Suddenly, the Cleveland Indians are trending back in the right direction. At the same time, the cross-state rival Cincinnati Reds are trending in the completely opposite direction, losers of five straight. Their two worlds will collide at Progressive Field this weekend as the Indians host the Reds in their second Interleague series of the season.
The Indians (17-23) pulled back within two games of the White Sox by taking three of four in Chicago during the week to complete their second consecutive series sweep and have now won a season-high three straight games. While they gained no real ground on Kansas City and Detroit, who have won three and two in a row respectively, it was progress for a club that entered a seven-game road trip with a 6-9 record away from home. A successful 5-2 trip pulled the club’s road record back to .500 at 11-11. They will need to have a similar bit of success on the coming home stand to improve on a 6-12 mark at home.
Cleveland could have claimed a four-game series sweep, but dropped the series opener, 2-1, in ten innings on Monday despite an incredibly dominant second straight start from their reigning Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. A four-pitch leadoff walk from Zach McAllister came around to score with two outs in the White Sox walk-off winner. The Indians could not muster much off of Jose Quintana on Tuesday, but they made the slight run production stand as Trevor Bauer earned his third win with seven and a third on the mound and Cody Allen struck out three in a four-out save, his seventh. A three-run seventh on Wednesday broke a 1-1 tie as the Indians held on to win 4-3. Jose Ramirez drove in the go-ahead run with a single and Michael Brantley provided insurance with a two-run double. Four first inning runs gave Danny Salazar a cushion to work with and the Tribe homered their way to a 5-2 win for the series win on Thursday.
The five-game skid has dropped the Reds (18-22) back under the .500 mark, the furthest they have fallen this season. The slide moves them into a tie in the third spot in the National League Central with Pittsburgh. They dropped three of four to the San Francisco Giants before losing a pair to the Kansas City Royals in the last week. During their slide, offensive production has been at a minimum, something the Indians and their fans can relate directly to.
Cincinnati has been outscored 40-13 in the last five games, and eight of those Reds runs came in one ball game.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Leake was hit hard in his last outing, when he gave up a career-worst nine runs and eleven hits in five innings after a strong stretch before it. Three of the eleven hits left the yard against the Giants. He is 1-0 in his career against the Indians with a 3.28 ERA. He has limited current Indians to a .147 average. Carrasco is 1-0 in two career games against the Reds, including one start, but has allowed seven earned runs on 12 hits with three home runs in ten innings. Current Reds have hit .462 against him. His last start against Cincinnati, incidentally enough, comes four years to the day of his start Friday.
Like Leake, DeSclafani was shelled his last time out, allowing six runs in three innings against San Francisco. He has never faced the Tribe. In fact, he has faced only one batter on their roster – Brandon Moss is 2-for-2 with a pair of singles off of him. Kluber has been on some kind of tear, striking out 30 batters in 17 innings spanning his last two starts while allowing just six hits and a walk. He won his lone career start against the Reds last season.
Cueto is coming off of a 20-9 season that included an All-Star trip and a second place finish in the NL Cy Young voting. He is 4-0 in his career against Cleveland in six starts, including two complete games and a 2.08 ERA. Three of those wins have come at Progressive Field, where he has limited Indians hitters to a .189 average. Bauer faced the Reds just once, back with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012. He lasted three innings and allowed just one hit, but five base runners via walks helped to lead to four runs scored, three of which were earned.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Ohio will air the series in each respective market. Your local Cleveland Indians Radio Network affiliates and WLW 700 in Cincinnati will provide radio calls of all three. Due to the Cleveland Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals game on Friday, Clevelanders can find the call of that game on WMMS 100.7 FM instead of its usual spot on WTAM 1100 AM.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Kansas City 26-14 .650 – W3
Detroit 25-17 .595 2.0 W2
Minnesota 23-17 .575 3.0 W2
Chicago 18-20 .474 7.0 L3
Cleveland 17-23 .425 9.0 W3
BATTLE FOR THE OHIO CUP
The Indians and Reds have played a very evenly matched series in their matchups dating back to 1997. Cleveland has a one game edge, 45-44, all-time but has outscored Cincinnati, 437-406. The Indians are 27-19 at home.
