After a great series win by the Tribe over Detroit, the Indians are now just 3 games back, although still in third place, behind the Tigers and White Sox who are both tied for first. As the Tigers go on to face the Blue Jays, the Indians will be heading to Minnesota to take on the worst team in the American League. This looks like a positive time for the Tribe to make up some more ground as the Indians will face the Royals after the Twins. Cleveland has to be looking to win four or five of the next six games to keep with the Tigers when they travel to Detroit on August 3rd.
The Twins have already given up this season, but certainly will not just lay down for the Indians when they enter Target Field. Minnesota did just get swept by Chicago and have given up at least 5 runs in each of their last five games. This should bode well for the Indians new found offense that they discovered in the 7th inning of the final game against Detroit. While he didn't have a lot of hits, Travis Hafner made his count as he went 3-10 with 11 total bases (two home runs and a triple). Carlos Santana seems to be heating up as well bringing some much needed power to the middle of the lineup. With the big bats heading back to normal and the addition of Brent Lillibridge, how could they lose?
July 27th, 8:10 PM EDT: Josh Tomlin, RHP, 5-7, 5.34 ERA vs Scott Diamond, LHP, 8-4, 3.16 ERA
Josh Tomlin will be pitching for his life as the Indians series win over the Tigers keeps them in contention. If Tomlin struggles he will likely be the next one out of the rotation if the Indians promote a player from Columbus or make a trade for Zach Greinke (Josh Johnson is out there too). His last time out wasn't bad (2 earned runs over 6 innings), but he did allow eight hits and his season numbers are less than desirable. If he can't beat the worst offensive team in the Majors, he can't be trusted to beat anyone.
The Indians have already faced Diamond once this year and the results were less than stellar. The Twins won that game as Diamond threw 7 innings against a Tribe team that looked like they had never seen a human being throw a ball with their other arm. They did manage to get a couple of unearned runs across, but it wasn't enough as Diamond took home the win. Since then the Indians have learned to hit lefties and have even won a game or two against south paws. It will be interesting to see them take their revised strategy (more Lou Marson and Jose Lopez, less Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan) against an old opponent.
July 28th, 7:10 PM EDT: Justin Masterson, RHP, 7-8, 4.12 ERA vs Sam Deduno, RHP, 1-0, 3.94 ERA
Masterson had another good outing in his last start, holding the Orioles to a single earned run in 8 innings. That means he has allowed one or fewer earned runs in 6 of his last 9 starts. Of course his tendency to alternate between great and terrible starts has also continued through his last 6 games, meaning he is lined up for a bad one. Hopefully he can take advantage of the situation and win the middle game for the Tribe as it should be the easiest of the three.
Deduno is an older fella who will be making his debut against the Tribe in this series. The 29 year old has pitched a total of nine games since he made his debut with Colorado in 2010. This is his first year attempting to be a starter and it is still too early to tell how well that is going. In his first game he was one out shy of matching his entire career innings pitched to that point and has only thrown twice since then, against Baltimore and Kansas City. He did win his last game against the Royals, his first career win.
July 29th, 2:10 PM EDT: Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 8-9, 4.97 ERA vs Francisco Liriano, LHP, 3-10, 5.31 ERA
For those of you who think talking about the Indians trading for Josh Johnson is far fetched, you must have a short memory. This time last year there was one pitcher that everyone wanted. It looked like he was going to be signed by Detroit, but somehow he will be starting this game for the Cleveland Indians. The team that every one says never make any big moves. The results of the trade are unimportant when considering the context of the trade itself.
Jimenez pitched the opener against Detroit and threw his third scoreless outing of the year. He is completely unpredictable at this point, but as with the other starters, will be facing a AAAA team offensively (outside of Mauer and Morneau) so it will be a good game for him to keep things going.
If only Roberto Hernandez could be back in time to make this start against Liriano. The two pitchers are very much alike, both started as very promising talents, throwing out of the bullpen in the late 2000's and were quickly made into solid starters. After one great season by each, they fell victim to problems that kept them out of the Majors. Liriano had shoulder surgery and missed all of 2007 while Carmona (at the time) had a mental breakdown and missed parts of 2008 and 2009. Liriano is still pitching for the Twins, although nowhere near his old level and Fausto, now Roberto will be back with the Indians soon. Luckily the Indians play the Twins two more times this year after Hernandez will be back so we may get to see these two former phenoms match up again.