Cleveland Indians baseball returns to the state of Arizona this weekend. Just a week after spring training action came to an end and the team departed the Grand Canyon State, Cleveland heads to Chase Field to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-game interleague set.
The 2017 season has started out even better than hoped for the reigning American League champion Indians (3-0), who have won each of their first three games to stun the tough Texas Rangers in their home opening series. A pair of games with some late inning dramatics helped push the Tribe to three big wins over the AL West’s best from 2016.
The host Diamondbacks (3-1) are off to a fast and hot start under first year manager Torey Lovullo, a former manager in the Indians farm system who spent six games playing for Cleveland in 1998. Led most notably by Paul Goldschmidt offensively, the D’Backs got breakout performances last year from Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb and this season, have 2015 All-Star A.J. Pollock back in the lineup after he missed all but 12 games of last season with a fractured right elbow.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Tomlin has proven pesky to the Diamondbacks in two career starts against them. He has not earned a decision, but he has allowed just two runs on nine hits with no walks and eight strikeouts over a combined 12 1/3 innings. Even given his time as an infielder in college, Tomlin’s ability to hit at the Major League level is surprising – he owns a lifetime .500 average with six hits (including a double) in 13 plate appearances. He was 2-for-5 last season. Miller’s 2016 season included a return trip to the minor leagues, which was not in the cards for the 2015 NL All-Star when the club acquired him the previous offseason from the Atlanta Braves. It will mark the first career start for Miller against the Indians.
Bauer will look for some revenge in his first start of the season against the team that drafted him with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. He has faced the D’Backs once in his career, taking a no-decision despite working eight innings and allowing just two runs on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts in 2014. Greinke, in his 14th season in the Majors and the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter, has a long history against the Indians dating back to the early years of his career while a member of the Kansas City Royals. He owns a 9-9 mark all-time in 28 games (23 starts) with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. He last faced the Indians in 2012, earning a win behind seven innings of four-run ball with five strikeouts and a walk.
Kluber will make his second start of the season and his second Major League appearance at Chase Field against the Diamondbacks. In his lone outing against them, he blanked them over seven innings, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out eight and earning a win in 2014. Corbin took the loss in his first start of the season after lasting just four innings against the San Francisco Giants. He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out just one.
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all games); Fox Sports Arizona (Saturday/Sunday); MLB Network (Friday)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KHOV 105.1 (Phoenix)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 10-day disabled list (3/30) – right shoulder sprain; beginning rehab assignment 4/7
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day disabled list (4/2) – right shoulder inflammation
Jake Barrett (P) – 10-day disabled list (3/31) – right shoulder inflammation
Socrates Brito (CF) – 60-day disabled list (3/28) – recovery from March 2017 left ring finger surgery
Steve Hathaway (P) – 10-day disabled list (3/31) – left shoulder
The Indians and Diamondbacks have met just 16 times in the regular season since Arizona entered into the Majors through expansion in 1998.
The two clubs first faced off in 2002, with C.C. Sabathia earning an 8-2 win in the late June contest for the Indians before Arizona won the next two games at Cleveland. That was the trend again when the series moved to Phoenix in 2003, but the Indians would sweep in 2005 and took two of three in 2011.
They last faced off in 2014. In a two-game set at Arizona in June, the two teams split, and the same occurred when they met up again in August. The Indians hold the slight edge in the all-time series, 9-7.
SOME BITE IN THE DIAMONDBACKS
Arizona has several weapons in its lineup that deserve some respect.
Goldschmidt has been the driving force of the Diamondbacks lineup since bursting onto the scene in 2011. In his seventh year in the Majors, he has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons and has twice finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting. He led the league with 36 homers and 125 RBI in 2013 and put up similar numbers in 2015 when he had 33 blasts and 110 driven in. While he will put up nearly a strikeout per game, he does show a great patience at the plate, leading the league last year with 110 free passes. Pitchers around the league know the threat that he poses – he has twice led the NL in intentional walks.
He is hitting .333 with a .444 OBP with two homers and three RBI to his credit through his first four games.
Tomas, the 26-year-old Cuban product, is in his third season with the Diamondbacks and appears to be fully adapted to the Major League game. Last season, he played in 140 games and hit .272 with 30 doubles, 31 homers, and 83 RBI. He has scuffled some out of the gate this season, striking out in half of his plate appearances so far with a single, a double, and one run batted in.
Also 26, Lamb is entering his fourth season in the Majors after being selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Last season, he put on a power display in his 151 games in the lineup, hitting 31 doubles, nine triples, and 29 homers while driving in 91 runs. His strikeout total is high and he does not hit for the average or draw the walks that his infield corner partner Goldschmidt does, but he is a dangerous piece in their lineup.
A bobblehead of the third baseman will be given to fans prior to Saturday night’s game.
Given the infrequency of the two teams meeting, few players on the respective rosters have faced the opposition in their careers.
Only Edwin Encarnacion and Abraham Almonte have faced Miller. Encarnacion is 3-for-9 with three singles, while Almonte is 2-for-5 with a single, double, a sac fly, and one run batted in. Corbin has faced only Encarnacion and Austin Jackson in his Major League career. He has shut down the duo in nine plate appearances, giving up just a walk to Encarnacion along the way with a strikeout of Jackson.
Michael Brantley and Jackson both have the most experience against Greinke with 13 at bats each. Brantley has hit .308 with a double, a homer, and three RBI, while Jackson has just a single and triple to his credit. Almonte has struck out in three of his four plate appearances against him.
Six different Diamondbacks hitters have combined to go 4-for-17 (.235) against Tomlin in their careers. Chris Herrmann has a solo homer to his credit with two strikeouts in four trips. Daniel Descalso, Chris Iannetta, and Lamb have each singled. Iannetta is the only one to have notched a hit against Bauer, as he is 2-for-6 with a single, a double, and two RBI. Lamb, Jeff Mathis, and David Peralta have combined to go 0-for-8 with a walk and four strikeouts.
Herrmann’s time with the Twins has given him 16 plate appearances against Kluber, three more than the rest of his teammates combined. He has two singles and two doubles against him with two RBI. Iannetta is 1-for-5 with a single and a run batted in. Goldschmidt has surprisingly struck out in all three appearances against him and both Peralta and Chris Owings are hitless against him.
NO DH, NO PROBLEM
The Indians may have a solution to the absence of the designated hitter this weekend, as pitchers will bat at the NL field.
Carlos Santana, who saw time during the World Series in the outfield in a similar situation with the club down the DH spot, could see time in right field. This will enable the Indians to keep both big boppers, Santana and Encarnacion, in the lineup with the latter holding down first base.
Santana is hitting .417 with a .533 on-base percentage through his first three games with two doubles, a homer, and four runs batted in while walking three times against one strikeout.
CHISENHALL ON REHAB
Injured right fielder Chisenhall has joined the Triple-A Columbus Clippers in Louisville this weekend for their series against the Bats. He is expected to play DH on Friday night and log time in the field on Saturday. He could rejoin the club in time for the Indians’ home opener on Tuesday afternoon.
He has been on the 7-day disabled list since March 30 with a sprained right shoulder after colliding with a wall late in spring training activity.
The Indians will take Monday off before a three-game series at Progressive Field with the Chicago White Sox. The Diamondbacks will get right back to it on Monday, as they will head to San Francisco to help the Giants usher in the home portion of their schedule in the start of a three-game set.
Photo: Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images