For the first time since 2012, the Cleveland Indians will travel to the Illinois-Missouri border on the western bank of the Mississippi River to visit St. Louis and the city’s Cardinals in a three-game series from Busch Stadium.
The Indians (43-33) come in as one of the hottest teams in baseball, winners of seven straight after a pair of three-game sweeps over the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers to close out a 7-2 homestand. The interleague set between the Tribe and Red Birds will mark the first time the two clubs have met since 2015. The Indians have dominated the matchups over the years, but did lose that last series in Cleveland in May three years ago. In 23 contests all-time, the Indians are 15-8 against the Cardinals, including an 8-4 mark when playing in Missouri. Cleveland is 6-2 in interleague play this season.
The Cardinals (40-36) enter the day four and a half games off of the pace in the National League Central, trailing the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. St. Louis has been in a bit of a funk, failing to win a series outright since June 8-10 on the road in Cincinnati. They dropped two of three to both San Diego and Chicago during their last homestand, then lost two of three in Philadelphia before earning a split over the weekend with Milwaukee, winning the final two games of the four-game set. After opening the season with back-to-back 15-12 months, they are just 10-12 in June and have been outscored by 16 runs.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Monday will mark the first interleague contest of the season for Clevinger, who is 0-1 in three career starts (Cincinnati, Colorado, San Francisco) against the Senior Circuit with a 5.28 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. He has won back-to-back starts, both over the Chicago White Sox, putting up similar efforts with double-digit strikeout performances with seven and seven and two-thirds innings respectively while allowing one earned run in each. He has won three straight decisions dating back to May 29.
Gant, who returned to the Cardinals’ 25-man roster last week, will make just his fourth start and ninth appearance for St. Louis this year after spending time bouncing back and forth from Triple-A. Both of his losses on the year have come in those starts, as he has allowed ten earned runs in 15 innings of work (6.00 ERA) as a starter this season. The 25-year-old third-year right-hander faced the Indians back in 2016, lasting just two innings in a start while allowing a run on three hits while pitching for the Atlanta Braves.
Kluber comes into the series the Major League leader in wins (11), innings pitched (111 2/3), walks per nine (1.0), and strikeouts per walk (9.42). He is the active leader in the latter, with a career mark of 5.15. The two-time Cy Young winner is coming off of another dismantling of an AL Central club, as he blanked the Chicago White Sox over seven innings of one-hit baseball with a walk and seven strikeouts to earn his eleventh victory. It was his 15th quality start in 16 outings this year for the 32-year-old righty. Tuesday will mark the second start of Kluber’s career against St. Louis – he held the Cardinals to just one hit with a career-high 18 strikeouts over eight innings in a win back in 2015.
Martinez missed much of May with a right lat issue, limiting him to just a dozen starts so far this year. He has not won since returning from the disabled list and has not been able to pitch deep in games. The ball stays in the yard when he is on the mound; he has given up just three all season, but two have come in his last two starts. He has not lasted longer than five innings in a start since May 2, when he defeated the Chicago White Sox for his last win. His command has been his biggest problem this season – he has walked 42 batters in 66 2/3 innings (a career-worst 5.7 BB/9), including seven in a ball game on June 10 and six on both March 29 and June 16. It will be his first career appearance against the Indians.
Bieber made his best big league start to date in his last outing on Friday against the Detroit Tigers, when he fired seven shutout innings while allowing just four hits and a walk and striking out nine to earn his second career win. The shutout effort trimmed a run and a half off of the ERA of the 23-year-old righty, who has allowed just five runs in his first 18 1/3 innings. It will be his first start against the Cardinals and his first in an interleague matchup after three straight games against the AL Central.
Flaherty, 22, is in his second year with the Cardinals after being selected in the first round in the 2014 draft out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, California. He has made ten starts on the year for the Cardinals and has been solid overall this season, scattering just six hits over his last three starts (18 1/3 innings). He matched a career-high with 13 strikeouts in a no-decision in his last start, when he took a no-hitter late into the game against the Milwaukee Brewers, allowing just one hit – a solo homer to former Indians prospect Jesus Aguilar – in seven innings. Wednesday will mark just the second interleague start of his career, following five and one-third innings of one-run baseball earlier this season against the Minnesota Twins.
