As the month of August, the Cleveland Indians keep inching closer and closer to the .500 mark once again. Their efforts in doing so have pulled the club back into the mix for the American League Wild Card race, where they come into this week’s series with the Toronto Blue Jays just five games out with over a month left (33 games) to play in the season.
The Indians (63-66) have finally figured out their woes at home, just in time to hit the road once again for another lengthy road trip. It will be the longer of the two remaining roadies that they have left this season, if that brings any consolation to the matter. In another negative to come of heading out on the road, they will venture into enemy territory in Toronto, where the new look Blue Jays have been punishing those around baseball after the Jays spent big at the trade deadline.
Cleveland handled the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend, winning a 3-1 final on Friday night as a three-run seventh inning turned the tides in the Indians’ favor. A five-run eighth inning, capped by Yan Gomes’ grand slam, propelled the team to an 8-3 win on Saturday. Abraham Almonte broke open a close game on Sunday in the fifth with a grand slam of his own as the Indians went on to the sweep, 9-2.
The Blue Jays (74-56) may owe a favor or two to the Indians after Cleveland dealt the New York Yankees five losses in seven games in August. Toronto hosts the series with the second-best record in the AL, after only the Kansas City Royals, and is 43-23 at home on the year. They are coming into the series winners of three straight and eight of their last nine. They swept the Detroit Tigers over the weekend, winning a 5-3 final on Friday before a 15-1 explosion on Saturday and four home runs paced them to a 9-2 win on Sunday afternoon.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Monday, 8/31, 7:07 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (11-7, 3.30 ERA) vs. LHP David Price (13-4, 2.42)
Salazar’s streak of seven consecutive quality starts ended his last time out when he allowed five runs (four earned) in four and two-thirds innings. He made his MLB debut against Toronto in 2013, striking out seven and flirting with a no-hitter over six innings for the win. Price is 4-0 with a 1.98 since relocating back to the AL East after spending the majority of his career there while a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. He has just three starts this season shorter than six innings, one of which was a no-decision against Cleveland in April. He is 9-1 in a dozen career starts against the Indians with a 2.04 ERA.
Tuesday, 9/1, 7:07 PM ET – RHP Cody Anderson (2-3, 4.30) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (11-8, 3.19)
Anderson returned from the disabled list and gave the Indians a strong effort filling in. While he did not factor in the decision against the Milwaukee Brewers, he allowed just two runs on two hits and struck out four in four and one-third innings. It will be his first career start against Toronto. The 32-year-old Estrada is having the best season of his career in his first with the Blue Jays after coming to the club from Milwaukee. He was 3-2 in August with a 2.05 ERA. He has never faced the Cleveland Indians.
Wednesday, 9/2, 7:07 PM ET – RHP Trevor Bauer (10-10, 4.31) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (9-10, 4.25)
Bauer had one of his best starts of the season his last time out, limiting the Angels to one run on five hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings for his tenth win of the year. He was hit hard by the Blue Jays in his only start against them in his career, giving up six runs in four and one-third innings that the Indians came back to win this season. The 40-year-old knuckleballer Dickey is 7-3 at home this season with a 3.36 ERA in 14 starts. He is 3-2 against the Tribe with a 3.54 ERA in 12 games, including six starts. Toronto has won each of his last eight starts and he is 6-0 in that span with a 3.23 ERA dating back to July 23rd.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Rogers SportsNET will broadcast each of the games in the series, while the radio affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and SN590 The Fan will provide calls from each club’s radio teams.
AL WILD CARD STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT. WCGB STRK L10
New York 72-57 .558 +4.0 W3 5-5
Texas 68-61 .527 – W4 7-3
Minnesota 67-63 .515 -1.5 W1 8-2
Los Angeles 65-65 .500 -3.5 L3 2-8
Tampa Bay 64-66 .492 -4.5 W1 5-5
Cleveland 63-66 .488 -5.0 W5 8-2
Baltimore 63-67 .485 -5.5 L4 1-9
The two teams split a series in Cleveland earlier in the year with each team trading off victories. The Jays outscored the Tribe, 27-24, in an otherwise very evenly matched set.
