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Indians Indians Archive Looking For A Slumpbuster in Kansas City
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

clekc brawlWith Tuesday's 4 p.m. trade deadline ominously looming, the Indians are going in reverse. They were swept by the lowly Minnesota Twins this past weekend and had a day off to collect themselves before shuffling off to Kansas City to open a three-game set against the equally lowly Royals. The Royals, who had high expectations entering the season are now 2.5 games below the Twins for last place in the AL Central. They’ve lost five in a row and hold the league’s worst home record at 17-30.

Things are tough in the American League right now as Oakland and Seattle have won eight of ten, but most teams have been around .500 over their last 10 games. If the Indians were playing well, they could be making up some ground on the teams ahead of them, both in the AL Central and in the wild card, but they’ve lost seven of ten. What looked like a monumental turning point in the season last Thursday night coming from behind against Justin Verlander has now become nothing more than a memory for the fans. The team has likely forgotten about it after falling five games back. They picked up a half game while off on Monday night because Chicago lost to Minnesota.

The Indians are desperately hoping that the Royals are the cure for what ails them. Over the last two years, in 12 games at Kauffman Stadium, the Indians have scored 91 runs. Earlier this year, when the Indians were just 1-4, they started their road schedule in Kansas City. They swept the Royals, scoring 32 runs in three games, started a fight, and kicked off a stretch where they won eight of ten to move to 9-6.

Just 6-11 since the All-Star break, the season is spiraling around the drain and with what looks like no help coming from the trade deadline, the guys in the clubhouse will have to get it together and try to make a big push back into the race. Here are the pitching matchups for the mid-week series:

lowe verticalTuesday July 31, 8:10 p.m. ET; Derek Lowe (8-9, 5.09) v. Luke Hochevar (6-9, 5.26)

If you like high-scoring baseball games, this might be the game for you. Derek Lowe has posted a 7.91 ERA over his last nine starts and has looked about as bad as that sounds. Twenty starts and 116.2 innings into the season, Lowe has still walked more hitters (43) than he’s struck out (40). His WHIP is an astonishingly bad 1.64, meaning he’s allowing, on average, 1.64 baserunners per inning. Lowe has thrown four “quality starts” in those nine outings, but the base definition of a quality start is six innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs. A start of three earned runs over six innings is a 4.50 ERA, which is hardly quality.

Luke Hochevar hasn’t pitched all that terribly of late, however the Indians have had phenomenal success against him. Hochevar has shaved a full run off of his ERA since June 14, even though 5.26 is nothing to be thrilled about. In terms of the Indians success against him, Shin-Soo Choo is 15-for-25, Michael Brantley is 7-for-17, Asdrubal Cabrera is 9-for-24, and Jack Hannahan is 7-for-16.

Lowe continues to struggle on the road with a 5.81 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, and .323 opponent’s batting average. He is 1-6 in his last nine starts and just seems to be out of gas. He beat the Royals this season, way back on April 13. Hochevar has a 5.57 career ERA against the Indians, although he beat them in his last start, back on April 25. Hochevar has a 5.72 ERA at home this season.

mcallister tampaWednesday August 1, 8:10 p.m. ET; Zach McAllister (4-2, 3.18) v. Luis Mendoza (4-7, 4.47)

The Indians will send their most consistent pitcher to the mound to kick off the month of August, giving Zach McAllister the ball in the middle game of the series. McAllister is growing up quickly as a big league pitcher, especially in his last start when he went punch-for-punch with Justin Verlander. Since returning to the rotation full-time on June 28, McAllister has posted a 2.65 ERA in six starts. He has, however, allowed seven unearned runs in that span.

Luis Mendoza has turned into a pretty consistent pitcher for the Royals after starting out horribly. Over the span of June and July, he shaved over a run off of his ERA and sprinkled in some very good starts with some average ones. Mendoza’s biggest problem this season when starting is that he hasn’t gotten very deep into many games. In 13 starts, he’s averaged between 5.1 and 5.2 innings per start. He is also averaging 1.5 baserunners per inning as a starter.

McAllister will be facing the Royals for the first time in his career. He’s been pretty good in three road starts this season, posting a 3.38 ERA. Mendoza has been rocked by the Indians in three appearances, two starts, with a 6.39 ERA over those 12.2 innings of work. This will be the third time Mendoza has faced the Indians this season.

tomlinThursday August 2, 8:10 p.m. ET; Josh Tomlin (5-8, 5.87) v. Jeremy Guthrie (3-11, 6.68)

Two pitchers who have had years that they’d like to forget will take the mound in the series finale. In his last start, Josh Tomlin was horrible, giving up eight runs on 10 hits in four innings to the Twins. In fact, Tomlin’s been overall horrible this season, with a 4.67 ERA representing his season low. After opposing hitters batted just .247 against Tomlin last season, they’re hitting .297 this season. That’s not good for a pitcher who doesn’t strike many hitters out. Further complicating Tomlin’s season, he has a 12.38 first inning ERA.

Jeremy Guthrie was recently-acquired by the Royals when they gave up on the Jonathan Sanchez experiment. Sanchez was acquired in the Melky Cabrera deal, which now appears to be an epic failure for the Royals, and then sent to Colorado in late July for Guthrie. Guthrie picked up right where he left off in the NL, giving up 11 runs in 10.1 innings in his first two starts with Kansas City. Guthrie has appeared in 21 games this season and his team has lost 15 of them, including 12 of the last 13.

Tomlin has thrown batting practice on the road this season with a 7.42 ERA and a .323 batting average against. He’s given up 64 hits and 10 home runs in just 47.1 innings. He’s 5-2 in his career against the Royals, but with a 4.88 ERA. Guthrie has been terrible pretty much everywhere he has pitched this season. The former Indians first-round draft pick is 2-2 with a 6.84 ERA against the Tribe in his career.


Keys to the Series:

1. Score Some (expletive)in’ Runs – If the Indians offense doesn’t manage some production in this series, we can officially declare them dead. They’re facing three pitchers that they’ve had success against and three pitchers that aren’t having very good years. The offense has come alive at Kauffman Stadium over the last two years and there’s no reason to believe that won’t happen again.

2. Get Ahead, Stay Ahead – When the Indians are going badly, it’s because they have to play catch up. They haven’t jumped on teams early, but have been behind by multiple runs early in a lot of games. The middle relief is mediocre and the offense is underwhelming. Their recipe to win is very clear.

3. Turn The Page – July is mercifully over after Tuesday’s game. It was not a good month for the Indians, even though the first week of July started out really well. The Indians started July 5-3. They finished July 11-14, plus whatever happens on Tuesday night. That’s extremely disappointing.


Player to Watch:

The player to watch for this series is Jason Kipnis. The daily grind of the MLB season might be catching up with the young second baseman. Kipnis hasn’t hit a home run since June 17 and had just a .333 slugging percentage in July. Either pitchers are adjusting to him and he’s not adjusting to them, or he’s just wearing down and not generating a whole lot of power. Either way, he’s key to the Indians offense and has to get going if the team wants to go on a run.


Wishful Thinking:



Central Focus:

The White Sox continue their series with Minnesota and the Tigers are in Bahstan.


One Last Thing...:

Manny Acta said that there’s no such thing as momentum in one of his post-game press conferences this past weekend. That may be true. The Indians are 7-2 against Detroit this season. In the series immediately following the Detroit series, the Indians are 2-7 and two of those series are three-game sweeps.

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