After playing six games against one another for many years, the series size dropped to four in each of the last two seasons. The Reds took three of four last year, but only one of their starting pitchers from last season (Cueto) is on the active roster for this series. The two clubs split in Cleveland last season, when the Reds ended their ten-game road losing streak to the Indians.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Bruce Chen (P) – announced his retirement (May 18)
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; expected to be activated May 24*
T.J. House (SP) – activated from 15-day disabled list (May 21) and optioned to Triple-A Columbus
Shaun Marcum (SP) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (May 20)
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Zach Walters (UTL) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (May 20)
Homer Bailey (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 29) – recovery from May 2015 Tommy John surgery
Jason Bourgeois (OF) – 60-day disabled list (March 27) – left shoulder fracture
Sean Marshall (RP) – 60-day disabled list (March 27) – season-ending left shoulder surgery
Devin Mesoraco (C) – day-to-day – left hip impingement
Manny Parra (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 24) – neck strain and elbow tenderness; sent on rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville (May 19)
BY THE NUMBERS
Jason Kipnis saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end in Chicago, where he typically hits well. He may welcome a return “home” to Cleveland, where he has hit .384 on the season. He is hitting .449 in May and .406 against right-handed pitching this year.
Brantley has hit .320 over the last seven days. He has hits and driven in at least one run in seven of his last eight games.
Nick Swisher hit .364 in the series with the White Sox and has hits in three straight games. His solo homer in the first inning of Thursday’s game was the front end of back-to-back homers, shared with Mike Aviles.
Ramirez provided a spark to the lineup, jumping up into the two spot in the batting order for the majority of the series against the White Sox. He hit .429 in the four games with hits in each and drove in single runs in the first three games. He also reached base four other times with walks.
SCUFFLING IN THE QUEEN CITY
First baseman Joey Votto is four for his last 23 (.174) in his last two series with five strikeouts. He has hit .162 over his last ten games. His three career homers at Progressive Field are the eighth-most he has hit at any road park in his career.
Shortstop Zack Cozart and outfielder Marlon Byrd each enter the series mired in a 2-for-20 skid. In his last three series, Cozart is 4-for-27 (.148) with a homer and two RBI. For Byrd, it extends to a 5-for-35 (.143) slump in his last eleven games, but two of the hits have been home runs.
Todd Frazier has struck out in each of his career plate appearances against Bauer. He is not scuffling like many of his teammates of late, hitting .333 in his last eight games. He has hits in seven of those eight contests. He leads the Reds with a dozen home runs this season.
Former Indians prospect Brandon Phillips has always played well against the team that cut ties with him early on in his career. In 45 career games against the Indians, he has hit .350 with nine home runs and 32 RBI. The three-time NL All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and one-time Silver Slugger winner spent parts of his first four MLB seasons with the Indians from 2002 to 2005.
He was dealt to the Reds at the start of the 2006 season for pitcher Jeff Stevens. Stevens spent parts of three seasons and 33 games with the Chicago Cubs, never appearing for the Tribe before he was dealt by the club with John Gaub and current Tampa Bay Rays top starter Chris Archer for Mark DeRosa.
Reds Bench Coach Jay Bell began the Major League portion of his playing career in an Indians uniform in the 1980s.
Bell was a first round draft pick, the eighth overall, by the Minnesota Twins in the 1984 draft, but was dealt to the Indians in August of 1985 with Curt Wardle, Jim Weaver, and Rich Yett for future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.
He made his Major League debut with the Indians on September 29, 1986, coincidentally against the same Twins. In a moment almost too improbable to script, Bell homered off of Blyleven in his first MLB at bat. He played five games that season, plus 38 more in 1987 and 73 in 1988 at the age of 22.
Prior to the 1989 season, he was sent to Pittsburgh as part of the trade that brought shortstop Felix Fermin to Cleveland. Bell would twice lead the league in sacrifices with the Pirates before his power and average both developed further. He was an All-Star in 1993, winning both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award. After a season in Kansas City in 1997, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he had the best year of his career in 1999, making his second and final All-Star team while hitting .289 with 38 homers and 112 RBI in 151 games. He spent three more seasons there before signing with the New York Mets for one final season in 2003.
The Indians will welcome the Rangers to town on Monday for their only home series against Texas this season. They took two of three from them last week. The Reds will return home to Cincinnati, where they will host the Colorado Rockies for three beginning Monday afternoon from Great American Ball Park.
Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast