The Cleveland Indians will kick off a short west coast stay on Friday night when they begin a three-game series from Oakland Coliseum against the Athletics.
Cleveland (44-35) was cooled off in a tough matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals during the week, despite good numbers in interleague play this season and good results all-time against the Red Birds. They dropped the first two games of the series before salvaging the finale on Wednesday. Counting their 1-2 set in St. Louis, they have won eight of their last ten contests. The Indians enter the series with an eight-game lead in the American League Central over the Minnesota Twins.
The A’s (44-38) have had a surprising season and have done well of late, winning ten of their last dozen games. What may serve as bad news for the Tribe is that the bulk of those wins came during their road trip through Chicago and Detroit in battles against the AL Central. They went 8-2 during their road trip, sweeping two games from the San Diego Padres before splitting a four-gamer with the White Sox. They went into Detroit this week and swept four games from the Tigers before making the long trip home back to Oakland Coliseum. The A’s enter the series in third place in the AL West, but are 10.5 games in back of the Houston Astros.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Bauer will look to earn his first win in Oakland in his career after taking a pair of losses in three starts there. He has been on a tear on the mound during a four-game quality start streak, when he has won three games. His last time out against the Tigers on June 23, he worked six and one-third innings, allowing a run on five hits with a pair of walks and eleven strikeouts. He has reached double digits in strikeouts in four of his five June starts and seven times this year. In his career, he is 1-2 in five starts against the A’s with a 4.44 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP in 26 1/3 innings.
Blackburn, 24, is in his second year in the Majors after being drafted in 2012 by the Chicago Cubs. He went 3-1 in ten starts last season with a promising 3.22 ERA, but he has struggled in four starts this year, posting an 8.83 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. He has made two adequate starts, but has alternated them with rocky ones, including his most recent start on June 24 against the White Sox when he took a loss after allowing six runs on eight hits in five innings. He made one start against Cleveland last season, making a quality start with six innings of work and three runs allowed in a no-decision.
Plutko will make his first career start against an opponent from the AL West after four straight appearances against the AL Central. He got back into the win column with a strong start against the Detroit Tigers on June 24, when he allowed just a pair of runs on six hits in six innings of work to improve to 4-1 on the year. The 26-year-old right-hander will look to overcome some difficulties on the road, where he has a 5.68 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP in a limited sample size.
Jackson played for his record-tying 13th Major League team last week when he made his season debut for the A’s. The 34-year-old German born right-hander has been in the pro game since he was drafted in the sixth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001. He kicked off his 2018 with a good outing against the Detroit Tigers (one of his former clubs) on June 25, when he worked six innings and allowed just a run on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He has been a tough matchup for the Indians throughout his career – he is 9-1 against them in 15 career games (13 starts) with a 2.76 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. He has faced the Indians just once since 2011, however.
Clevinger, 27, will look to get back into the win column after taking a loss in St. Louis earlier in the week. It marked the first time that the right-hander was on the short end of a decision since May 24, more than a month prior. Clevinger allowed just two runs on six hits in five innings of work, but his offensive teammates could not generate any runs against Cardinals pitching. His start against Oakland will give him games against all AL West opponents this season, but he has just one win against them in five total games. In his career against the Athletics, he is 0-1 in one start and one relief appearance with a 7.04 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP.
The 25-year-old Montas will make just his seventh start of the season after spending time in the minors at Triple-A Nashville. He was just 1-5 there with a 4.39 ERA, but has fared much better for the A’s since rejoining the big league rotation at the end of May. He won three straight starts to open his season before he was shelled by the Houston Astros on June 14. His most recent outing was another tough one, as he lasted just three innings on June 26 against Detroit, giving up six runs on eight hits with three walks and just one strikeout in a no-decision. He has faced the Indians three times in his career – all in relief.
TV (all): Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; NBCSCA (Oakland)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (Cleveland); 95.7 FM The Game, KIQI 1010 (Oakland)
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; to make rehab start Saturday
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
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
Brett Anderson (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/19) – left shoulder strain
Trevor Cahill (SP) – 10-day disabled list (6/11) – right Achilles tendon strain
Matt Chapman (3B) – 10-day disabled list (6/15) – right thumb contusion
Jharel Cotton (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/19) – recovery from March 2018 Tommy John surgery
Daniel Gossett (P) – 10-day disabled list (6/4) – right elbow strain
Daniel Mengden (P) – 10-day disabled list (6/24) – sprained right foot
Boog Powell (OF) – 60-day disabled list (4/7) – right knee sprain
Andrew Triggs (P) – 10-day disabled list (5/18) – right arm nerve irritation
A’S STATS AND NOTES
The A’s have been successful despite being a tough team to figure out at the plate. They strike out a ton, they don’t steal a lot of bases, and they don’t hit for high average. Just five players have stolen a base for the club this season and only four regulars are hitting over .250 on the year. Their 15 stolen bases are the fewest in the Majors and they have been caught 14 times. They are fourth in the AL with 711 strikeouts this season in 82 games.
They do hit the ball a long way at times, led by Khris Davis and his 20 bombs this year. Davis is also second on the club with 53 RBI. He has finished in the top three in the AL in the last two seasons in home runs, hitting 42 in his first season in Oakland in 2016 before slamming 43 last year to finish second overall.
Matt Olson has made a mark in his third big league season. While he is hitting just .239 at the plate, he is slugging a healthy .451 with a dozen doubles and 17 homers on the year. His 41 RBI are third on the club. He has hit nine of those home runs and driven in 21 of his runs over the last 30 days. The 24-year-old is coming off of a shortened campaign in 2017 when he hit 24 homers and drove in 45 runs in just 59 games.
Jed Lowrie is the team’s leading hitter among regulars with a .294 average on the year. He is third on the team with 13 home runs and is tops on the squad with 24 doubles and 55 RBI.
Stephen Piscotty has been the club’s top hitter over the last month, hitting .310 in 25 games with seven doubles, four homers, and 16 RBI.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
Lonnie Chisenhall has helped the lineup since returning from the disabled list. He has hit .328 in 19 games with three doubles, a triple, one homer, and seven RBI.
Jason Kipnis has picked it up in June. In his last 21 games, he has hit .286 with a .353 on-base percentage with three doubles, four homers, and eleven RBI.
Jose Ramirez remains one of the top home run hitters in the game this season. In 78 games, he has 20 doubles and 23 homers to go with 52 RBI and a .291 batting average. He has drawn 51 walks against 42 strikeouts, helping him post a .395 on-base percentage.
Edwin Encarnacion and Francisco Lindor are tied for second on the team in homers with 19. Encarnacion’s total has come in 70 games while driving in 54 runs, tops on the club. Lindor has hit .288 with a team-high 24 doubles while stealing ten bases in 12 attempts.
Rajai Davis has hit .333 over the last month. His 16 stolen bases are more than the entire Oakland roster combined.
BACK TO MISSOURI
On Monday, the Indians will head back to Missouri to play the Kansas City Royals in what is expected to be a scorching hot weather series for the club. The two clubs will play in three before the Tribe takes the day off on Thursday.
The A’s will take Monday off before playing a two-game set at home with the San Diego Padres. The Athletics and Tribe will not be separated for long, however, as they will complete their season series with a three-game series in Cleveland next weekend.
Photo: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images