Will these be the final three home games of the 2020 season for the Cleveland Indians?
The Indians (33-24) are playing their best baseball of the season and the timing could not be more perfect as the team prepares for a return to the postseason for the first time since 2018. The Indians have won five straight games and took a wrecking ball to the American League playoff bracket by sweeping four consecutive games from the Chicago White Sox during the week to knock them out of the top spot in the AL Central. The Indians will need some luck to claim the divisional crown as they would need to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend while relying on the Cincinnati Reds, playoff bound themselves, to take all three games against the Minnesota Twins. The Indians enter the day two games behind the Twins, which holds the tie breaker between the two teams, while the Tribe sits one game behind the White Sox for the second spot in the division.
The Pirates (18-39) enter the weekend set with the Indians as the worst team in baseball, one game worse than the Texas Rangers in their hunt for the top pick in the 2021 draft. The Pirates stunned the Chicago Cubs in a four-gamer during the week, losing a 5-0 contest on Monday before winning each of the final three games to take the series and end a five-game losing skid. They have followed an 8-17 August with an 8-17 September.
Friday, September 25, 7:10 PM ET
RHP Mitch Keller (1-1, 3.24 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-4, 2.90 ERA)
Keller, the Pirates’ top prospect coming into the season, will make his first career start against the Indians and the fifth of his big league career. Keller made a couple of appearances at the beginning of the year before being optioned back to the team’s minor league camp, but returned in mid-September. He is coming off of easily the best start of his Major League career his last time out against St. Louis on September 19. Against the St. Louis Cardinals, he worked six shutout and no-hit innings, walking two and hitting a batter while striking out six. This will be his first start against a team outside of the National League Central.
Carrasco will make his final start of the regular season as he looks to get himself prepared for his start in game two of the Indians’ playoff series next Wednesday. While the win-loss record does not reflect his efforts this season, his other peripherals do. In his eleventh big league campaign, he has made eleven starts, striking out 74 in 62 innings. His walk rate is higher than normal, but his hit rate is well below his career average and almost three per nine innings better than a season ago. Carrasco got back into the win column with a dominating performance against Detroit on September 20, allowing just one hit and three walks over seven shutout innings while striking out a season-best eleven. He faced the Pirates on August 18, giving up three runs on five hits in four and one-third innings.
Saturday, September 26, 7:10 PM ET
RHP Joe Musgrove (0-5, 4.68 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Civale (4-5, 3.99 ERA)
Musgrove is trying to avoid a winless campaign in his final start. He has made seven starts and suffered losses in five of those games, but those two no-decisions have come over his last three starts. He pitched his best game of the season on September 20 against the St. Louis Cardinals, throwing six quality shutout innings, allowing three hits and a walk with eleven strikeouts. That start marked his high water mark for innings pitched on the year.
Civale will close out his second season in the Majors looking to get back to the .500 mark and will get the chance to do so against a team he dismantled back in August. In that outing on the 19th of the month, he threw his first career complete game and narrowly missed a shutout, allowing a run in the ninth in the 6-1 win to back a five-hit gem for his third win of the year. Following that game, he went winless over his next five decisions with a 0-3 record, but he got back into the win column his last time out against the Chicago White Sox, allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks and six strikeouts in six innings of work.
Sunday, September 27, 3:10 PM ET
RHP JT Brubaker (1-3, 4.46 ERA) vs. TBD
Brubaker, 26, will pitch for the eleventh time this season and for the ninth time in a starting role. He has had a good month of September around a dismal outing against the Chicago White Sox on September 9, when he allowed seven runs over five and one-third innings. He has lost three straight decisions, beginning with that outing and his following matchups against the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. His last time out, he made his first quality start of the year despite taking the loss, allowing two runs on four hits with a season-high nine strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings. He faced the Indians on August 18, allowing three runs on three hits with three walks and just one strikeout in three innings in a no-decision.
The Indians have not announced a starter for the season finale on Sunday. The team may turn to Logan Allen, called up from their alternate training site on Friday, or could look to a bullpen game instead to get some relievers work before the close of the regular season schedule.
