The return of the Cleveland Indians to the West Coast for the second time in April could not have gotten off to much worse of a start as the club dropped three straight to begin a six-game road trip. They will wrap up their trip to close out the month with a three game set in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels beginning Monday night.
Cleveland (11-14) was swept right out of the Bay Area by the San Francisco Giants. They lost a 5-1 final on Friday night as Carlos Carrasco allowed four runs in six innings. A four-run fifth inning was the difference on Saturday afternoon as Zach McAllister lost his first game of the season, 5-3. The Giants earned the series sweep on Sunday with a 4-1 win, thanks to a two-out, three-run walkoff home run by Brandon Hicks off of Cody Allen in the bottom of the ninth.
Los Angeles (11-13) returns home after having to fly from coast to coast after playing Sunday Night Baseball in New York. They rocked the Yankees on Friday night, 13-1, behind six strong innings from C.J. Wilson and four home runs. They dropped game two on Saturday by a 4-3 score as a fifth inning solo home run from New York’s J.R. Murphy proved to be the difference. The Yankees stole the rubber match on Sunday night, 3-2, breaking a two all tie in the bottom of the eighth on a passed ball and a wild pitch from Nick Maronde.
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs (2-0, 3.21 ERA) will take the mound for the Angels in Monday night’s 10:05 PM ET opener. He has never faced any player on the Cleveland roster. Justin Masterson (0-0, 4.50) will oppose. He has settled down with back-to-back quality starts in each of his last two appearances. He is 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA in six games (five starts) at Angel Stadium and is 4-0 lifetime against the Angels with a 2.45 ERA in 12 games.
Jered Weaver (1-2, 4.11) will start Tuesday’s 10:05 PM ET ball game for the Halos. He is 7-3 in his career against Cleveland with a 3.05 ERA in 16 starts, but just 1-3 at home. Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.90) will counter for the Indians in his first start since his complete game gem against the Kansas City Royals his last time out.
Wilson (3-2, 3.69) will conclude the series for the Angels with Wednesday’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch. He is 3-2 in his career versus Cleveland and is coming off of a win his last time out on Friday night. Zach McAllister (3-1, 3.14) will move up a day in the rotation, pitching on short rest, to replace Carrasco, who was originally scheduled to be the day’s starter. Carrasco will move into the bullpen. McAllister threw just 75 pitches in his start against San Francisco on Saturday and was removed earlier than hoped for a pinch-hitter while in the National League park.
All of the action from Angel Stadium of Anaheim will be shown by Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports West. The affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Angels Radio Network will provide radio versions of all three games.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURIES
The Indians’ disabled list is clear of any players. Catcher Yan Gomes may go on the Paternity List at some point during the series, as his wife is expecting.
The Angels optioned outfielder Brennan Boesch to Triple-A Salt Lake City prior to their game Sunday night and selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Mike Morin to replace him on the 25-man roster. Lefty Michael Roth was designated for assignment to create room for Morin on the 40-man roster.
The Angels have a pair of outfielders and four pitchers out of action.
Josh Hamilton is expected to return some time in late May after tearing the UCL in his left thumb sliding head first into first base. Kole Calhoun has been rehabbing his sprained right ankle in Arizona and could return in mid- to late-May.
Pitchers Ryan Brasier, Sean Burnett, Dane De La Rosa, and Brian Moran are all on the disabled list. Brasier was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 16th while recovering from a right elbow strain. Burnett is out while recovering from left elbow surgery last year. The time table is unknown on De La Rosa, who threw a simulated game last week while trying to return from right sternoclavicular joint irritation. Moran is out for the season after April 2014 Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.
WHO TO WATCH
Michael Bourn has emerged at the top of the lineup as one of the few Indians hitters doing anything at the plate after a slow start returning from a hamstring injury that had him on the disabled list. He was 5-for-13 in the series with the Giants and has quietly put together a seven-game hitting streak, batting .387 in that span and raising his season batting average from .077 to .295. He has fared well against the lefty Wilson, batting .412 against him with seven hits in 17 at bats.
