The Cleveland Indians are stuck in their worst stretch of baseball in quite some time and have seen their lead shrink back down to a half-game in the American League Central Division. They will need to figure out how to get the offense going and will have to do so at Progressive Field this weekend, the same home that has been the site of struggles for the club all season long.
The Indians (48-45) come home to host the Toronto Blue Jays after a disappointing 1-5 west coast trip to start the second half of the regular season schedule. Losers of two straight and six of their last seven, the Tribe will need to put to bed their dismal 21-24 record at home. They are one of just two teams in all of baseball to post a record above the .500 mark for the year while having a sub-.500 mark on their home turf.
The Blue Jays (44-51) make their annual visit to Cleveland in a bad spot, nine games in back of the Boston Red Sox while residing in the cellar of the American League East. The team would seem ripe for a rebuild, or at least a bit of a fire sale at the deadline, but the pieces that they might have considered trading have underperformed for much of the season or dealt with injuries. Despite the issues, the Jays are just five and a half games out in the Wild Card race, so the team could still hold on to its cards and hope that the players in place can put it all together with a little over two months left in the 2017 playing calendar.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
The 34-year-old Estrada, a free agent after the season, would have been a nice trade chip for the Blue Jays had he not struggled throughout the season. He has pitched into the sixth inning in just two of his last eight outings and, no surprise, is 0-4 in those starts. He has faced the Indians twice in his career, but has not factored in a decision yet. He allowed three runs on five hits last season with seven strikeouts and gave up two runs on five hits the year before in seven innings of work. In his career body of work against Cleveland, he has given up two home runs in each start.
Bauer will look to rebound from his worst outing of the season, when he was unable to make it out of the first inning after allowing six of the first eight batters to reach base safely (three hits, three walks) while giving up four runs in a 7-3 Indians loss to the Oakland Athletics. He has lost two in a row and three of his last four starts. He has faced the Blue Jays five times in the regular season (four starts), including one start this season. He allowed four runs on six hits in six innings in a loss to Toronto in that first appearance against them this season.
The 26-year-old Stroman had a first half worthy of an All-Star nod, but was left off of the team despite a 9-5 record with a 3.28 ERA at the break. He was good in his first start after the Midsummer Classic, but the defense behind him was lacking as he allowed three runs (zero earned) on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings in a no-decision in Boston. He earned his first career win against the Indians in four tries earlier this season behind six shutout innings of six-hit baseball, despite striking out just one batter.
Salazar will be activated from the disabled list on Saturday to make his first appearance since June 3 and his first start since May 27. It will be a significant start for the Indians, whose trade deadline pursuits may hinge on how well he can perform in his next two starts. He has faced the Blue Jays four times in his career, with a 2-1 record to show for it with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. In his first start against them this season, he was hit hard for five runs on five hits with a homer and two walks allowed in just two and two-thirds innings.
Sunday, 7/23, 1:10 PM ET – LHP J.A. Happ (3-6, 3.55) vs. TBD
Happ was good in his only outing against the Indians last season. He went seven innings and allowed just one run on seven hits with no walks and eleven strikeouts to earn his third career win over Cleveland in six outings. After a solid showing in June, when he went 2-2 with four quality starts in five appearances, he lasted just four innings in a 19-1 blowout against Houston on July 9 and made it five innings in his last start against Boston, when he allowed two runs (both on solo homers) on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. The ball has been jumping off of opposing bats against him in his last three starts, as he has allowed six homers in 15 innings after allowing eight homers in his first nine outings.
The Indians have not formally announced a starter for Sunday. The hopes are that, with a few extra days of rest, that Corey Kluber will be able to make the start.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Rogers SportsNet
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; SN590
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 10-day disabled list (7/9) – right calf strain
Austin Jackson (OF) – 10-day disabled list (6/27) – left quad sprain; on rehab assignment
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day disabled list (7/9) – right hamstring strain
Corey Kluber (SP) – day-to-day – neck
Boone Logan (RP) – 10-day disabled list (7/20) – left lat muscle
Tyler Olson (RP) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (7/21)
Danny Salazar (P) – 10-day disabled list (6/4) – right shoulder soreness; will be activated 7/22
Anthony Alford (CF) – 10-day disabled list (5/24) – recovery from May 2017 wrist surgery
Mike Bolsinger (SP) – 10-day disabled list (7/19) – left knee inflammation
Leonel Campos (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/21) – right groin strain
Darrell Ceciliani (OF) – 60-day disabled list (5/19) – left shoulder partial dislocation; on rehab assignment
Chris Coghlan (3B) – 10-day disabled list (6/16) – left wrist contusion
J.P. Howell (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/3) – left shoulder soreness; on rehab assignment
Luke Maile (C) – 10-day disabled list (7/4) – partially torn meniscus in right knee
Dalton Pompey (OF) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – concussion; sore knee
Aaron Sanchez (SP) – day-to-day – blister
Bo Schultz (RP) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – recovery from March 2017 Tommy John surgery
Joe Smith (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/19) – right shoulder inflammation; on rehab assignment
Devon Travis (2B) – 60-day disabled list (6/6) – recovery from June 2017 right knee surgery
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
In their first series since the Indians defeated the Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series, Toronto hosted the Tribe and took two of three in the second week of May. Bauer lost to Stroman, 4-2, in the series opener on May 8, but Carlos Carrasco and the bullpen combined on a 6-0 shutout in the middle game. The rubber match came down to the final frame when Ryan Goins delivered a two-out, bases loaded RBI-single in the bottom of the ninth against Cody Allen to wrap up an 8-7 win.
