Series Preview #28: Oakland Athletics (39-49) at Cleveland Indians (41-44)
Bob Toth | On 10, Jul 2015
Once again, the Cleveland Indians have climbed back within striking distance of being back at even. A sweep this weekend could bring them into the All-Star break back at the .500 mark and make the second half playoff hunt a little easier to tackle.
The Indians (41-44) may welcome the opportunity to face a sub-.500 team for the first time in over a month. The last time the Indians played an opponent who had a losing record was the Seattle Mariners when they came into Cleveland on June 9th.
Despite the tough schedule over the last month, they were not slowed by the Houston Astros this week. All-Star Dallas Keuchel dealt the club their third straight loss to open the series on Monday, as a four-run first inning guided him to a 9-4 win over the Tribe. The Indians claimed each of the next three, winning a 2-0 shutout on Tuesday night, a 4-2 win on Wednesday, and a 3-1 final Thursday night to capture the series and to send the AL West’s first-place Astros away with a 2-5 record for the year against the fourth-place Indians.
The Athletics (39-49) have the worst record in the American League and fifth-worst in all of baseball, sitting five losses worse than the Chicago White Sox (39-44) and ten games in back of the Astros in the division. They won the opener against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, needing ten innings to pull off a 4-3 win. They lost a 5-4 decision on Wednesday night, then lost the rubber match on Thursday afternoon in a 6-2 defeat.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
The 24-year-old right-hander Graveman is in his second season in the Majors. The former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher has never faced the Indians. In seven starts on the road this season, he is 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA. Despite being in his third season in the Majors, this will be the first career start for Salazar against the A’s.
Bassitt, a 6’5” righty, will appear in his eighth game of the season and will make his third start. The former Chicago White Sox starter has not faced the Indians in his career. Like Salazar, Carrasco has never made a start against the Oakland Athletics, despite being in the Majors since 2009. He made one relief appearance against them last season, allowing a pair of runs in four innings of work while striking out five.
Gray has had a strong first half after a 14-10 campaign with a 3.08 ERA last season in 33 starts. The Indians have seen the former first round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2011 twice in his career and he has impressed both times, owning a 1-0 record with a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings against them. He has limited Cleveland hitters to a .167 average in those two outings. Kluber will look to earn the ever-elusive win, not just in 2015, but against the A’s in general. He has pitched four times against them, including three starts, and has an 0-3 record with a 4.60 ERA in 15 2/3 innings of work. He will need the run support that has failed to show this season in order to do it, unless he plans to shut them out as he did with the Astros during the week.
Each of the three games of the series between the Indians and A’s will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Comcast Sportsnet California. Radio calls will be provided by your local affiliate of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network or on 95.7 FM The Game in the Oakland market.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB WCGB STREAK
Kansas City 50-33 .602 – – W5
Minnesota 46-40 .535 5.5 – L1
Detroit 44-41 .518 7.0 1.5 W2
Cleveland 41-44 .482 10.0 4.5 W3
Chicago 39-44 .470 11.0 5.5 W2
The Indians hold a .532 winning percentage against the A’s all-time. Any loss this weekend will give the club their 900th in their history against the Athletics franchise, dating back to 1901 with their time in Philadelphia. They have a 557-415 advantage in Cleveland against them.
