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Indians Indians Archive Tribe Hopes Baltimore Series Isn't For The Birds
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

cabrera chooA series against the Baltimore Orioles used to be viewed as a chance to get back on the right track if you were struggling and to keep moving right along if you were on a roll. Now, the Indians, losers of five straight, head to Maryland to face a much-improved Orioles club. The Orioles, playing in the ultra-competitive American League East, are right in the hunt with a 41-33 record, and would be the first wild card team if the playoffs began today.

Unless you’re a pretty close follower of the teams around baseball, there aren’t many recognizable names playing for Baltimore. Long-time staple Brian Roberts is still around, but he’s played just 12 games this season and just 110 games over the last three seasons. Nick Markakis is a shell of the player he used to be. Adam Jones continues to be one the most unheralded players in baseball and Matt Wieters is one of the game’s up-and-coming stars behind the plate.

If someone rattled off a list of the pitchers for the Orioles, one or two names might ring a bell. In all honesty, like the Indians, it’s kind of difficult to see how the Orioles are in the hunt in their division, especially one with as much talent as the AL East. They’re doing it with the long ball, having hit 95 home runs this season, good for third in the AL. They’re also doing it with tremendous relief pitching. Despite having three starters with ERAs above 5.20, the Orioles had a respectable 3.71 ERA before getting knocked around by the Angels on Wednesday night. That bullpen has helped the Orioles to a league-best 9-2 record in extra innings this season.

The Orioles may be overachieving, but they’re not the opponent to take lightly that they used to be. Let’s look at the pitching matchups for this weekend’s four-game set, a series where the Indians could potentially see three left handed starters.

mcallister2Thursday June 28, 7:05 p.m. ET; Zach McAllister (1-1, 3.96) v. Wei-Yin Chen (7-3, 3.38)

Zach McAllister makes his return to the Tribe rotation after Jeanmar Gomez’s terrible month of June. McAllister pitched well while filling in for Josh Tomlin in May, pitching 25 innings over four starts and striking out 22 to just six walks. McAllister was the most consistent starter for the Columbus Clippers this season, making 11 starts and posting a 2.98 ERA. The Indians acquired McAllister as the player to be named later in the July 2010 Austin Kearns trade to New York.

Wei-Yin Chen is enjoying loads of success in his first season in the United States, Chen, an import from Taiwan, is reaping the benefits of not having many scouting reports out about him. Chen, a left hander, won’t overpower hitters and has allowed seven home runs in his last eight starts.

McAllister has made just one of his four starts this season on the road, going seven innings at Fenway Park against the Red Sox and allowing four runs. He struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in his first start replacing Tomlin. Chen has been very good at home, going 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA in seven starts. Neither pitcher has faced their opponent before.

lowe verticalFriday June 29, 7:05 p.m. ET; Derek Lowe (7-6, 4.28) v. Jake Arrieta (3-9, 5.55)

Derek Lowe pitched admirably his last time out in Houston, after having struggled on the road in all but one of his starts this season. Lowe, who led the Majors in ERA on May 15 at 2.05, has seen his ERA more than double over his last seven starts. Groundball pitchers like Lowe are prone to giving up hits because sometimes grounders just aren’t hit right at anybody. But, since that May 15 start, Lowe has given up 54 in 37.2 innings pitched and has alternated good start, bad start. Starting May 20, and going every other start, Lowe has a 3.20 ERA. In the other three starts, Lowe has a 16.05 ERA.

Jake Arrieta has either been really good or really, incredibly awful with no in-between this season. Arrieta has five starts in which he has allowed one run or less. In the other 11 starts, he has allowed four runs or more in each of them. One of the problems for Arrieta has been the long ball, giving up 12 souvenirs in 94 innings. Over his last three starts, though, Arrieta has a 2.70 ERA with 18 strikeouts to just three walks.

Lowe’s road numbers are still ugly, despite a quality start in his last outing against the Astros. Lowe is just 3-5 with a 5.87 ERA on the road and opposing batters are hitting .349 off him. Arrieta has been just as terrible at home, going 2-5 in nine starts with a 6.23 ERA.

Lowe is 8-8 in 34 appearances, 16 starts, against the Birds lifetime, with a 4.38 ERA. Arrieta has faced the Indians twice and is 1-0 with an 8.18 ERA.

tomlincamoSaturday June 30, 4:05 p.m. ET; Josh Tomlin (3-5, 5.70) v. Dana Eveland (0-0, 3.00)

Josh Tomlin is desperate for some consistency. He’s followed the Derek Lowe “every other start” trend of late, pitching two gems and two stinkers in his last four starts. The long ball has also caught up with Tomlin as the weather has warmed up, as he’s now allowed 11 home runs in just 66.1 innings, including eight home runs in his last six starts. In Tomlin’s defense, five of his last six starts have come against very good lineups (KC, CIN x 2, NYY, STL).

