Washington Returns to Cleveland as Two of MLB’s Best Play Two
Bob Toth | On 26, Jul 2016
Much of Washington may have just gotten out of town after invading the city of Cleveland for the Republican National Convention last week, but a much more tolerable and exciting bunch from the Nation’s Capital, the Washington Nationals, will hit the city this week for a brief two-game set with the host Indians. It almost seems cruel that two of the top teams in their respective leagues will get to play a pair of games in less than 24 hours against one another. It is depriving baseball fans of some of the best that Interleague play could offer this season.
The Indians (56-41; .577) will host the Washington Nationals (58-41; .586) for just two games, a Tuesday night contest to be followed up by an afternoon matinee on Wednesday. Cleveland returns home after yet another lengthy road trip, their fourth consecutive trip away from home of nine games or longer. While they have held their own while playing as visitors (30-25 record), they have been even better defending their home turf, carrying a 26-16 (.619) record into this homestand that will last until August 4.
The Nationals are tied for the second-best record in the National League and will take on the third-best team in the AL. Like the Indians, they are 4-5 since the All-Star break, but unlike Cleveland, Washington earned that record on their home field in three series against Pittsburgh, Los Angeles (NL), and San Diego. They hold a five-game lead in the NL East over the New York Mets and Miami Marlins heading into the matchup with the Indians.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Gonzalez will be making his sixth career start at Progressive Field, where he has dominated throughout his career. He brings in a 4-0 record lifetime with a tiny 0.80 ERA. In 33 2/3 innings, he has allowed just three runs (two home runs) with a 1.10 WHIP. He is 5-0 all-time against Cleveland with a 0.81 ERA in seven starts. This will be the first career start for Salazar against Washington. He is 2-5 lifetime in ten Interleague starts, but is 2-1 with a 1.27 ERA in three starts in his first All-Star campaign of his career against NL opponents.
Strasburg has been almost as controlling of Cleveland as Gonzalez, posting a 1-1 record lifetime against Cleveland with a 1.74 ERA. He has allowed just three hits in those two starts, including just one hit over five innings in a loss in 2013. Carrasco, like Salazar, has also never faced the Nationals. He is 4-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 12 games (eight starts) in Interleague play in his career. This will be the first Interleague game of the season for the right-hander.
TV (both games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; MASN
Radio (both games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 106.7 The Fan
Michael Brantley (LF) – 60-day disabled list (May 10) – right shoulder inflammation, right biceps tendinitis
Joe Colon (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 22) – right shoulder inflammation
Yan Gomes (C) – 15-day disabled list (July 17) – separated right shoulder
Tommy Hunter (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 16) – non-displaced lower back fracture
Zach McAllister (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 7) – right hip discomfort; on rehab assignment
Aaron Barrett (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 1) – recovery from Tommy John surgery (September 2015) and corresponding fractured elbow (July 22)
Lucas Giolito (SP) – optioned to Triple-A Syracuse (July 25)
Joe Ross (SP) – 15-day disabled list (July 3) – right shoulder inflammation; on rehab assignment
Sammy Solis (RP) – activated from 15-day disabled list (July 25)
Michael Taylor (OF) – optioned to Triple-A Syracuse (July 25)
Ryan Zimmerman (1B) – activated from 15-day disabled list (July 26)
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
Cleveland and Washington last met in 2013, when the Indians took two of three at Progressive Field. The results were the same in 2010, when the Indians won two of three. The teams also played in 2002 (as the Montreal Expos) and in 2007. The series is split evenly at six wins each.
The Indians will make their first ever trip to Nationals Park during the second week of August.
All-Star Daniel Murphy, who deprived Francisco Lindor of a hit in the Midsummer Classic, has been on fire since his trip to San Diego. With seven games played since the break, the second baseman has hit .455 (10-for-22) with five doubles, a pair of homers, and seven RBI. Each of the latter three lead the club.
He signed with the Nationals in the offseason after earning himself a nice payday with his impressive home run display during the postseason last year with the rival New York Mets. He earned his second All-Star nod this season and is hitting .355 for the year with 30 doubles, 19 homers, and 73 RBI. He leads the National League in hitting and slugging percentage (.620) and trails only Houston’s Jose Altuve (.359) for the top average and Boston’s David Ortiz (.664) for the top slugging mark in the Majors.
Catcher Wilson Ramos made his first All-Star team this season and it too was well deserved. The backstop has hit .337 on the season with a .389 on-base percentage and .533 slugging mark. He has played in 83 games for the Nationals, hitting 17 doubles and 14 homers while driving in 53. He is second in the NL and third in MLB in batting average.
DON’T FORGET THAT HARPER GUY
Bryce Harper may just be hitting .129 in the second half, but the young superstar is always a force to be reckoned with in the Nationals lineup.
The 23-year-old right fielder is having a down season by his usual standards. He is hitting a career low .244 with a .385 OBP and .466 slugging through his first 95 games. He has just eleven doubles and his 20 home runs are off the pace of the 42 he slugged last season. His 55 RBI are second on the team, 18 behind Murphy for the team lead.
KIPNIS’ CONSISTENCY OVERLOOKED IN TRIBE’S OFFENSIVE SUCCESS
Second baseman Jason Kipnis has been a quietly consistent force in the Indians’ offense this season. During the last road trip, he hit safely in the final eight games, getting 13 hits in 31 at bats (.419) with a double, two homers, and three RBI. He hit .371 for the trip as a whole when factoring in his 0-for-4 in the second half opener in Minnesota.
Rookie Tyler Naquin had hits in six of the eight games that he played in during the Indians’ road trip, including three hits (two doubles) in the Baltimore series. He had three homers during the road trip and now has six in the month to go with 13 RBI. He had six more homers in June as his 12 home runs for the season have all come in the last two months of play.
WHO CRASHED THE PARTY?
After pushing his season-high hitting streak to nine straight games at the end of the Kansas City portion of their road trip, Mike Napoli’s hot streak came to a crashing halt over the weekend.
The slugger went 0-for-11 in the series with seven strikeouts. He drew a walk in the middle game and drove in a run in the finale, but was otherwise contained. The right-handed power bat in the Tribe’s lineup is hitting .244 on the season with a .327 OBP and .483 slugging with 15 doubles, 22 homers, and 68 RBI, the latter two of which lead the team.
The return home for Napoli could do him some good – he has hit .292 with a .402 OBP at Progressive Field with a team-high 13 homers, 44 RBI, .611 slugging percentage, and is tied with Carlos Santana for the club lead with 28 walks.
The Tribe will take another Thursday off, their third straight this month, before hosting the Oakland Athletics for three straight this weekend. The Nats will continue their road trip with a flight straight to the Bay, where they will play the San Francisco Giants in four games to close out the week.
Photo: AP Photo/Nick Wass