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Indians Indians Archive Indians End Road Schedule in Windy City
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

handshakelineThe long suffering nightmare that has been the Indians road schedule will wrap up this week with a three-game series in the Windy City against the Chicago White Sox. In the second half, the Indians have been positively awful on the road, winning just nine of their 38 away games. With just nine games left in the season, the final six at home, and six of the final nine meetings against the White Sox, the Indians have a golden opportunity to play spoiler.

The White Sox enter this series reeling, having lost five straight. Their slim lead in the AL Central is down to just one game. Either the White Sox or the Tigers will pretty much back into the division title. The White Sox play six against the Indians and three against Tampa Bay, while the Tigers play six against Kansas City and three against Minnesota.

The Indians have been completely dominated in the season series, losing eight of 12, with a -31 run differential. As a team, Indians hitters are batting just .235 against the White Sox this year, while the White Sox offense has lit up the Indians pitching staff, who has a 6.60 ERA and 1.66 WHIP against the South Siders this season. As a unit, Indians pitchers have combined for a 5.61 road ERA this season.

Here are the pitching matchups for the final road series of the season:

mcallister tampaMonday September 24, 8:10 p.m. ET; Zach McAllister (5-8, 4.31) v. Chris Sale (17-7, 2.82)

Right out of the gate in this series, it doesn’t look overly promising. Zach McAllister has gone through some major growing pains over the last two months of the season. With a couple of strong starts sprinkled in, McAllister’s last 10 starts have not been pretty, posting a 1-6 record and a 5.72 ERA. McAllister has not won since his August 11 home start against the Boston Red Sox, when he went eight innings and allowed just two runs on three hits. McAllister has given up 19 unearned runs in 112.2 innings.

Chris Sale has not been as dominant in the second half as he was in the first half, with a 3.65 ERA. In the first half, Sale was phenomenal, going 10-2 with a 2.19 ERA. Sale seemed to be pitching through an injury or a dead arm at times in the second half, but is still a very tough left hander. He is striking out a batter per inning and has a 3.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

McAllister has faced the White Sox twice in his career, once this season on May 7 in a doubleheader and once last season. The May 7 start was his first in the Majors this season and he threw six innings, allowing four runs, two earned, and struck out five, picking up the win. Sale owns the Indians. In 13 appearances, two starts, Sale is 2-0, with three saves, and a 1.65 ERA. Indians hitters are batting just .156 off of Sale.

kluberTuesday September 25, 8:10 p.m. ET; Corey Kluber (1-4, 5.36) v. Francisco Liriano (6-11, 5.24)

Corey Kluber continues to look for that elusive second Major League win, picking up one loss and two no decisions since that September 3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Pitch location has been a problem for Kluber this year, as opposing batters have hit .313 off of him and have hit seven home runs in 50.1 innings. He has given up at least four runs in six of his 10 starts.

Francisco Liriano was expected to be the final piece to the White Sox rotation, but it hasn’t worked out well so far. In 11 appearances, 10 starts, Liriano has a 5.09 ERA and has walked 30 in 53 innings. He is averaging only five innings per start for the White Sox, pitching deep into a lot of counts. He still has the swing-and-miss stuff, but it comes with a lot of pitches outside the strike zone as well.

Kluber faced the White Sox once in relief in 2011. It was just his second Major League appearance. In four road starts, Kluber has a 5.68 ERA. Liriano has a long history against the Indians, most of it coming in his Minnesota Twins days. In 17 appearances, 12 starts, Liriano is 5-5 with a 3.51 ERA against the Tribe. Of current Tribesmen, however, only Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, and Matt LaPorta have more than 10 at bats against Liriano.

masterson01Wednesday September 26, 8:10 p.m ET; Justin Masterson (11-15, 4.97) v. Jake Peavy (11-12, 3.40)

Justin Masterson takes the mound in Wednesday’s road finale, looking to give himself a chance to match his career-high in wins for a season. Masterson won 12 games last season for the Indians, while posting a 3.21 ERA. He has a chance to top that this season, despite an ERA near 5.00. This is why most people look down upon the pitching wins stat. Masterson has given up hits and runs in boatloads this season, especially on the road where he has a 6.34 ERA.

Jake Peavy has pitched much better than his record would indicate. Peavy has not fully returned to the pitcher he was with the San Diego Padres before being bit by the injury bug, but he has 180 strikeouts in 203 innings of work and is holding opposing hitters to a .241 average. He is averaging just 1.5 walks per start. He has also thrown four complete games. The White Sox have to be concerned about Peavy’s workload, topping the 200-inning threshold for the first time since 2007.

Masterson could get a confidence boost in this start, as the White Sox are one of the teams he has had success against in his career. In 17 appearances, 13 starts, he is 4-5 against Chicago with a 2.50 ERA. He has faced them three times this season and is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA. The Indians have had a little success against Peavy, who is 4-3 with a 4.32 ERA against them. In his last start, the Indians lit him up for seven runs in 6.1 innings, yet Peavy still got the win.

Keys to the Series:

1. Play Off Their Pressure – The White Sox are clearly pressing, losers of five straight in a very tight AL Central race with the Tigers. The White Sox are a very veteran ballclub, but they’re not immune to pressure. If the Indians play free and easy, it will definitely benefit them in this series. Adding additional pressure by putting the ball in play and stealing bases will help.

2. Return of the Mac? – Zach McAllister has two starts left to prove his reliability to the Indians front office. He’ll be in the 2013 rotation by default, but his struggles late in the season are undoubtedly concerning the front office.

3. Play Spoiler – Just like when the Tigers took two of three from the Indians the weekend before last, the Indians get another crack at playing spoiler. They’ll have six chances at it. Personally, I’d rather see the White Sox in the playoffs than the Tigers, but I hate them both, so it’s a no-win situation for me. For them, however, they can ruin somebody’s season, which, as a competitor, is something to shoot for.

Player to Watch:

The player to watch in this series is Jason Kipnis. Kipnis, a Chicago-area native, has video game numbers playing in front of friends and family at US Cellular Field this season. In six games, Kipnis is 12-for-23 with three home runs. His slash line? .522/.577/1.043/1.620.

Wishful Thinking:

Can the Indians possibly win their third series of the second half?

Central Focus:

The Tigers battle the Royals and the Twins host the Yankees.

One Last Thing...:

As this terrible season winds down, the Indians have played pretty hard in September after embarrassing themselves repeatedly in the month of August. If nothing else, the character of this team remains admirable, though it may just be the influx or kids from the minors who don’t know any better.

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