The Cleveland Indians will need to figure out their road woes in a hurry as they embark on ten road games in ten days, beginning this weekend deep in the heart of Texas.
The Indians (30-30) maintained their home field dominance this season by sweeping their third consecutive home series and posting a 6-0 record during this last homestand. Cleveland is the first team in the American League to reach the 20 home wins mark and just the second in all of baseball (Miami; 22-11). The problem for the club lies in their Major League Baseball worst .321 road winning percentage. They are the only team in baseball yet to reach double digit wins on the road and will need to rectify the problem if they hope to remain in contention in the AL Central, where they are three games out heading into the weekend.
Cleveland won a 3-2 decision on Monday night behind seven scoreless innings from Justin Masterson, who looked lost but then was found on the mound. The Indians broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh on a two-run double from Michael Bourn on the way to a 5-3 win on Tuesday night. They prevailed in 12 innings on Wednesday night, 7-4, on a three-run walk-off home run from Asdrubal Cabrera in a game delayed by nearly two and a half hours and overshadowed by the scheduled first pitch of Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The Rangers (30-30) continued their struggles at Globe Life Park in Arlington and have fallen to fourth place in the American League West, seven games behind Oakland. They dropped an 8-3 final on Tuesday night to Baltimore behind a six-run eighth inning by the Orioles. The O’s edged out a 6-5 win on Wednesday as a sixth inning RBI-single proved to be the difference. The Rangers climbed back to .500 with an 8-6 win on Thursday night, as an error and two singles broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh.
Yu Darvish (5-2, 2.08 ERA) will start game one of the four game series at 8:05 PM ET from Arlington on Friday. He has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his last five starts, winning four, and has allowed two earned runs or less in his last four starts. Trevor Bauer (1-2, 3.63) will oppose for the Tribe. He matched his career-high of eight strikeouts in a six inning effort against the Colorado Rockies his last time out.
Nick Tepesch (2-1, 4.43) gets the ball for Saturday’s 4:05 PM ET start. It will be his fifth start of the season and his first since lasting just two innings against Washington on the final day of May. Josh Tomlin (3-2, 3.06) returns to his home state of Texas for the start for the Indians. He has given up three earned runs or less in all six appearances (five starts) on the season.
Left-hander Joe Saunders (0-1, 3.68) will take the mound Sunday afternoon. It will be just his third start since returning from a stress fracture in his left ankle after being hit with a line drive in his first outing of the season. Masterson (3-4, 4.72) counters for Cleveland. He hopes to build off of an impressive dismantling of the Boston bats in Monday’s game, when he earned his first win in nearly a month. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 PM ET.
Nick Martinez (1-1, 2.75) will wrap up the four-game set on Monday night at 8:05 PM ET. The 23-year-old righty has given up four runs and nine hits in each of his last two starts and has spent time in the rotation and the bullpen for Ron Washington this season. Lefty T.J. House (0-1, 3.79) is scheduled to start for the Tribe. He has allowed just three earned runs over his last 12 innings in two starts with 12 strikeouts and three walks.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio will broadcast the games on Friday, Sunday, and Monday. FS1 will air Saturday afternoon’s contest. Rangers broadcasts will vary, including TXA-21 on Friday night and Fox Sports Southwest on Sunday and Monday. Over-the-airwaves versions of the four games will be made available by the affiliates of both the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers Radio Networks.
Third baseman/catcher Carlos Santana (concussion symptoms) was activated prior to Friday’s ball game. First baseman Jesus Aguilar was optioned to Triple-A Columbus to make room on the roster for Santana.
Pitcher Zach McAllister (lower back strain) made a minor league rehabilitation start on Thursday.
For those who thought the Indians last opponent had a jam packed disabled list, it is nothing compared to that of the Rangers.
Four different Texas players are out for the season. Big offseason acquisition Prince Fielder headlines the list after undergoing neck surgery in May. Also out for the year are pitchers Matt Harrison (spine surgery on June 3rd), Martin Perez (May Tommy John surgery), and Pedro Figueroa (April Tommy John surgery).
The Rangers have several others on the 60-day disabled list. Young second baseman Jurickson Profar is out with a torn right shoulder muscle. He re-injured the shoulder in May and will likely miss the remainder of the season. Outfielder Engel Beltre is not expected back until after the All-Star while recovering from right leg surgery. Catcher Geovany Soto could return by the break after knee surgery in March. Starting pitcher Derek Holland could return by the end of the month after knee surgery in January. Pitcher Joseph Ortiz has been out with a fractured left foot.
Former Indians infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff headlines the 15-day disabled list members. He underwent back surgery at the beginning of May and could return after the break in July. Outfielder James Adduci (fractured left pinkie) started a rehab assignment on Tuesday at Double-A.
