Tribe Looks to Get Offense Going as Tigers Come to Town
Bob Toth | On 14, Apr 2017
The Cleveland Indians started the season with an impressive and dramatic three-game sweep in Texas. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worst as the club has dropped five of its last six and is struggling to score runs while limiting the damage.
They will look to turn around the early season woes and heat up the cold bats as they host the Detroit Tigers this weekend in a three-game set.
The Indians (4-5) were held in check by the Chicago White Sox this week during the Tribe’s home opening series. After winning 2-1 in ten innings on Tuesday with a walk-off double from Michael Brantley, the team could not get the offense going against a left-hander in Derek Holland who has historically given them fits, losing a 2-1 decision. With the series on the line on Thursday, the Sox took batting practice against Josh Tomlin, putting up seven runs in the first two innings on the way to an easy 10-4 victory. Cleveland has the second worst run differential in the American League at -13, just one run better than the last place Kansas City Royals. They are averaging less than four runs a game after being a high scoring offense last season and all throughout spring training.
The Tigers (6-3) lead the Indians by two games in the division and are tied with the Minnesota Twins for the top spot in the AL Central a week and a half into the 2017 campaign. They head to Progressive Field on a good start to their season and will play on the road for the second time this season. They split a weather-shortened series in Chicago with the White Sox to open the season before returning home to Comerica Park. There, they won three of four over the Boston Red Sox before taking two of three from the Twins to close out the homestand.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Norris, 24, will make his second start of the season for the Tigers. He took a no-decision his first time out, giving up three runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts in a quality start, lasting six and one-third innings. He has faced the Indians three times in his career, with all three starts coming at Progressive Field. He owns a 1-0 record with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. He earned one of the Tigers’ four wins against the Indians last season. Bauer will look to get back on track after a disappointing end to an otherwise good start last Saturday against Arizona. He was dealt the loss after going five and two-thirds innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts. He is 4-3 in ten career games against Detroit with a 6.89 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP, including a 2-1 mark last season in three games with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.
The middle game of the three-game set features the second and third place finishers in last season’s Cy Young race. The pair will both be making their third starts of the season. Verlander faced the Tribe five times last season, earning a 1-3 record with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. It will be the 49th start of his career against the Indians, with whom he is 19-21 against lifetime with a 4.48 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Kluber improved upon what were some rough career numbers against the Tigers last season when he went 3-0 against them in four starts with a complete game shutout, a 2.25 ERA, and a 0.82 WHIP as he dominated Detroit. The better year against the Tigers improved his career mark to 5-6 against them with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 17 games (16 starts).
Boyd got into the win column his last time out, using a heavy two-pitch diet of fastballs and changeups to knock off the Twins while limiting them to one hit. He has worked against the Indians just once in his career, a scoreless four and two-thirds innings relief appearance last season with two hits allowed, three walks, and two strikeouts. As good as Kluber was against the Tigers last season, Carrasco was even better in four starts. He was 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP over 17 2/3 innings, but his numbers were lighter than expected after he exited his last outing of 2016 one batter into the mid-September game when struck by a line drive off of the bat of Ian Kinsler.
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all games); Fox Sports Detroit (all games); FS1 (4/15)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 97.1 The Ticket (Detroit)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Shawn Armstrong (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (4/14)
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – activated from 10-day disabled list (4/13)
Nick Goody (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (4/14)
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day disabled list (4/2) – right shoulder inflammation and left hand bone bruise
Tyler Naquin (CF) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus
William Cuevas (P) – contract selected from Triple-A Toledo (4/14)
Joe Jimenez (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Toledo (4/14)
J.D. Martinez (RF) – 10-day disabled list (3/30) – Lisfranc ligament sprain in right foot
The Indians and Tigers have been rivals dating back to Cleveland’s entry into the American League in 1901. The two clubs have faced off 2,195 times on the diamond, with Detroit holding a 1,112-1,071 edge in the all-time series. Home teams have maintained a strong advantage throughout as expected, with the Indians holding a 588-509 record when hosting the Tigers ball club.
