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Indians Indians Archive Tribe Heads to Sunshine State to Battle Rays
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

handshakelineWith the Indians looking up at two teams in the standings ahead of them instead of just one for the first time since April 22, numerous players are slumping at a bad time with a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on the horizon. The Rays rank third in the American League in total team ERA. With a forgettable offensive weekend in Toronto behind them, the Indians will try to get back on the right track with their only trip to the Sunshine State this season.

The Indians sandwiched a nine-run explosion with two pathetic offensive performances, scoring just one run in their only win of the series on Friday night and getting blanked on Sunday in Toronto. The Rays lost a series at home to the Red Sox, managing just seven runs in those three games. Both teams enter the series with nearly identical records, the Rays having one more win and one more game played than the Indians who are 45-43. Both teams are third in their respective divisions, though the AL East is clearly tougher than the AL Central.

For the four-game set, every starter except Derek Lowe and James Shields will get some action this week. With both teams looking to rebound from disappointing second half starts, here are the probable pitching matchups:

mcallister2Monday July 16, 7:10 p.m. ET; Zach McAllister (3-1, 3.40) v. Alex Cobb (4-5, 4.89)

Zach McAllister was one of the more surprising players of the first half for the Indians, pitching very well in his seven starts. He was cruising along in his last start, July 8, against Tampa when Asdrubal Cabrera made two errors that set up four unearned runs and McAllister was pulled after 5.2 innings of work. He’ll look to build off the good things from that start, specifically, the first five innings. McAllister struck out seven, but did walk three.

As for Alex Cobb, he got some run support in his last outing, a July 6 start against the Indians. The Rays rocked Justin Masterson en route to a 10-3 win and Cobb had the game in cruise control early on. It was just Cobb’s third quality start in his nine starts. Overall, Cobb has struggled in his first season in the bigs, allowing at least four runs in five of nine starts.

McAllister’s only other career start against the Rays was last week and same for Cobb against the Indians. McAllister, unlike the majority of the Indians rotation, hasn’t pitched too awful on the road, though he’s only made two starts with a 4.26 ERA. Cobb has been better at home than on the road with a 2-3 record and a 4.35 ERA.

tomlincamoTuesday July 17, 7:10 p.m. ET; Josh Tomlin (5-5, 5.45) v. Matt Moore (5-6, 4.42)

To say Josh Tomlin was outstanding in his last start against the Rays would be an understatement. Tomlin threw, arguably, his best game of the season in his July 5 start against Tampa, going seven innings of two-hit ball and allowing just one run. It was a good way to end a really difficult first half for Tomlin, in which he battled a wrist injury that put him on the DL and a lot of ups and downs from start to start.

Matt Moore is one of the five left handers that the Indians beat during their recent string of beating southpaws. Moore didn’t last five innings in his July 7 start against the Tribe, giving up four earned runs in 4.2 innings. Command was his biggest issue as he walked five and struck out just three. Moore has swing-and-miss stuff, as evidenced by his 96 strikeouts in 99.2 innings, but also has command issues as he’s averaging 4.5 walks per nine innings.

Josh Tomlin’s made three starts against the Rays, going 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA over 19 innings of work. He, like the majority of the Indians starters, has taken his lumps on the road this season with a 6.45 ERA in seven appearances, six starts. As for Moore, his only career appearance against the Indians was last week. He’s been pretty good at home, sporting a 3.79 ERA in 59.1 innings.

masterson01Wednesday July 18, 7:10 p.m. ET; Justin Masterson (6-8, 4.14) v. Jeremy Hellickson (4-6, 3.48)

Justin Masterson’s only blemish leading up to the All-Star break was his July 6 start against Tampa where he got bombed for nine runs, eight earned, in 4.1 innings of work. Masterson gave up two home runs, walked four, and allowed nine hits in that start. He got the second half off to a great start, throwing seven shutout innings against Toronto on Friday night and he’ll need to build off that performance.