BLUE JAYS BY THE NUMBERS
Every batter on the Blue Jays roster to face Bauer has notched at least one hit against him.
Kendrys Morales leads the clubhouse with five hits (including three doubles) in 22 plate appearances. Russell Martin has three hits, including a homer and two RBI, in six trips. Josh Donaldson is 2-for-5 with a double and three RBI. Goins has hit a homer and driven in a pair off of him, while Ezequiel Carrera, Troy Tulowitzki, and Steve Pearce have also totaled two hits each.
While Bauer has had some struggles against some Jays batters, he has limited several others. Jose Bautista and Bauer’s former catcher in Arizona, Miguel Montero, are each 1-for-6 with a double and both have struck out twice against him. Kevin Pillar and All-Star Justin Smoak are each 1-for-7, although Smoak has driven in two runs despite striking out four times. Darwin Barney is 1-for-8 with a single and two strikeouts.
Salazar has faced Morales more than twice as many times as any other member of the Toronto lineup. He has limited him to a 4-for-20 effort at the plate with a sacrifice fly, two RBI, and six strikeouts. Bautista is 2-for-9 with a double, a homer, and four RBI to lead the team against Salazar. Donaldson is 1-for-2 with a triple and two RBI. Smoak, Tulowitzki, and Pearce have also doubled against him.
Smoak has broken out this season with one of the top home run totals in the league. He leads the Blue Jays with 26 bombs, 62 RBI, and a .298 batting average. He is hitting .346 since his trip to Miami earlier in the month with three homers and six RBI.
Donaldson and Bautista have both stumbled out of the break. Donaldson is hitting .167 with four RBI in seven games, while Bautista is hitting .143. All four of his hits since the All-Star vacation have been for extra bases – two doubles and two homers.
INDIANS IN DEPTH
Several members of the Indians should enjoy seeing Estrada on the mound. Carlos Santana owns a .417 average against him (5-for-12) with a pair of solo home runs. Francisco Lindor is 4-for-10 with a homer and two runs batted in. Michael Brantley is 2-for-3 with a solo homer, and Yan Gomes has hit a solo shot off of him in three trips to the plate.
Santana has also fared well against Stroman in his career, going 4-for-13 (.308) with two doubles and two walks. Edwin Encarnacion is 2-for-2 off of his former teammate with a pair of singles and a walk.
Stroman has limited current Indians to a .180 average against him. Jose Ramirez is just 1-for-12 with a single. Brandon Guyer is 1-for-7 with a single and a run batted in. Roberto Perez (six trips), Abraham Almonte (five), and Yan Gomes (four) are all hitless against him. Lindor is 3-for-12 with three singles, three strikeouts, and one run batted in.
Santana and Lindor have found success at the plate against Happ. Santana is 5-for-12 (.417) with a double and a solo homer in 13 career plate appearances. Lindor is 2-for-5 (.400) with two singles and a run batted in.
While Guyer usually sees the field against southpaws due to good success against them in his career, he may find a seat on the pine on Sunday. He is just 2-for-18 (.111) in his career against Happ with two singles, two hit by pitches, and three strikeouts in 20 trips to the dish against him.
One of the Indians’ leading hitters since the All-Star break has been…drum roll…Giovanny Urshela? Points if you guessed that right. On the roster due to the injuries to Chisenhall and Kipnis, Urshela has made his way into three games and totaled four hits in eleven at bats, including a double. He is hitting .364 in his small sample size and has impressed defensively, which is little surprise.
Lindor has gone 8-for-24 since the All-Star break as his bat finally seems to have kicked off the extra weight it had been carrying with it for the last several months. He has three doubles in that span to pull within one of Ramirez for the team lead and has driven in a pair. Ramirez leads the team with 114 hits, 29 doubles, five triples, and his .324 average, and is second in RBI with 50.
The Indians will stay at Progressive Field to continue their extended homestand with a one-game makeup date with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night before hosting the Los Angeles Angels for three straight from Tuesday through Thursday.
The Blue Jays will head back north to Toronto to begin a seven-game homestand. The Oakland A’s will come to Rogers Centre for four during the week before the Angels visit after they conclude their series in Cleveland.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images