Series Preview: Indians at Red Sox

By Matt Van Wormer

The Indians begin a key seven game road trip tonight at Fenway Park in Boston taking on a team that, just like them, is fighting to win their division.  The Red Sox currently hold a two game lead over New York but the Yankees are staying hot on their heels, making the AL East a great race.  Meanwhile, in the Central, no one is taking a firm grip on the division but pretty soon, someone is going to make a move and put themselves in position to make the playoffs.  With the way the Indians have been playing of late, it’s not clear if they are up for that task.  These next seven games will tell us all we need to know about Cleveland’s future in the playoff picture.

In the first game of this four-game set, Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.01) faces John Lackey (9-8, 6.20).  In Tomlin’s last outing, against the Angels, he threw eight strong innings but got no help from his offense as the Tribe fell 2-1.  In his only start against Boston this year, Tomlin went seven innings and gave up just one run and three hits, two of which were by Dustin Pedroia.  Lackey has not faced the Indians this year.  His July numbers were pretty good, as he won his last four starts of the month, giving up just seven earned runs in 25 innings (2.52 ERA).

David Huff (1-1, 0.71) has the unenviable task of pitching against Josh Beckett (9-4, 2.17) in game two.  Huff will be making just his third start of the season on Tuesday and overcame five Indians’ errors in his last start to pitch 5.2 innings, giving up just one earned run to the Angels in another game where, believe it or not, the Indians offense was nowhere to be seen.  Beckett is 1-1 against the Tribe this year, losing to Josh Tomlin back in April and then beating Fausto Carmona in late May.  Beckett has given up just four runs to the Indians in 11.2 innings of work.

Game three gives us the matchup of Carlos Carrasco (8-9, 4.67) going against knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield (6-4, 5.06).  I am already having nightmares of inexperienced hitters swinging and missing badly at Wakefield’s pitches.  The only time the Indians saw Wakefield this year was when he threw two innings of relief back in April, giving up just a solo home run to Matt LaPorta.  Carrasco, coming off a horrible start, has never faced the Red Sox which will, hopefully, give him a little advantage.  I wouldn’t bet on it though.  Carrasco has appealed his six game suspension, due to his pitch that nearly hit Billy Butler‘s head.

Thursday’s finale gives us the best pitching matchup of the series as Justin Masterson (8-7, 2.56) takes on Jon Lester (11-4, 3.17).  Masterson took a no decision against the Red Sox back in May but pitched well enough for his team to stay in the game and get the win, going 7.2 innings and giving up just two runs.  Lester, on the other hand, has not given up a single run to the Indians in 13 innings against the Wahoos this year, and has only yielded six hits.  To say beating Lester will be tough is an understatement.

The Indians will have to stay competitive in all four of these games to keep their confidence up and keep them in the Central Division race.  They have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way, something they didn’t do against the Royals this weekend.  A sweep at the hands of the Red Sox will all but solidify this team as a non-contender in 2011 and none of us want to see that.  The Yankees, Tigers and White Sox will definitely be watching this series knowing what it means to their own place in the hunt for October.

Photo: Tschanen Brandyberry

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