The Cleveland Indians return home for the first time in the 2015 season after a strong showing deep in the heart of Texas for an early American League Central showdown as the hated Detroit Tigers come to town for a weekend set.
The Indians bats slumbered some into the regular season, but signs of life are showing while the pitching staff has picked up right where it left off in 2014. Corey Kluber began his Cy Young defense with a tough-luck 2-0 loss to Houston in Monday night’s season opener, despite taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The Tribe got into the win column for the first time on Wednesday behind seven six and one-third innings and ten strikeouts from Carlos Carrasco in a 2-0 victory. Trevor Bauer and his bullpen teammates took a no-hitter one out into the ninth inning before a solo home run ended the chase of history, but not the 5-1 win. Bauer struck out a career-high eleven but walked five over six scoreless, hitless frames.
The Tigers hosted the Minnesota Twins during the week and readily dismantled the young club and spoiling the managerial debut of Hall of Famer Paul Molitor. Three early runs on Monday paced David Price and he came within one out of completing a 4-0 shutout. The offense continued to flow for the Motor City Kitties on Wednesday, as the Tigers pitching staff combined on a four-hit, 11-0 shutout behind nine RBI from the top three hitters in the lineup. After a three and a half hour rain delay on Thursday, the weather cooperated but the bats of the Twins did not, as they managed just one unearned run off of Detroit in a 7-1 loss.
Friday, 4/10, 4:10 PM ET – Alfredo Simon (15-10, 3.44 ERA in 2014) vs. Zach McAllister (4-7, 5.23 in 2014)
Saturday, 4/11, 4:10 PM ET – David Price (1-0, 0.00 in 2015) vs. Corey Kluber (0-1, 2.45 in 2015)
Sunday, 4/12, 1:10 PM ET – Kyle Lobstein (1-2, 4.35 in 2014) vs. T.J. House (5-3, 3.35 in 2014)
Indians broadcasts of the three games will all be made available on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. Fox Sports Detroit will air the Tigers broadcast of Friday’s game, while both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games will appear on Fox Sports Detroit+. The radio affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will provide radio options for listeners.
The history of these two clubs dates all the way back to the inaugural season of the American League in 1901, when the Tigers walloped the Blues 14 times in 20 contests, including a 21-0 shellacking in their final meeting of that season.
Last season’s head-to-head between the teams was a bit more favorable for Cleveland, as Detroit won the season series, eleven games to eight, by winning each of the final four contests against them. The Tigers remain in the lead in the all-time series with the Tribe, 1,097-1,050.
INJURY UPDATES and TRANSACTIONS
For the Tigers:
Blaine Hardy (RP) – recalled from Toledo (AAA) 4/9
Joe Nathan (CL) – 15-day disabled list (April 7) – right flexor strain
Bruce Rondon (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 1) – recovery from March 2014 Tommy John surgery
Justin Verlander (SP) – 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 29) – right triceps strain
Kyle Lobstein (SP) – recalled from Toledo (AAA) 4/8, will start for Verlander Sunday
For the Indians:
Michael Brantley (LF) – day-to-day – lower back stiffness
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Nick Swisher (1B/DH) – 15-day disabled list (April 2) – recovery from double knee surgery in August
Josh Tomlin (P) – 15-day disabled list (March 29) – right shoulder inflammation
Zach Walters (UTIL) – 15-day disabled list (March 27) – right oblique strain
The starting pitching for both teams is off to incredible starts to the season.
Detroit handled the Minnesota Twins lineup with ease during the week. Price, Anibal Sanchez, and Shane Greene combined for 23 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just a dozen hits and three walks while striking out 16. The pitching staff as a whole set an AL record for scoreless innings to begin a season, as Minnesota went each of the first 24 innings of the campaign without scoring a run. The lone run scored in Thursday’s game was unearned, making their staff the first to allow no earned runs in three straight games to begin a season since the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals. Tigers starters allowed a .150 batting average to the Twins, the second-best mark in the MLB so far.
Lobstein allowed a pair of home runs to Brantley and Carlos Santana last season, but struck out eleven of the 40 batters he faced as the second-year left-hander fills the rotation spot vacated by the injured Verlander.
