Series preview – Cleveland at Oakland

The Indians are on the road this week, and they begin a three-game series in Oakland tonight.  Here’s a peek at what you shoudl know about each team;

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Following a rousing homestand in which they swept six games from Kansas City and Detroit, their two closest pursuers in the American League’s Central Division, the Indians left Monday for the West Coast and the start of a six-game trip to Oakland and Anaheim.

It should be an interesting trip, as the Indians hope to continue to prove that they are not a one-month fluke, but a team that is capable winning a division title in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

So far this season, the Indians have followed the classic formula for being a first place team: win big at home and break even on the road. The Indians are 13-2 at Progressive Field and 6-6 on the road.

Their ability to win important games on the road against quality opponents will be tested in the trip that starts Tuesday. The A’s and Angels rank 1-2 in the American League in pitching.

However, the Indians lead the league in both hitting and runs scored.

The Indians also lead the American League in momentum. In their three-game weekend sweep of Detroit, the Indians won all three games in their last at bat, two of them on walk-off hits, one a grand slam.

Ironically, given all their offensive production, the Indians are not getting consistent production from their two best hitters, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and catcher Carlos Santana.

Choo, a .300 hitter in each of the last two years, is hitting only .250, although he is trending in a positive direction, hitting .409 in his last six games.

The same cannot be said of Santana, who has gotten off to a sputtering start, despite leading the team in home runs with five.

Santana is hitting .191, and, unlike Choo, he is trending in the wrong direction, hitting .148 in his last eight games. However, his four hits in that span have all been for extra bases, a double and three home runs.

NOTES, QUOTES

–DH Travis Hafner could return to the lineup at some point during the six-game trip that begins Tuesday. Hafner has missed the last four games because of a strained tendon in his right foot.

–1B Matt LaPorta seems to be emerging from his early-season slump. In his last 12 games, LaPorta is batting .326, with a triple, two home runs and nine RBI.

–INF Adam Everett is optimistic about the first place-Indians’ chances of remaining in contention all season. “You look around this clubhouse and you say, ‘Hey, we can win,'” Everett said. “This isn’t about names. This isn’t about how much money you make. This is about pitching, hitting, and fielding. We can do this.”

–RHP Justin Masterson started the season 5-0 in his first five starts, before getting no decision in the Indians’ victory on Sunday. Before Masterson, the last Indians’ right-hander to win each of his first five starts in a season was Bob Lemon in 1955.

–2B Orlando Cabrera has been an unexpected force offensively. Cabrera is tied for the team lead in RBI with 17. Seven of those 17 RBI have tied the game or put the Indians ahead.

BY THE NUMBERS: 18-8 — The Indians’ record in April. That’s a franchise record for wins in April. The old record was 16.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I was more nervous eating breakfast.” — RHP Alex White, when asked if he was nervous going into his major league debut on April 30.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

–DH Travis Hafner (strained tendon in right foot) did not play April 28-30 and May 1. He is day-to-day. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated on May 2. Head Athletic Trainer Lonnie Soloff said he didn’t think Hafner’s injury was serious enough to merit a trip onto the disabled list.

–RHP Carlos Carrasco (right elbow tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 25. An MRI showed no structural damage.

–RHP Mitch Talbot (strained right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 12.

–INF Jared Goedert (strained abdominal muscle) went on the 60-day disabled list March 30.

–OF Trevor Crowe (right shoulder surgery in March 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 30. He will be out until at least late July.

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OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Who is among Oakland’s hottest hitters? There aren’t many of them, but one of them is new father Kurt Suzuki, who, since the birth of his daughter on Thursday, is 6-for-14 with two homers and five RBI.

Suzuki is batting .343 at home compared to .191 on the road. And when he’s behind the plate, Oakland’s pitchers have a 3.07 ERA, third best in the league.

Several other A’s are picking up the pace offensively, but the hottest of the bunch, Coco Crisp, wasn’t in the lineup Monday — the A’s gave Crisp the day off to make sure he has no reoccurrence of the quad injury that kept him out of three games last week.

Crisp has a five-game hitting streak, and he’s 12-for-21 (.571) in that stretch. He told reporters Monday that he isn’t entirely 100 percent, but he was available off the bench if needed.

Manager Bob Geren said that Crisp will be in the lineup on Tuesday night against Cleveland. He told reporters that holding him out Monday was simply a precaution as he comes back from quad tightness.

Geren had the team’s other two hot bats in Monday’s lineup: Conor Jackson entered the day 9 for his previous 25, and Andy LaRoche was 4 for his last 7. Jackson, who played right field, was 0-for-5, but LaRoche, who played third, had two hits, including a bunt single.

NOTES, QUOTES

–OF Coco Crisp was held out Monday as a precaution after a lot of exertion the previous day, according to manager Bob Geren. Crisp had two hits Sunday after missing the previous three games because of left quadriceps tightness, and, Geren told reporters, the A’s need their leadoff man for the long haul. Geren said that Crisp will be in Tuesday night’s lineup.

–C Kurt Suzuki homered for the second time in four games since the birth of daughter Malia Grace last week; he has five RBI and is 6-for-14 since his first child arrived Thursday.

–LHP Dallas Braden played catch on Monday morning for the first time since going on the DL with left shoulder inflammation last month. Braden had had more than two weeks of rest since leaving a start April on April 16 because of discomfort in the shoulder.

–RHP Andrew Bailey will face hitters in a simulated inning on Wednesday, according to manager Bob Geren. Bailey told reporters he is likely to face hitters at least twice before going on a rehab assignment. He has not pitched yet this season because of a right forearm strain.

–RHP Brandon McCarthy’s two errors led to all four runs against him Monday being unearned. McCarthy, who allowed six hits and two walks in six innings, misplayed bunts in third and in the fifth innings against his former Texas team.

BY THE NUMBERS: 388 — Games played at first base with Oakland by Daric Barton, the fourth most in team history, passing Bruce Bochte (387).

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Awesome … I don’t know if I want to have Afro hair.” — A’s DH Hideki Matsui, asked by reporters about Coco Crisp’s new Oscar Gamble-style hairdo.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

–RHP Andrew Bailey (right forearm strain) was hurt March 14, and he went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. Bailey threw bullpen sessions April 23, April 26 and May 1. He is likely to face hitters two or three times, starting May 4, before going on a rehab assignment. He is unlikely to return before mid-May.

–2B Mark Ellis (illness) did not play April 30 but returned to the lineup May 1.

–LHP Dallas Braden (left shoulder stiffness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 17. He played catch for the first time since the injury May 2. There is no timetable for Braden’s return.

–RHP Rich Harden (strained lat below right arm) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He was shut down for a few weeks after he felt pain at the start of spring training. Harden was throwing bullpen sessions in early April, but he experienced a setback April 11 after warming up. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 18.

–INF Adam Rosales (right ankle surgery in December 2010) went on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. An exam in mid-April showed he was 90 percent healed, and he hopes to return in late May.