The Indians series win over the Orioles combined with the White Sox loss to the Yankees has put the Indians back into the passing lane for the Central Division title. Now only 1.5 games back, the Tribe will come back home to face the hot Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels have won 7 of their last 10 and made up for a terrible start by getting back within 5.5 games of the AL West leading Texas Rangers.
The biggest news going into the series is that Travis Hafner is scheduled to return for tomorrow's game. It is likely that Jason Donald will be sent back down to AAA now that he has given Asdrubal Cabrera a half game off, but it is also possible that the Indians could end the Aaron Cunningham experiment.
July 2nd, 7:05 PM EDT: Jared Weaver, RHP, 8-1, 2.31 ERA vs Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 7-6, 4.69 ERA
The perennial Cy Young candidate will be facing the Indians for the 14th time and to this point he has been fairly successful. During his career against the Tribe he has allowed 2.56 runs per 9 innings and kept Cleveland to a .258 batting average. This game may be tough to score in, but the Indians are hot and the return of Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana can only help. Santana and Shin-Soo Choo already have fairly good numbers against Weaver and they should be happy just to see some right handed pitching.
Jimenez had a slight set back against New York, but it wasn't enough to ruin his great month of June. The Indians ace #2 is finally pitching like it and will need it against the vaunted Angels offense. Two of the hottest hitters on the Angels this year will be new to the Indians as two rookies, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout have never played against Cleveland. The one hitter Jimenez has the most experience against, former National Leaguer Albert Pujols, he has actually pitched well against, keeping the three time MVP to a .267 batting average over 15 at bats.
The Angels Ace #2 has not been performing up to his abilities as of late and the Indians may be able to take advantage. Haren has allowed at least 5 runs in his last three starts against some not so amazing offenses (meaning the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays). If the Indians can put 5 on the board against the starter, they have to feel good about their chances with their All-Star closer and his bullpen mafia.
McAllister threw well in his last outing and in fact has thrown well all season. Manny Acta has given Zach his confidence and stated that the starting job could be his for the rest of the season if he deserves it. He will certainly want to be at his best against the Angels to prove to everyone he deserves his spot on the pro team and avoid a return to Columbus this year.
Santana has struggled as well this year, making it a little easier to understand how a team with this much star power could be in second place. Already he has given up 19 home runs, just 8 less than the most he has ever given up in a single season. This game will be number 81 for the Indians and 82 for the Angels so it can be expected that he will roughly double his numbers for the rest of the year. Basically what I am saying is that if Santana doesn't figure things out quickly, 2012 will be by far the worst season of his career.
This would be a great game for the Indians to show off how deep their bullpen is by getting Lowe out of the game early. In his last time out Derek was pitching fine until he was asked to throw the sixth inning. Lowe is an old man at this point and the Indians should start being very careful with him. If the other Indians starters are able to pitch an average of 6-7 innings per game the bullpen could easily take up the extra slack from Lowe's start.