When your offense has been struggling and proceeds to get outscored 20-10 in a rain-shortened three-game series, odds are that your team took another step backwards or two in the standings.
That’s what makes baseball a funny game sometimes.
After rain postponed Monday’s series opener for the Indians (31-34) with Chicago at Wrigley Field, they took two of three from the Cubs despite being noticeably outperformed offensively. But, as has been the case quite a few times this season, the Indians made the runs count when they actually scored some.
In Tuesday’s win, Cleveland blanked Chicago, 6-0, behind four runs batted in from Carlos Santana, back in the cleanup spot. The Indians returned home as part of the strange home-and-home series and were embarrassed by a 17-0 shellacking that saw a pair of outfielders, Ryan Raburn and David Murphy, each take the mound in a seven-run ninth inning for the Cubbies. After a lengthy rain delay that chased both club’s starters in a 3-3 tie Thursday, Giovanny Urshela notched his first career game-winning hit, as his go-ahead single in the bottom of the seventh broke the tie and sent the Indians to a 4-3 win.
New Tampa coach and former Cleveland bullpen coach Kevin Cash has his Rays (38-30) defying all odds in the early season, as his first place club holds a one-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East with nearly a dozen players (including four regular starting pitchers!) on the disabled list. His Rays have won six of seven, including taking three of four from Washington in their home-and-home set that ended in the nation’s capital. Like the Indians in their Interleague series, their lone loss (16-4 on Tuesday) was a lopsided one and they had a shutout (5-0 on Wednesday) to their credit.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Karns will make his first career start against the Indians and just his fourth against a team from the AL Central, where he is winless in three attempts. He has never faced a batter in the current Cleveland lineup. Carrasco is in pursuit of a career-high ninth win with plenty of season to go to get it. If the Indians get the win in the ball game, there is a good chance it will go to his credit – he has been the pitcher of record in each of his 13 starts so far this season. He is 1-2 against Tampa in his career, including an 0-1 mark last season with a 0.96 ERA. Current Rays players are hitting .154 against him.
Ramirez is in his first season with the Rays after being dealt prior to the season to Tampa from Seattle, where he spent his first three MLB seasons. He is 1-0 in two games against Cleveland in his career and won his only start against them in 2013 with the Mariners. Brandon Moss and Yan Gomes have each hit home runs off of him. Kluber won a pair of starts against Tampa last season, winning a 6-3 decision on May 9th and a 1-0 game in Cleveland on September 26th. He is 2-0 in three starts against the Rays in his career with a 1.08 ERA.
It will be Colome’s second career start against Cleveland, after he and his bullpen blanked the Indians on September 27th last season, allowing five hits in a 2-0 win. Carrasco was the tough luck loser in the contest. Colome has a 2.72 ERA in his career on the road in nine games, compared to a 5.31 mark at home in the same number of appearances. Like Colome, it will be Bauer’s second career start against the Rays. He lost his lone start against them, allowing three earned runs on two hits, but issuing seven walks, in five innings in 2013.
Just two stations will handle this series’ broadcasts, as Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Sun Sports will handle the TV options for fans. Radio calls of the game will be made available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and WDAE 620 AM in the Tampa/St. Pete region.
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT GB WCGB STREAK
Kansas City 38-25 .603 – – W4
Minnesota 36-30 .545 3.5 – W2
Detroit 34-32 .515 5.5 2.0 L2
Cleveland 31-34 .477 8.0 4.5 W1
Chicago 28-37 .431 11.0 7.5 L7
HOME FIELD DISADVANTAGE
The Indians have not made use of their friendly confines, as Progressive Field has been home to a 13-19 record for Cleveland this season.
That could go out the window this weekend with the Indians hosting the Rays. Cleveland is responsible for the second-worst winning percentage (.397) for Tampa in their history, amongst all American League teams. The Indians are 79-52 all-time against them and have a 45-21 record as the home team (.682 winning percentage) in the regular season since the Rays entered the AL in 1998.
Cleveland took four of six against the Rays last season.
