Tribe Opens Home Slate with Two Against White Sox
Bob Toth | On 01, Apr 2019
The concerns surrounding the Cleveland Indians and their lackluster offseason were brought to the forefront over the weekend, when the offense was limited to just five runs and amassed 39 strikeouts in a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.
The Indians (1-2) scuffled during the opening weekend of the 2019 regular season against their number one rival in the American League Central, the Twins. While the starting pitching put together a pair of good outings and the bullpen proved serviceable in small doses, the offense was dead on arrival, mustering just two runs in a win on Saturday and three runs in garbage time on Sunday after trailing eight runs. The Indians will look to some home cooking to right the early season woes of an otherwise unpleasant experience at Target Field, as the offense looked as bad as many feared it did on paper.
The White Sox (1-2) got a good outing on Sunday from Lucas Giolito to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals while also knocking off the last of the undefeated American League teams. While the Royals claimed the series with wins on Thursday and Saturday, the overall matchup was close as Kansas City outscored Chicago by just one run (16-15). The White Sox, who finished fourth in the AL Central last season, are in a state of rebuilding, but they are expected to be further along in that process and are widely projected to be the third-best club in the division behind Cleveland and Minnesota.
Nova pitched in Pittsburgh last season, but was dealt to Chicago in the offseason. He had a good showing in the Cactus League, striking out 15 and walking none in 19 innings of work. He allowed nine earned runs (4.26 ERA) and 18 hits (0.95 WHIP) in that span. Clevinger will make his season debut after a strong performance in 2018. He was one of four Tribe pitchers to reach 200 strikeouts and he hit the 200-inning pitched mark for the first time in his career. He had an abbreviated spring, as manager Terry Francona took a conservative approach with him and other starters while in Goodyear.
Rodon and Kluber will match up in the first game on the Wednesday slate. Off days will bring both starters back to the mound before either team utilizes a fifth man in the rotation. Rodon lost his opener, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk in five and one-third innings. Kluber carried a perfect game and a no-hitter into the middle innings before the Twins finally got to him in the seventh. He allowed two runs on four hits in seven full frames, striking out five in defeat.
TV (both unless indicated): Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; MLB.tv; ESPN (4/1); WGN (Chicago, 4/1); NBCSCH (Chicago, 4/3);
Radio (both): Cleveland Indians Radio Network; WGN 720 (Chicago)
The White Sox hold the edge in the all-time series between the two clubs, dating back to the inception of the American League in 1901. Cleveland has won 1,074 times, while Chicago has done so 1,086 in 2,177 total games. As would be expected, the Indians have won more of those games at home, posting a 569-512 record in 118 years of action.
Last season, the Indians won the season series from the White Sox for the third straight year and the fifth time in the last six. They won 14 of the 19 contests in their dominance of the AL Central. Cleveland went 17-2 against Chicago in 2013. That season, the Indians scored 19 runs in a game, their highest total against the White Sox ever, and won 14 straight games against them during the year.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Ryan Flaherty (UTL) – signed to a minor league contract (3/31)
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right calf strain
Francisco Lindor (SS) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right calf strain, sprained left ankle
Cameron Maybin (OF) – signed to a minor league contract (3/29)
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day injured list (3/24); right shoulder rehab
Ben Taylor (RP) – designated for assignment (3/28)
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right shoulder rehab
Ian Hamilton (P) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – right shoulder inflammation
Jon Jay (OF) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – right hip strain
Michael Kopech (SP) – 60-day injured list (3/11) – recovery from September 2018 UCL surgery
SOX STEPPING UP IN THEIR REBUILD
SOX’S KEY ADDITIONS: 1B Yonder Alonso (trade with Cleveland), RP Alex Colome (trade with Seattle), SS Alcides Escobar, RP Kelvin Herrera, OF Jon Jay, C James McCann, P Ivan Nova (trade with Pittsburgh), SP Ervin Santana, OF Preston Tucker
SOX’S KEY SUBTRACTIONS: DH Matt Davidson, P Danny Farquhar, OF Avisail Garcia, P Jeanmar Gomez, P Miguel Gonzalez, OF Ryan LaMarre, C Omar Narvaez, P Hector Santiago, SP James Shields, OF Trayce Thompson
Expectations have been high on Yoan Moncada since he was dealt to Chicago by the Boston Red Sox as part of the Chris Sale trade, but the young switch-hitter has struggled to fill those shoes. The 23-year-old Cuban import had a good first weekend against the Kansas City Royals, hitting .462 in three games with a double, a homer, and three RBI. He has scored a run in all three Sox games and had a three-hit game on Saturday. Even more importantly than the improved numbers at the plate thus far, he struck out just twice in his 14 plate appearances after striking out 217 times a year ago.
