Indians July lookahead: Winning within the division a must

If the Indians are to remain in contention in the AL Central, they need to start winning again inside the division. They will have plenty of opportunities in July.

Will Nick Swisher rebound? That remains one of the team's biggest question marks in the second half.

David Richard / USA TODAY Sports

If the Indians are to remain in contention in the AL Central, they need to start winning again inside the division. They will have plenty of opportunities in July.

Beginning Friday against Kansas City, 17 of the Tribe's next 21 games are against AL Central foes. Going into this weekend's series, they have lost eight straight within the division after winning six straight and 10 of the previous 12.

Cleveland returns for a 10-game homestand after an interesting road trip out west that saw them go .500 and finish up by taking two of three from the Dodgers.

Said manager Terry Francona after Wednesday's 5-4 win: "We went 4-4 and were gone a month. It was long trip and a good way to end it. We've got a day off Thursday and we just won a tough game."

After the all-star break, the Indians will have their longest road trip of the season with 11 games starting with four in Detroit followed by three in Minnesota and four at Kansas City. The road trip also comes with a couple weeks before the trade deadline.

On June 17 the Indians were three games out of the division lead but since then have gone 5-7 while the Tigers have posted the best record in the Majors, winning 11 of 14. After falling out of first for a day, the Tigers have a 4½ game lead over the Royals while the Indians are 7½ back.

KEY QUESTIONS FOR JULY

What's up with Justin Masterson?

The right-hander was pushed back from his start for a couple days due to a nagging right knee. It didn't help as he gave up three runs in three-plus innings while facing 20 batters and throwing 85 pitches. With a 5.16 ERA, Masterson has the third-highest ERA in the Majors among pitchers who have made 17 or more starts. While some have wondered if the knee problems would force Masterson on to the disabled list, Francona told reporters on Wednesday that it is more about control problems with Masterson.

Can Nick Swisher rebound?

The two hits on Tuesday marked his first multi-hit game since May 20 but his batting average has been under .200 since June 20. The highest Swisher's average has been this year was .231 and that was early in the season. Moving him down in the order and playing mostly at designated hitter haven't had their desired effects so far.

Buying or selling?

At this point it is still too early to tell, but if they remain in the race they need to add another starting pitcher. Last month the Indians were among a number of teams that were scouting Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who is expected to be dealt before the deadline.

Who makes the All-Star Game?

Michael Brantley is a lock but Corey Kluber and Lonnie Chisenhall have outside shots too. It would not be a surprise if Kluber or Chisenhall is involved in the MLB.com Final Vote depending on what the position is this year for balloting.

KEY JULY SERIES

At Detroit (July 18-20): The first series after the All-Star break is four games at Comerica Park, including a day-night doubleheader on July 19 to make up an April postponement. The teams have split the eight games so far but the Tigers posted a key sweep in Cleveland June 20-22 and have been on a roll since then.

JULY STATS

Career numbers in May for key Indians players:

Offense: Avg.\OBP\OPS

Michael Bourn .265\.325\.690

Asdrubal Cabrera .242\.299\.664

Michael Brantley .279\.344\.752

Jason Kipnis .246\.336\.689

Carlos Santana .254\.378\.825

Lonnie Chisenhall .246\.326\.747

Yan Gomes .291\.333\.806

Nick Swisher .257\.364\.822

David Murphy .283\.351\.791

Ryan Raburn .256\.319\.762

Mike Aviles .269\.301\.696

George Kottaras .198\.308\.704

Jason Giambi .283\.398\.921

Rotation: W-L\ERA\WHIP

Justin Masterson 10-9\4.22\1.283

Corey Kluber 1-0\3.00\1.051

Trevor Bauer 1-2\6.00\1.500

Josh Tomlin 4-4\4.39\1.033

Zach McAllister 2-2\3.02\1.322

T.J. House: No stats