Jeremy Hellickson pitched really well in his 15 first half starts but didn’t get a whole lot of run support. Hellickson has lost his last six decisions while getting 22 runs of support, some of them coming after he left the game, granted he left one of those starts in the third inning when he was in the leg by a comebacker. Hellickson pitched well against the Indians his last time out, but he was outdueled by Josh Tomlin in a 3-1 Indians win.

If every pitcher has a team they can’t beat, the Rays are that team for Justin Masterson. In 12 career appearances, eight starts, Masterson is 1-7 with a 7.69 ERA against Tampa. It’s gradually been coming down, but Masterson is still showing an ERA of 5.09 on the road this season. Hellickson threw seven shutout innings against the Indians in his other start against them, giving him a 1.38 in two career starts versus the Tribe. He’s been good at home with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts.

jimenezhoustonThursday July 19, 12:10 p.m. ET; Ubaldo Jimenez (8-8, 5.06) v. David Price (12-4, 2.80)

If there was ever a matchup where you needed Ubaldo Jimenez to look like 2010 First Half Ubaldo Jimenez, Thursday is it. Jimenez was tattooed in his first start of the second half, a 2.1 inning batting practice display against Toronto, allowing eight runs on seven hits with four walks and two long home runs allowed. Jimenez had pitched well up to that point, posting a 2.93 ERA in his previous seven outings.

The Indians were lucky enough to avoid David Price during the recent four-game series at Progressive Field. They won’t be so lucky when they head to the Trop. One of the best left handed pitchers in all of baseball will take his shot at the Tribe in the series finale. Price has already matched his win total of a year ago and is averaging 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s won six of his last seven decisions.

Jimenez is 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his career against Tampa, including a July 7 win over the Rays. He has been horrible on the road this season, racking up a 6.49 ERA in 10 starts. As for Price, as you might expect, the Indians can’t hit him. He’s 4-0 in his career with a 2.01 ERA in six starts and the Indians have hit just .175 off of him. At home this season, Price is 6-2 with a 2.25 ERA in nine starts.


Keys to the Series:

1. Take Good Swings – Too many times in the series against the Blue Jays, the Indians took terrible swings. With runners in scoring position, everybody seemed to be pressing and trying to hit home runs. That led to a lot of pop ups and weak outs. There weren’t many line drives hit in that series by the Indians. Home runs and extra base hits are products of good swings. The Indians need to take more of those.

2. It Starts at the Top – Shin-Soo Choo was 1-for-12 in the last series after hitting the cover off the ball leading up to All-Star break. Asdrubal Cabrera was 0-for-12 in the last series with five strikeouts. In his last 11 games, Cabrera is 6-for his last-44 (.136) with 12 strikeouts, including an 0-for-17 skid.

3. Forget the Standings – Young teams like the Indians can get caught up in what’s going on around them. It’s too early to worry about their placement in the AL Central or how many games back they are. The way they’ve struggled offensively for long stretches this season and the way the rotation has failed to be consistent is pressure enough. They can’t concern themselves with being in third place. Just focus on winning.


Player to Watch:

I already mentioned it in the keys to the series, but Choo and Cabrera are the two players to watch. The Indians go as they go. The bottom of the order for the Indians is usually a nightly black hole. Their best chance to score runs is with Kipnis or Brantley. Choo and Cabrera have to set that table for that to happen.


Wishful Thinking:

Win two of the first three. The last thing the Indians want to do is have to beat David Price to avoid losing the series. You’d be real happy with a four-game split here and that’s what they need to shoot for in these first three games. Then take your chances with Price.


Central Focus:

The White Sox travel to Bahstan to take on the Red Sox, the Tigers host the Los Angeles Pasadena Orange County Angels of Anaheim, the Royals host the Mariners, and the Twins have Monday off before entertaining Baltimore.


One Last Thing...:

I, along with fellow TCF writer Brian McPeek, was hard on Michael Brantley early in the year and for most of last season. Brantley is white hot right now with 11 hits in his last 15 at bats and hits in 43 of his last 46 games with an at bat. I’ll take my crow medium well with a side of au jus and some garlic mashed potatoes.

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