Jose Abreu had a good first weekend of MLB action, hitting a pair of homers for the White Sox. He hit .364 against the Royals (4-for-11) with two more singles, four RBI in total, and two walks. He looked sharp and ready to go at the age of 32 during the spring, hitting .323 with a .600 slugging in 21 games in the Cactus League with six doubles, four homers, and 18 RBI. He has had mixed numbers in his career against the Indians, hitting his second highest total of homers (17) against any one team, but with a notably lower batting average (.264) and on-base percentage (.320) than he typically provides.
After much scrutiny and debate, the White Sox elected to move forward with wunderkind Eloy Jimenez and promoted him to the 25-man roster before the start of the season. The 22-year-old right-handed hitting left fielder hit .243 with a .263 OBP in the spring with two doubles, two homers, and six RBI while striking out eleven times. He has shown that he is above the minor league game, hitting well over .300 in each of the last three seasons (including a .337/.384/.577 slash last season with 28 doubles, three triples, 22 homers, and 75 RBI at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte). He recorded his first two Major League hits in Saturday’s contest (both singles) and drove in his first career run in Thursday’s season opener.
Daniel Palka had no luck against KC pitching, striking out in four of his 12 plate appearances against the Royals while going hitless in the three-game series.
NEED SOME WARM HOME COOKING
The Indians did not get off to a good start in their season opening series with the Minnesota Twins, dropping two of three. After being shut out in the opener, they held on for a 2-1 win on Saturday with a late pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the ninth inning from Greg Allen after Carlos Santana was gifted two bases on wild pitches earlier in the frame. The Twins battled back and bruised the Tribe with a 9-3 win on Sunday to take the rubber match.
After the opening weekend, the Indians are dead last in all of baseball in batting (.133), OBP (.218), and slugging (.189). Of the team’s 12 hits (half of which came in Sunday’s loss), just three have been for extra bases. They are at the top of the leaderboard (or bottom, depending on how you view that phrase) in strikeouts with 39 over three games. They trail Seattle by 20, but the Mariners have played six games already. They are eleven in back of Detroit and seven behind Tampa, but both clubs have played one more game than the Indians.
A four-hit game from Santana on Sunday gave him five hits in the opening series and a .500 average. He has driven in three of the Indians’ five runs on the season. New additions Brad Miller and Hanley Ramirez are the only other players to tally multiple hits in the opening weekend. Ramirez hit the club’s only home run of the campaign.
Santana is the only player of 13 to step to the box to fail to record a strikeout. Tyler Naquin leads the club with six in his seven at bats and he was held out of Sunday’s game against the tough Michael Pineda. Miller has been all or nothing, striking out in five of his six at bats that did not result in a base hit. Jose Ramirez has continued his slump dating back to last August, going 1-for-11 against the Twins with three strikeouts. He recorded his first hit of the season in his final AB on Sunday. The catching tandem of Roberto Perez and Kevin Plawecki is 0-for-10 on the season with five strikeouts and one walk.
The Toronto Blue Jays will come to Cleveland for a four-game set with the Indians beginning Thursday night before the Tribe returns to the road. The White Sox will head home after the getaway day start on Wednesday as they host the Seattle Mariners in three games, with their home opener on Thursday afternoon. They will continue their homestand after the weekend when they host the Tampa Bay Rays in three games from Guaranteed Rate Field.
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images