HEAD TO HEAD
The Indians last faced the Pirates in the middle of August and swept the three-game set from PNC Park. They won 6-3 and 6-1 decisions in the first two games, just missing a shutout in the middle game, before sealing the sweep with a 2-0 shutout in the series final on August 20.
The Indians have outscored the Pirates, 14-4, on the season.
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Logan Allen (P) – recalled from team’s alternate training site (9/25)
Yu Chang (UTL) – optioned to team’s alternate training site (9/25)
Jefry Rodriguez (P) – 60-day injured list (9/9) – right shoulder strain
Anthony Alford (OF) – 10-day injured list (9/6) – right elbow fracture
Tyler Bashlor (P) – 10-day injured list (9/11) – lower back inflammation
Nick Burdi (P) – 60-day injured list (8/5) – right elbow injury
Kyle Crick (P) – 10-day injured list (9/14) – undisclosed
Austin Davis (P) – 10-day injured list (8/27) – undisclosed
Phillip Evans (3B) – 60-day injured list (8/9) – concussion
Michael Feliz (P) – 60-day injured list (8/2) – right forearm discomfort
Clay Holmes (P) – 10-day injured list (7/28) – right forearm strain
Keone Kela (RP) – 10-day injured list (9/24) – right forearm tightness
Luke Maile (C) – 60-day injured list (7/23) – right finger fracture
Jason Martin (OF) – 10-day injured list (9/21) – upper back strain
Kevin Newman (SS) – 10-day injured list (9/20) – contusion to the peroneal nerve in left knee
JT Riddle (SS) – 10-day injured list (7/20) – right abdomen strain
Yacksel Rios (P) – 60-day injured list (8/15) – right shoulder inflammation
Cole Tucker (UTL) – 7-day injured list (9/17) – concussion
The Indians are 7-1 in their last eight games with 40 runs scored, including 17 from the seventh inning on as the team has found ways to rally to late victories multiple times.
Cleveland hit just .180 against Pittsburgh in their first three-gamer against them and nearly half of the team’s 18 hits in the series came from Tyler Naquin (four) and Carlos Santana (four). Two of Santana’s hits went over the fence, including an incredible moonshot over the left field foul pole as part of his eight runs batted in. The only other player on the roster now to drive in a run in the series was Franmil Reyes, who went 2-for-11 in the series with a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly.
Jose Ramirez went 0-for-12 against the Pirates in a rare cold stretch from the scorching hot hitter. He struck out five times and drew three walks, helping him to steal a pair of bases in the set. He leads the Indians in homers with 17 and RBI with 46, quickly shooting himself up the American League and Major League leaderboard in both categories. He is tied for third in MLB in homers. Through his first 56 games, he has posted a .292/.387/.608 slash.
Cesar Hernandez is hitting .283 on the year with a .352 on-base percentage. His 19 doubles are tops on the roster and in the American League, just three off of the MLB pace set by Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman.
NEW PAIR OF SOX
Pittsburgh hit .206 against Tribe pitching the first time around. They did amass 37 strikeouts in 109 plate appearances in the series. Only three hitters accumulated more than one hit in the series.
Jacob Stallings hit .625 in his three games played with five singles and three strikeouts in nine plate appearances. In 41 games on the year, he has hit .252 with seven doubles, three homers, and 18 RBI.
Newman, who is on the injured list, hit .545 against Cleveland with six hits and a walk in 13 plate appearances. One of those hits was a double.
Josh Bell struck out five times in 13 trips. He had a pair of hits in his three games, including a double, while driving in three of the team’s four runs in the series. He is second on the team with eight homers this season and his 21 RBI are tied with Adam Frazier for the most on the squad.
Colin Moran went 1-for-10 against the Indians with a single, a walk, and one run batted in. He leads the Pirates with nine home runs and is fifth on the team with 19 RBI.
Ke’Bryan Hayes will be a player to watch in the season-closing series. In 22 games since being called up by Pittsburgh, their number two prospect has hit .324 with four doubles, two triples, four homers, and nine RBI. The son of former big league third baseman Charlie Hayes has hit safely in each of his last five games, posting a .421/.450/.789 slash with two solo homers in that stretch.
ONTO THE PLAYOFFS
The Indians will kick off the American League postseason on Tuesday, with their time, opponent, and location all to be determined by the next three days’ worth of games.
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