It is amazing just how much things can change in a week. After opening the second half of the season with a bad west coast trip against two of the worst teams in baseball, the Indians returned to Cleveland with a 1-5 record after the All-Star break and questions swirled about what was wrong with the Tribe.
A 7-0 homestand quieted those concerns quickly as the Indians got back into the win column and finally played well and consistently at Progressive Field.
The Indians (55-45) have hit a new season-high for consecutive wins (seven) and games above even (ten). They rode a wave of impressive starting pitching and a revival of the bats that had at times slumbered this season. The team is beginning to produce more consistently with runners in scoring position and the ball has been jumping off of the bats and over the wall. During their perfect seven-game homestand over the last week, they outscored the opposition, 52-19. Most importantly, they beat teams that they were supposed to beat.
The Indians last saw the White Sox (39-60) in early June. The team in the dugout opposite them at Guaranteed Rate Field beginning Friday night is a much different team than they saw at points earlier this season. The bullpen has subtracted David Robertson, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings, and Tommy Kahnle. Todd Frazier is gone from the hot corner and Jose Quintana was subtracted from the starting rotation, with all six moved in July. Not surprisingly, they have dropped three straight, 12 of their last 13, and 15 of 17.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Friday, 7/28, 8:10 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (3-5, 4.79 ERA) vs. LHP Derek Holland (5-9, 5.12)
Salazar’s return from the disabled list in his first start in nearly two months could not have gone much better. He shut down the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up just one hit in seven scoreless innings while striking out eight of the 21 batters that he faced. The team was cautious with him, opting not to push him back out for the eighth in a game the Indians would go on to win, 2-1. He has faced the White Sox twice this season (both in April) and took losses each time out. He allowed two runs on four hits in six innings in his first game with eleven strikeouts, then allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings the next time. On the year, he has struck out 20 Sox hitters in just eleven innings.
Holland started the season strong, looking like a nicely priced free agent acquisition for the Sox before struggles hit. He defeated the Indians twice in April, but since his final start of May on the 27th, he has gone 1-6 with an 8.44 ERA and a .344 batting average against. His two wins against the Indians this season improved his career record against them to 7-1 with a 2.27 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in eleven career starts.
Saturday, 7/29, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (8-3, 2.74) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (5-9, 4.60)
Kluber has once again performed well against the White Sox. With a pair of wins already this season (the third time in his career he has defeated the Sox twice in a season), he will look to continue his dominance of them. He has a 1.80 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP against them this season and owns an 8-4 record with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP for his career. Since returning from the disabled list on June 1, Kluber has made nine quality starts in a ten-start span, posting a 5-1 record with a 1.52 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. He has held opposing hitters to a .163 average in that span and has recorded 108 strikeouts in those 71 innings (a 13.7 strikeout per nine rate).
The 33-year-old Gonzalez has made consecutive quality starts in his return from the disabled list as he has been more productive on the mound for the Sox in July. His most recent start on Monday against the Cubs ended his personal four-game losing streak and prevented him from matching his season-high of five from April 30 to May 22. He worked seven and one-third innings in the victory, allowing just a run on seven hits. He walked three and struck out three in earning his fifth win of the year. He is 4-2 in eight games against the Indians in his career with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP.
Sunday, 7/30, 2:10 PM ET – RHP Josh Tomlin (7-9, 5.59) vs. LHP Carlos Rodon (1-4, 6.29)
With the pressure mounting, Tomlin stepped up big again for the Tribe his last time out. He registered his third consecutive quality start by throwing six innings of two-run ball against the Cincinnati Reds in a 6-2 win. He gave up four hits, walked a batter, and struck out six in earning his third straight game. He has been hit hard by the White Sox this season, losing a pair of starts while allowing eleven runs on 17 hits in just four and one-third innings for a 20.77 ERA and a 4.15 WHIP.
Rodon will make just his sixth start of the season after missing almost three months on the disabled list. It has hardly been smooth sailing since his return, as he has lost three straight games and four of his five starts this season. He has pitched into the sixth inning just twice. His last outing was bizarre as he allowed four runs on seven hits with three walks in four innings, but eleven of his 12 outs retired were on strikeouts! He is 4-1 in his career against Cleveland with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP.
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all); CSN-C (7/28, 7/29); WGN (7/30)
Radio (all) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; WRTO 1200, WLS 890 (Chicago)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Abraham Almonte (OF) – optioned to Triple-A Columbus (7/26)
Cody Anderson (SP) – 60-day disabled list (4/2) – right elbow surgery
Shawn Armstrong (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (7/26)
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 10-day disabled list (7/9) – right calf strain
Jason Kipnis (2B) – 10-day disabled list (7/9) – right hamstring strain
Boone Logan (RP) – 10-day disabled list (7/20) – left lat muscle
Aaron Bummer (P) – contract selected from Triple-A Charlotte (7/27)
Ryan Cordell (OF) – acquired from Milwaukee (7/26)
Dylan Covey (P) – 10-day disabled list (5/26) – left oblique strain
Avisail Garcia (OF) – 10-day disabled list (7/26) – sprained right thumb
Leury Garcia (OF) – 10-day disabled list (6/16) – sprained left finger; on rehab assignment
Willy Garcia (OF) – recalled from Triple-A Charlotte (7/27)
Casey Gillaspie (1B) – acquired from Tampa Bay (7/27)
Dan Jennings (RP) – traded to Tampa Bay (7/27)
Nate Jones (CL) – out for season – recovery from July 2017 right elbow surgery
Zach Putnam (RP) – out for season – recovery from June 2017 Tommy John surgery
Geovany Soto (C) – 60-day disabled list (5/15) – recovery from May 2017 right elbow surgery
Anthony Swarzak (RP) – traded to Milwaukee (7/26)
Charlie Tilson (OF) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – stress reaction in right foot
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
Cleveland and Chicago last met up at Progressive Field during the second weekend in June. The Indians took two of the three contests, winning a 7-3 decision in the Friday opener before dropping a 5-3 final on Saturday, June 10. In the rubber match, the Tribe came away with a rare home series win, defeating the Sox by a 4-2 score.
