This is a big weekend for the Cleveland Indians. With a chance to face a team that they have had good luck with over the last couple of years, it may be just what the doctor ordered to cure all that ails the team’s struggles and depressed disposition.
The Indians (26-23), as you likely know by now, have lost eight straight contests during series with the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago Cubs. Losses against a young Royals team was a bad look and the team missed some big opportunities to gain some ground in what once was a tightly contested American League Central during their series with the Twins. The Indians lost both games to the Cubs in walk-off fashion while showing some glimmers of hope that they would emerge from this losing skid before the end of the season. Those losses dropped them six games in back of the first place Chicago White Sox.
With the team in an ugly tail spin, they should be grateful that the schedule for the next closest competitors in the Wild Card race are pretty brutal. The Seattle Mariners, four games in back of the Indians at 22-27, have had an erratic month and will close their schedule (after Thursday’s game with the San Francisco Giants from San Diego due to the Pacific wildfires) with three against San Diego over the weekend, three with Houston during the week, and four in Oakland next weekend. Baltimore, also four back at 22-27, has five games in the next four days with first place Tampa Bay, three in Boston against the last place Red Sox, and three in Buffalo against the Toronto Blue Jays, who currently sit in the first wild card spot in the AL.
The Tigers (21-27) will wrap up their final homestand of the season with a four-game set with the Tribe. They split the first two games of their home contests in a pair of shutouts against the Kansas City Royals. Not eliminated from the playoff picture yet, the Tigers are a half-game behind Seattle and Baltimore and therefore four and a half games in back of the Indians for the final Wild Card spot in the league, but they would need a lot of things to go right in the final week and a half to surprise the world with a postseason trip.
Bieber will make his first start since suffering his first loss of the season his last time out. The 25-year-old still remains in good position in the pending AL Cy Young Award race after giving the Indians a quality outing, but he suffered the loss after allowing three runs on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings of work against Minnesota. This will be his second time facing the Tigers this season – he earned a win on August 15 at Comerica Park when he blanked Detroit over seven innings of three-hit baseball. Nine of his ten starts have been quality and five have been scoreless efforts this season.
Mize, the Tigers’ first overall pick in the 2018 draft, is just 23 years old. He has had the misfortunate of having to see some of the best teams in baseball through his first five career starts, as he has faced the White Sox twice, the Twins twice, and the Cubs once. He lasted a season-high five and one-third innings his last time out against the White Sox, allowing two runs on just one hit with two walks and five strikeouts in a no-decision.
The 25-year-old Plesac took the loss his last time out in a rough start against the Minnesota Twins. Taking the mound for just the sixth time on the season, he was tagged for three home runs and six hits in total over seven innings of work, making it the fourth time this season he has pitched seven innings or more in a start. In his previous body of work, he had limited the Royals to a pair of runs over 13 innings in winning back-to-back starts in his return to the roster and starting rotation.
Fulmer opened the year with six consecutive no-decisions before losing each of his last two starts. He has been on a pitch count all season long while still working his way back to full strength from Tommy John surgery last year. Friday will mark his third start of the season against the Indians, but he may prefer not seeing them. In those two mid-August outings, he worked a total of five and two-thirds innings, allowing eight runs on ten hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Three of those hits left the yard.
McKenzie, 23, had his first real rough start his last time out against Minnesota. The Bomba Squad, awakened last weekend by Tribe pitching, tagged McKenzie for three home runs and five runs in total over four and one-third innings on the way to a big win. McKenzie did strike out seven in his short time on the mound, matching the second-best total of his young career. The top mark came in his Major League debut on August 22 against the Tigers, when he allowed a run on two hits in six innings while striking out ten men.
Turnbull, the third-year starter, began the year strong but started to struggle with his game against the Indians on August 15. He allowed three runs on six hits in four and two-thirds innings in his worst start up to that point, with four walks marring his efforts. Command issues have continued to plague him over the last few weeks in some inconsistent efforts on the mound. He allowed five runs on eight hits his last time out in a loss to Chicago, but three six shutout innings of three-hit baseball with three walks the start before against Milwaukee in his second straight start against them.
Carrasco pitched well against the Cubs earlier this week, but the Indians could not claim the victory for him in a tough no-decision. He worked six innings in his fourth straight quality start, allowing three runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts. His last rough start came back on August 23 against the Tigers, when he allowed four runs on seven hits in his shortest start of the year (three and one-third innings) in a loss.
