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Indians Indians Archive Indians Visit Surprise A's
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

indians athleticsWhat the Oakland Athletics have done this season is nothing short of amazing. They hold the worst team batting average in the American League, have a bunch of pitchers nobody’s heard of, and yet they’re a game ahead of the Angels and their ridiculous payroll. If the playoffs started today, Oakland would just be on the outside looking in, but they’re still having a terrific season. With the lowly Indians in town, it’s a big series for the Athletics and a tough spot for the Indians.

This past week in Anaheim, the Indians did what they have done best this season. They won the first game of the series and lost the next two. The Indians are 25-15 in series openers this season, making them a combined 29-49 in the other games in a series. They’ve lost 12 of their last 13 home games by an average of 4.9 runs per game. Because of the horrible stretch of road play, the Indians have now fallen below the Colorado Rockies in run differential and have the second-worst mark in the Major Leagues at -111. They trail only the epically-pathetic Houston Astros who are -152.

The Athletics begin this series 1.5 games behind the Rays and Orioles in the wild card hunt, but do have a game in hand. Oakland began the year just 22-29 through May and by the end of July, they were 56-47. They went 19-5 in July and held the opposition to 83 runs in 24 games. Young pitching and timely hitting has been the recipe for success for Oakland this season, just like it always is with the cash-strapped Moneyballers.

It’s a big weekend series for the A’s and another chance to play spoiler for the Tribe this weekend in Oakland. Here are the pitching matchups:

mcallister2Friday August 17, 10:05 p.m. ET; Zach McAllister (5-4, 3.46) v. Tommy Milone (9-9, 3.91)

Zach McAllister bounced back in his last start to defeat the Boston Red Sox and exorcise the demons of his previous two outings. After giving up 14 runs in 7.2 innings in his first two August starts, McAllister held the Red Sox to two runs on just three hits last Saturday in Cleveland. In 10 of McAllister’s 13 starts, he’s walked two or fewer batters. The final month-and-a-half of the season is big for McAllister, as he’s pitching for his position in the rotation. If healthy, he will undoubtedly be in the rotation, but could be as high as the #2 starter with how awful the other starters have been.

Tomaso Milone is an 88 mph lefty who the Indians have never seen, so this is a terrible matchup for them. Milone, in his first full season in the Majors, came over in the Gio Gonzalez trade this past December. He’s pitched well for the A’s and has been especially good at home, where he has a 2.13 ERA in 71.2 innings of work, taking advantage of the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum.

McAllister has never faced and the A’s and Milone has never faced the Indians. Both pitchers have good control and so two offenses with low batting averages will have to string hits together to score runs. McAllister has allowed just nine home runs in 74.2 innings and Milone has allowed just two home runs at home this season.

kluberSaturday August 18, 10:05 p.m. ET; Corey Kluber (0-1, 8.56) v. Bartolo Colon (9-9, 3.55)

The Major Leagues have not been kind to Corey Kluber. His audition for the 2013 rotation will probably continue through the end of the season, but his first impression has been less than awe-inspiring. The problem for Kluber has been the first inning, where he has a 30.00 ERA. In the first inning, opposing hitters are batting .550/.591/1.200/1.791. In three starts, Kluber has allowed 13 runs, 10 of them in the first inning.

It feels like forever ago since Bartolo Colon wore Chief Wahoo, but yet, he’s still pitching and still going strong. In 2011, Colon had a controversial stem-cell procedure done to inject life back into his pitching arm. So far, the surgery has worked wonders as the 39-year-old Colon is giving the surprise A’s some quality innings, averaging 6.1 innings per start and on pace for close to, if not over, 200 innings.

Kluber faced the Athletics one time in 2011 during a relief appearance. Colon has faced the team he broke in with nine times in his career and has a 3.56 ERA in that span. Unlike most of the Oakland starters, Colon’s ERA is slightly higher at home (3.78) than it is on the road (3.27).

masterson torontoSunday August 19, 4:05 p.m. ET; Justin Masterson (9-10, 4.50) v. Jarrod Parker (7-7, 3.71)

The reason that some baseball people don’t believe in the requirements for a quality start, six or more IP, three or fewer earned runs allowed, is because Justin Masterson’s 4.50 ERA and 6.1 innings per start implies that he has averaged a quality start this season. As we know, not many of Masterson’s starts have been “quality”. His last one was however, a strong performance in the series opener in Anaheim going six shutout innings with a little bit of help from the bullpen, who got through a seventh inning jam when Masterson left the game.

Jarrod Parker was acquired by the Athletics in the Trevor Cahill trade in December, so, the Athletics have clearly done well in their two offseason trades. Parker, a former seventh overall draft pick out of high school, has run into some bumps in the road during his first Major League season. On July 21, Parker was 7-4 with a 3.00 ERA. Since then, as the innings workload has mounted, he has gone 22.1 innings, allowed 18 runs, and is 0-3. The 7.25 ERA in that span has raised his season ERA to 3.71.

Masterson has not fared well against the A’s in his career. In eight appearances, four starts, he has a 6.00 ERA and a 1-3 record. Parker has never faced the Indians. Like most A’s pitchers, his home splits are better than his road, as he has a 2.75 ERA at home this season.


Keys to the Series:

1. De-fense (clap clap) De-fense – Oakland Coliseum, which doubles as a football stadium, features the most foul territory in baseball and some of the most pitcher-friendly weather conditions of all the Major League parks. The outfield gaps are big and spacious. You have to kill a foul ball to get it into the stands. The Indians have to bring the defense to be successful.

2. Do Your Homework – The Indians will face two pitchers that they’ve never seen before in Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker and one familiar face who seems to be a different pitcher this year. It will be crucial for the Indians to have a good gameplan at the start of the game and make adjustments during the game if they want to score runs.

3. Throw Strikes – The A’s, who drill on-base percentage into the prospects and Major Leaguers, bat only .230 as a team. But, they walk a lot. They also strike out a lot. The way to neutralize the A’s offense is to throw strikes.


Player to Watch:

The player to watch for this series is Ezequiel Carrera. This series will be a best test for him. Left field is spacious and he has shown a propensity for taking weird routes to the ball. This ballpark also plays to his offensive style, with big gaps and lots of potential for triples. He’ll get an extended look the rest of the way to see if he can be a fourth outfielder for 2013 as a guy who can be a defensive replacement, a situational pinch hitter, and an above average pinch runner.


Wishful Thinking:

Zach McAllister could be a #2 starter next season. A team with McAllister as its #2 starter isn’t going to make the playoffs, but the Indians probably won’t have a chance in 2013 anyway. The growth of McAllister is important going forward, as it’s hard for the Tribe to add pitchers in free agency.


Central Focus:

Chicago travels to Kansas City to battle the Royals, Detroit hosts Baltimore in a big series with wild card implications, and Minnesota goes to Seattle, which is where the Indians will be next.


One Last Thing...:

On display in this series is how teams like the Indians and Athletics have to find pitchers. For Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, the Athletics have two starters in this series, Milone and Parker, and their closer Ryan Cook. All three Indians starters in this series came via trades - McAllister (Kearns), Kluber (Westbrook), and Masterson (Martinez).

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