It feels fitting that Major League Baseball honors one of the legends of the game on Friday given the current unrest plaguing the country.
Jackie Robinson Day, typically recognized on April 15 of each season, did not get its due this year as baseball was on the bench due to the coronavirus. Now with play well under way and half of the season already in the books, MLB will take pause to honor the first African American to reach the big league level back in 1947. As is done every year, the number 42 will come out of league-wide retirement as all players will don the digits on Friday.
The Indians (19-12) will resume play after a big series victory over the Minnesota Twins during the week was followed by an off day on Thursday. The team relocated to Missouri, where the Tribe will play three with the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend and three with the Kansas City Royals during the week. The Indians outscored the Twins, 12-8, in the three-game set from Progressive Field, dropping a 3-2 final on Monday before claiming 4-2 and 6-3 victories in the last two games of the set.
The Cardinals (11-11) have a lot of catching up to do after missing a significant chunk of time in the shortened season after a COVID-19 outbreak put the team on the shelf. Thursday, they played a pair of makeup games with the Pittsburgh Pirates, dropping both ends of the doubleheader. They won two of three earlier in the week from the Royals.
An impressive debut for McKenzie in a spot start earned the young right-hander a second look as part of the Indians rotation. Making his first start in nearly two years on August 22, McKenzie limited the Detroit Tigers to just one run on two hits in six innings of work, striking out ten and walking one to earn his first big league win. The lone damage against him was a solo homer by his former minor league teammate, Willi Castro. He had previously pitched no higher than Double-A.
Ponce de Leon, 28, will make his fourth start and fifth appearance overall this season while working in a limited capacity in the Cardinals rotation. After working a scoreless third of an inning in his first outing, he has worked 11 2/3 innings over his last three starts, allowing seven runs in that span. He has given up a home run in each of his first three starts and has had a tough time with his command (walking 10), but he has been efficient with the strikeout, recording 17 this season. His last time out against Cincinnati on August 23, he allowed two runs on three hits in a season-high four and two-thirds innings of work.
Carrasco’s recent woes on the mound continued in his last start against Detroit on August 23. He pitched a season-low three and one-third innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. If there was a positive to be found in the short start, it was that he got his walks back under control, issuing just one free pass after walking 12 in his previous 14 2/3 innings. His seventh start of the season will mark his fourth interleague effort of 2020 – he is 1-1 in those games with 14 2/3 innings pitched, allowing six runs on ten hits with 12 walks and 20 strikeouts in those outings.
Flaherty has blossomed into one of the top young arms in the National League. The 24-year-old right-hander made 33 starts in 2019, posting an 11-8 record with a 2.75 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, and 231 strikeouts in 196 1/3 innings. He is perfect in three starts this season, earning wins in two games including his last one, when he fired five shutout innings of one-hit baseball against the Royals. Flaherty was the Cardinals’ first round draft pick in 2014.
The 25-year-old Civale gave the Indians his fifth quality start in six tries in his last outing, but he came away with a tough defeat at the hands of the Twins on Monday. He worked six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with a walk and eight strikeouts, but it was a pair of opposite field home runs that did all of the damage on the day. His start on Sunday will be his fifth on the road this season and his second interleague outing. He threw a complete game in his other start against the senior circuit on August 19 while shutting down the Pirates.
Wainwright, now 38 years of age, is in his 15th season with the Cardinals. A first round pick back in 2000 by the Atlanta Braves, he has been a mainstay in the Cardinals rotation after bursting onto the scene in his second stint in the Majors in 2006 while working in the team’s bullpen. He has looked his best in years in four starts in 2020, allowing eight earned runs on 18 hits with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 25 innings of work (2.88 ERA and 0.96 WHIP). He took home wins in each of his first two starts this season, but has been dealt no-decisions his last two times out against Cincinnati and Kansas City in seven-inning efforts. Against the Royals on August 25, he was charged with four runs on seven hits in seven innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Logan Allen (P) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (8/24)
Mike Clevinger (SP) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (8/26)
Sandy Leon (C) – activated from family medical emergency list (8/24)
Beau Taylor (C) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (8/26)
John Brebbia (P) – 60-day injured list (6/27) – right ulnar collateral ligament tear
Austin Dean (OF) – 10-day injured list (8/15)
Seth Elledge (P) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (8/28)
Junior Fernandez (P) – activated from injured list (8/27)
Austin Gomber (P) – 10-day injured list (8/13)
Ryan Helsley (P) – 10-day injured list (8/15)
Jordan Hicks (RP) – restricted list (7/13) – COVID opt-out
Carlos Martinez (SP) – 10-day injured list (8/4)
Miles Mikolas (SP) – 60-day injured list (7/25) – right forearm strain
Andrew Miller (RP) – 10-day injured list (8/24) – left shoulder fatigue
Rangel Ravelo (1B) – 10-day injured list (8/5)
Edmundo Sosa (SS) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (8/27)
Lane Thomas (OF) – 10-day injured list (8/15)
Kodi Whitley (P) – 10-day injured list (8/4)
Matt Wieters (C) – 10-day injured list (8/20) – left great toe contusion
HEAD TO HEAD
The matchups between Cleveland and St. Louis since the advent of interleague play have gone primarily in the Indians’ favor, with the Tribe winning 16 times and losing 10. The Indians have gone 9-6 at Busch Stadium against the Cardinals and 7-4 at home, outscoring the Redbirds by a wide margin, 124-82.