The split maintained Toronto’s slight two game lead in the all-time series against Cleveland, 198-196. The Indians last held the edge on July 9th, 2011, in the series dating back to 1977.
ON THE MEND and ON THE MOVE
Carlos Carrasco (SP) – 15-day disabled list (August 22) – right shoulder bursitis
Gavin Floyd (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from March 2015 right elbow surgery; could be activated in coming days
Nick Hagadone (RP) – 60-day disabled list (July 8) – recovery from July 2015 left elbow surgery
T.J. House (SP) – 15-day disabled list (May 1) – left shoulder inflammation; surgery a possibility
Chris Johnson (UTL) – 15-day disabled list (August 15) – left hand infection; expected to be activated in coming days
Mark Shapiro (PRES) – named Toronto’s new team president on Monday, effective at season’s end
Maicer Izturis (IF) – 60-day disabled list (March 27) – recovery from June 2015 right shoulder surgery
Michael Saunders (OF) – 60-day disabled list (May 10) – bone bruise in left knee
Marcus Stroman (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 5) – recovery from March 2015 left knee surgery; begins rehab assignment 8/31
Devon Travis (2B) – 15-day disabled list (July 29) – left shoulder strain
BY THE NUMBERS
Lonnie Chisenhall saw his hitting streak end at ten games on Sunday, but his walk to load the bases in the fifth for the second straight game extended his on-base streak to 17. He is hitting .397 since being recalled and has boosted his season batting average to .264, a sizeable improvement from the .209 he was hitting when he was optioned to Columbus.
Francisco Lindor is now the team leader with an active hitting streak of nine straight games after hitting in all three games of the series against the Angels. He was 4-for-11 in the series.
Michael Brantley (.325) leapfrogged over Jason Kipnis (.319) to take the team batting average lead, but was too late to hold the top spot for long in the AL. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.358) finally reached the minimum number of at bats to qualify for the batting title race. Cabrera (.460) also leads Brantley (.398) for the top on-base mark in the league. Brantley is hitting .424 in August with 17 RBI.
Edwin Encarnacion has been on an absolute tear at the plate, hitting safely in 25 straight games, the longest such streak in the Majors this season. He has hit four home runs in the last two games, including three on Saturday night when he drove in a club record-tying nine runs. He has 30 homers on the season and has driven in 91 runs, third-most in the AL.
Josh Donaldson is second in all of baseball with 36 homers on the season. He leads the game with 106 RBI this season, the only player to eclipse the century mark in the MLB. He has hit .301 with a .369 on-base percentage in 128 games in his first season for the Blue Jays while making a legitimate case for the league’s Most Valuable Player award at season’s end.
Jose Bautista, as if the Blue Jays needed any more run production in the lineup, is fifth in the AL with 88 RBI this season. He has hit 31 home runs, giving Toronto three different players with more than 30 homers on the year. The Indians, by comparison, are led by Carlos Santana and his 15. Just three players have reached double digits for the club this season, including Brandon Moss, who now plays for St. Louis.
BATTLE OF THE BULLPENS
Heading into the series, Toronto and Cleveland are ranked fourth and fifth in the league in bullpen ERA. The Jays are sixth overall in the MLB with a 3.12 ERA. The Indians are ninth with a 3.24 mark.
The Indians bullpen has the fewest wins in the league, possibly due in large part to the starting pitchers factoring in many decisions this season. They have struck out 20 fewer batters than the Blue Jays staff.
The Tribe will continue on with their road trip as they swing over to Michigan to take on the Detroit Tigers for three games beginning Friday after a scheduled day off. After a day off of their own on Thursday, the Jays will host Baltimore for three beginning Friday.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images