Posts By Bob Toth
The American League Central Division is more up for grabs this season than any time in recent history and both the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals know it. After finishing two and three in the division behind the Detroit Tigers last season, each is hoping to stay in the thick of things early in the 2014 campaign in hopes that they can lay claim to the crown at season’s end.
Kansas City (9-8) comes to town for the first time this season for a four-game weekday series. They took two of three from the Minnesota Twins over the weekend. Jason Vargas pitched seven shutout innings and Mike Moustakas hit a two-run homer on Friday as the Royals blanked the Twins, 5-0. A five-run fourth inning on Saturday propelled the Royals to a fifth straight victory, a 5-4 final. Alex Gordon had three of their ten hits on the game. A rough outing on Sunday from rookie Yordano Ventura ended their win streak as they lost 8-3.
Cleveland (8-10) dropped two of three to the Toronto Blue Jays. They lost a heartbreaker on Friday night, 3-2, after loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but a liner by Michael Brantley was blocked by first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who recovered to end the game. The Indians dropped their third straight game, their second such streak this season, in a 5-0 loss at the hands of Mark Buehrle on Saturday. The Tribe recovered on Sunday to claim a 6-4 come-from-behind victory, courtesy in large part to a two-out, three-run double by David Murphy in the sixth.
The Cleveland Indians’ offense has been frustratingly inefficient this season with runners on base, especially with them in scoring position.
With a suspect starting pitching rotation struggling through the first few weeks of the season, the offense has been needed to provide valuable run support to make up for the deficits seen from each of the five regular starters to take the mound.
The problem is that the Indians offense has not been able to contribute at the level needed to compensate for some rough efforts on the rubber.
The Cleveland Indians will play host to their first American League East opponent of the season this weekend as the Toronto Blue Jays come into town for a three-game series.
Toronto (8-8) dropped two of three games against the Minnesota Twins this week. They claimed the opener, 9-3, on Tuesday as the Jays erupted for five runs in the sixth inning and tacked on four more insurance runs in the ninth. Wednesday’s game was postponed due to weather problems and made up as part of a doubleheader on Thursday. Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson paced the Twins to a 7-0 shutout in the day’s first game with eight scoreless innings on the mound. A monumental eighth inning collapse by Toronto in the second game, which included three run-scoring wild pitches, eight walks, one hit, and six runs scored, handed Minnesota the doubleheader sweep, 9-5.
Cleveland (7-8) got a second day off as their third consecutive Tuesday game was postponed by Mother Nature, shortening their three game set at Comerica Park in Detroit to a brief two-gamer. The Indians won Wednesday 3-2 behind six strong innings from Zach McAllister and two runs driven in by catcher Yan Gomes. The Tribe fell back below the .500 mark on Thursday as Justin Verlander outlasted Danny Salazar, despite short outings from each starter. Ian Kinsler and Michael Brantley each had four RBI on the afternoon. Lonnie Chisenhall was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate as he continues to make a case for his stay on the roster.
It does not seem to matter if the Cleveland Indians are at home or on the road, Mother Nature refuses to let the team play baseball on Tuesdays.
The first game in the series between the Indians and Detroit Tigers in the Motor City was cancelled due to snow and cold temperatures on Tuesday. Mercifully, a doubleheader for the third consecutive week to start the season was not in the cards and the game will be replayed at a date to be decided later on this season.
Even with the shortened series, games in mid-April rarely have the significance that the Indians matchup this week with the Tigers has. After finishing last season 4-15 against Detroit, the Indians will look to get off to a better start this season against their chief division rival. They are just 2-5 within the American League Central Division so far in 2014.
This week’s demotion of fan favorite reliever Vinnie Pestano by the Cleveland Indians was hardly a surprise after the once steady arm at the backend of the Tribe bullpen had faltered out of the gate for the second straight season.
Pestano’s issues on the mound have been thrust more and more into the limelight. This season, he appeared in three games, allowing earned runs in each appearance. In his last outing against San Diego in an 8-3 game, Pestano coughed up three runs in the ninth inning and was unable to finish the frame. At the time of his demotion, he was the only Indians reliever to allow an earned run and had given up six runs in total in two and two-thirds innings. Opposing hitters were batting .500 off of him.
Cleveland was unable to keep Chicago off of the scoreboard on Friday, as runs in six straight innings and three times countering Indians runs paced the White Sox to a 9-6 win over the Tribe.
The Pale Hose jumped out to a third inning lead and maintained it consistently throughout the night after their starter Chris Sale allowed the Indians to briefly tie the game in the middle innings. The White Sox then responded to the Cleveland runs with runs of their own, thanks in large part to third baseman Conor Gillaspie.
The Cleveland Indians head to the south side of Chicago for the first time this season for a four-game series with the division rival White Sox starting Thursday night.