TV (all): Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Missouri
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (Cleveland); KMOX 1120 (St. Louis)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery
Carlos Carrasco (SP) – 10-day disabled list (6/17) – right elbow contusion
Nick Goody (RP) – transferred to 60-day disabled list (5/31) – right elbow inflammation (since 5/3)
Evan Marshall (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/19) – right elbow inflammation
Ryan Merritt (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – left knee sprain; on rehab assignment
Andrew Miller (RP) – 10-day disabled list (5/26) – right knee inflammation
Tyler Olson (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/17) – left latissimus dorsi strain
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/26) – right shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis
Matt Bowman (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/19) – right middle finger blisters
Paul DeJong (SS) – 10-day disabled list (5/18) – recovery from May 2018 left hand surgery
Luke Gregerson (RP) – 10-day disabled list (5/16) – recovery from June 2018 right knee surgery
Dominic Leone (RP) – 60-day disabled list (5/6) – right upper arm nerve irritation
Tyler Lyons (RP) – 10-day disabled list (6/6) – left elbow sprain
Tommy Pham (OF) – day-to-day – flu-like symptoms
Alex Reyes (P) – 10-day disabled list (5/31) – recovery from surgery on torn right lat tendon
Michael Wacha (SP) – 10-day disabled list (6/21) – left oblique strain
Adam Wainwright (P) – 60-day disabled list (5/14) – right elbow inflammation
CARDS STATS AND NOTES
First baseman Jose Martinez has been the breakout story this season for the Cardinals, as the young slugger is hitting .300 with a .373 on-base percentage and a .492 slugging mark. He is third on the team with eleven home runs and is tops with 47 runs batted in. He is also one of just two Cards in double digits in doubles with 17 on the year. Martinez is the son of former Indians player, the late Carlos Martinez, whose claim to fame was hitting the home run that bounced off of Jose Canseco‘s head at Cleveland Stadium.
Matt Carpenter has been the big source of power to the Cardinals lineup this season, proving 20 doubles and 13 homers while driving in 33 runs. The 32-year-old has spent almost half of his season in the leadoff spot and almost the rest of the time between the two- and three-holes. He has been homer happy over the last couple of weeks, hitting three in the last seven games and six over his last 15 contests.
Marcell Ozuna, a name discussed by Tribe fans over the years as a player worth acquiring, was picked up by the Cardinals in the offseason during the Miami Marlins’ fire sale. He has not provided quite the punch that they were hoping for after hitting 37 homers and driving in 124 during his second straight All-Star campaign last season, as he has just ten to his credit this season to go with 42 RBI.
Yadier Molina has returned to the lineup after taking a foul tip to the midsection earlier in the year to put up his usual All-Star caliber numbers. In 48 games this season, he has hit .270 with six doubles, eleven homers, and 31 RBI.
Pham, who missed Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms, has hit .257 in 70 games with eight doubles, 12 homers, and 26 RBI on the year.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
The top of the lineup has been productive for the Indians throughout the season, and that has not changed over the last month. Jose Ramirez leads regulars in the lineup with a .305 average and a .422 on-base percentage in his 27 games, hitting five of his doubles, nine of his homers, and 17 of his RBI in that time frame. In the last week, he has hit .429 with a .636 on-base percentage with a pair of homers, five RBI, and eight walks as teams have avoided him in favor of Edwin Encarnacion.
Encarnacion’s bat has awoken from its brief slumber at the perfect time as teams have tried to avoid Ramirez hurting them. EE has hit .381 over the last week with two doubles, two homers, and a team-high 12 RBI. He is the team leader in runs batted in over the last month, driving in 26 with five doubles, seven homers, and a .264 average. He has hit in five straight games.
Francisco Lindor has made his case for All-Star inclusion loud and clear with a strong and steady effort at the plate. In the last 30 days, he is hitting .304 with seven doubles, seven homers, and 17 RBI. This includes a .444 average over his last six games with a team-high three homers and six RBI.
The Indians will take Thursday off for travel as they head to the Bay Area for a three-game weekend series with the Oakland A’s before returning back to Missouri for three more games with the Kansas City Royals. The Cardinals will continue their homestand on Friday night after an off day, hosting the Atlanta Braves for three straight to close out the month.
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images