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Indians Indians Archive Indians Open Final Homestand of Season
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

indians royals_copyWhen the dust settles and baseball games resume, it will be Sandy Alomar Jr. filling out the lineup card as the Indians begin their final homestand of the 2012 season. The Kansas City Royals come to town, as both teams take a respite from playing the role of spoiler. This series sandwiches meetings between the Indians and White Sox and the Royals and Tigers.

The Royals enter this series five games in front of the Indians and poised for their first third place finish since 2003. The Indians would need to sweep the Royals to even the 18-game season series, as they trail 9-6, but have been outscored by just three runs. Four of the Indians’ five wins in the season series came in the first four meetings of the season between the two teams. Before salvaging the series finale last Sunday, the Indians had lost seven straight against the Royals.

It will be interesting to see how the Indians come out and play with Alomar at the helm. They haven’t stopped fighting in September, going 10-14, with eight one-run wins, and putting the dismal 5-24 August behind them. They have six games left to go and can really impact the American League Central Division race with the White Sox in town to end the season. But, first, they have to find a way to get excited about playing the Royals.

Here are the pitching matchups for the second-to-last series of the season:

huffFriday September 28, 7:05 p.m. ET; Will Smith (6-8, 4.88) v. David Huff (2-0, 2.25)

The Indians will get their final crack at Will Smith this season, looking to avoid going winless against him this season. Two of Smith’s six wins have come at the expense of the Indians. Smith, like all young pitchers, has experienced some growing pains this season, giving up 102 hits in 86.2 innings of work, with opposing batters hitting over .300 against him.

David Huff will have one final shot to make a lasting impression on the front office as the final rotation spots for 2013 appear to be wide open. Huff, who has made two starts this season, will be making his fifth appearance and has pitched well for the Indians in his 16 innings of work. Huff, who had just 138 strikeouts in 258.2 previous Major League innings, has struck out 12 in 16 innings so far this season, while holding opposing batters to a .220 average.

Smith is 2-0 against the Indians this season, allowing just two runs in each of his starts. In eight road starts, Smith is 4-3 with a 4.20 ERA. He just beat the Indians last Saturday, going seven solid innings in a 5-3 win. Huff will also be facing the same team for the second straight start. Huff was the benefactor of the Indians late-game offensive explosion last Sunday, going 5.2 innings and allowing just one run in a 15-4 victory. It was Huff’s first win as the starting pitcher since August 29, 2011.

gomez1Saturday September 29, 7:05 p.m. ET; Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 5.06) v. Jeanmar Gomez (5-8, 5.54)

Jake Odorizzi made his Major League debut last Sunday against the Indians and pitched fairly well, going 5.1 innings and allowing three runs. The final score was deceiving for Odorizzi, as the Indians tattooed the Royals bullpen for 12 runs. Odorizzi entered the season as the #68 ranked prospect by Baseball America. In 25 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, Odorizzi was 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA. He also recorded 135 strikeouts in 145.1 innings.

Jeanmar Gomez makes his return to the rotation after being bumped in order to make room for David Huff. With the Indians using a six-man rotation over the final six games, Gomez gets to make one more start this season. Gomez, who started so well in April posting a 2.35 ERA, has been knocked around since. In 72.1 innings of work since May 1, Gomez has a 6.98 ERA. In 87.2 innings this season at the big league level, Gomez only has 45 strikeouts.

Odorizzi will be making his first career road start and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to facing a team for the second time. Gomez has made seven of his 37 career starts against the Royals, with one relief appearance last weekend. Over those 34.1 innings of work, Gomez is 2-3 with a 4.46 ERA.

mcallister2Sunday September 30, 1:05 p.m. ET; Luke Hochevar (8-15, 5.43) v. Zach McAllister (5-8, 4.25)

The Royals were hoping to see some growth from 2006 first-round pick Luke Hochevar this season, but it doesn’t appear that they have. Hochevar has been knocked around on numerous occasions this season, giving up 27 home runs and allowing opposing batters to hit .277. Since the All-Star break, he has been worse than he was in the first half, going just 2-7 with a 5.77 ERA.

Zach McAllister has pitched well in two of his last three outings, after going through a lengthy period where nothing really went right for the big right hander. McAllister has sprinkled very quality outings amongst some really poor efforts over the last couple of months, which is all a part of the process of growing up as a pitcher. He’s coming off a strong start against a good White Sox lineup, limiting them to two runs over six innings. McAllister should have been the winning pitcher, but a bullpen collapse cost him his first victory since August 11. This will be McAllister’s last chance to snag a win.

Hochevar would be happy if he never had to face the Indians again, who have beaten him around the ballpark in most of his starts against them. In 14 starts, Hochevar is 6-8 with a 5.49 ERA. McAllister has only faced the Royals once, taking the loss, giving up five runs, four earned, in six innings back on August 1.

Keys to the Series:

1. All Hail Alomar! – Reportedly, the Indians players had soured on Manny Acta earlier this season when the chips were down. Now, with Acta gone, we’ll see how the Indians adjust. By all accounts, Alomar is well-liked and the frontrunner for the job.

2. Reward the Home Faithful – If you’re going to a game in this series, you’re honoring an advanced ticket purchase or have season tickets. It’d be nice for the Indians to reward your patience with a good showing in their final homestand.

3. Staying in the Mix – Nobody knows what the future holds for the Indians rotation, and one start won’t take somebody out of the running, but David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez would benefit themselves by having good final starts this weekend. Gomez has really struggled at the big league level, while Huff hasn’t been tested much. These late September outings are important.

Player to Watch:

The player to watch for this series is Jason Kipnis. Kipnis enjoyed his time in Chicago again this past week, collecting four hits in 12 at bats, drawing three walks and stealing a couple of bases. Kipnis has played himself into a leader on this team with his work ethic and they should feed off of him in this series. The second half has been a serious gut check for him and he has played hard until the end.

Wishful Thinking:

Let’s have a 5-1 homestand. Yes, that requires a sweep, but let’s do it.

Central Focus:

The Tigers head to Minnesota while the White Sox host Tampa Bay.

One Last Thing...:

With just two series left to go, my heartfelt thanks to anybody who is continuing to read the Indians coverage at STO and Kudos for you for hanging on until the very end. I have tickets to three of these final six games, so you can share in my pain as well.

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