For the second straight weekend, the Indians and Athletics will make acquaintances as Oakland makes its sole trip to Cleveland this season.
The Indians (48-37) had a tough time during their series in Oakland, at least the first two before erupting for 12 runs off of the A’s bullpen late in a 15-3 rout in the series finale last Sunday. The Indians improved their winning streak to four straight by sweeping three in a row in Kansas City to wrap up its road trip with a 5-4 record. It is expected to be a busy weekend with favorable conditions for baseball in downtown Cleveland as the city hosts its first sporting event since the departure of NBA star LeBron James.
The A’s (48-39) have had strong returns from the starting rotation over the last week. In six of their last seven games, they have held the opposition to two runs or less, with the one outlier being the 15-run onslaught by the Tribe against the Oakland bullpen. The A’s have won eight of their last nine games overall. They are stuck in third place in the tough American League West, despite producing wins at a higher rate than expected. The good season has still left them nine games off of the pace of the division-leading Houston Astros, who are 58-31.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
The 24-year-old Blackburn will make his second straight start against the Indians after winning his last outing against them on Friday. The second-year big leaguer went 3-1 in ten starts last season with a promising 3.22 ERA. This season has provided mixed results, but his last start was his best as he set several season-highs with six and one-third innings worked, no runs allowed, and five strikeouts on 98 pitches. He had just one start against the Indians prior to this year, when he threw a quality six innings of work while allowing three runs in a no-decision.
Carrasco was activated from the 10-day disabled list after missing time and going through a rehab assignment after being struck by a line drive off of the bat of Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, causing him to leave his start after just an inning and one-third of work. He has been masterful against the A’s throughout his career, posting a 3-1 record in six games (five starts) with one complete game, a 2.61 ERA, and a 0.77 WHIP while averaging more than a strikeout per inning hurled.
Jackson earned career win number ten against the Indians in his 16th matchup with them in his career in his last start on Saturday. When the A’s brought him to the club in June, he joined his record-tying 13th Major League team. A 34-year-old, he has been in the pro game since he his selection in the sixth round of the 2001 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. After firing off six innings of one-run baseball in his season debut on June 25, he worked six and two-thirds innings against the Indians on June 30, allowing two runs on two hits (both solo homers) with six strikeouts.
Kluber earned his 12th win of the year in his last outing as he got back on track in his July 2 matchup against the Kansas City Royals in his second start against them this year. He worked six innings, throwing 99 pitches while allowing three runs on seven hits with no walks and five strikeouts. It marked his second quality start in his last four outings after opening the year with 14 straight. Kluber has posted a win in each of the last two seasons against the A’s after starting his career 0-4 against them.
Montas, 25, has spent time back and forth between Triple-A Nashville and the A’s roster this season. His minor league numbers did not do much to merit a call up – he was just 1-5 with a 4.39 ERA. He faced the Indians for the fourth time in his career last Sunday and the first time as a starter and took the loss. He lasted five and two-thirds innings, charged with three runs on nine hits with no walks and six strikeouts. His bullpen, however, would allow 12 more runs in a 15-3 loss.
Bieber will make his sixth start of the year as he has survived the battle with fellow rookie right-hander Adam Plutko for a spot in the starting rotation. The 23-year-old won his fourth straight start in his last time out on Tuesday, despite allowing four runs in six innings against the Kansas City Royals with a career-low two strikeouts. It will be his first career start against an AL West opponent.
TV (all): Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; NBCSCA (Oakland); MLB Network (out-of-market only, 7/6)
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
Melky Cabrera (OF) – re-signed to a minor league deal (7/5)
Carlos Carrasco (SP) – activated from 10-day disabled list (7/6)
Lonnie Chisenhall (OF) – 10-day disabled list (7/3) – strained left calf
Tommy DeJuneas (RP) – traded to Houston Astros (7/6) from Lake County Captains
Nick Goody (RP) – transferred to 60-day disabled list (5/31) – right elbow inflammation (since 5/3)
James Hoyt (RP) – acquired via trade from the Houston Astros (7/6) and sent to Triple-A Columbus
George Kontos (RP) – designated for assignment (7/6)
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) – out for season (3/26) – recovery from right shoulder exploratory surgery
Brett Anderson (SP) – 10-day disabled list (5/19) – left shoulder strain
Franklin Barreto (2B) – optioned to Triple-A Nashville (7/3)
Trevor Cahill (SP) – 10-day disabled list (6/11) – right Achilles tendon strain
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; on rehab assignment
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
Khris Davis was slumping a bit when the Indians made their visit to the Bay last weekend, but he has come alive at the plate since. He has hit safely in seven straight games, hitting .370 with a .519 slugging mark with ten hits in that span and five RBI. He is the team leader in homers this season with 20 and is second on the club with 57 runs batted in.
The Indians did not see Matt Chapman last weekend as he wrapped up his time on the disabled list. The mashing third baseman has appeared in 71 games this season, hitting 12 doubles and ten homers while driving in 26 runs. The 25-year-old is in his second season in the Majors and is coming off of a 23-double, 14-homer performance in 84 games a year ago.
Jed Lowrie has been one of the big pieces of offense for the A’s this season. He leads qualified players on the club with a .291 batting average, putting up a .357 on-base percentage and a .498 slugging mark in 85 games. He leads the team with 25 doubles and 59 RBI and is third with 14 homers. His 97 hits on the year are tied for eighth among all AL players. He has moved back over to second base with the return of Chapman from his DL stint.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
The Indians have been dominant at home this season. In 40 games, they have posted a 27-13 record and are averaging six runs scored per game while hitting at a .283 average with 62 homers.
Michael Brantley brings a five-game hitting streak into the weekend set with the A’s. He has six hits and has knocked in four runs in that span. He remains the team leader in batting with a .306 mark through his first 74 games this season. In addition to the good average, he has provided 20 doubles, 11 homers, and 48 RBI in his final season before free agency.
Francisco Lindor is fifth in the AL with 103 hits and is the leading scorer in the Majors, crossing the plate safely 75 times. His batting average remains just under the .300 mark at .297 and he has provided a healthy .374 on-base percentage to boot. He is among the game’s leaders in doubles (his 27 are tied for fourth-most) and homer (his 23 are fifth overall in all of MLB). He is second in the league with 35 multi-hit games this year.
His left side tandem mate Jose Ramirez is tied for second in all of baseball with 24 homers on the year, matched by Aaron Judge and Mike Trout and trailing only J.D. Martinez (26). Ramirez is right behind Lindor (27) with 24 doubles and Edwin Encarnacion (58) with 56 RBI. Barring something unlikely, he will be the American League’s starting third baseman for the All-Star Game for the second straight season as he continues to receive more and more attention for the quality work that he does.
SHOW LOVE FOR THE LAND
The Indians will continue their ten-game homestand to wrap up the first half of the regular season schedule as the Cincinnati Reds come to town for a three-game set beginning Monday night. The New York Yankees will follow with a four-gamer leading into the break.
The A’s, who have played just two games against San Diego since last playing the Indians (with off days on Monday and Thursday last week), will head to Houston for four and “home” to San Francisco for a three-game series against the Giants.
Photo: Jason O. Watson/Getty Images