It is only fitting that the Cleveland Indians would find their groove on the field again, only to welcome in a team playing even better of late. The red hot Red Sox head to Cleveland from Boston for a three-game set at Progressive Field beginning Monday night.
Home field continues to play at an advantage for the Indians (27-30). After a devastating three-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox that saw the Tribe score a total of five runs, the team returned home and swept the Colorado Rockies out of town, increasing their American League-best record at home to 18-11 (.621).
A four-run fifth inning, combined with yet another quality start with 12 strikeouts from Corey Kluber, powered the Indians to a 5-2 victory over the Rockies on Friday. The bottom two hitters in the Tribe lineup drove in all seven runs, including the eventual game winner from Mike Aviles in the bottom of the eighth, as the Indians edged out a 7-6 win on Saturday afternoon. After surrendering an early three run lead, the Indians walked off a winner Sunday, 6-4, courtesy of Michael Bourn’s first career game-winning home run.
In typical Boston (27-29) media freak out madness, there were those calling for the job of Red Sox manager and former Indians employee John Farrell after the team slumped into the depths of a ten-game losing streak. The team has responded and responded loudly to the tune of a seven-game win streak, including a three-game sweep of the disappointing Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.
Four ejections would not put an end to Boston’s winning streak on Friday night, as an A.J. Pierzynski walk-off triple in the tenth gave the club a 3-2 win over Tampa. Rubby De La Rosa threw seven shutout innings on Saturday in leading the Sox to a 7-1 victory. The Red Sox pushed their winning streak to seven straight behind 12 strikeouts from Jon Lester and four doubles from Brock Holt in a 4-0 shutout over the Rays.
Justin Masterson (2-4, 5.21 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener against his former team. He has lost three of his last four decisions. John Lackey (6-3, 3.27) will start for Farrell and the Sox. He pitched into the seventh in his last start and struck out nine while keeping the Atlanta Braves off of the scoreboard.
Rookie left-hander T.J. House (0-1, 4.05) will make his third start of the season on Tuesday night. He struck out a career-high eight batters in a no-decision in Chicago in his last start. Jake Peavy (1-2, 4.50) will counter for Boston. He was 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in six May starts.
The dynamite Kluber (6-3, 3.04) will go for his seventh win of the season in the hopes of riding the momentum of an impressive 4-0 May with a 2.09 ERA in six starts on in to the month of June. Brandon Workman (0-0, 3.24) will oppose for the Red Sox. He was ejected after five and one-third innings in his last start.
First pitches in all three games of the series are scheduled for 7:05 PM ET. Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and NESN will broadcast each game. WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland will also air Monday’s matchup while the MLB Network will carry Tuesday night’s contest. Radio broadcasts of the games will be made available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and WEEI 93.7 in Boston.
Prior to Monday’s game, the Indians optioned reliever Mark Lowe from the roster and recalled Nick Hagadone from Triple-A Columbus. Reliever Blake Wood, who was designated for assignment last week, was claimed by the Kansas City Royals, the only other organization he has been a member of (from 2006-2012).
Third baseman/catcher Carlos Santana is eligible to return from the 7-day concussion disabled list during the series but is not expected back before Friday. Pitcher Zach McAllister (15-day disabled list with a lower back strain) is scheduled to make a rehab start with Class-A Lake County on Wednesday after a bullpen session on Sunday.
The Red Sox have a veritable M.A.S.H. unit on the disabled list.
Pitchers Clay Buchholz (hyperextended left knee) and Felix Doubront (left shoulder strain) are on the 15-day disabled list. Buchholz was placed last week, while Doubront has been on since May 21st and has been able to play catch. Former Indians knuckleballing farmhand Steven Wright is on the 60-day disabled list while recovering from a sports hernia surgery in January and began a Triple-A rehab assignment on Friday.
Outfielder Shane Victorino (right hamstring strain), first baseman Mike Napoli (left ring finger sprain), catcher Ryan Lavarnway (broken left wrist bone), and third baseman Will Middlebrooks (fractured right index finger) all landed on the 15-day DL in late May for the Sox.
Outfielder Mike Carp became the eighth player to be placed on the DL as he is out with a fractured right foot. Outfielder Daniel Nava was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace him on the 25-man roster. Shortstop Stephen Drew was also recalled and Garin Cecchini was sent back to Triple-A.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Aviles has been one of the hottest bats in the Indians lineup. In the last seven days, he is hitting .571 with seven singles, a home run, and five runs batted in.