Boyd has had a really rough year in the Tigers rotation, but one of his best starts of the campaign came against the Indians back on August 22. He took the loss in the outing, but to little cause of his own as he allowed two runs on five hits in five and one-third innings, walking one and striking out six to lose for the fourth time in six outings. He has gone 2-2 since, including a scoreless effort his last time out when he allowed just two hits (but four walks) in five and two-thirds innings, striking out five in the win over the Royals.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Yu Chang (IF) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (9/15)
Cesar Hernandez (2B) – activated from paternity list (9/16)
Kyle Nelson (RP) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (9/16)
Roberto Perez (C) – day-to-day – sore right shoulder
Jefry Rodriguez (P) – 60-day injured list (9/9) – right shoulder strain
Dario Agrazal (P) – 60-day injured list (7/27) – right forearm strain
Harold Castro (3B) – 10-day injured list (8/19) – left hamstring strain
C.J. Cron (1B) – 60-day injured list (8/11) – left knee sprain
Eric Haase (C) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (9/15)
JaCoby Jones (OF) – 60-day injured list (9/2) – left hand fracture
Ivan Nova (SP) – 60-day injured list (8/15) – right triceps tendinitis
Jonathan Schoop (2B) – 10-day injured list (9/13) – right wrist sprain
Troy Stokes Jr. (OF) – 60-day injured list (8/7) – right hand fracture
HEAD TO HEAD
The Indians’ long winning streak against the Tigers came to a close the last time the two clubs met in Cleveland. After extending their streak to 20 straight with a three-game sweep in Detroit from August 14-16 in games won by Aaron Civale, Bieber, and Oliver Perez, the Indians looked to pursue history but fell short in a three-game set in Detroit the following weekend. Detroit took the opening and closing games of the set in starts by Adam Plutko and Carrasco, while the Indians claimed the middle game in McKenzie’s dominating debut.
Cleveland has outscored Detroit, 36-29, through six games.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
The Indians’ best offensive numbers this season have come against the Tigers. The team as a whole through its first six games against them has hit .261 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging mark, all tops against any one opponent this year. The Indians have amassed 14 doubles, a triple, ten homers, and 36 RBI in those games with five stolen bases.
Franmil Reyes tortured Tigers pitchers earlier in the season. In addition to a .348 average at the plate in 27 at bats against them, he owns an .870 slugging mark with four homers and seven runs batted in. He has scuffled again of late and could benefit from seeing a familiar opponent in Detroit.
Francisco Lindor and Cesar Hernandez are tied for the team lead with nine hits through the first six games. Both have three doubles to their credit and a home run. Lindor has scored three times and driven in three runs, while Hernandez has scored three times and knocked in a pair. Lindor is hitting .333 versus Hernandez’s .321 average, but Hernandez tops him in overall OBP with a .367 stat to Lindor’s .357.
Jose Ramirez is hitting .292 against Detroit this season with an eye-popping .583 OBP. His seven hits on the year have resulted in four doubles and a homer and he is third on the club with five RBI against the Tigers. He has also drawn five walks in his 29 plate appearances against them.
Carlos Santana has hit just .136 against the Tigers this season and has drawn more walks than he has accumulated base hits (four to three).
The Tigers have hit nine homers off of Cleveland pitching. Niko Goodrum leads the club with a pair and is second on the team with four RBI while hitting .222.
Jeimer Candelario has taken advantage of his opportunities against the Indians. In his six games, he has a team-high eight hits, including two doubles and a triple, to post a .333 average against them.
Miguel Cabrera leads the Tigers with five RBI against the Indians, but he has done that work in bulk. He has just four hits against the Indians this season (with three walks) while hitting just .174.
Victor Reyes proved to be a pesky bat for the Tribe as he hit .318 against them through six games with seven hits, including two doubles, a triple, a homer, and two RBI.
Austin Romine has had a lot of misses against the Indians. The Tigers backstop has three hits in his four games against them, but he has also struck out in half of his 14 plate appearances against Cleveland pitchers.
The Indians will avoid JaCoby Jones, who is on the injured list with a fractured hand. Four of his six hits against the Indians were doubles and he scored a team-leading four times.
After the completion of the series, the Indians will return home to close out the regular season’s final seven games. That will come with a little bit of good and a little bit of bad as the Tribe hosts the first place Chicago White Sox, looking to knock them off of the top spot in the division. When that four-game set concludes, the Indians will host the MLB-worst Pittsburgh Pirates in three games next weekend to close out the regular season.
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