Your first place Cleveland Indians. The beauty of this series is that the Indians will exit it still in first place. What could be more beautiful? Winning both games. Going up more than four games on the Tigers and beating their two heavy-hitters? Look, you'll settle for a split, want to avoid losing both, but if you can sweep?
Oh if you can sweep, it will be a so sweet May. The Indians send Kluber and Jimenez, the Tigs have their guys in Scherzer and Verlander. Scherzer is undefeated, Verlander is coming off two tough spots (one against the Indians). Kluber coming off one of his better starts, while Jimenez is on a run of confidence boosting starts. The Indians offense is running on all cylinders, and the Tigers can catch fire at any time.
If this series is uneventful, it may be the biggest disappointment of the young baseball season.
Progressive Field - May 21st & 22nd
First Pitch: Tuesday - 7:05 PM
First Pitch: Wednesday - 7:05 PM
In his last game against the Indians, not more than two weeks ago, Max Scherzer improved to 5-0 with eight innings against the Indians in the only win the Tigers got in a weekend series with the Tribe. Scherzer hasn't exactly out-pitched his rotation mate, and Wednesday's starter Justin Verlander, but he's certainly pitched well enough to win virtually every time out, hence the lack of loss in his decision count. Scherzer is coming off one of his more rougher outings though, a no decision to Houston in which he gave up five runs in seven innings. Scherzer has pitched into the eighth inning in half of his eight starts this season and has not gone less than five innings in any start.
Against the Indians, Scherzer did not walk a single hitter, the second instance of that this season. It is very rare for the Indians to not garner at least one walk. In this one, the Indians will need to look back at what the Astros did to Scherzer his last time out. Even tough he went seven innings, they garnered three walks and touched him up for a pair of home runs, the first time he's done it all season. Michael Brantley could play a big part, as not only is he hot, he's had some success against Scherzer, hitting .280 off the Mizzou grad with a home run and five RBI. Nick Swisher is also 6-for-20 with four walks.
Scherzer goes up against Corey Kluber, who's coming off his third win of the season and in all three wins he's had, he has not walked a hitter. So that's the biggest key for Kluber coming in. Of course the outing before his last win was against the Tigers and he walked two and gave up two home runs in an exit before completing the fifth inning. He was pounded for eight runs off 11 hits. When Kluber wins though, he doesn't walk hitters and he racks up the strikeouts, so look out for that.
Also look for more Cy Young dominance from the Indians. As we've been over the past few days with a 1-7 record against the Indians, Cy Young winners don't really fare well facing the Tribe. However Justin Verlander, despite taking a loss in just five innings and walking five the last time out against Cleveland, is actually coming off his worst game in quite some time against Texas. Verlander gave up eight earned and couldn't even get out of the third inning.
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The Indians made Verlander work the last time out, they garnered five walks and forced him out after five with well over 100 pitches. What Texas did was blister Verlander for eight runs. They didn't force him out early by making work. They forced him out early because he was getting pounded. That can't bode well for the Indians if you ask me. You've got a guy who is one of the best in the business coming off two bad starts. He's going to be locked in and focused. You would assume at least.
He's up against a guy though who has turned in four really good starts in a row though. A guy who ave up 19 runs in his first four starts, 17 innings to be exact. The past four starts? In 23 innings he's given up four runs, struck out 29 hitters and has walked eight, compared to the 11 in 17 innings he did in the previous four. Jimenez is on a bit of a roll and his confidence should be growing. So a once former Cy Young caliber pitcher on the way up faces a current Cy Young caliber guy on the way down as the past few starts are concerned.
The focus should definitely be on the offensive though, as both offenses are coming in red hot. We know what the Indians are doing, but the Tigers, have fell into a rut. They put up eight runs on Sunday, but still took a loss. They put some pounding into the Astros, but lost three of four to the Rangers and did not score more than two runs in their lone win. They're getting out-slugged in their losses, and unless they face the Astros (which they've done seven times this month, 6-1), they don't seem to score much in their wins.
These two game tilts, which have been much more frequent with interleague play now year-round, make for an interesting wrinkle to a division title race. The Indians do have a chance to send out Ubaldo, but the Tigers not only avoid McAllister and Masterson, they send out their two best pitchers in two crucial games against the Indians early on. If the Indians win, they not only gain a lot in the standings, they send a huge message in winning a two-game series against the Tigers best without their best.