The two teams have met for just one series in Chicago this season. The Indians won games on April 21 (3-0) and 22 (7-0) before dropping the finale, 6-2. Cleveland holds the slight 5-4 edge over Chicago in the season series.
The Indians and White Sox will take a trip down memory lane on Saturday as the two clubs will honor the past by wearing jerseys in the style of their respective clubs during the 1917 season.
SOX BY THE NUMBERS
Salazar will likely pitch cautiously to Jose Abreu, who has put up good numbers against the Indians in his career. He has faced Salazar 24 times, totaling eight hits (a double and three homers) and one walk. He has also been hit by two pitches.
Yolmer Sanchez (formerly known as Carlos) is 3-for-3 against Salazar with a solo homer.
Melky Cabrera has hit just .176 against Salazar in his career with three singles and a walk in 19 trips to the plate.
Abreu owns a .324 average against Kluber. He has two doubles, three homers, and eight RBI off of him, but has struck out in ten of his 41 plate appearances against him.
Tyler Saladino has three hits in seven at bats against Kluber. Cabrera has hit .406 with four doubles, a triple, and four RBI in 32 at bats. Sanchez has just two singles in 15 trips against him, while Omar Narvaez is 1-for-7 with a single and a walk and Matt Davidson is 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
Four of the eight current White Sox players to have faced Tomlin in their careers have hit a homer. Abreu has three doubles and a homer off of Tomlin while hitting .471. Davidson is 2-for-3 with a homer and five RBI. Cabrera has hit just .200 against Tomlin with a triple and three strikeouts in 26 plate appearances.
INDIANS IN DEPTH
The former White Sox outfielder Austin Jackson has done well against all three White Sox starters this weekend. He has a .304 average against Holland with two doubles, two homers, and three RBI and has also drawn five walks. Edwin Encarnacion has three homers, two doubles, and eight RBI against the southpaw. Francisco Lindor has hit .364 against him with a double and a solo homer.
Brandon Guyer has struggled against the left-handed Holland, going 1-for-10 with two strikeouts. His one hit was a solo homer.
Jackson has posted four hits in nine plate appearances (including a double, two walks, and a solo homer) against Gonzalez. Jose Ramirez has four hits off of him, including two doubles, a homer, and three RBI. Michael Brantley is 5-for-15 (.333) against Gonzalez with two doubles, a homer, and two RBI. Encarnacion has hit just .257, but six of his nine hits off of him have been for extra bases (two doubles, four homers). He also has 15 RBI against him.
Lindor is 0-for-9 in his career against Gonzalez. He has walked twice and has a sacrifice while striking out twice. Carlos Santana has hit just .200 with three hits in 22 plate appearances. Two of the three hits were doubles and he has drawn six walks and has been hit by a pitch.
Jackson has also fared well against Rodon, going 3-for-6. Roberto Perez is 2-for-5 with a double and a walk. Santana has hit .389 over 22 plate appearances with a pair of doubles. Ramirez has four hits in 12 at bats, including a triple, and has drawn four walks.
Brantley has had a tough time against Rodon, going just 2-for-14 with four strikeouts. Yan Gomes is 1-for-8 with three strikeouts. Encarnacion and Giovanny Urshela have each struck out twice in three plate appearances.
Jackson returned from the disabled list for the final three games of the Indians’ homestand. He totaled five this in eight at bats (all singles) and drove in a run while scoring three times.
Erik Gonzalez had four hits in nine at bats during the homestand and drove in three runs.
Lindor has hit .393 over the last week with eleven hits, including a double, a homer, and three RBI. He has also drawn five walks in that span.
Bradley Zimmer drove in a team-high ten runs during the seven-game homestand while hitting .385. He had four doubles and two homers in that stretch and stole a pair of bases while scoring six runs.
Santana has hit .310 in the last week with a double, three homers, and five RBI. He also scored a team-high eight runs. Brantley was right behind him with seven runs scored, made possible by eight hits in 28 at bats in the last week, including a double, a pair of homers, and seven RBI.
The Indians will head east after the series to Boston, where they will face the Red Sox for three straight before coming home to Cleveland. The White Sox will play three with Toronto at home before chasing the Indians out of Boston as they play the Red Sox for four beginning next Thursday.
Photo: Jon Durr/Getty Images