Cleveland was dominant in its own ways and already looks poised to challenge their Major League all-time single-season record of 1,450 strikeouts, set last season. In the three-game series, they struck out 36 batters, allowed just eight hits, a dozen walks (five of which belonged to Bauer on Thursday), and three runs. The Astros mustered a .096 batting average against the Tribe staff and a .094 mark against the starters. Carrasco and Bauer combined to become the first Indians pitchers to strike out ten batters or more in consecutive April starts since Sam McDowell and Gary Bell accomplished the feat on April 15th and 16th, 1966.
HOT OR NOT
Outfielder Anthony Gose and shortstop Jose Iglesias have each started the year strong, as both are hitting .545 in the young season with six hits a piece. Half of Gose’s hits are for extra bases, while Iglesias has two of the team’s four stolen bases.
Brandon Moss is pressing out of the gate, hitless in his first ten Indians at bats with five strikeouts over his first three games. The team as a whole struck out 22 times in the series against Houston, compared to eleven for the Tigers against Minnesota.
The Indians have enjoyed the sight of Simon on the mound throughout his career. The ten Indians players on the roster to face Simon in the past have combined to hit .373 against him with 12 RBI. They hit .350 against him last year alone, including a homer and three RBI from Lonnie Chisenhall. He has four hits in nine plate appearances against Price, including a double, a homer, and three RBI.
KEEPING UP WITH THE MARTINEZES
Last season, the middle of the Tigers order provided plenty of damage, starting with the expected results from slugger Miguel Cabrera. While Cabrera hit .408 against Cleveland with three home runs and ten RBI on the season, it was a pair of teammates that hurt the Indians more consistently.
Former Tribe fan favorite Victor Martinez hit .319 with a .419 on-base percentage over the course of the season, slugging four doubles, seven home runs, and driving in 15 runs. He struck out nine times and walked 13 with seven additional intentional passes. Six of the home runs came at his old home at Progressive Field. Outfielder J.D. Martinez drooled at the sight of a Cleveland jersey, hitting .323 with seven home runs and 20 RBI, the best power production he had against any one team last season. He already has a pair of homers through three games this season.
This week marked the 31st anniversary of the no-hitter thrown by longtime Tigers pitcher and brief member of the Indians, Jack Morris.
On April 7th, 1984, Morris blanked the Chicago White Sox, 4-0, in just his second start of the season. He, like Bauer was in his start on Thursday, was effectively wild to an extent, striking out eight but walking six batters in his nine innings on the mound. The first base runner did not reach until the fourth, but a walk, stolen base, and two more walks loaded the bases for the Sox with nobody out. A grounder back to Morris turned into a 1-2-3 double play, and future Indians player Ron Kittle struck out to end the threat. No other batter would pass first base the rest of the game, despite walks in the fifth, seventh, and ninth.
Morris pitched with the Tigers from 1977 to 1990 before moving on to the Minnesota Twins and guiding them to his first World Series since he won a ring with Detroit later in his no-hit season. His Game 7 ten-inning shutout performance for the Twins in the 1991 World Series in his lone season with the club was one of the most memorable postseason pitching efforts in baseball history and helped to win him the World Series MVP.
He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after the season and found himself in the World Series for the third time after leading the league with 21 wins. While he was 0-3 for the Jays in the postseason, the club won the championship, giving him a third world title under his belt, and he was a member of their 1993 champion team but did not appear in the playoffs.
Following his two years in Canada, he returned stateside with the Cleveland Indians for the strike-shortened 1994 season, but his best years were behind him. He was 10-6 in 23 starts for the Tribe, but had a 5.60 ERA and was released on August 9th, just three days before the strike. He signed with Cincinnati before the end of the year, but opted to end his career during Spring Training. Morris works now as a color commentator for the Tigers with Fox Sports Detroit.
The Tigers will make the short trip from Cleveland to Pittsburgh following their series with the Indians to take on the Pirates for three interleague games, starting with the Bucs’ home opener Monday afternoon. Cleveland will enjoy a day off before a quick two-game set with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, a 12:10 PM ET start on Jackie Robinson Day.
Photo: AP Photo/Patric Schneider
Rest in Peace, Grandma. Thank you for all of the inspiration, love, and support you provided me in my years and for always being understanding and there when I needed it the most. Your love of baseball will live on through me and I will think of you always. – B