This will be the only series between the two clubs during the 2020 regular season.
FUN WITH NUMBERS
While the Cardinals have been a bottom-third team in batting average and slugging percentage this season, they own the third-best team on-base percentage this season with a .341 mark. The Indians, by comparison, are 18th at .321.
Paul Goldschmidt has been one of the top offensive weapons for the Cardinals this season. He has appeared in all 22 games, posting a .333/.478/.507 slash at the plate with three doubles, three homers, and ten RBI. He leads the team in hits, runs scored, homers, walks, batting average, and on-base percentage.
Cardinals infielder Tommy Edman has been hot of late. He is hitting .348 during his current six-game hitting streak, driving in five runs during that span. It has pushed his season numbers to .253/.333/.360 at the plate.
Recent call-up Dylan Carlson has taken advantage of the pandemic playing time that he has received. He has hit in six straight, scoring four runs and driving in three in that stretch. The streak started on August 23, when the 21-year-old hit his first Major League home run against the Cincinnati Reds.
Tyler Naquin has hit in seven straight games for the Tribe as an outfielder has finally emerged from the large collection of options that the team has run out to the grass this season. In the last week’s worth of games, Naquin has eleven hits, posting a .393/.414/.571 slash in 28 at bats. He has, however, struck out seven times in that stretch. In a small sample size, he has been one of the team’s top threats with runners in scoring position with four hits in six at bats and six RBI in those situations, using three doubles and a triple to get the job done. In 13 games this season, Naquin is hitting .310 with a .326 OBP and a .476 slugging mark.
Cesar Hernandez has been a threat with men in scoring position as well, hitting .526 in 19 at bats while driving in nine. The underrated offseason signing by the Indians has paid off nicely, as the second baseman is tied with Francisco Lindor for the team lead in hits with 33 and has contributed a .275/.370/.417 slash at the plate. His eleven doubles lead the team.
Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes are tied for the team lead in homers with six. Ramirez leads the club with 21 RBI. Carlos Santana leads the lineup in OBP at .396 and is the top free pass man in baseball with 30 in 31 games, six ahead of San Francisco’s Mike Yastrzemski.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Former Indians outfielder Ryan Ludwick has found a home post-playing days in the Cardinals organization. The 42-year-old serves the Cardinals as a minor league hitting coordinator.
Ludwick was a second round pick by the Oakland Athletics in 1999, but was traded to Texas in 2002. He debuted with the Rangers that season and spent half of the following year with the club before he was dealt to the Indians on July 18, 2003, for pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez and outfielder Shane Spencer. He played just 73 games with Cleveland over the next three seasons before departing the club via free agency.
He spent 2006 in the minors, but returned to the Majors in 2007 with the Cardinals. He was an All-Star in 2008 and won a Silver Slugger Award after a breakout season during which he hit .299 with 37 homers, 40 doubles, and 113 RBI, all career highs. His numbers dropped some the following year and in 2010, he was dealt at the trade deadline in a three-team trade between the Cardinals, Indians, and San Diego Padres that most notably sent Jake Westbrook from Cleveland to St. Louis and an unknown minor league pitching prospect to the Indians named Corey Kluber.
Ludwick lasted a year in San Diego, traded the following deadline to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason and spent three seasons back in Ohio. He signed with the Rangers in 2015 but was cut at the end of spring training and announced his retirement the following January to end his 12-year big league career.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The Indians will head to the west side of Missouri to open a three-game series in Kansas City with the Royals on Monday. The Cardinals will head to Cincinnati, where they will start the first of three with the Reds on Monday.
Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images