If it seems as though the Indians and White Sox just played one another, you are correct. The two clubs meet again this series for a second consecutive week and find themselves in extremely similar situations. Both teams, with lofty expectations hanging over their seasons, have stumbled a bit out of the gate against divisional opponents.
Cleveland, gracing a regional Sports Illustrated cover and bringing back memories of a jinx of nearly 30 years ago, returned very much the same roster with a new addition in Brandon Moss in the lineup. Chicago, after an elaborate and expensive shopping spree in the offseason, jumped from pretender to contender. So far through the first eleven games, the two teams have one big thing in common – they sit in the cellar of the American League Central with identical 4-7 records, five and a half games out of first.
The Indians dropped two of three to Minnesota over the weekend. The Twins were 3-2 walk-off winners in eleven innings on Friday night, spoiling another strong start from Cleveland’s staff ace as Trevor Plouffe crushed a 3-2 pitch into the Minneapolis night. The Indians rebounded to a 4-2 win on Saturday afternoon behind six strong from Danny Salazar, who struck out ten in his first start of the season. The Twins rocked T.J. House on Sunday afternoon, tagging the lefty for five runs in five and two-thirds on the way to an easy 7-2 victory.
Chicago saw similar ground lost in the Central standings as they lost two of three in Detroit. The Tigers edged out a 2-1 walk-off win on Friday night on an RBI-single from Jose Iglesias off of reliever Zach Duke. The Sox bounced back strong on Saturday afternoon, scoring four in the third and seven in the fourth, including a grand slam from Jose Abreu, en route to a 12-3 thumping. Detroit returned the favor on Sunday, as a first inning grand slam from Yoenis Cespedes gave Shane Greene plenty of run support on the way to a 9-1 win.
Monday, 4/20, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Trevor Bauer (2-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. LHP John Danks (0-2, 6.97)
Tuesday, 4/21, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 2.84) vs. RHP Hector Noesi (0-1, 3.86)
Wednesday, 4/22, 2:10 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (0-1, 2.49) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-1, 4.29)
The White Sox draw the tough straw of dealing with each of Cleveland’s top three starters so far this season. For the Indians, they will see a very familiar face in Danks, who they will face for the 24th time in his career, while they take on the 2014 All-Star “Shark” for the first time in his eight seasons at the Major League level.
In usual fashion, Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio will handle the Indians broadcasts throughout the series. In equally usual fashion, the White Sox broadcasts are split up, appearing on WPWR on Monday, CSN+ on Tuesday, and CSN on Wednesday afternoon. MLB Network will also air the afternoon affair to conclude the series. Find your affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network or stations WSCR 670 and WRTO 1200 in Chicago for the radio calls.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Detroit 10-2 .833 – W1
Kansas City 9-3 .750 1.0 W1
Minnesota 5-7 .417 5.0 W1
Chicago 4-7 .364 5.5 L1
Cleveland 4-7 .364 5.5 L1
The White Sox and Indians split their two-game set at Progressive Field last week. The White Sox maintain the all-time edge between the two clubs with a record of 1,058-1,028.
They also own a sizeable advantage when playing the Indians in Chicago, holding a 559-480 edge there.
INJURY UPDATES and TRANSACTIONS
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Yan Gomes (C) – 15-day disabled list (April 12) – right MCL sprain
Nick Swisher (DH) – 15-day disabled list (April 2) – recovery from double knee surgery in August
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Zach Walters (UTIL) – 15-day disabled list (March 27) – right oblique strain
Kyle Drabek (SP) – designated for assignment (April 20)
Javy Guerra (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 13) – right shoulder inflammation
Nate Jones (RP) – 60-day disabled list (March 27) – recovery from July 2014 Tommy John surgery
Jake Petricka (RP) – activated from 15-day DL (April 20)
Carlos Rodon (P) – contract selected from Triple-A Charlotte
Chicago-area native Jason Kipnis slumped a bit when the two clubs met last week, going 0-for-7 in the series before getting three hits in the last two games of the Twins match up. Even with those tallies, it leaves him hitting .158 in his last two series after ending his modest five-game hitting streak. Hopefully, some home cooking this week will snap him out of his hitting slump, as he owns a .376 lifetime batting average at US Cellular with career highs in homers (five) and RBI (23).
