It’s that time of year again that the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds renew their forced interleague rivalry as Ohio clubs playing at opposite ends of the state. The two teams will start a four-game series from Great American Ball Park, playing twice there before the series relocates to Progressive Field for the final two contests on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The Indians (23-19) have had their problems at home this season, but those issues have extended to the road far less. They are one of just three teams (see also: Houston, Colorado) to win 15 games away from home already this season. Cleveland comes into this home-and-home series for the Ohio Cup one game up on Minnesota in the wins column, but also one game worse in the losses column, putting the Indians two-thousandths of a point behind the Twins for the top spot in the American League Central Division.
What was projected to be an intriguing pitching matchup between Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco and Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer turned into a battle of offenses as the Indians held off a late Rays charge in an 8-7 win on Monday night.
The victory moved the Indians to the 20-win mark on the year as they became just the fourth American League team to reach the level. With the first place Minnesota Twins idle on Monday, the Indians pulled within a half game of the top spot in the AL Central while the Rays dropped to 19-22 on the season. It was the first time that Cleveland has won a home series opener since its very first series of the season against the Chicago White Sox.
The game was marred by early pitching problems for both starters and an early exit for the Tribe right-hander Carrasco, who left early with discomfort in his right pectoral muscle in another hit to an Indians roster heavily afflicted by injuries through the first month and a half of the season.
In need of a big offensive performance on Sunday after scoring just one run in the first two games of their series against the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, manager Terry Francona shuffled some pieces in his lineup and the team responded with eight big runs as the Tribe avoided a sweep and their first four-game losing skid since July of 2015.
The Indians (19-17) will look to use the momentum gained by the big victory in their finale with the Twins to put up a more consistent effort at the plate. In the middle of the pack offensively in the American League, they are averaging 4.22 runs per game this season after their recent slide at the plate. They have been supported by a pitching staff with the fourth-best ERA (3.75) in the league overall, but the worst ERA by a starting staff at 4.73. The bullpen, a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities, has picked up the starting five with a 1.84 ERA and has allowed an MLB-low four home runs. The Indians enter one game in back of first place Minnesota, which has a two-game edge in the loss column, and will look to get their record back over the .500 mark at home, where they are currently 7-8.
Carlos Carrasco gave the Indians seven scoreless innings and his offense awoke from its road trip slumber with six big runs as Cleveland defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-0, in a four-hit shutout on Tuesday night.
The Indians improved to 18-14 with the win. They have a Major League best record of 16-3 when scoring three runs or more and topped the threshold for the first time in the month of May. The last time the offense exceeded three runs was on April 30 against Seattle, the final game of their last homestand before hitting the road for a three-city, ten-game trip.
After meeting in the American League Championship Series last October, this week’s meeting between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians should have been an exciting series to have circled on the calendar.
That is, until the Blue Jays (11-20) came out of the gate slow and have yet to pick it up five weeks into the season. Toronto has struggled in all facets of the game, scoring the second-fewest runs in the American League while allowing 23 more runs than it has scored. They may welcome a look outside of the AL East Division, as nearly two-thirds of the Blue Jays’ games this season have come against their rivals. They have yet to face a team from the AL Central and will do so for the first time at Rogers Centre, where they are just 4-8 on the season.
Cleveland coupled a three-run fourth inning with six innings from a sick Carlos Carrasco and strong, if not a little shaky at the end, bullpen work as the Indians held off the Detroit Tigers, 3-2, on Wednesday night.
The Indians were staring down another left-hander starter in Matt Boyd, who had already defeated the Tribe back in April at Progressive Field. While Boyd was good, so too was the ill Carrasco, who had dealt with a sickness and an accompanying fever throughout the day but was able to give the Indians six innings of two-run baseball. A big inning from the Cleveland bats in the fourth would provide all of the scoring on the night for the club and Carrasco, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen would make it stand when the final out was retired.
A different Cleveland team than the one they faced just a couple of weeks ago will arrive on the Comerica Park playing field this week as the Detroit Tigers host the Indians in a four-game set this week.
The Indians (14-10) wrapped up a much better homestand than their first of the season, which included a disappointing series against a Tigers club looking to make up for a horrendous effort against Cleveland last year. The Tribe went 4-2 on their homestand against Houston and Seattle and will return to the road where they are 8-4 after four series with three series wins this season.
Ariel Miranda and a pair of relievers limited Cleveland to just four hits on the night and a pair of home runs provided all of the offense for Seattle as the Mariners knocked off the Indians, 3-1, on Friday night.
Miranda, the 28-year-old Cuban left-hander, got the start for Seattle and was making his 15th career start and 17th overall appearance while taking on the Indians for the first time. Previous issues on the road may have been a concern for the southpaw, who owned a 1-3 record with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP away from home, but he quieted those whispers quickly with a dominating effort against the Tribe. His production, coupled with the bullpen work of hard-throwing left-hander James Pazos and right-hander Edwin Diaz, spoiled another quality outing from Indians starter Carlos Carrasco.
The Cleveland Indians remembered this week how to win a series at home. They will look to make it two straight series this weekend as the Seattle Mariners make their way to Progressive Field for a three-game set.
The Indians …
Chances are slim that the candles on manager Terry Francona’s 58th birthday cake withstood the strong winds generated by three Indians home runs and plenty of swings and misses by the White Sox as Carlos Carrasco worked eight innings of three-hit shutout baseball and the Indians blanked the White Sox again, 7-0, on Saturday night.
Carrasco (2-1, 1.65 ERA) channeled his inner Corey Kluber and nearly replicated the pitching performance of the Tribe’s ace from one night earlier when he fired a complete game three-hit shutout. Carrasco worked a similar line on the night, exiting for the final frame with a zero on the scoreboard in the runs column while limiting the Sox to three hits and a walk while striking out eight. He was aggressive on the mound, throwing first pitch strikes to 19 of the 27 batters that he faced while hitting 73 of 106 pitches for strikes. Nineteen of those pitches were cut on and missed.
When the Indians and Chicago White Sox met a week and a half ago, Cleveland was reeling after a three-game sweep courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks. While the Tribe would claim a walk-off win over Chicago in the home opener, the White Sox took the next two games to start a tough 2-4 homestand for the Indians.
The Indians (8-7) turned things around quickly during their second road trip of the season, sweeping the Minnesota Twins in an abbreviated three-game sweep at Target Field during the week. Now, they will face a White Sox club that they scored just seven runs against during a rough offensive drought. The biggest issue for the club at the time may have been the lack of timely clutch hitting, as they were just 2-for-28 (.149) when hitting with runners on second or third base.
There was nothing sweet about home this week and even an influx of Easter candy could not sweeten the Indians chances against the Tigers on Sunday as Detroit took the early season series in Cleveland with a 4-1 victory in the finale.
After erupting for a season-high 13 runs against Justin Verlander and the Tigers bullpen on Saturday evening, the Indians offense returned to its more frustrating ways and could not find home plate. While they put up eight hits on the day and had two more batters reach via walk, the club was just 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left six on base. Three separate times they turned opportunities with men on base into double plays, further limiting the team’s ability to do damage to the runs column.
Left-hander Matt Boyd made his first career start and second appearance against the Tribe in the Sunday holiday game. He allowed plenty of ground traffic, yet kept pitching his way out of trouble.