Reliever Alexi Ogando was placed on the DL on Wednesday with elbow inflammation. Lefty Aaron Poreda was recalled to assume his bullpen spot, but was sent back down on Thursday when Tanner Scheppers was activated from the disabled list after a brief rehab assignment.
David Murphy has hit successfully in each of his last eight games, posting a .357 batting average with seven singles and one double with three runs batted in. He has hits in nine straight games when in the starting lineup.
When one hitting streak has ended, Bourn has been quick to start up a new one. He has just six hitless games this season, two of which were in his first three games he played. After his season-high nine game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-5 against Chicago on May 26th, he started his current eight-game streak. He has three multi-hit games during the current run while hitting .344 and posting a .400 on-base percentage. He has three extra base hits, including his walk-off home run against Colorado last Sunday, and five RBI in that span. He is second in Major League Baseball in triples on the season with five.
Michael Brantley has an active eight-game road hitting streak and has hit in 12 of his last 13 road contests. He has eleven hits in 31 at bats during the current streak (.355) to help boost his road batting average from .212 to .258. He has climbed to tenth in the American League in batting average on the season (.308) and is eighth in RBI (42).
Texas’s Adrian Beltre has three straight multi-hit games, going 7-for-12 (.583) against the Orioles this week. He is hitting .455 in the last week. He is currently ninth in the AL in hitting with a .311 mark, just ahead of Brantley.
Alex Rios has been a dynamic player for the Rangers. He is hitting .322 on the season, third-best in the AL, with three home runs and 30 RBI, best on the team. He leads all of baseball with six triples and is eighth with 12 stolen bases, but leads baseball with his seven attempts caught stealing. He is hitting .351 in his last ten games.
Shin-Soo Choo is streaking the opposite direction for the Rangers. He has just one hit in his last 18 at bats since being hit by a Brian Duensing pitch in the sixth inning of a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins on May 29th. He is hitting .118 in his last ten games and .275 on the season with six home runs and 18 RBI after signing a free agent contract with the club in the offseason.
The Rangers hold the all-time edge between the two clubs with a 331-304 record, including a 173-148 advantage in Texas. The Indians, as part of their utter dominance of the American League West division in 2013, were 5-1 against the Rangers.
The two clubs began play against one another on April 14th, 1961, when the Rangers were the second coming of the Washington Senators. After eleven seasons, they moved to Texas, where they have maintained the franchise ever since.
“TEN-CENT BEER NIGHT”
This week marked the 40th anniversary of the infamous “Ten-Cent Beer Night” at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in a game between the Indians and Rangers. After the promotional success and ensuing nightmare, the Indians were forced to forfeit the home contest, putting the game into the history books as a 9-0 final, despite the 5-5 tie at the time in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Five different Texas players to take the field during that game had either previously played for Cleveland or would return to the city as Indians later on in their careers. Three Indians players that night would also call themselves Rangers at some point throughout their careers.
Third baseman Leo Cardenas, who started the game and was lifted for Mike Hargrove in the bottom of the fifth, had played the previous season with Cleveland. Left fielder Alex Johnson was 0-for-5 at the plate before being lifted for a defensive replacement. He had played one season in Cleveland in 1972. Larry Brown, who took over at third base in the seventh, had played in Cleveland from 1963 to 1971. The 1974 season, his final big league season, was his lone year in Texas.
Texas’s Toby Harrah, their starting shortstop that evening, and Hargrove both later joined the Indians in 1979.
Cleveland’s Dick Bosman, who came on in relief, had been traded to the Indians by the Rangers in May of the previous season. He would throw a no-hitter in a little over a month after the failed promotion on that night.
John Lowenstein played his first eight seasons in Cleveland before joining Texas in 1978. Outfielder Oscar Gamble would leave Cleveland following the 1975 season and would eventually play in Texas in 1979.
A handful of other individuals were affiliated with either one of the teams and would spend time in both cities throughout their professional careers.
Pitcher Gaylord Perry was on the Indians roster but did not start that night. He would be traded to the Rangers during the following season. Jim Bibby, who started the following night for Texas, was included by Texas in the trade for Perry. Catcher Duke Sims, who spent his first seven seasons in Cleveland, was playing his final MLB games with the Rangers that season but did not play that night. Texas’s regular second baseman Dave Nelson, who was originally signed by the Indians and would later return as a coach, missed a month of action including that game. Texas’s skipper was Billy Martin, who suited up for the Indians for one season in 1959.
The Indians will continue their ten-game road trip with a two-game layover in Kansas City to take on the Royals. The Rangers will conclude their nine-game homestand with a brief two-game series of their own at home against the Miami Marlins.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer