A little home cooking and a ruckus reception from an appreciative Cleveland crowd over the weekend seemed to do the Indians some good. Now, they will hope for more great fan support this week with the city riding high off the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA Championship win on Sunday night as the Tampa Bay Rays make their only trip to Progressive Field this year.
The Indians (38-30) benefited from a day away from the playing field as their ten-game road trip and 20 games in 20 days stretch came to a close on Thursday. The team used some late inning heroics this weekend to book end an offensive eruption to sweep the Chicago White Sox while improving to 7-2 against one of their key American League Central foes. It also kept the second place Kansas City Royals at bay and kept the Indians in the top spot in the division by a half-game, as KC swept the Detroit Tigers over the weekend.
The Rays (31-36) are losers of four straight, including three against the San Francisco Giants over the weekend. They have had their greatest struggles on their home field, where they are 15-20, while they have played at a 16-16 clip on the road. They currently reside in the basement of the AL East, eight and a half games in back of the Baltimore Orioles.
Monday, 6/20, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Drew Smyly (2-7, 4.75 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.27)
Tuesday, 6/21, 7:10 PM ET – LHP Blake Snell (0-1, 2.16) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (6-7, 4.23)
Wednesday, 6/22, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Chris Archer (4-9, 4.60) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (4-2, 3.46)
Smyly will make his fifth start and pitch in his 15th game overall against the Indians. He took a loss earlier in the year against Cleveland, but struck out a season-high 12 in his last start. It will be the first big league start for the rookie Snell against the Indians and just his third overall. The touted lefty was a first round pick in 2011. Archer leads the AL with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings, but has lost five of his last six starts and is 0-4 with a 4.91 ERA lifetime against the team that drafted him in 2006.
Tomlin will make his first start against Tampa Bay since 2014. He is 2-2 against them in five starts. The Indians lost for just the second time this season in a game he started his last time out. Kluber allowed a season-high eight runs his last start, earning his seventh loss of the year. Wednesday’s start for Bauer will be his first start against Tampa Bay since 2013. He appeared once in relief against them in April.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Sun Sports (Tampa)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; WDAE 620 AM (Tampa)
Michael Brantley (LF) – 15-day disabled list (May 10) – right shoulder inflammation
Roberto Perez (C) – 60-day disabled list (May 1) – fractured right thumb
Brad Boxberger (RP) – 15-day disabled list (June 1) – left oblique strain
Alex Cobb (SP) – 60-day disabled list (April 3) – recovery from May 2015 Tommy John surgery
Brandon Guyer (LF) – 15-day disabled list (June 4) – left hamstring strain
Kevin Kiermaier (CF) – 15-day disabled list (May 22) – left hand fractures
Steven Souza Jr. (RF) – 15-day disabled list (June 15) – left hip strain
Ryan Webb (RP) – 15-day disabled list (May 27) – right pectoral strain; on rehab assignment
Chase Whitley (P) – 60-day disabled list (February 18) – recovery from May 2015 Tommy John surgery
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
The Indians have not been kind to the Rays in their short history as a Major League Baseball club. Cleveland is 86-55 (.610) in those head-to-head matchups, including winning records both on the road and at home.
The Indians hold a 40-32 record when hosting the Rays at Progressive Field. The two clubs met earlier in the second week of April and won each of the final two games of the series.
RAYS STRUGGLED AGAINST TRIBE EARLIER
The Rays hit just .169 against Indians pitching during their first three-game meeting in April, getting 15 hits in those games while scoring six runs. Cleveland pitchers struck out 29 and walked just seven in the series.
Tampa Bay has struck out the second-most times in the American League this season with 628.
LONGORIA ON A HOMER TEAR
Third baseman Evan Longoria has been much more involved in the Rays offense this season after a slight dip in numbers over the past couple of years. He had a pair of doubles and two more homers this week while driving in four runs. He leads the club in runs (39), hits (72), doubles (18), homers (17), and RBI (41).
Longoria hit .273 against Cleveland in April with a homer and two RBI.
FORSYTHE A FORCE IN RAYS LINEUP
Logan Forsythe, who did some damage against the Indians in April, was 10-for-29 (.345) over the last week with seven singles, a double, a triple, and a solo home run. He scored a team-high four runs in that stretch. In 38 games this season, he is hitting .302 with eleven doubles, two triples, five homers, and 15 RBI.
He appeared in all three games against the Indians earlier this season, driving in two runs and hitting a homer.
PEARCE LEADING RAYS HITTERS
First baseman Steve Pearce is leading the Rays with a .329 batting average this season. The journeyman has also added nine doubles and nine homers to the lineup. He has yet to face the Indians this season.
Cleveland is the only team in the AL Central who has scored more runs than it has allowed this season. With a +53, they trail only Boston (+83) and Seattle (+54) in the AL.
LINDOR REMAINS CONSISTENT
Francisco Lindor has remained a driving force in the Cleveland lineup in his sophomore effort. He hit .350 last week in six games with a .480 on-base percentage. He had seven hits (including a double), scored twice, and drove in two runs.
He hit .308 in the earlier series with the Rays with a homer, three RBI, and two stolen bases.
Rajai Davis was productive at the plate and on the base paths in the last week. He hit .389 (7-for-18) with a .450 on-base percentage. Getting time back at the top of the lineup, he scored a team-high five runs, added two doubles, a homer, and two RBI, and stole five bases in five perfect attempts. He had a four-hit game over the weekend, his first since the end of 2012.
Davis is now the American League leader in stolen bases with 20 in 23 opportunities. Two of those thefts came against the Rays in April.
NAQUIN’S CONTINUED POWER DISPLAY
Naquin added another home run to his career totals on Saturday. He hit .286 in five games last week and came just a double short of the cycle in Saturday’s win. He was tied for the club lead last week with four RBI, matching the numbers of Mike Napoli and Juan Uribe.
He was 3-for-6 earlier in the season against the Rays with a run batted in.
MARTINEZ ON FIRE
Utility man Michael Martinez continues to be a surprisingly hot bat off of Terry Francona’s bench. In five games last week, he hit .600 with six hits in ten at bats, including a home run. He is in the starting lineup again on Monday night, hitting ninth and playing right field.
The Indians will take Thursday off for the second consecutive week before starting another lengthy road trip through Detroit, Atlanta, and Toronto. The stay north of the border will be a four-game set and will mark the second consecutive ten-game road trip for the Indians this month. Their previous long this season was a nine-game trip over ten days in April. The Rays will head to Baltimore to wrap up their road trip, playing four games in three days, including a doubleheader on Saturday.
Photo: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara