After a well deserved day off, the Cleveland Indians will get back to action across the country as the Los Angeles Angels host the top team in the American League from their home in Anaheim, California.
The Indians (93-57) remain in the driver’s seat in the race to the top record in the AL this season with the hopes of claiming home field advantage throughout the junior circuit half of the postseason. They head into the weekday series with a game and a half lead over the Houston Astros for the best record in the league. They took care of the Angels in three games back in July at Progressive Field, winning on a walk-off Edwin Encarnacion grand slam on July 25 before winning 10-4 and 2-1 decisions to close out the series.
The Angels (76-73) have plenty to play for at the moment as the club finds itself a game and a half in back of Minnesota for the second of two spots in the AL Wild Card race. They were a .500 team through the first three months of the season and lost some ground with a tough 9-13 month of July, but bounced back with their best month of the season in August when the club went 18-10 while outscoring opponents by a 142-110 mark. The team has slowed down a bit in September, despite making several additions to the roster before the second trade deadline. They have gone 7-8 in the final month of the season, losing three series and winning a pair while playing a tough schedule against all four AL West rivals in the process.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Clevinger will get his second stab at the team that drafted and developed him before shipping off to Cleveland in 2014. His stretch of three straight scoreless and quality six-inning outings came to an end his last time out when he allowed three runs (one earned) in five and two-thirds innings against Detroit in earning his tenth win of the season and fourth straight on Wednesday. He was roughed up in his lone start against the Angels this season, giving up six runs (five earned) in just four and one-third innings of work.
Skaggs, a 26-year-old left-hander once again limited by injury this season, pitched arguably his best game of the year on Wednesday. In defeating the Houston Astros, he allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out five in seven scoreless innings of work to notch his first victory since April 22. He missed three months (May, June, and July) of the season while on the disabled list. Skaggs has made two starts in his career against the Indians, working a quality seven innings in a no-decision back in 2014 before getting hit hard to the tune of seven runs on ten hits in five innings in a loss last season.
Tomlin will take a second shot at giving the Indians five starters with ten wins or more on the year with his start on Wednesday night. He took a no-decision his last time out, charged with two runs on six hits with four strikeouts and a walk in five and two-thirds innings against Kansas City. He will look to extend his personal winning streak to six straight decisions with a win. He owns a 2-2 record in his career against the Angels and last faced the club in 2015, earning a victory behind seven innings of two-run baseball. He has posted a 4.09 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in his career against Los Angeles.
Nolasco has had a tough year for the Angels, evidenced by a 5.11 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 30 starts this season. He has not posted a win for the Halos since August 16. His last start was his first quality start since August 1 – he worked six innings in a loss to Houston despite allowing just two runs on four hits. A familiar face to the Tribe from his time with the White Sox and Twins, Nolasco is 0-3 in eight career games (seven starts) against Cleveland with a 5.32 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.
Salazar will make a surprise return to the starting rotation to help give the rest of the starters some extra rest prior to the postseason. He has worked just two times since being removed from the starting mix after a rough outing against the Chicago White Sox on September 5 when he allowed four first inning runs on just one hit before being removed after retiring just two batters. In three innings in relief since, he has allowed just a single and a walk while striking out three against Detroit and Kansas City.
Bridwell will make his first career start against the Indians while looking to expand on an impressive run on the mound for the Halos. While he has earned an 8-2 record, Los Angeles is 16-2 in his starts this season. He made his season debut with the Angels on May 30 in a win over Atlanta and has been effective in the rotation since. His last time out was one of those kinds of outings as he shut out Texas on just three hits in six innings while striking out seven.