The Indians finished last season 17-2 against the White Sox and won their last 14 head-to-head matchups. The winning streak for the Tribe includes sweeps in three straight four-game series and a two-game set. They have an eight-game winning streak in the Windy City and won nine of ten there in 2013.
Cleveland won their interleague series with the San Diego Padres after a Monday rainout forced a Wednesday doubleheader. The Indians outlasted the Padres, 8-6, on Tuesday as David Murphy drove in four, scored three times, and had a three-run homer. Nyjer Morgan had three hits and drove in a pair. Zach McAllister was dominant for seven and two-thirds innings and made a two-run home run by Jason Kipnis stand in the first game of Wednesday’s double dip, a 2-0 final. The second game of the twinbill went to the Padres in a 2-1 final, as a solid spot start from Trevor Bauer was spoiled.
Had it not been for a pair of games to wrap up the spring in southern California, the San Diego Padres would be an unfamiliar opponent for the Cleveland Indians.
San Diego last visited Progressive Field in 2008. The Indians won two of three in that series, with CC Sabathia defeating Greg Maddux on June 15, 2008 by a 7-3 final the last time the two clubs faced each other. This series will mark just the fourth series between the two clubs ever and the first time the teams have met outside of the month of June in the regular season.
With five starts under their belts, the Cleveland Indians have had questionable results from their starting pitching so far, despite a 3-2 record. That said, it is always tough to make long term projections based off of a week of work.
The Indians started on the west coast against another returning American League playoff team from 2013 in the Oakland Athletics. Rainy and chillier weather for the Bay Area could have factored in some to the results seen on the mound. The team was also dealt a rainout on Tuesday, forcing a first week day-night doubleheader on Wednesday, creating a later night than scheduled on the season opening road trip.
The rains and colder air were just as present in Cleveland for the team’s first two home games of the season against the Minnesota Twins, helping to cause delays and/or discomfort on the mound.
Baseball returns to the shores of Lake Erie this weekend as the Cleveland Indians welcome the Minnesota Twins into town for the first three of 19 games over the 2014 season.
The Twins claimed the finale of their season opening series with the White Sox in Chicago on Thursday afternoon. They lost the opener on Monday by a 5-3 final to Chicago’s Chris Sale. They dropped a 7-6 result in eleven innings on Wednesday after Samuel Deduno balked and threw a pair of wild pitches to push across the winning run. Minnesota won the third game after scoring a pair of runs with two outs in the top of the ninth to edge out Chicago by a 10-9 score.
The Indians took two of three games from the Oakland Athletics to open up the season. They earned a 2-0 Opening Day victory with two runs in the ninth off of A’s closer Jim Johnson on Monday. Tuesday’s game was postponed by rain and replayed on Wednesday as part of a day/night doubleheader. Former Tribe member Scott Kazmir dominated the Cleveland bats in a 6-1 victory in the first game. The Indians battled back with three runs in the ninth off of Johnson again after an early deficit and a rough start from Zach McAllister to prevail, 6-4.
After fighting and clawing back throughout the night, the Cleveland Indians punished Oakland Athletics closer Jim Johnson for the second time in the series, scoring three runs in the ninth inning to split Wednesday’s doubleheader and to claim their first series of the year by a 6-4 final.
Johnson (0-2) entered the game in the top of the ninth with a 4-3 lead and was immediately in trouble. Ryan Raburn singled to right to start the inning. Nick Swisher delivered a 3-2 pitch into center field to move Raburn into scoring position. After several failed bunt attempts, Jason Kipnis grounded into a fielder’s choice, moving Raburn to third but forcing Swisher at second. With Carlos Santana at the plate on a 2-1 pitch, Kipnis stole second base, quickly leading to an unintentional walk of Santana two pitches later. At the plate with the bases loaded for the second time on the night, Michael Brantley slashed the first pitch he saw for a single through the right side of the infield. Raburn scored, as did Kipnis, as the strong-armed right fielder Josh Reddick misplayed the ball and gave the Indians a 5-4 lead.
“It was a sinker in,” said Brantley. “I’ve faced him a lot of times. He likes to throw sinker away to a lot of people but he’s been front-dooring me lately. I was just looking for a good pitch over the middle and put a good swing on it.”
A ninth inning rally off of Oakland’s new closer Jim Johnson earned Cleveland its first win of the season, as the Indians knocked off the Athletics by a 2-0 final Monday night.
Deadlocked in a scoreless ballgame in the top of the ninth inning, Johnson (0-1) took the mound and brought a gas can with him. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a five pitch walk. David Murphy singled to right just past the glove of Nick Punto at second. Yan Gomes was hit by a pitch in the left arm to load the bases.
With the pressure on, new Indians center fielder Nyjer Morgan lifted a sacrifice fly to left center to plate the first run of the night. Nick Swisher followed with a single to center, scoring Murphy from third and pushing the lead to 2-0. Fernando Abad relieved Johnson of his duties and retired the final two outs of the inning.