Two teams riding modest winning streaks will battle in Motown this week as the Detroit Tigers host the Cleveland Indians in three unusual midweek afternoon start times from Comerica Park.
The Tigers (7-3) have gotten off to a surprisingly strong start, given the season projections. They have won five straight games, sweeping the Kansas City Royals over the weekend and taking the last two games of their three-game series with the New York Yankees early last week. They began the year by splitting a four-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays. While the Tigers have showed up in the win column, their offense has not been showing up much on the field. They rank last in the American League in runs scored (27), homers (3), and batting average (.181) and are in the bottom third of nearly every offensive category. The two things that they have done well at is drawing walks and hitting doubles. The pitching staff has carried the club, posting the second-best ERA (2.30) and WHIP (0.93) and best batting average against (.188) in the AL.
The Indians (6-3) have had a nearly identical experience to the Tigers this season, which is certainly not what most prognosticators would have predicted coming into the year. The Indians offense has improved, but still ranks among the worst in baseball and the AL in most categories. The pitching has been lights out, ranking in the top third in the league behind some dynamite starting pitching efforts from the rotation. The Indians have a team ERA of 2.85 with a 1.06 WHIP and a .195 batting average against with 104 strikeouts in 79 innings over nine games (a league-best 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings).
Cleveland starter Corey Kluber was unable to finish the fourth inning and was tagged for six runs (four earned) as the Indians fell on Wednesday to the Chicago White Sox by an 8-3 final.
It was one of those rare off days for the Tribe right-hander, who was hit often and issued an uncharacteristic three walks in just three and one-third innings of work in Cleveland’s second home game of the season. He was paced with little support from the scuffling Indians offense, which got just two hits and an unearned run off of White Sox starter Carlos Rodon in a quality six innings on the mound.
The concerns surrounding the Cleveland Indians and their lackluster offseason were brought to the forefront over the weekend, when the offense was limited to just five runs and amassed 39 strikeouts in a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.
The Indians (1-2) scuffled during the opening weekend of the 2019 regular season against their number one rival in the American League Central, the Twins. While the starting pitching put together a pair of good outings and the bullpen proved serviceable in small doses, the offense was dead on arrival, mustering just two runs in a win on Saturday and three runs in garbage time on Sunday after trailing eight runs. The Indians will look to some home cooking to right the early season woes of an otherwise unpleasant experience at Target Field, as the offense looked as bad as many feared it did on paper.
No Wahoo, no runs, and no fun for the Tribe on Thursday as Minnesota’s Jose Berrios won an intense battle against Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, combining with reliever Taylor Rogers on a two-hit 2-0 Opening Day shutout from Target Field.
In a well-pitched game for both starters through six innings, the Twins capitalized on rare base runners in the seventh to take the lead and hold on for good. Kluber took a perfect game into the fifth and a no-hitter into the sixth. Three different relievers combined to throw a perfect eighth inning to keep the score at two runs, but it was too much for the Tribe to overcome in a tough day at the plate. While the Twins managed only four hits on the day, their pitching limited the Indians to just three batters over the minimum while striking out 13 in an Opening Day gem.
After a long winter of cost-cutting and public relations nightmares in Cleveland, there is finally some baseball to talk about as the Indians meet up with their chief division rivals, the Minnesota Twins, in their first official games without their Chief Wahoo on their caps and sleeves.
The latter would not be such an issue if Tribe players took the Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn approach to pitching, but players still wear caps and sleeves at this level, son.
The Cleveland Indians ended speculation on Saturday when they announced that Corey Kluber will be the Opening Day starter of the 2019 season next Thursday in Minneapolis.
This will mark Kluber’s fifth straight Opening Day start, barring no surprises by the time the Indians do battle with the Twins.
Major League Baseball is now less than a month away from the start of the 2019 season, its earliest start ever (excluding international openers). All 30 teams will take the field on March 28 this year. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 28 days
Should Corey Kluber continue his steady production over the final three years of his contract with the Cleveland Indians, there is a fair chance that his number 28 will one day be retired in his honor by the Tribe.
The surprising career of Cleveland’s ace has resulted in four top three finishes in the American League’s Cy Young voting over the last five years (including becoming the first Indians pitcher to win the award twice when he did so in 2014 and 2017). Even last year, when it felt at times that he was not as dominant as he had been in years past, Kluber still landed a third place finish in the Cy voting while leading all of baseball in complete games and shutouts and leading the AL in innings pitched and walks per nine.
Major League Baseball will kick off the 2019 season with its earliest start ever (excluding international openers) as all 30 teams will take the field on March 28. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 34 days
Two future Cy Young award winners in Cleveland, one future league Most Valuable Player, and an American League Rookie of the Year all spent time in the number 34 for the Cleveland Indians on the way to taking home some impressive hardware.
None of those applied to the last player to wear the number for the Indians, pitcher Zach McAllister, nor reliever Justin Grimm, who is in camp with the Indians on a non-roster spring invite in the number 34.
It appears another suitor has entered the Corey Kluber sweepstakes.
News broke Wednesday afternoon that the Padres – of all teams – were interested in Kluber’s services. San Diego would represent a sort of homecoming for Kluber, who was drafted by the Padres in the fourth round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Kluber was dealt to the Indians in a three-way deal in 2010 that sent Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals to the Padres and sent Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook to St. Louis.
Indeed, the Indians have been regular trade partners with the Padres. Last summer, the Tribe acquired Brad Hand and Adam Cimber in exchange for top catching prospect Francisco Mejia. And Indians coach Sandy Alomar Jr.’s career with the Indians started when he was dealt from San Diego, which had a surplus at the backstop position, thanks to Benito Santiago.
It is rarely a good sign when the opposing team has more homers than you have total hits, and that was the case for the Indians on Friday afternoon as the Houston Astros hit four long balls on the way to a 7-2 victory over Cleveland in Game 1 of the American League Division Series from Minute Maid Park.
The Indians offense just could not get going in a tough matchup with a familiar foe, Justin Verlander, who looked to help lead the Astros back to the World Series for the second straight season. He got the club off to a good start by starting the game with five no-hit innings and the Tribe mustered just three base hits throughout the day against Verlander and three pitchers out of the Houston ‘pen to fall behind a game in the best-of-5 series.