TV (all) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports West; ESPN (9/19, 9/20); MLB Network (9/21)
Radio (all) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; KTMZ 1220, KLAA 830 (Anaheim)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NEWS
Cody Anderson (SP) – out for season – right elbow surgery
Dylan Baker (P) – 60-day disabled list (9/1) – undisclosed
Michael Brantley (LF) – 10-day disabled list (8/9) – right ankle sprain
Boone Logan (RP) – 60-day disabled list (7/20) – left lat muscle
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – expected to miss rest of season (9/11) – surgery on broken fourth metacarpal in left hand
Los Angeles (AL):
Andrew Bailey (RP) – 60-day disabled list (8/18) – right shoulder strain
Yunel Escobar (3B) – 10-day disabled list (8/8)- right oblique strain and back stiffness
Andrew Heaney (SP) – day-to-day – left shoulder internal impingement
Jefry Marte (1B) – 10-day disabled list (9/5) – left foot fracture
Alex Meyer (P) – out indefinitely – right labral tear
Brandon Phillips (2B) – day-to-day – lower back tightness
JC Ramirez (SP) – 60-day disabled list (8/20) – right elbow strain
Matt Shoemaker (SP) – out for season – recovery from August 2017 right forearm surgery
Huston Street (RP) – 60-day disabled list (7/5) – right groin strain; right rotator cuff strain
Nick Tropeano (SP) – 60-day disabled list (3/30) – recovery from August 2016 Tommy John surgery
AL RACE TO HOME FIELD
HALOS IN THE HUNT
Mike Trout, as always, is in the hunt for another AL MVP award this season. Despite missing more than a month and a half after tearing a ligament in his left thumb on a steal attempt, he has put up a .315/.452/.638 slash in 102 games with 23 doubles, three triples, 29 homers, and 65 RBI. He has also been a threat on the base paths, stealing 21 bases in 25 opportunities on the year.
Justin Upton, a familiar face from his time in Detroit over the last couple of years, has continued to play well in a new location after being traded by the Tigers to the Angels prior to the waivers trade deadline in August. In 15 games, he has hit .288 with a .431 on-base percentage and a .558 slugging mark with five doubles, three homers, and nine RBI. He has also been patient with the eye, drawing 13 walks to his 14 strikeouts. For the season (in 140 games), he has 42 doubles, 31 homers, and 103 RBI while hitting .280. His runs batted in on the season are good for the third-best total for any player in the American League this season.
There was much talk at the beginning of the season that the skills of Albert Pujols may be in decline. While his batting average has plummeted to .244 (currently equaling the worst mark in his 17-year career), a nine-game hitting streak at the end of August through the first week and a half of September jumped his batting average up 18 points at the time. The power and run production has remained a strong part of his game – he has 22 homers on the year and leads the club with 96 RBI. Four more runs batted in will mark the 13th time in his career that he has reached the century mark in runs driven in.
INDIANS BY THE NUMBERS
After his own slow start to the season, Francisco Lindor has slipped into the MVP race himself behind a strong second half. He has put up a .316/.377/.578 slash at the plate over 62 games with 15 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, and 38 RBI while stealing ten bases in twelve tries. He is tops on the club in runs scored in that span with 41 and hits with 81.
Jose Ramirez has maintained a strong push for his own MVP candidacy. He has hit .286 in the second half (hurt by a .235 mark in August), but has bounced back nicely in September by hitting .435 with a .481 on-base percentage and a 1.087 slugging mark with seven doubles, a triple, seven homers, and 13 RBI in 12 games of work.
Roberto Perez has been on a tear over the last month. In 16 games, he has 16 hits with four doubles and five home runs. He has driven in on average a run per game while hitting .356.
In addition to solid play at first base, Carlos Santana has been a threat at the plate since the All-Star break, hitting .308 with a .424 OBP. He has 13 doubles, two triples, and 13 homer in 59 games in the second half while driving in 31 runs and walking more times (39) than striking out (36).
ON THE MOVE AGAIN
The Indians will continue their final road trip of the regular season with a stop in the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Mariners beginning Friday night from Safeco Field. The Angels will hit the road for their last road trip of the season, when they play three games in Houston with the Astros over the weekend and four in Chicago against the White Sox before coming home to close out the season.
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