13, 6:10 PM ET – RHP John Lackey (2-1, 3.20) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (0-5, 5.04)
Thursday, 5/14, 12:10 PM ET – RHP Michael Wacha (5-0, 2.09) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (2-1, 4.19)
Lynn will start Tuesday on his 28th birthday. It will be his first career start against Cleveland, as will be the case for Wacha on Thursday. The only two Indians to face Lynn before, Murphy and Michael Bourn, are a combined 3-for-10 against him. Wacha has faced only one Indians player, Zach Walters, retiring him the only time he pitched to him.
Lackey is the only one of the three with prior experience against the Tribe. He has an 8-8 record with a 3.94 ERA in 19 career starts against Cleveland, including a 3-4 mark at Progressive Field stemming from his time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Boston Red Sox. He has baffled Swisher at the plate, striking him out nearly one-third of his plate appearances and limiting him to a .157 average. Murphy has hit .440 off of him, and Michael Brantley has hit .364.
It will be the first career starts against the Cardinals for the Tribe’s trio on the mound this week. Carrasco has faced Jhonny Peralta (6-for-8, two RBI), Peter Bourjos (1-for-6, triple and five strikeouts), and Mark Reynolds (1-for-3, double and two strikeouts) in his career. Peralta (5-for-13, two doubles) is the lone Cardinal to face Kluber, while Bauer has only faced Jason Heyward (0-for-3).
Each of the three games in the series will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Missouri. Radio calls will be available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network, KMOX 1120 in St. Louis, and the Cardinals Radio Network.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Kansas City 20-12 .625 – L1
Detroit 19-13 .594 1.0 L2
Minnesota 18-14 .562 2.0 L1
Chicago 12-17 .414 6.5 L1
Cleveland 11-19 .367 8.0 W1
A BRIEF HISTORY
This will be just the fourth time in the long histories of these two organizations that the Cardinals come to Cleveland to play. The Indians have won all seven series between the two clubs and own a 14-6 record against the Cardinals, their single-best winning percentage against any organization in the game today. This includes a 6-2 mark at home and an 8-4 record on the road. They have outscored the Cardinals, 111-56.
The history of these two clubs together is short, dating back to the start of Interleague play in 1997. That season, the Indians took two of three from the Cardinals. They last met in June of 2012, when Cleveland won two of three in St. Louis.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Mike Aviles (UTL) – Family Medical Emergency list
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
T.J. House (SP) – 15-day disabled list (May 1) – left shoulder inflammation
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Matt Carpenter (3B) – day-to-day – missed series against Pittsburgh last weekend due to extreme fatigue
Jaime Garcia (SP) – 15-day disabled list (March 30) – left shoulder surgery; began a Triple-A rehab assignment on May 10
Randal Grichuk (OF) – 15-day disabled list (April 17) – lower back strain
Jon Jay (OF) – day-to-day – left thumb bruise
Tommy Pham (OF) – 60-day disabled list (May 1) – strained left quadriceps
Adam Wainwright (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 30) – surgery on torn left Achilles tendon
Jordan Walden (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 30) – right bicep inflammation
STARTING OFF WITH A BANG
Kipnis has done his part to ignite the struggling Indians offense since taking Bourn’s spot leading off. He is hitting .356 since moving into the leadoff spot with a .441 on-base percentage and has been instrumental in Indians wins, batting .435 in victories versus .213 in losses. He was 7-for-14 with four runs scored, a pair of RBI, and three stolen bases in the three-game series against the Twins. He is hitting .462 in the month of May, .365 on the season against right-handed pitching, and .349 at home. In his nine May games, he has scored ten times and is average two hits per game while drawing more walks (five) than strikeouts (four).
With minimal playing time in a ridiculously crowded mix in right field and designated hitter, Murphy made the most of his weekend, hitting a pinch-hit two-run homer in Saturday’s loss before his perfect day at the plate on Sunday. He is hitting .298 on the season, with all of his at bats coming against right-handed pitching in a complete platoon role. His .348 batting average at Progressive Field is one of the best marks on the team.
After playing sparingly against the Kansas City Royals, Bourn was 5-for-10 in the series against the Twins with a pair of walks. After hitting just .200 in the month of April, he has hit .286 to start May.
THE OTHER GUYS
Carpenter, who sat out the weekend with medical issues, still comes to town with an MLB-best 14 doubles in a strong start to his season. He is hitting .333 with a .403 on-base percentage and put together a 12-game hitting streak earlier in the season. His five homers and 20 RBI both lead the team. The lefty is hitting .351 against right-handed pitching, something he will see a lot of in the series against the Tribe’s starters.
Outfielder Matt Holliday has started his season almost just as strong. Through 29 games, he has a pair of homers and 17 RBI. His .343 average is one of the National League’s best, and his .465 on-base percentage is the top mark in the MLB amongst qualified hitters. Like Carpenter, he strung together hits in a dozen straight games in April, doing so in his first 12 games of the season.
Kolten Wong brings an eight-game hitting streak with him this week, a season high for the second baseman. He has four multi-hit games in the span with a .517 batting average to push his season batting line to .336 with a .380 on-base percentage.
Trevor Rosenthal throws straight fire on the mound as one of the game’s best closers and his numbers show it. He is 11-for-12 in save opportunities this season, second-best in the MLB, and is averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Opposing hitters are batting .164 against him and he has a 1.15 ERA on the year.
Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist may be a familiar name and face to fans of the Indians from the early 1990’s. He spent three years with the Tribe from 1992 to 1994.
Lilliquist came into the league as a starting pitching with the Atlanta Braves in 1989, finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting after being the sixth overall pick of the 1987 draft class. Midway through the next season, he was dealt to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Mark Grant. He spent parts of a year and a half in southern California before the Indians selected him off waivers following the 1991 season.
After being primarily a starting pitcher, the Indians went almost full reliever with Lilliquist and he became a force in the bullpen for the club, going 5-3 with a 1.75 ERA and six saves in 71 games in 1992. He saved ten in 56 games the next season with a very respectable 2.25 ERA. He was 1-3 in the strike-shortened 1994 season with a 4.91 ERA but was selected off waivers by Atlanta in November. The Braves released him a month later and he signed on with Boston in April of 1995, but struggled in 28 games and was subsequently released. He returned to southern California with the Los Angeles Dodgers later that season, pitching solely in the minors. He made his final MLB appearances with Cincinnati in 1996 while spending more time in the minors, and an attempt to continue his career with the Kansas City Royals in 1997 fell short.
Following his career, he coached at the high school level for four years before joining the Cardinals organization. Working his way up through the minors, he became the Cardinals’ pitching coordinator from 2008 to 2010 before taking over as bullpen coach in November of 2010. He took over for long-time pitching coach (and fellow former Indians player) Dave Duncan in January of 2012 and is now in his fourth year in the role.
The Indians will hit the road following the series for a seven-game excursion beginning deep in the heart of Texas with a three-game series against the Rangers. The Cardinals will get away on getaway day to their friendly confines in preparation for a three-game weekend set against the Detroit Tigers.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak