Series Preview #16: Cleveland Indians (21-25) at Seattle Mariners (23-23)
Bob Toth | On 28, May 2015
Given their respective records and locations in their divisional standings, it is pretty easy to see how the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners are amongst the biggest disappointments in the American League after both were projected by many to have strong playoff-caliber showings in 2015.
It is hard to pinpoint just what has gone wrong for the Tribe this season because there just seems to be such an extensive list of possibilities. An inconsistent offense has been exposed, making many strong starting efforts for naught while forcing all pitchers to be nearly flawless. The bullpen, once a force for the club, has proven human and susceptible. The defense…well…there is not much left to say that has not been said before. On top of all of that, they have had some bad timing and some bad luck.
But luck might just finally be on the Indians’ side as they will miss one of the most dangerous pitchers in all of baseball and the man who finished second to their own Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez (8-1, 1.91 ERA), as the two clubs square up for four in Seattle to wrap up the week.
The Indians (21-25) concluded up their homestand at 4-2, a good effort given their suspect results at Progressive Field this year. This came hot on the heels of a 5-2 road trip previously, so things have been looking up for the Tribe.
They hosted Texas for three during the week and were again victimized by their own faults. Memorial Day Monday was less than memorable as the relief corps actually threw away any chances for a win in a 10-8 slugfest. A late bomb from Mitch Moreland combined with a three-run shot from Prince Fielder erased a 3-0 advantage as Cleveland fell, 4-3, on Tuesday. The Indians took out some frustration on Wednesday, as homers from Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, and Lonnie Chisenhall paired with three-hit days from Chisenhall, Michael Bourn, and Jason Kipnis in a dominant 12-3 win.
The Mariners (23-23), like the Indians, have been making the slow crawl back towards the .500 mark and reached it in Hernandez’s 3-0 win on Wednesday over the Tampa Bay Rays. It is the first time they have been at that level or higher since their sixth game of the year. They have done so by sweeping Tampa in three straight, including a 4-1 win on Monday and a 7-6 win in ten innings on Tuesday, and have now won five of their last six games.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
This game will mark the first career start for Kluber in Seattle and just his second career start against the Mariners. His first was a memorable complete game three-hit shutout on July 30th. He is the current AL leader in strikeouts with 83, including 37 in 25 innings over his last three starts. Paxton, the British Columbia native, has never faced the Indians nor any of its players.
Bauer faced the Mariners for the first times in his career last season and lost both starts, allowing eight runs on 17 hits with three walks in ten and two-thirds innings. Current Mariners hitters have batted .318 off of him with a .434 on-base percentage. The 22-year-old Walker will make his first start against the Indians in his career. Only Brandon Moss has previously faced him; Walker has retired him all four times with one strikeout.
Marcum, in the Majors since 2005, will be making just his third career start at Safeco Field and his first since 2007 when he earned a no-decision with six and two-thirds scoreless innings on the mound. Elias, the Cuban lefty, was 10-12 last season in his rookie year, including a loss to the Indians in which he allowed five runs on six hits in six innings.
This will mark the first career start for Salazar against the Seattle Mariners. He suffered a cut on a finger on his pitching hand in his last outing against Texas, but is expected to make this start. Happ, the third lefty the Mariners will toss at the Tribe, has earned two wins in three career appearances against Cleveland with a 1.29 ERA. David Murphy and Swisher each have homers off of him.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and ROOT Sports have the television calls of all four games in the series. The affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and 710 ESPN in Seattle will provide calls of each of the games on the radio.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS (entering play 5/28)
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Minnesota 28-18 .609 – W5
Kansas City 28-18 .609 – L4
Detroit 28-20 .583 1.5 W2
Cleveland 21-25 .457 7.0 W1
Chicago 20-24 .455 7.0 W1
This will be the first time that the Mariners and Indians meet this season. The Indians have a 5-4 record against AL West teams this season (Houston: 2-1; Texas: 3-3).