This will be the first time the two clubs meet this season. The Indians have lost three straight to the A’s dating back to last May, when Oakland swept the Tribe in Cleveland, outscoring them in horrifying fashion, 30-6. The Indians had previously won two of three to start the season while playing at O.Co.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Kyle Crockett (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (July 8)
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Nick Hagadone (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 8) –
Nick Swisher (DH) – 15-day disabled list (June 13) – left knee inflammation
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery; starting rehab assignment 7/10
Coco Crisp (OF) – 60-day disabled list (June 5) – cervical strain
Sean Doolittle (CL) – 60-day disabled list (June 13) – strained left shoulder
Jesse Hahn (SP) – day-to-day – right elbow soreness
Scott Kazmir (SP) – day-to-day – left triceps tightness
Tyler Ladendorf (2B) – 60-day disabled list (May 22) – April 2015 left ankle surgery
Jarrod Parker (SP) – 60-day disabled list (May 9) – recovery from May 2015 surgery on fractured elbow
Taylor Thompson (RP) – 60-day disabled list (February 26) – right shoulder strain
Pat Venditte (RP) – 15-day disabled list (June 11) – strained right shoulder
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
This will be the first time that outfielder/first baseman Brandon Moss has played against his former team. The Athletics sent him to Cleveland on December 8th for minor league infield prospect Joey Wendle. Moss leads the team in both homers and RBI, with 14 and 46 respectively, and is third with 17 doubles. He was an All-Star for the A’s last season.
Jason Kipnis heads into this weekend series with a .331 batting average and an MLB-high 27 doubles. He is third in hitting in the AL and sixth overall, and he trails Texas Rangers’ first baseman Prince Fielder in hits by one. Kipnis sits at 111.
First-time All-Star Stephen Vogt will join Kipnis in Cincinnati during the All-Star break. Breaking out this season behind the plate for the A’s, he leads the club with 13 homers and 54 RBI and has 40 walks to go with it to give him a .371 on-base percentage.
Speedster Billy Burns leads the club with a .313 batting average and is the only player on the team with more than seven stolen bases. The outfielder has picked off 17 bases in 20 attempts so far this season.
Mark Canha will get the start on Friday and will look to continue his five-game hitting streak. He is hitting .412 with a .444 on-base percentage during that stretch.
THE MARION MULE
Tuesday’s All-Star Game will mark 45 years to the day that former Indians and Athletics catcher and current Oakland broadcaster Ray Fosse saw his Major League career take a different course than planned.
Selected as a reserve to his first All-Star team in 1970 with battery mate Sam McDowell, the Tribe backstop was putting up impressive numbers at the plate in his first full season in the Majors. After cups of coffee in three seasons, the seventh overall pick of the 1965 draft was hitting .312 at the break with 16 homers, 13 doubles, and 45 RBI in 78 games.
Fosse took over for the American League squad in the fifth inning, replacing Detroit’s catcher Bill Freehan behind the plate. He singled in the sixth and scored one of the AL’s four runs in the game. The National League tied the game with three runs in the ninth inning and the game dragged into extras, where in the 12th inning, where Pete Rose collided with the Indians catcher a few feet up the third base line to score the winning run.
After the collision, Fosse had his left shoulder x-rayed, but no injuries were spotted. He played through pain in what would later be revealed the next year to be a fractured and separated shoulder. The shoulder injury may have tapped into his power, as in his final 42 games, he maintained a .297 batting average, but hit just two more homers, four doubles, and added 15 RBI. His season ended on September 3rd, the team’s 136th game of the season, after four innings, when he was hit in the right index finger by a foul tip that fractured the finger.
Despite multiple injuries and a shortened season, Fosse won a Gold Glove Award and was named to The Sporting News All-Star Team following the season and was given the honor of co-Indians Man of the Year with McDowell. He played a total of 12 seasons in the Majors, including three with Oakland after his trade prior to the 1973 season. He was purchased back by the Indians in 1975 and spent another season and a half with the club before he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners in 1977. He signed a four-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1978, but he missed the first season with a variety of injuries to his knee and leg. He returned to the Bigs for one final season in 1979, but was cut at the end of Spring Training in 1980 and never played again.
Fosse is in his 30th season on the radio and 27th on the television side as a game analyst for Oakland.
Both clubs will enjoy a mini-vacation, as Major League Baseball enters its All-Star break. The Indians will return on Friday night with a three-game series in Cincinnati against the Reds. The Athletics will resume on Friday as well when they head home to take on the Minnesota Twins in a three-game set.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images