Every time the Cleveland Indians seem to get going and approach the .500 mark, they stumble and fall painfully.
Lost in the shuffle of what has turned out to be an exciting playoff run by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the city’s Indians have played much better of late. While this past weekend’s series with the Baltimore Orioles ended with a tough, low-scoring series loss, the team has still been markedly better recently, especially when compared to the first six weeks of the season. This week, they wrap up their brief homestand with three games against the Seattle Mariners, a team who too has failed to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon them prior to the season.
The Indians (27-29) somehow managed to avoid perennial Cy Young Award contender Felix Hernandez in a four-game series in Seattle that started just two Thursdays ago. Luck is again on their side, as they will avoid the dominant righty once again over the next three games.
Over the weekend, they scored just seven runs against the Orioles after putting up ten in a series win in Kansas City and 16 in four games against the Mariners previously. They dropped as 5-2 decision in Friday’s opener, as the Orioles’ Adam Jones homered in the sixth and tripled before scoring in the eighth to break a fifth inning tie. Cleveland recovered with a 2-1 win on Saturday, backing a strong start from Danny Salazar with a key sixth inning RBI-double from Carlos Santana. A defensive miscue in the third inning at third base gave the O’s an extra out and led to three runs scoring, giving the Birds plenty of support in a 7-3 win.
The Mariners (25-32) might not be very happy to see the Indians. After dropping the final two games against Cleveland, they were swept in three straight by the Yankees and lost the first two and the final game of their four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. It was a bizarre series at best for the Mariners, who allowed just eight runs in the four games, but mustered just three one-run efforts from the offensive side of the roster. They lost 2-1 and 1-0 on Thursday and Friday before ending their seven-game losing streak on Saturday courtesy of an Austin Jackson solo home run in the seventh to give Hernandez his ninth win of the season. They lost 3-1 on Sunday, as Chris Archer stymied former Rays prospect Mike Montgomery in his Major League debut.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Elias will look for his first career win and will have a tough road to get it against Kluber. He has taken the loss in each of his two career starts against the Indians with a 7.15 ERA. The Cleveland ace has won each of his two starts versus Seattle, striking out 21 batters in 16 innings while compiling a 1.69 ERA and 0.69 WHIP. Current Mariners hitters have struck out 27 times against the righty in 90 career plate appearances while hitting .224.
Walker was the victor in the M’s only win over the Tribe this season. He threw eight innings of two-hit, shutout baseball while striking out eight. Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher are the only Indians players with hits against him in his career. Bauer will look to notch his first win against the Mariners in his career. In three previous starts, he is 0-3 with a 5.09 ERA. He struck out ten and allowed just two runs in seven innings earlier this month against them. Jackson has been the victim of the K against Bauer five times in 13 plate appearances and is hitting just .100 in his career off of him.
Happ is perfect in his career against Cleveland, posting a 2-0 record in four games with a 1.89 ERA. The lefty has shut down Michael Brantley in his career, holding him hitless in seven plate appearances, but Brandon Moss is 4-for-6 and both David Murphy and Carlos Santana are 2-for-5. Marcum won his start against Seattle this month, which was his first appearance against the Mariners since 2008. Jackson is 4-for-9 against him, while Robinson Cano is 7-for-19 (.368) with a homer and two RBI.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and ROOT Sports will air each game in the set. Radio calls will be available on your regional affiliate of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network as well as 710 ESPN in Seattle.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB STREAK
Kansas City 32-23 .582 – W2
Minnesota 33-24 .579 – L1
Detroit 30-28 .517 3.5 W2
Cleveland 27-29 .482 5.5 L1
Chicago 26-30 .464 6.5 L1
MASTERY OF THE M’S
With their recent 3-1 trip through the Pacific Northwest, the Indians boosted their advantage over the Mariners all-time to 215-169. Cleveland has winning records against Seattle both at home and on the road.
On the shores of Lake Erie, the Tribe is 110-80 since the M’s joined the American League in 1977. Seattle took two of three at Progressive Field last season, with Kluber claiming the lone win of the series.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Scott Atchison (RP) – 15-day disabled list (May 31) – right ankle sprain
Lonnie Chisenhall (3B) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (June 8)
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Jose Ramirez (SS) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (June 8)
Jerry Sands (UTL) – outrighted to Triple-A Columbus (June 6)
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Giovanny Urshela (3B) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (June 9)
Zach Walters (UTL) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (June 9)
LAST TIME OUT
Moss was 7-for-17 (.412) the last time the two clubs met up. He had a pair of doubles and a solo home run over his four starts. He is 2-for-5 in his career against Elias with a double, but is hitless in seven tries against Walker with three striekouts.
Kipnis and Murphy each led the club with three RBI in the series. Murphy did it in half as many trips to the plate as Kipnis.
The Indians hit .253 in the four-game matchup. The Mariners hit just .212 off of Indians pitching.
Logan Morrison led the club with four hits in 14 at bats (.286). Cano drove in three runs to lead the team and hit just his second homer of the season. Nelson Cruz, who is hitting .329, struck out five times in 17 times up and was limited to three singles and a double in four games.
Thursday will mark the 28th birthday of one-time Mariners and Indians outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, currently of the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
Carrera was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent in 2005 and was part of a massive 12-player, three-team trade in 2008 involving both the Indians and Mariners. He was dealt from New York to Seattle with Mike Carp, Endy Chavez, Maikel Cleto, Aaron Heilman, and current Royals pitcher Jason Vargas. Seattle sent Sean Green, J.J. Putz, and Jeremy Reed to New York. The Indians sent Franklin Gutierrez to the Mariners and received infielder Luis Valbuena from Seattle and reliever Joe Smith from New York.
He would join his third professional team in 2010, when the Indians acquired him with infielder Juan Diaz from Seattle for first baseman and designated hitter Russell Branyan on June 26th. He spent parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons patrolling the outfield for the Tribe, but was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies off of waivers at the beginning of the 2013 season. His stay in Philly was short and he returned to Cleveland on a waiver claim a month later and played in two games for the parent club before spending 105 games in the minors at Triple-A Columbus.
A free agent following the season, he signed with Detroit and spent 97 games at Triple-A Toledo in 2014, hitting .307 before joining the Tigers for the final two months of the season. He signed with Toronto in the offseason and was called up at the beginning of May after starting the season at Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .325. He is hitting .303 in 31 games for the Blue Jays and is amongst the league-leaders in sacrifices with four.
The Mariners will head back west following the series to take on the AL West leading Astros in a three-game series from Houston. The Indians will also hit the road, moving on to face their rival to the north, the Detroit Tigers, in a three-game weekend series.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images