Tribe Takes on Texas in a Battle of American League’s Best
Bob Toth | On 25, Aug 2016
They say everything is bigger in Texas, right? If that old adage stands correct, this weekend’s series between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians will be huge.
Cleveland (72-53; .576) heads deep into the heart of Texas reeling after putting up one solo run in each of their three games in Oakland earlier in the week. Despite the lack of run production, they did take the first game of the series while riding a superb pitching effort, but the other two games left something to be desired. A return to Arlington could benefit their slumbering offense, as the park plays in an offense’s favor this time of year. Three night games could also help the Tribe – they own the AL’s best mark in evening games with a 51-30 record, which trails only the Chicago Cubs’ 43-25 mark for the best winning percentage in such games in all of baseball. The Rangers returned home late last night after concluding their series in Cincinnati, which could also aid the Indians’ cause some.
Texas (74-53; .583) reclaimed ownership of the top record in the American League on Wednesday with their win coupled with the Indians’ loss. They own the top home record in the AL at 39-20 (.661) and have a six and a half game lead over Seattle in the AL West. While the Rangers are 19 games above the .500 mark, they have been hit hard in losses – they are just one of three teams in all of baseball with a record above the even mark with a negative run differential (-1). Cleveland, by comparison, is tied for second in the AL and fourth in all of baseball with a +94.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Tomlin is searching for an end to his personal four-game losing skid on the mound. With one exception, the games have been lopsided and marred by home runs, not uncommon as the righty has given up homers in 21 of 23 starts this year. The AL’s leading tater tosser has thrown two good games in his career in Arlington, earning a win in 2014. He allowed eight runs earlier this season to Texas in three and two-thirds innings. Only four were earned. Hamels made his first start against Cleveland since 2013 earlier in the year and threw a quality start, allowing three runs in seven innings. He had allowed eleven runs over ten innings in his first two career games against the Indians – both losses.
Kluber has not started against the Rangers on the road since 2013, when he fired eight innings of one-run ball in a win. He was dealt a loss earlier this season after giving up six runs on eight hits to Texas over seven innings. Perez will make his second start and third career appearance against the Indians after being rocked for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and a pair of walks in three innings in 2013.
Carrasco took a complete game loss last season against the Rangers, allowing five runs on seven hits in eight innings of work with nine strikeouts. He is 1-2 in six career appearances against them, including four starts. Griffin has not faced the Indians since 2013, when he was 0-1 in two starts against them. In a combined eleven and two-thirds innings of work, he allowed five runs (three earned) on ten hits with seven walks and seven strikeouts.
The 26-year-old Salazar will make his fourth start in his career against the Rangers and is in need of a rebound from some lopsided numbers from a year ago. He faced Texas twice and earned a pair of no-decisions despite allowing ten runs (eight earned) on 15 hits with four walks and three home runs in ten and one-third innings of work. Holland was activated from the 60-day disabled list on Tuesday after dealing with left shoulder inflammation. He will face the Indians for the second time this season after allowing just one run on six hits in a win earlier in the season. He had last faced Cleveland in 2013 before that start.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Southwest
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KRLD 1080 (Dallas-Fort Worth)
Michael Brantley (LF) – out for season (May 10) – recovery from right biceps surgery
Yan Gomes (C) – 15-day disabled list (July 17) – separated right shoulder
Tommy Hunter (RP) – activated from 15-day disabled list and released (August 25)
Shin-Soo Choo (RF) – 15-day disabled list (August 16) – recovery from left forearm fracture and surgery
Lucas Harrell (P) – 15-day disabled list (August 17) – right groin strain
Colby Lewis (SP) – 60-day disabled list (June 22) – right lat strain; on rehab
Dylan Moore (SS) – traded to Atlanta Braves in three-team trade
Tanner Scheppers (RP) – 60-day disabled list (February 29) – recovery from February 2016 left knee surgery; on rehab
Shawn Tolleson (RP) – out for season (August 23) – lower back sprain
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
The two teams met in Cleveland for the final two games of May and the first game of June. Texas claimed the May portion of the series, winning 9-2 and 7-3 finals, before the Indians walked off for the first time in 2016 courtesy of Gomes’ RBI-single in the eleventh inning to score Lonnie Chisenhall after his leadoff double.