ON THE MOVE and ON THE MEND
Kyle Crockett (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (June 18)
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – right elbow surgery in March
Yan Gomes (C) – day-to-day – neck tightness, expected to miss Friday’s game
Jeff Manship (RP) – contract selected from Triple-A Columbus (June 18)
Shaun Marcum (SP) – designated for assignment (June 18)
Nick Swisher (DH) – 15-day disabled list (June 13) – left knee inflammation
Josh Tomlin (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 10) – right shoulder surgery
Zach Walters (UTL) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (June 18)
Tim Beckham (2B) – 15-day disabled list (May 31) – right hamstring strain
Ronald Belisario (RP) – contract selected from Triple-A Durham (June 17)
Jeff Beliveau (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 22) – recovery from April left labrum surgery
Andrew Bellatti (RP) – 15-day disabled list (June 10) – right shoulder tendinitis
Alex Cobb (SP) – 60-day disabled list (May 9) – recovery from May 2015 Tommy John surgery
John Jaso (C) – 60-day disabled list (April 27) – left wrist contusion
Desmond Jennings (CF) – 15-day disabled list (April 26) – left knee surgery in June
James Loney (1B) – 15-day disabled list (May 25) – fractured left middle finger
Matt Moore (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from April 2014 Tommy John surgery
Jake Odorizzi (SP) – 15-day disabled list (June 6) – left oblique strain
C.J. Riefenhauser (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Durham
Burch Smith (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 8) – recovery from April 2015 Tommy John surgery
Drew Smyly (SP) – 60-day disabled list (May 13) – left labrum tear
Bryan Shaw notched his first save of the season after manager Terry Francona went to “high-leverage” reliever Cody Allen with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of Thursday’s rain-lengthened game. Shaw has allowed just one earned run (0.90 ERA) over his last ten appearances and ten innings, walking two and striking out nine. The home run came leading off his second inning of work in a 5-4 win over Detroit.
Allen has not given up a run in the last ten and two-thirds innings on the mound over ten games. He has five saves in those outings while striking out 17 and walking just a pair.
BY THE NUMBERS
Jason Kipnis continue to hit and hit and hit. His 13-game hitting streak is a season-high. He is hitting .340 with a .448 on-base percentage during that stretch with 16 hits, including three doubles, and three RBI. He is 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts during that span and has drawn ten walks to balance out his ten strikeouts. The 13-gamer comes hot on the heels of a recently completed nine-gamer.
Michael Brantley has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games, batting .298 in that time with four doubles and six runs batted in. He has not gone hitless in consecutive games since the final two games of last season, which carried over to the first game of the 2015 campaign. He is the only current Indians hitter to reach base off of Colome of the six whom have faced him previously.
Tampa’s Evan Longoria has hit in seven straight games, batting .360 during the stretch with three runs batted in. He is hitting .277 this season with six homers and 29 RBI. Teammate Kevin Kiermaier is right behind him with six straight contests with a hit. He is batting .375 in that span with nine hits and an RBI to his credit. The center fielder is hitting .252 on the year with four homers and 14 RBI.
Outfielder Joey Butler, with his third MLB club in as many years, is off to a strong start, hitting .331 in his first 39 games for the Rays. He has hit five homers, the first ones of his career, and driven in 18.
Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. leads the club in homers with 13 and is second with 30 runs driven in. He also leads the club with 30 walks, but has struck out 84 times, 29 higher than the next highest player on the team.
The Indians announcing the signing of their first round pick in the 2015 draft, 17th overall selection Brady Aiken. The terms of the contract for the left-handed starter, currently sidelined after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, were undisclosed.
The Indians now have locked up nine of their first eleven picks from the just-completed draft.
This weekend will mark the first trip to Cleveland as a visiting player for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, a longtime member of the Indians.
After being acquired from Seattle for veteran infielder Eduardo Perez in 2006, Cabrera became a regular in the Indians lineup after debuting in the Cleveland lineup as a 21-year-old late in the 2007 season. He began primarily as a second baseman but transitioned to short, making a pair of All-Star trips in 2011 and 2012 and winning a Silver Slugger Award in 2011 when he hit .273 with 25 homers and 92 RBI after hitting just three homers in 151 games the season before. The power was never quite to that level, dropping back into the teens over the next three seasons.
Midway through the 2014 season in the final year of his contract, Cabrera was dealt to the Washington Nationals for utility man Walters. Cabrera was hitting just .246 at the time and was struggling in the field. The Nats used him at second base in his 49 games there, his first games at the position since 2009. He hit .229, but showed a much better eye at the plate than he had exhibited in Cleveland throughout the season.
He signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Rays in the offseason. He is hitting .204 this season with three homers and 15 RBI as the club’s shortstop.
The Indians will stay put in Cleveland after the series to prepare for the Detroit Tigers, who will come to town for three games starting Monday night. The set will conclude an eight-game home stand for the Tribe. The Rays will return home after their brief two-stop road trip to host the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
Cleveland and Tampa will meet up again to conclude their regular season matchup at the end of this month.
Photo: David Banks/Getty Images