In need of a big offensive performance on Sunday after scoring just one run in the first two games of their series against the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, manager Terry Francona shuffled some pieces in his lineup and the team responded with eight big runs as the Tribe avoided a sweep and their first four-game losing skid since July of 2015.
The Indians (19-17) will look to use the momentum gained by the big victory in their finale with the Twins to put up a more consistent effort at the plate. In the middle of the pack offensively in the American League, they are averaging 4.22 runs per game this season after their recent slide at the plate. They have been supported by a pitching staff with the fourth-best ERA (3.75) in the league overall, but the worst ERA by a starting staff at 4.73. The bullpen, a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities, has picked up the starting five with a 1.84 ERA and has allowed an MLB-low four home runs. The Indians enter one game in back of first place Minnesota, which has a two-game edge in the loss column, and will look to get their record back over the .500 mark at home, where they are currently 7-8.
The Rays (19-21) have been able to put up some runs over the course of the season, averaging four and a half per game in 40 games this season. They are the league-leading triples club (and are second in extra base hits overall) and are tops in the Majors in both drawing walks and striking out. Tampa is in fourth place in the American League East, five and a half games behind the front-running New York Yankees. They are just 7-11 on the road this season.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Monday, 5/15, 6:10 PM ET – RHP Chris Archer (3-1, 3.04 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 1.86)
Facing the Indians may always be an interesting experience for Archer, as it gives him the opportunity to take on the team that drafted him in the fifth round of the 2006 draft before it traded him and two other players two and a half years later to the Chicago Cubs for Mark DeRosa. So far, that has not equated to wins – he has lost all five career starts against them while posting a 5.14 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP. He has been dominant this May with back-to-back eleven-strikeout performances. He earned his third win of the year his last time out, throwing eight shutout innings against Kansas City.
Carrasco, who has pitched notably better on the road than at home throughout his career, will look for home win number one of the 2017 season on Monday night. He made his sixth straight quality start in his last outing, when he allowed no runs on three hits in seven innings in a win over Toronto. He is 3-3 in his career against the Rays with a 2.47 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in seven games (six starts), but is 0-3 against them at Progressive Field.
Tuesday, 5/16, 6:10 PM ET – RHP Jake Odorizzi (2-2, 2.61) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (2-3, 5.20)
Tuesday will mark the fourth career start for Odorizzi against the Tribe and his first since 2014. He is winless in his first three appearances against them with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. He has been nearly unhittable in three starts since returning from a hamstring injury on April 15 that landed him on the disabled list. He has allowed just three earned runs and nine hits in total in his last 18 innings of work with 16 strikeouts and three walks in the month. All three earned runs scored via the home run.
Salazar has faced the Rays twice and defeated the Rays twice with dominant performances against them in the last two seasons. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with two walks and two strikeouts over seven and two-thirds innings in 2015, and followed it up with six innings of scoreless, three-hit baseball with three walks and nine strikeouts last year. He is coming off of his shortest start of the season after he allowed five runs in just two and two-thirds innings in a no-decision against Toronto after being spotted a big lead.
Wednesday, 5/17, 12:10 PM ET – RHP Alex Cobb (3-3, 3.65) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (2-4, 5.87)
Cobb will face the Indians for the first time since 2014, when he was tagged for four runs on ten hits (with two homers allowed) in six innings of work in a loss. After a tough patch in the middle of April, Cobb has gotten back on track and has made three straight quality starts in May. He walked a season-high three batters in his last start, a win over Boston, while allowing just four hits in a game for the third consecutive start.
