PHOENIX — Two of the major leagues’ fastest starters — one a surprise, one not so much — will meet in Arizona this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks are two of just six three-win teams in the majors after the first series. Maybe it was expected from the defending American League champion Indians, who swept three in Texas and are one of two 3-0 teams. The Minnesota Twins are the other.
Coverage begins Friday night at 9 with Indians Live on SportsTime Ohio
The Diamondbacks’ success might not have been predicted, especially given their opponent. With a 9-3 victory Thursday, however, the D-backs took three out of four from 2016 playoff team and perennial National League West contender San Francisco in manager Torey Lovullo’s debut. The Giants had won 12 of the previous 13 series at Chase Field, dating to the final two series of the 2012 season.
“What I’m most proud of with these guys is we didn’t look past today,” Lovullo said. “We stayed together with our at-bats, the pitchers picked up each other coming out of the bullpen and it was a really good, strong team effort. That’s what I focused on. At the end of the day, you win a game like today, a series against the Giants, it’s well-deserved. It’s earned. It’s a great way to start the season.”
Jake Lamb’s three-run homer was the game-breaker Thursday, giving the D-backs a 5-3 lead. Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt each have two of Arizona’s six home runs, and the team slashed .303/.361/.514 against a very good Giants rotation.
“Winning three games out of four here is huge,” Arizona starter Robbie Ray said.
Before taking Thursday off, Cleveland swept a three-game series in Texas — the team’s fastest start since 1998.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor had his first career two-homer game and a career-high five RBIs as Cleveland completed the sweep with a five-run ninth inning in a 9-6 victory Wednesday. A switch hitter, Lindor homered from both sides of the plate.
Cleveland right-hander Josh Tomlin will oppose Arizona right-hander Shelby Miller in the first starts for both Friday.
Tomlin was 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA in 2016, when he set career highs in victories, starts and strikeouts (118). Tomlin has a 1.46 ERA and no decisions in two starts against Arizona.
Miller was 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA in 20 starts last season, his first in Arizona. He has never faced Cleveland.
Cleveland has made a few tweaks this season, adding a big bat in Edwin Encarnacion and moving Carlos Santana to the leadoff spot full time. He made 85 starts there last season while alternating with since-departed Rajai Davis, who hit the memorable homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
Santana is off to a fast start, hitting .417 with two doubles, a homer, three walks and four RBIs.
“It’s a luxury to have,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of placing Santana at the top of the lineup.
“Baseball is different now,” Santana said. “Before, the leadoff guy was running or stealing bases. I know I take a lot of walks. That’s why I’m hitting leadoff. I feel much better about leading off. I’ll be ready for every moment.”