A very impressive series win over the usually tough Angels has kept the Indians virtually where they were before at two games behind the Chicago White Sox. This isn't a bad place to be as the Tribe just got Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana back and are looking to make a move to bring in another offensive player within the coming weeks. The starting pitching has also gotten back to strength, most recently with Derek Lowe going 6 innings and only allowing 3 runs. Keeping the Angels to just 11 runs for the series was a feat in itself, made more impressive by the fact that the Indians scored 12 in the final game alone.
The Tribe will head into the final series of the half with the Rays next. They have already played half their games this year and are three games above .500 through 81. The All-Star break is the unofficial half way mark and will be a good respite for most of the Tribe as Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana have been forced to play just about every game this season. Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez won't be getting a break this year, but I'm sure they don't mind either as they will be heading to Kansas City for the game itself. On to the matchups.
July 5th, 7:05 EDT: Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, 4-4, 3.44 ERA vs Josh Tomlin, RHP, 4-5, 5.84 ERA
Hellickson was removed from his last start after being hit by a batted ball and in fact has not thrown more than four innings in his last three starts. The worst start of the group was against the Mets where he threw 3.2 innings and allowed 8 earned runs. This was by far his worst start of the season and ballooned his ERA from 2.65 to 3.45.
Tomlin has pretty much been the same pitcher this season that he was last year and there isn't a whole lot more to expect from him. As long as he controls the things he can by keeping his pitches in the strike zone he will be as successful as he can be. He will always give up hits and home runs, but by not walking batters he should be able to keep those home runs to solo shots.
July 6th, 7:05 EDT: Alex Cobb, RHP, 3-5, 4.94 ERA vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 5-7, 3.92 ERA
Cobb's last two starts have come against the AL Central and and have been short of magnificent. He gave up four against Detroit and somehow 8 against Kansas City. This is just Cobb's second season for Tampa and his 18th career start.
By only allowing a single run against Baltimore, Masterson lowered his ERA to its lowest point since his third game this season. He will look to continue this trend against the tough AL East opponent.
July 7th, 6:05 EDT: Matt Moore, LHP, 5-5, 4.17 ERA vs Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 7-7, 4.59 ERA
Moore is also in his second season and is pitching fairly well after just one start in his career prior to this season. He has been very consistant on a game by game basis, keeping opponents under four runs scored in all but two games.
Ubaldo lost the one game of the Angels series that the Indians were unable to take, but it wasn't completely his fault as the Indians were held scoreless. He did keep LA to just three runs, which is a feat in itself.
July 8th, 1:05 EDT: James Shields, RHP, 8-5, 4.11 ERA vs Zach McAllister, RHP, 3-1, 3.93 ERA
Shields is the Rays ace and a former All-Star, but he has fallen off a bit this season. His ERA is currently about a run and half above last years career best and his WHIP is also almost a half a base runner worse than last year. He is still a formidable pitcher, but the Indians should be happy just to play against three righties out of the four games this series.
McAllister has been almost perfect this year, giving the Indians a chance to win every time out. If he can keep throwing strikes and only use his secondary pitches in good situations, he will continue on his positive run. The only trouble he got into last time out was after a two base error by Jack Hannahan on an attempted double play elongated an inning and allowed 5 runs to score.