Indians Make Their First Trip Ever to Nationals Park
Bob Toth | On 09, Aug 2016
The Cleveland Indians will get their first look at the home of the Washington Nationals, Nationals Park, on Tuesday and Wednesday as the two top clubs in their respective divisions play two more games this season. The Nationals have called Nationals Park home since the beginning of the 2008 season, but the Cleveland Indians have not come to town for a series since 2007, when Manny Acta was the skipper of the Nationals at RFK Stadium.
The Nationals (66-45; .595) have seen their divisional lead grow since leaving Cleveland at the end of July. They hold a seven and a half game lead over the Miami Marlins and a nine game lead over the New York Mets. They are 10-4 in interleague play (outscoring American League opponents 100-70 this season), 12-9 since the All-Star break, and 5-1 in August (outscoring the competition 39-16). They own a 33-21 record at home. They started their current eight-game homestand by taking two of three from the NL West’s best, the San Francisco Giants.
The Indians (62-47; .569) finally got two quality starts from their starting rotation after the collective group suddenly went rogue last week. It was not enough to salvage a series win in the Big Apple, as the New York Yankees took the bookend games to claim the series and to secure the season series win over the Indians. While the Indians have not won at nearly the same pace as they had in the first half and their division lead has dwindled to just two and a half games, they still have the second best record in the American League.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Bauer will mark team number 25 off of his list of opponents pitched against on Tuesday night as he faces the Nationals for the first time in his career. He is looking to bounce back from his shortest starting outing of the season after he allowed eight runs (seven earned) in two and two-thirds innings in a loss against Minnesota on August 3. Scherzer, 32, will battle his fellow first round draft pick and will face the Indians for the first time since 2014. The righty owns a 9-4 mark lifetime against Cleveland with a 4.42 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 19 starts.
Tomlin will pitch on regular rest, but will bump Mike Clevinger from his turn in the rotation where he is filling in temporarily. He will look to win his third straight interleague start of the season and defend his 7-2 career record against NL opponents. This will be his first start against the Nationals. Gonzalez gets the rare opportunity to start against an interleague opponent twice in one season, and of course it comes versus a Cleveland club he has owned throughout his Major League career. He will look to defend his 5-0 lifetime record against the Indians in eight career starts. He allowed three runs (two earned) in six and one-third innings at Progressive Field in a no-decision during the last series.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; MASN
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 106.7 The Fan (Washington, DC)
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
Jeff Manship (RP) – 15-day disabled list (July 27) – right wrist tendonitis
Aaron Barrett (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 1) – September 2015 Tommy John surgery; fractured right elbow
Stephen Drew (2B) – 15-day disabled list (July 27) – vertigo
Jose Lobaton (C) – 15-day disabled list (July 20) – left elbow tendinitis
Joe Ross (SP) – 15-day disabled list (July 3) – right shoulder inflammation, rehab paused
Ryan Zimmerman (1B) – 15-day disabled list (August 1) – left wrist contusion
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
Washington came to Cleveland for a brief two-game appearance on July 26 and 27, with the Indians winning in walk-off fashion on Tuesday night 7-6 before falling on Wednesday afternoon 4-1 in a tough matchup between Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Carrasco.
The two teams are now an even 7-7 all-time in head-to-head matchups, including Washington’s time as the Montreal Expos (applying to just the first series between the two teams in June of 2002). The Nationals franchise won each of the first two season series between the two clubs in ’02 and 2007, while Cleveland won the three-game series in 2010 and 2013.
A NEW FACE
When the Nationals were in town and the Indians clamed their walk-off victory, the club jumped on Washington closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was charged with three runs allowed, his third blown save of the season, and the loss while not retiring any of the five batters that he faced.
He has not worked in a save situation since that outing, and the club acquired All-Star closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the non-waivers trade deadline for left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitching prospect Taylor Hearn.
Bench coach under manager Dusty Baker, Chris Speier, has family ties to the Cleveland Indians organization. His son Justin Speier, who spent parts of 12 seasons in the Majors after being selected in the 55th round of the 1995 draft by the Chicago Cubs, spent parts of the 2000 and 2001 seasons with the Indians in the club’s bullpen. He was 7-2 in his Cleveland career with a 4.15 ERA in 59 appearances. He struck out 84 batters in 89 innings of work.
RAMOS RAKING IN THE SECOND HALF
All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos continues to be a key offensive weapon for the Nationals this season. Since the All-Star break, he has hit .370 with four doubles, a team-high five homers, and has driven in 14 runs.
He hit .538 in four games in the last week, including three of his homers and six RBI. He was 2-for-7 against the Indians with a double, a solo homer, and a pair of runs scored in July.
NEED TO MINIMIZE MURPHY
Daniel Murphy was a pest when he came to Cleveland, hitting .333 (3-for-9) in the two games against the Indians with a homer, a double, and two runs batted in. In the second half, he is hitting .361 with four homers while leading the team with seven doubles and 15 RBI. He is hitting .250 over the last week, appearing in five games.
He continues to lead the NL in hitting with a .350 batting average for the season and leads the team with 32 doubles, five triples, 21 homers, and 81 RBI.
HARPER’S STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Right fielder and reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper continues to struggle at the dish this season.
He has played just three times in the last week, going 2-for-11 (.182) at the plate with three strikeouts and one run batted in. Since the All-Star break, he has hit just .134 (9-for-67) with a .259 on-base percentage. He has just three extra base hits in the second half, with one homer and five RBI while drawing a team-leading 12 walks in that span.
Harper was hitless against Indians pitching in nine at bats, striking out twice, when the clubs met in July.
NAPOLI CARRIES A BIG STICK
Slugger Mike Napoli is sporting a healthy nine-game hitting streak as the Indians and Nationals reunite at the nation’s capital this week.
He had just one hit in seven at bats against Washington in July, but is on a tear at the plate now. He has homered six times in the last nine games, including a stretch of five straight games with a blast. During his hitting streak, he has hit .394 (13-for-33) with six homers, a double, and eleven RBI. With six walks over that nine-game stretch, he has an even .500 on-base percentage.
He leads the team in homers (28) and RBI (79) this season and has seen his slash line improve to .253/.339/.513 for the year. The eleventh-year man is in striking distance of his previous career bests for homers (30 in 2011 with Texas) and RBI (92 in 2013 with Boston).
RAMIREZ RACKING UP SOME HITS
Jose Ramirez has himself a season-high 12-game hitting streak. He has gone 20-for-47 (.426) since July 26 with four doubles, two homers, and three RBI. One of the harder hitters to strike out this season, he uncharacteristically struck out five times between August 4 and 6, but managed a three-hit game in the middle game of that stretch.
He fared well against the Nationals earlier in the season, going 3-for-6 in the series with a run scored and a stolen base. He is hitting .302 for the year.
KIPNIS WITH THE POP
Second baseman Jason Kipnis has had a quiet and consistent season, but it has now become a personal record setting season for the two-time AL All-Star.
Kipnis has slugged 19 homers on the season, surpassing his previous career best of 17 set in his first All-Star season in 2013. It is more than double the amount he hit last season, nine, done in 641 plate appearances over 141 games. He has added 61 RBI, a .284 batting average, and a .345 on-base percentage as he continues to provide the heart of the order plenty of scoring chances from his second spot in the lineup.
The Indians will return home to Progressive Field to get ready to host the Los Angeles Angels for four straight, beginning Thursday night. The Nationals will take Thursday off before hosting the Atlanta Braves for three over the weekend.
Corey Kluber is expected to start the opener for the Indians on Thursday, while the Angels had not announced a starter for the first game of the series at the time of this story.
Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images