ELVIS IS IN THE BUILDING
Shortstop Elvis Andrus has had a strange vendetta against the Cleveland Indians throughout his career and that has continued in 2016. The 27-year-old hit a team-leading .462 in the three games in Cleveland earlier in the season, continuing his utter dominance of the club while at Progressive Field. He had six hits (all singles) in 13 at bats, scored two runs, and drove one in.
Lifetime, Andrus owns a .373/.439/.505 slash line against the Indians in 53 games. To be fair, he has hit most teams well this season, as he leads the club with a .296 batting average and .352 on-base percentage this season.
BELTRE BRINGS THE LUMBER
Adrian Beltre has yet to slow down, despite being 37 years of age. He has appeared in 120 games for the Rangers and is hitting .288 with a .343 on-base percentage and .478 slugging mark, second-best among regulars on the club. His 21 homers are tied for the second-most on the team while his 23 doubles are third. He has driven in a team-leading 80 RBI on the season.
He hit .385 against the Indians in three starts earlier this season with four singles, a double, one RBI, and two runs scored.
THE NEW GUYS
Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran were the Rangers’ big deadline acquisitions and both were linked at some points as possible candidates to land in Cleveland, making it a bit of an intriguing sight to watch over the next four days.
Lucroy has provided plenty of power to the Rangers lineup since joining the club, but has seen a notable drop off in some of his other numbers. After hitting .299 in 95 games for Milwaukee prior to the trade with 17 doubles, three triples, 13 homers, and 50 RBI, he has hit .233 in 19 games for Texas with three doubles, seven homers, and 14 RBI.
The 39-year-old Beltran, who has been in the Majors since 1998, has also seen declines in his production in a new location. Unlike Lucroy, who has to adapt to his first consistent taste of AL pitching after spending his career with the Brewers, Beltran is seeing the same predominantly AL pitching. In 99 games in New York with the Yankees, he hit .304 with 21 doubles, 22 homers, and 64 RBI, but he has hit just .230 with four doubles, two homers, and eight RBI in 20 games with the Rangers.
NAPOLI RETURNS TO HIS FORMER STOMPING GROUNDS
First baseman and designated hitter Mike Napoli spent two separate tours in Texas with the Rangers, including a career-high 30-homer season in 2011 and his lone All-Star campaign in 2012 before returning last season after an August 7 trade from Boston.
He was 2-for-11 (.182) against his former mates in Cleveland, delivering two homers and driving in three runs in the series. On the season, he is slashing .259/.344/.506 with 20 doubles, 29 homers, and 87 RBI.
RAMIREZ COMES THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH
Jose Ramirez has caught plenty of eyes this season for his play on the field, but still has plenty of nonbelievers convince. The Rangers may have been one club he proved his worth against back at the end of May and beginning of June, as he hit .455 against them in the three-game series with a .538 on-base percentage and .636 slugging mark. In three starts, he was 5-for-11 with three singles, two doubles, two walks, and three runs scored.
Ramirez has appeared in 117 games this season for the Indians and leads the club with 32 doubles. He has stolen 20 bases on the year and is hitting .307.
LINDOR LOOKING TO MAKE UP FOR SLUMP
Francisco Lindor had the rare bad series against Texas when the two clubs last met. He started all three games of the series and went 0-for-11 with a pair of walks during the infrequent slump for the All-Star shortstop.
Lindor is hitting .312 on the season with a .358 on-base percentage. He leads the club with 83 runs and 151 hits; is third with 23 doubles, 64 RBI, and 15 stolen bases; and tied for fourth with 14 homers.
The Indians will return home to Cleveland after the series to start a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins on Monday before a well-deserved day off next Thursday. They will follow their reprieve with seven more home dates against Miami and Houston before heading back out on the road. The Rangers will stay at Globe Life Park in Arlington to host Seattle in a key divisional battle, if the Mariners have any chance of contending for the AL West crown.
Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images