Tomlin has been much more impressive over his last five starts after a rough go in his first two. He has put up a 3-2 record with a 3.38 ERA in his last five, including a solid quality start on May 12 against Minnesota when he allowed just one solo home run as part of six hits and a walk surrendered in eight innings. He has allowed just two runs in 15 innings in May. He is 2-2 with a 4.06 ERA against Tampa in six career starts.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Sun
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; WDAE 620 AM/95.3 FM, WGES 680 (Tampa)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Erik Gonzalez (UTL) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (5/14)
Brandon Guyer (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/14) – left wrist sprain
Austin Jackson (OF) – 10-day disabled list (5/2) – left great toe hyperextension
Corey Kluber (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/3) – lower back strain
Michael Martinez (UTL) – designated for assignment (5/14)
Daniel Robertson (UTL) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (5/14)
Brad Boxberger (RP) – 60-day disabled list (4/1) – right lat soreness/right flexor strain
Xavier Cedeno (P) – 10-day disabled list (4/18) – left forearm tightness
Matt Duffy (3B) – 10-day disabled list (4/1) – recovery from September 2016 Achilles surgery
Nathan Eovaldi (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/8) – recovery from August 2016 Tommy John surgery
Kevin Gadea (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – elbow
Tommy Hunter (RP) – 10-day disabled list (4/23) – right calf strain
Wilson Ramos (C) – 60-day disabled list (4/1) – recovery from torn ACL
Blake Snell (SP) – optioned to Triple-A Durham (5/14)
Ryne Stanek (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Durham (5/14)
Shawn Tolleson (RP) – 60-day disabled list (3/31) – right flexor strain
In 20 seasons of play, the Tampa Bay Rays have had very few years of success against the Cleveland Indians. The Indians have controlled the win column both at home and on the road against the Rays, posting an 89-55 record in 144 contests overall (including a 49-23 record in Cleveland and a 40-32 mark in St. Pete). The extended success for the Tribe against the Rays includes a +170 mark in run differential.
The Indians have won 13 season series against the Rays with two ties. The Rays have claimed the remaining four, winning in 2005, 2010, 2011, and 2013. The Tribe has won four straight games at home against Tampa and five straight to conclude the season series last year after the Rays won the opener in April. The winning streak includes a combined five-hitter started by Salazar in the road finale to take that series and a complete game three-hitter by Kluber on June 21.
RAYS BY THE NUMBERS
Corey Dickerson’s start has helped carry the Rays in the early going. He is hitting .340 on the season in 37 games with a team-high 12 doubles and 21 runs scored. His 49 hits are tops on the club, his two triples are tied for the team lead, and his six homers are the second-most, trailing the ten of first baseman Logan Morrison.
Current Rays have not seen much of Carrasco over the years and few can claim success against him. Evan Longoria is 2-for-19 (.105) with a single, a solo homer, and five strikeouts. Kevin Kiermaier is hitless in ten career plate appearances against him with four strikeouts. Steven Souza is 1-for-6 with four strikeouts and has hit into a double play.
Longoria is 2-for-8 with two singles and two strikeouts against Salazar. Kiermaier is hitless with a strikeout in five trips. Colby Rasmus is also 0-for-5 against the Tribe righty with three strikeouts and Souza is 0-for-4 with a walk and two Ks.
Of the seven players on the Rays to have faced Tomlin before, four have gone yard. Six of the eight hits that he has allowed in his career against those players have been for extra bases.
INDIANS IN DEPTH
Jose Ramirez has had good success against Archer in his career, going 4-for-9 with a double, a homer, and two runs batted in.
Carlos Santana is 4-for-11 against Archer with two doubles and three walks.
Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor are both 2-for-5 against Archer with a walk. Lindor has a pair of singles, while Gomes has homered.
Edwin Encarnacion has been kept well in check by Odorizzi. He has just four hits in 27 at bats with a double, a homer, and three walks to his credit. Despite the large number of hitless at bats, he has just two strikeouts against him.
Gomes has put up a .375/.483/.625 slash in eight May games with three doubles, a homer, five walks, and three RBI.
Ramirez is hitting just .171 in 12 May games, but has drawn six walks.
Encarnacion has taken nine free passes to boast a .373 on-base percentage in the month, but has just nine hits in those 12 games (.220 average).
Even Lindor has slumped during the offensive drought – he has a .229 average with eleven hits (three doubles, one homer) during the second month of the schedule.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
With their brief six-game homestand complete, the Indians will take Thursday off before starting a five-game road trip with three over the weekend in Houston against the Astros and two more in Cincinnati in the team’s second interleague series of the season. The Reds will then come to Cleveland to complete the home-and-home set.
The Rays will take Thursday off before beginning a weeklong homestand at the Trop on Friday. The New York Yankees will come to town for three before the Los Angeles Angels arrive for four straight.
Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images