Tribe Versus: Toronto Blue Jays 4/2-4/4

Friends, family, and fans! Let us sing our praises to the holy baseball gods, for today is Opening Day! This is a baseball fan’s Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick’s Day all rolled into one. So faithful followers of the feather, join me in reciting the baseball lord’s prayer:

Our Father, who art in Cleveland,
Baseball be thy game.
Where hot dogs are on buns,
And the division can be won,
On the field, as well as in the bullpen.
Give us this day our bats and gloves,
And forgive us of our errors,
as we forgive those who home-run against us.
Lead us not into elimination,
But deliver us a winning season.

In the name of Feller, Doby, and Super Joe Charboneau. Amen.

Bravo! Now let’s take a look at this series against the azure fowls from Toronto.

Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays
At Rogers Centre, April 2-4, 2013

Game 1: RHP Justin Masterson vs. RHP R.A. Dickey
                        First pitch: 7:07pm EST

Game 2: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez vs. RHP Brandon Morrow
                        First pitch: 7:07pm EST

Game 3: RHP Brett Myers vs. LHP Mark Buehrle
                        First pitch: 7:07pm EST

Photo - Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports
Six months ago, this series would have been seen as difficult, but winnable. Fast-forward to today and it becomes E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial scary. There were several teams this offseason that made big moves, and then there’s the Blue Jays. The additions of NL Cy Young winning, knuckleball-hurling R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, who hasn't had a winning percentage below 500% in the past five years, and two time All-Star Josh Johnson who posted a 3.81 ERA while leading the Marlins in strikeouts (165) has bolstered the Jays starting rotation to being the best on paper in the AL East. But the blue birds weren’t done there. They picked up speedster Emilio Bonifacio, a centerfielder who had 30 stolen bases last year with the Marlins. Jose Reyes who was 5th in the NL for hits (184), 11th for doubles (37), and 2nd for triples (12) came over in the same package. Melky Cabrera moved to the great white north on a nice, club friendly two year deal. Even in his shortened, performance enhanced testosterone-laden 2012, Cabrera was able to post a .346/.390/.516 stat line. Throw in Edwin Encarnacion and healthy Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie, and you have one hell of a potent club. One who is the favorite to win the AL East in what’s excepted to be a down year for both the Yankees and Red Sox.

In order to beat the birds, the Tribe will need to get the pitch counts up on the starters, similar to how they faced King Felix last year in May. We started off fast and hot, knocking in 4 runs in the first inning and forced Hernandez out of the game in 3 2/3 innings. If we deploy the same tactic against guys like Dickey and Buehrle, we might stand a chance to win this series.

Another thing that must go our way to secure a conquest in Canada is one that concerns our rotation. There will be series during this month that we won’t need our guys to be aces for us to pull off a win. This is not one of those series. Masterson, Jimenez, and Myers racked up a total of 73 2/3 innings in spring training with an average ERA of 6.19, WHIP of 1.57, and gave up a collective 92 hits. You don’t need to be a baseball guru to know that those numbers are on the border of below average and complete garbage. Sure it was only spring training, so there really is no weight to these stats, but that still cause for some concern. Let’s just hope those numbers won’t reflect the level at which these three guys will be performing this week and that they left that trash in Arizona.

People to keep your eye on

Lonnie Chisenhall - Chiz is coming off what is his best spring training ever. His stat line of .400/.456/.667 was a team best and had a team high of 40 total bases. Lonnie also lead the team in Runs Created at 25.7. This stat takes into consideration three different dynamics - an on-base factor, an advancement factor, and an opportunity factor - and through some highly advanced mathematical schematics (multiplication and division), spits out how many runs an individual is responsible for creating for his team.

Nick Hagadone - Nick put up some pretty impressive numbers in spring training: six hits, one earned run, and 11 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. That's not too shabby for a kid who had to get metal screws inserted in his pitching hand after throwing a tantrum last year and punching a locker. If he can stay healthy, and keep from throwing hissy fits, we'll be seeing this southpaw aggressively pound the strike zone with his 93-95 MPH fastball fairly often out of the 'pen.

After the Tribe wraps up this series with the Jays, they'll be travelling down south to play the Tampa Bay Rays. Hey, why don't I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What'd ya say?

Justin Johnston is a contributing writer to The Tribe Daily. You can follow him on Twitter @WahooJay.

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