Lonnie Chisenhall provided three of the seven runs in the offensive outburst on Saturday. He has six RBI in six games played in the last week. He hit .400 in the series against the Rockies with RBI in all three games.
Michael Brantley saw his 15-game hitting streak come to an end on Saturday. He is hitting .348 in the last week with six singles and two doubles and a pair of RBI. He had just two hitless efforts in the month of May and batted .345 for the month.
Jason Giambi has a .318 average and .444 on-base percentage lifetime against Lackey with three home runs and seven RBI. David Murphy has had similar success with a .368 career mark with a .455 on-base percentage.
Holt has solidified the top of the lineup for the Red Sox and has been such a hot bat at the plate that Farrell shifted him from third base to first base to get him more opportunities in the lineup. Holt had never played an inning in his professional career on that corner of the infield. In his last seven games, he is hitting .375 with six doubles, one home run, and five runs batted in. Holt is batting .337 for the season in 22 games.
Grady Sizemore has seen plenty of action on the field for the Red Sox this season. In the last week, he heated back up some, hitting .304 with a pair of stolen bases. For the season, however, he is hitting just .232 with two home runs, 14 RBI, and five stolen bases in 43 games.
David Ortiz leads the club in the power department with 12 home runs and 31 RBI. He has walked a team-leading 32 times and is second amongst regulars with a .487 on-base percentage.
Pierzynski is a .389 career hitter against Masterson. He has three hits in ten at bats with a solo home run against Kluber.
History between the Indians and Red Sox dates all the way back to the inception of both clubs in 1901 (as the Blues and Americans, respectively). The two clubs have faced off 2,002 times with the Indians holding the advantage both all-time (1,025-969) as well as in Cleveland (550-445). The Red Sox have been on the winning side much more often in the last ten years with a 46-29 record since 2004 and six season series wins. They have won no fewer than three games each season against Cleveland in that span.
THE GREY EAGLE
One of the all-time greats to ever play the game of baseball split the majority of his 22-year Major League career between the cities of Boston and Cleveland.
Tris Speaker came up with the Boston Americans in 1907 as a 19-year-old rookie. He spent the majority of that season and the season that followed in the minor leagues before cracking into the regular lineup in 1909.
The left-handed hitter became a speed threat on the bases and a doubles-hitting machine. Only twice after 1909 did his batting average for the season fall below the .300 mark (.296 in 1919 and .267 in his final season at 40 years of age). By 1911, his efforts garnered Most Valuable Player consideration and by 1912, he earned the award with a .383 batting average, .464 on-base percentage, a career-high 52 stolen bases, and a league-leading 53 doubles and ten home runs. That season, he would win the first of three championships.
A contract dispute led to his trade to the Indians just prior to the 1916 season, exchanged for Sad Sam Jones, Fred Thomas, and $55,000. He proceeded to lead the league in batting (.386), on-base percentage (.470), slugging percentage (.502), hits (211), and doubles (41).
Speaker would spend eleven seasons in Cleveland, leading the American League in doubles six different times. Four different seasons he hit .380 or higher at the plate, including a career-high .389 in 117 games as a 37-year-old in 1925. He would be released in the winter following the 1926 season and signed for a season with the Washington Senators and one more season the year that followed with the Philadelphia Athletics.
In addition to his efforts on the field, he was also Cleveland’s leader in the dugout. He managed the Tribe from 1919 to 1926. The Indians posted winning records under his supervision six different times, including a 98-56 record on the way to a World Series title in 1920. After his career, he stayed involved in baseball, including working with Larry Doby during spring training in 1948 to assist in his conversion to the outfield.
During his illustrious playing career, the center fielder amassed 792 doubles, still the most in the history of the game. He led the American League eight different times in the stat and was second an additional three times. He still ranks fifth in MLB history with 3,514 hits. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on its second ballot in 1937.
The Indians will head to the heart of Texas for a four-game series with the AL West’s Rangers on Friday to start a ten-games-in-ten-days roadie. The Red Sox will continue their difficult road trip with a three day stay in Detroit against the Tigers on Friday after a day off Thursday, their first since May 19th. The two clubs will see each other again for a four-game set at Fenway Park next weekend.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer