Series preview: Indians vs. Mariners
The Indians hold a 3.5 game lead on the AL Central as the Mariners come to town. Seattle is buried deep in the basement of the AL West. Cleveland swept Seattle on a west coast trip in early April, but can they duplicate that? Here's what to expect this weekend;
The most surprising performance of any Indians player this season has been that of right-hander Justin Masterson. After going 6-13 last season, Masterson has managed a dramatic turnaround. He went into his start Thursday vs. Tampa Bay with a record of 5-0.
However, in a 7-4 loss to the Rays on Thursday it looked more like the 2010 Masterson than the 2011 model. In 5 2/3 innings, Masterson gave up five runs on eight hits and four walks.
All the qualities that Masterson showed in getting off to a 5-0 start were missing on Thursday. In those five wins Masterson consistently worked ahead in the count, was able to limit the damage when the other team rallied, and he was effective in pitching to left-handed hitters.
That last item is very important for Masterson, whose three-quarters delivery is very easy for left-handed hitters to pick up. Last year, Masterson really struggled against left-handed hitters. He's been better this season, but Thursday left-handed hitters reached base 10 times in 21 plate appearances against him.
Masterson also pitched from behind in the count to numerous batters Thursday, which led to further trouble. Once he was in trouble, Masterson was unable to keep the damage to a minimum.
Put it all together and it produced Masterson's first really shaky outing of the season. He had been the Indians' most consistent starting pitcher through the first six weeks of the season.
The Indians have to hope that Thursday's outing was only a hiccup in Masterson's season and not the start of a regression.
--OF Grady Sizemore on Thursday missed his second consecutive game because of a right knee contusion. "It's getting better; I'm still day-to-day," said Sizemore, who missed most of last season following micro-fracture surgery on his left knee.
--RHP Justin Masterson suffered his first defeat of the season in his eighth start, a 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. "I got behind in the count to some guys instead of getting ahead, and that allowed them to get comfortable," Masterson said.
--C Carlos Santana is still battling to shake an early season slump. He was 1-for-4 Thursday, extending his hitting streak to six games, which equals his career high. During the streak Santana has hit .348 (8-for-23).
--RHP Mitch Talbot is scheduled to make a rehab start for Class AAA Columbus on Saturday. Manager Manny Acta said Talbot, who has been on the disabled list since April 17 because of a strained right elbow, will make at least one more rehab start after Saturday's before being activated.
--SS Asdrubal Cabrera hit a triple and a home run Thursday, the first Indians player to have a triple and a home run in the same game since INF Andy Marte did it on Aug. 27, 2009. Cabrera's home run was his sixth of the year, matching his career high achieved in 2008 and 2009.
BY THE NUMBERS: 26.3 -- Average age of the Indians' pitching staff, the youngest staff in the major leagues.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you're down by four runs, it's not a good idea to be picked off." -- Manager Manny Acta, speaking about 2B Orlando Cabrera and OF Michael Brantley, who both were picked off with the Indians trailing, 7-3, in Thursday's game.
--OF Grady Sizemore was not in the lineup May 11 and 12 after sustaining a right knee injury on May 10. An MRI exam came back negative and he was listed as day-to-day because of what was called a right knee contusion.
--RHP Carlos Carrasco (right elbow tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 25. He made a rehab start for Class AA Akron on May 6, and he is expected to be activated May 11 to start that day against Tampa Bay. As expected, he came off the disabled list and started against the Rays on May 11.
--RHP Mitch Talbot (strained right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 12. He threw a bullpen session May 3, and he pitched in extended spring training May 9. He is expected to face minor-leaguers at least twice more before returning to the Indians. Talbot was scheduled to make a rehab start for Class AAA Columbus on May 14 and manager Manny Acta said he would make one more before returning.
--INF Jared Goedert (strained abdominal muscle) went on the 60-day disabled list March 30. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Akron on May 10.
--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.
Eric Wedge cut his managerial teeth during seven seasons in Cleveland.
On Friday, he returns to Cleveland as the opponent, bringing the Seattle Mariners in against a team that, two years after Wedge was fired, has the best record in the American League.
Wedge prefers to have his players be the center of attention, but for this one night, at least, he will be the man in the spotlight.
And he's resigned to that -- sort of.
"Obviously, I was there for a long time," Wedge said before Thursday's series final in Baltimore, which the Mariners lost 2-1 in 12 innings. "I'll see, I'm sure, quite a few familiar faces, and friendly faces. I really haven't given it a great deal of thought yet. I'm sure (Friday) I will."
The Indians fired Wedge at the end of the 2009 season, but he said he's maintained good relations with Cleveland's Mark Shapiro, who was the general manager when Wedge was around and who is now the club president.
"I've got a great relationship with all those guys over there, especially Mark Shapiro," said Wedge, who took the Indians into the 2007 American League Championship Series. "Mark and Chris (Antonetti, the former assistant GM who has moved into Shapiro's old job) were very, very good to me. We were always above board with each other over there. I think that's why even to this day we have a very good relationship."
Oh, yeah -- Wedge's return is on Friday the 13th.
--RHP Brandon League has taken losses in each of his last three appearances, and Thursday's was the toughest of all. The Mariners took a 1-0 lead on the Orioles into the bottom of the 12th inning, but League gave up a single to Derrek Lee, then hit Vladimir Guerrero and Adam Jones before J.J. Hardy delivered a one-out, game-winning, two-run single.
--LHP Jason Vargas turned in one of the best games of his career Thursday, pitching nine shutout innings against the Orioles in Camden Yards. Vargas has never thrown a shutout, and he didn't get credit for one this time, either, because the Mariners wound up losing 2-1 in 12 innings.
--RHP David Pauley is tied for the big-league lead for most 2011 relief appearances of three or more innings. In the three three-inning appearances, Pauley hasn't allowed a run.
--RF Ichiro Suzuki's single to open the 12th inning extended his hitting streak at Camden Yards to 15 games. It appeared that hit would lead to the Mariners' first win on the road trip, but after C Miguel Olivo singled home Ichiro for a 1-0 lead, the Mariners lost the game in the bottom of the 12th.
--OF Ryan Langerhans joined the Class AAA Tacoma on Thursday and went 0-for-1 coming off the bench. He cleared waivers Wednesday and accepted a minor league assignment.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Consecutive games in which the Mariners have turned at least two double plays.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's been great for us all year, but he's not going to be perfect." -- Manager Eric Wedge, on RHP Brandon League, who has taken losses in his last three appearances.
--CF Franklin Gutierrez (irritable bowel syndrome) had been out since mid-March, and he went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma on May 2 but was held out of games May 7 and May 8 because of flu-like symptoms. He returned to action May 11, and he could be activated in mid-May.
--RHP David Aardsma (left hip surgery in January 2011) had a torn labrum repaired, and the damage was more extensive than expected. He went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. Aardsma began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma on April 19, and he made five rehab appearances through April 29. In that last outing, he sprained a ligament in his right elbow, and he might need surgery.
--RHP Shawn Kelley (Tommy John surgery in September 2010) went on the 60-day disabled list March 30. He threw his first simulated game May 4, but cut a simulated game short May 8. He is scheduled to pitch another simulated game May 13.
--LHP Nate Robertson (minor left elbow surgery in March 2011) has yet to pitch in the majors or minors this season. He is not on the disabled list because he was in camp as a non-roster player.
--LHP Mauricio Robles (left elbow surgery in March 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 30. The timetable for his return was unknown.
--C Adam Moore (torn meniscus in right knee) went on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to April 7. He had surgery April 12, and he is likely out for the season.