Dana Eveland is the scheduled starter, however he threw two innings in relief on Wednesday night, so it remains to be seen if he will take the ball to start the game. If he does, it will make just his second start of the season, but it makes sense because he throws with his left arm. Eveland has thrown 27 innings on the season. He bounced around for a while before landing in Baltimore, spending time with six other teams since 2005.

Tomlin’s road numbers, like Lowe’s, are not good. He’s 2-2 in six appearances, five starts, with a 6.25 ERA. Eveland’s lone start of the season came at home where he a 2.87 ERA. Tomlin has faced the Orioles three times, with a couple of wins and one loss, and a 5.06 ERA. Eveland, not surprisingly, is 2-0 in two starts against the Indians and has allowed just two runs in 12 innings.

masterson01Sunday July 1, 1:05 p.m. ET; Justin Masterson (4-7, 4.09) v. Brian Matusz (5-9, 5.24)

Justin Masterson is looking to start July by building off a strong month of June. Masterson was a victim of a lack of run support, going just 2-3 in the month with a brilliant 2.05 ERA. Perhaps most importantly, he cut his walk totals in half, walking just nine after walking 17 in each of April and May.

Brian Matusz has yet to pan out into the pitcher everyone thought he would be. An extremely highly-touted prospect and former fourth overall pick, he has a career 5.47 ERA in 67 starts. This year, he’s allowed a whopping 100 hits in 80.2 innings. It’s still decidedly better than his 2011 season where he gave up 81 hits in 49.2 innings and going 1-9 in 12 starts. Naturally, none of these numbers mean much for the Indians because righties are hitting Matusz at a .339 clip while lefties are only batting .175.

Masterson, like seemingly everyone in the Indians rotation, is dreadful on the road, with a 6.88 ERA, partially inflated by his atrocious eight runs in 3.2 innings performance in Seattle back in April. Matusz isn’t making many believers out of him at home, going 2-4 with a 5.21 ERA. Masterson has faced Baltimore 10 times, six of them starts, going 4-3 with a 5.31 ERA. Matusz is 1-0 in two starts against the Indians, allowing just one run in 14 innings for a 0.64 ERA.


Keys to the series:

1. Find a way to beat a lefty – For the Indians to even get a split out of this series, they’ll have to beat a lefty (assuming Eveland does, in fact, start). It’s disheartening to know that a guy like Matusz has been awful in the bigs, but has carved up the Indians in two starts. The Indians have to salvage something out of this trip and at least splitting in a series where they could face three southpaws would be a step in the right direction.

2. Shake off the slumps – The key players in the Indians offense are struggling mightily. Asdrubal Cabrera is just 5-for-27 in his last seven games. Jason Kipnis is just 6-for-29 in his last eight and Carlos Santana is mired in a season-long slump, but has been especially bad since his return from the DL, going 11-for-68. Hitting is contagious. When one heats up, the others should follow.

3. Leaders need to lead – The Indians have played terrible over the last week and can’t be feeling very good. Morale is low. The veterans and the leaders need to step up and be examples to the young guys. The defeatist attitude and negative body language exhibited by some of the Indians over the last week has been pathetic. Guys need to step up.


Player to watch:

The player to watch for the series is Shin-Soo Choo. Even if Cabrera, Kipnis, and Santana aren’t hitting, at least Choo getting on base puts some pressure on the pitcher and, eventually, those three guys will get going again. Choo enters this series hitting an awful .188 against lefties this season. He’ll have to improve on that and set the table for the middle of the order.


Wishful thinking:

Wouldn’t it be great to win three out of four? The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Indians host the Rays and Angels next week in advance of the All-Star Break, which apparently can’t get here soon enough.


Central focus:

The White Sox head to New York to take on the team that just swept us. The Tigers travel to the Trop to take on Tampa Bay. The Royals and Twins fight to the death in Minnesota.


One last thing...:

Obviously, we’re not playing well. But, we’re just 2.5 games out of first. In the AL East, we’d be nine games back. In the AL West, we’d be 12 games out. In the NL East, 6.5 games out. In the NL Central, we’d be four games back. In the NL West, we’d be five games out. Thankfully, we’re in, easily, the worst division in baseball.

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