The 9-1-2 portion of the Indians lineup in general has hit an April cold spell. Jose Ramirez is hitting .200 on the season after going 3-for-13 in the series against Minnesota. He has hit in five of his first ten games, but has just a .243 on-base percentage. Michael Bourn was just 1-for-11 in the series against the Twins with a single and a run scored. This came on the heels of a 2-for-8 against Chicago the last time out and a 3-for-13 against Detroit. As Bourn goes, so go the Tribe.
Adam Eaton, who was slumping coming into Cleveland last week, had a pair of hits in the series opener of that series and another two in the first game of Chicago’s series with Detroit over the weekend but was hitless in the other three contests, dropping his average to .136 on the season and .125 over his last ten games. The left-handed hitter is hitting just .107 against righties and .077 at home.
Chicago as a team has struck out the second-fewest times in the AL, but has also drawn the fewest walks. They will face an Indians pitching staff that ranks second in the league in strikeouts.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Several of the Sox have seen success against Bauer in limited action. Abreu leads the club with four singles off of him in seven at bats, but has struck out in the other three plate appearances. Alexei Ramirez is 2-for-4 and Tyler Flowers is 2-for-3. Bauer is 1-0 in three career starts against Chicago, but lasted just two-thirds of an inning in his only other appearance at US Cellular Field in 2013.
Carrasco is 2-5 with a 5.37 ERA in ten games against the White Sox in his career, including a 1-2 mark with a 6.20 ERA at US Cellular. He was 2-1 last season against them in three starts and one relief appearance, earning a 2.49 ERA. He was dealt a tough luck loss after just two batters in his last outing, also against the White Sox, after both runners to reach base off of him scored off of Zach McAllister after Carrasco was struck by a line drive and was forced to leave the game. Melky Cabrera has had his number throughout their careers, batting 6-for-11 (.545) with a homer, a double, and five runs batted in.
Kluber is 4-2 in his career against the White Sox with a 3.09 ERA and is 2-1 in Chicago. Last season, he was 2-1 against them in five games with one complete game effort. Chicago’s All-Star Ramirez has been lost at the plate against him, hitting .143 in his career with two singles and two doubles in 28 plate appearances. Abreu has homered off of him while batting .353, but has struck out five times. Flowers is just 1-for-11 with five Ks of his own.
Despite being a southpaw, Danks has not seen the usual lefty results against the Indians. He is 5-12 in his career against Cleveland with a 5.19 ERA in 23 starts. He was 1-2 last season and lost last Wednesday to the Tribe. Ryan Raburn has historically hit him well, batting .341 with 15 hits in his career, including six doubles, three home runs, and eleven RBI while also drawing six walks. Carlos Santana, Brantley, and Kipnis have also homered off of him.
Noesi has made five appearances against Cleveland, going 1-1 with a 4.23 ERA. He earned both of those decisions in 2014 while posting a 4.26 ERA in 19 innings. His right-handed stuff has worked well on many of the Tribe’s big righties in their lineup, as Kipnis is hitless in 13 career at bats against him and Brantley has just a single to his credit in a dozen trips. David Murphy has two hits in 11 at bats, but one left the yard. Bourn is 4-for-7 with a homer and five runs driven in.
FAMILIAR FACES IN CHI-TOWN
Chicago employs a handful of former Indians players on their coaching staff as well as on their front office staff.
Harold Baines acts as manager Robin Ventura’s assistant hitting coach. He spent 22 years in the Majors, including the final stretch of the 1999 season in Cleveland when, at the age of 40, he was acquired by the Indians in a late August transaction. One of his 384 career homers came with the Tribe. Bullpen catcher Mark Salas is in his second tour in the position with the club. He played eight seasons in the Majors, including part of the 1989 season with the Tribe.
Former Indians catcher and minor league manager Tim Laker works as a hitting coordinator for the club. Ever Magallanes, who played just three MLB games, all with Cleveland in 1991, works as the team’s infield coordinator.
Former Indians player and coach Buddy Bell in the team’s Vice President. He was drafted by the Indians in 1969 and spent seven seasons in Cleveland as a player from 1972 to 1978. The legend and Peoria, Illinois, native Jim Thome is a Special Assistant to the General Manager after spending the majority of his career in Cleveland, with a four-year stop in Chicago.
Cleveland will have their fourth off day of the season already on Thursday before swinging through the state of Michigan for an untimely rematch against the AL Central’s top team, the Detroit Tigers, in a three-game weekend series before returning home to wrap up the month. Chicago will stay put, welcoming in the Kansas City Royals for four games starting Thursday night.
Photo: AP Photo/Jim Mone