The middle of the Indians batting order failed to deliver anything against the Giants. Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera were both an identical 0-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts at the plate. Carlos Santana continued his wild tail spin at the plate as he is now marred in a 3-for-59 batting slump that included his 0-for-9 against San Francisco with three walks and three strikeouts. The top three hitters in the Tribe lineup, meanwhile, were 12-for-37 (.324) with four runs batted in during the same three game series.
Brantley has just one hit in 14 at bats (.071) against Wilson and four in 21 at bats (.190) against Weaver, while Santana has three in 17 at bats (.176) against Wilson, including a solo home run and six strikeouts.
Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mike Aviles, and Jason Giambi may all see playing time against Weaver. Santana is 7-for-14 in his career, while Chisenhall is 4-for-9 with a home run, Aviles is 3-for-8, and Giambi is 6-for-17 with four walks.
Gomes’ solo home run in the eighth inning Sunday ended a 52-inning homerless drought for Cleveland. It was their first long ball since Jason Kipnis’ two-run homer in the sixth inning Monday.
The three earned runs allowed by Allen in the ninth inning of Sunday’s loss were the first earned runs surrendered this season by the Tribe’s right-hander. He was tagged with his first loss of 2014.
Indians pitching has recorded ten strikeouts or more in 12 of their 25 games this season, most in the Major Leagues. The relief staff has stranded 36 of 39 (92.3%) inherited runners so far this season, including 15 straight.
Albert Pujols has been on an absolute tear to start the season. He is batting .290 with nine home runs and 21 runs batted in through his first 24 games. He has hit five bombs in the last nine games, including the 499th and 500th of his legendary career last Tuesday against the Washington Nationals. Last season, he was limited to a career-low 99 games and saw similar lows in most offensive categories while dealing with injury. It was the first season of his Major League career that he failed to hit at least 30 home runs and play in at least 143 games.
Mike Trout is proving consistently to be one of the best and brightest young stars on the stage. He is hitting .320 to start the season with 14 extra base hits. His six home runs and 15 runs batted in are second on the team to Pujols. His strikeout percentage is up eight percentage points from last season while his walk rate has declined six.
David Freese, acquired by the Angels in the offseason in a trade with St. Louis, is off to a slow start. Despite getting hits in three of his last four games, he is hitting just .155 on the season and .156 in his last ten games. In 20 games overall, the third baseman, who turned 31 on Monday, has two home runs and six RBI while piling up 24 strikeouts.
The Angels hold the lead in the all-time series between the two clubs, begun with the inception of the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961. They have won 317 while dropping 296. They are 19 games above the .500 mark against the Indians at home.
After losing the first two games of their season series against the Angels last season, the Indians salvaged the final game at Progressive Field and proceeded to sweep all three games at Angel Stadium just over a week later. Five of the six games were decided by three runs or less.
RETURN OF THE MAC
Thirty-nine-year old utility infielder John McDonald continues to hang on to a place in Major League Baseball. He earned a job on the 25-man roster with the Angels out of Spring Training and has had several highlight reel plays in the field for the Halos. He is 5-for-14 (.357) in limited action at the plate in eight games.
Last season, he spent time in four organizations, including a brief eight-game return to Cleveland, his home from his draft in 1996 until his trade to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004. He also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Boston Red Sox in 2013. The latter earned him the first World Series ring of his MLB career.
Former 2013 Cleveland teammate of McDonald, reliever Joe Smith, is also on the Los Angeles roster and has been bumped into the closer’s role this past week to replace an ineffective Ernesto Frieri.
After a day off, the Indians will host a three-game weekend series with the Chicago White Sox, who took three of four from Cleveland earlier in the month at U.S. Cellular Field. The Angels will take Thursday off as well before continuing their homestand with three each against the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images