Last season, the Indians’ mastery of the Tigers was a significant piece in the team claiming the AL Central for itself before racing through the league’s playoff rounds to the World Series. They went 7-2 in Cleveland and 7-2 in Detroit for a 14-4 regular season record (with one postponement not made up). The Indians outscored the Tigers 106-71 and handled Detroit in embarrassing fashion, winning each of the first 11 games of the season series. The Tribe won each of the first five series with the Tigers until dropping the final one of the year in Detroit, when Cleveland clinched the AL Central on September 26 with a 7-4 win before losing the next two with lineups full of September call-ups and bench players.
Cabrera is off to a 4-for-30 (.133) start to the 2017 season with just one homer and one RBI through the first nine games. He has drawn six walks to make up some for his lacking offensive production, but is also second on the team with nine strikeouts. Martinez has not been much better at the plate, posting a .207/.294/.207 slash with six singles in 29 at bats. He has driven in three, walked three times, and leads the club with ten strikeouts.
Cabrera started slow (for him, at least) last season in April, hitting only .270 with his lowest offensive numbers in the power and runs department for the season. He picked it up the rest of the way and hit .316 for the season with a .393 on-base percentage, supplying 31 doubles, 38 homers, and 108 RBI. In his 165 career games against Cleveland, he owns a .350 lifetime average with a .426 OBP, 34 doubles, 42 homers, and 142 RBI. Last season, those numbers were down for him as he hit .316 with a .420 OBP, two doubles, two homers, and 13 RBI in 18 contests.
Martinez, in his 15th season after spending the first eight as a member of the Indians, hit .289 last year with 22 doubles, 27 homers, and 86 RBI. He scuffled badly last season against his former club, hitting just .215 in 18 games with three doubles, two homers, and five RBI. He owns a lifetime slash of .314/.384/.510 against Cleveland in 98 games with 29 doubles, 14 homers, and 68 RBI in his time with Boston and Detroit.
Catcher James McCann is the surprising leader in the clubhouse for the Tigers in the early going with three home runs. He is tied with Kinsler for the team lead in RBI with five, but is hitting just .167 as three of his four hits have left the park.
The 26-year-old backstop hit .221 last season with nine doubles, a triple, 12 homers, and 48 RBI.
COLD IN CLEVELAND
Only two regular members of the Cleveland lineup are hitting over .250, highlighting some of the reasons the club is off to a bad start at the plate this season.
After hitting over .300 last season, Jose Ramirez is batting just .250. He has hit safely in every other game that he has played this season, but did put up his first three-hit game of the campaign on Thursday night in the loss to the White Sox, going 3-for-4 with three singles and a run batted in.
The 31-year-old free-agent-to-be Carlos Santana is flirting with the Mendoza line through the first nine games, hitting .205. After starting the season with a five-game hitting streak, he is just 1-for-18 over the last four with a single and one walk.
Edwin Encarnacion has been slow to adapt to the new colors on his jersey, hitting .156 to start the year with a .289 OBP. He has five hits (one double, one homer) in 32 at bats, but it is his high strikeout rate (13 through his first nine games) that have proven costly. He also grounded into a pair of bases loaded, inning-ending double plays in the win over Chicago on Tuesday, costing him plenty of RBI. He has just one this season, which came via his home run in the season opener against Texas.
Yan Gomes has started his season in a similar hitting slump to the one he carried throughout much of last season. He had just one hit in his first 21 at bats before homering late in Thursday’s loss, driving in his only run batted in of his first seven games. He is hitting .091 on the young season with three walks.
LUCKY TO HAVE LINDOR
Francisco Lindor is off to another hot start after beginning the season quietly with hitless efforts in his first two games against the Rangers. He has put together a seven-game hitting streak since, going 11-for-28 (.393) with three doubles, a team-leading four homers, and eight RBI. He has also drawn six walks to put up a .415 OBP.
With their homestand completed, the Indians will hit the road and head to Minnesota for a four-game set with the Twins to start a seven-game road trip that will also head through the southside of Chicago against the White Sox. The Tigers will continue their road trip after a day off on Monday, heading to Tampa to play three with the Rays before moving back north to Minnesota for three next weekend against the Twins.
Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images