The second place Mariners are one of the Indians’ younger opponents historically, breaking into the MLB scene in 1977 as an expansion franchise with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Indians have had the better of the matchups thus far, winning 212 of the 380 games while outscoring the M’s 1,928-1,700.
Home field has not been an advantage for the Mariners in the series. The Indians are 110-80 against them in Cleveland and 102-88 against them in Seattle, the second-highest number of games over .500 they are against any of their 29 opponents all-time.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Austin Adams (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (May 28)
Scott Atchison (RP) – 15-day disabled list (May 28) – left ankle sprain
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Jerry Sands (OF/1B) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (May 28)
Carlos Santana (1B) – paternity list (May 28)
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Danny Farquhar (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Tacoma (May 26)
Hisashi Iwakuma (SP) – 15-day disabled list (April 21) – right lat strain
Austin Jackson (CF) – activated from 15-day disabled list (May 26)
Julio Morban (OF) – placed on restricted list (May 4)
Tyler Olson (RP) – 15-day disabled list (May 3) – right knee contusion
SUCCESS AT THE PLATE
During Wednesday’s 12-3 win, each Cleveland batter had at least one hit and one run scored in the contest. Kipnis, Chisenhall, and Bourn each led the way with three hits apiece. Kipnis finished a homer short of the cycle while Chisenhall fell just a triple short. Their eight-run explosion in the third inning was their largest inning in over two years.
Bourn has very quietly been more productive at the plate over the last month since his departure from the leadoff spot. He has hit .300 after hitting .180 in his first 15 games to start the season in the top spot. His on-base percentage, at .254 at the 15-game mark, has improved to .323 with a .378 OBP in his last 27 games.
Kipnis has hit in each of his last seven games to continue his improbable month of May at the plate. In 25 games, he has 46 hits to post a .447 batting average, a .529 on-base percentage, and a .748 slugging percentage. All of this follows a .218/.263/.287 slash in April.
Nelson Cruz has been one of the biggest acquisitions by any club this past offseason. He leads the American League with 18 homers and 38 RBI, all while hitting .341. He is 4-for-13 in his career against Kluber with a pair of doubles and a solo home run and is 2-for-3 off of Bauer with a double and homer. He has struck out in each of his plate appearances against Salazar in his career.
Kyle Seager is hitting .275 on the season with nine homers and 29 RBI, all second-best on the team. He is 3-for-6 in his career off of Bauer with a run batted in.
Mike Zunino is 2-for-5 off of Bauer with a double and solo homer. He is hitting just .181 this season. Last year, he had the unenviable top spot in the AL in number of times hit by pitch.
Mariners starters have compiled the fourth-best ERA (3.79) in the AL this season, a stark contrast to that of the Indians (third-worst at 4.57). Their bullpen, however, has been charged with a dozen losses this season, tied for the second-most in all of baseball.
AN OLD FAMILIAR FACE
Rick Waits, Seattle’s pitching coach, was a longtime member of the Cleveland Indians pitching staff during his playing days in the 1970s and 1980s.
Waits was a fifth round pick by the Washington Senators in the 1970 draft and reached the Majors with the relocated club, the Texas Rangers, in 1973. He was dealt to the Indians in June of 1975 as part of the club’s return for starting pitcher Gaylord Perry. He was almost exclusively used as a starter by the team, earning a 74-84 record with a 4.18 ERA over 235 games in his nine years in Cleveland.
After eight relief appearances to begin the 1983 season, he was dealt with outfielder Rick Manning to the Milwaukee Brewers for slugger Gorman Thomas and pitchers Ernie Camacho and Jamie Easterly. He spent parts of three seasons with the club at the Major League level and played in the minors in 1986.
Waits is in his second season as the Mariners’ pitching coach and his fifth season overall in their organization. He had previously spent 16 seasons as a member of the New York Mets organization and was also a player, manager, and general manager in Parma, Italy.
Cleveland will remain on the road but will head back towards home some as they stop in Kansas City for a three-game weekday series against the Royals. Seattle will host the New York Yankees starting Monday for three games.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak