Tonight the Indians look to continue what has been a successful first road trip of the season when they take on the Oakland Athletics at the spacious Coliseum.
The Indians come into this series having just swept the Kansas City Royals and taken two of three from the Seattle Mariners to run their record to 6-5. Going 5-1 in the first six games of a nine game road trip is impressive in its own right, but the feat becomes that much more impressive when you consider how they did it.
Through the first five games of the season against the Blue Jays and White Sox, the Indians looked like one of the worst hitting teams in baseball. They were batting around .170 as a team and were unable to put together any sort of prolonged rally. They relied mostly on the elusive long ball to get on the board, and they lacked any sense of poise during key situations late in games.
My, how things change. The offense came alive during the sweep of Kansas City, scoring 32 runs in three games and repeatedly getting big hit after big hit. Things didn’t stop once they reached Seattle. In the first game against the Mariners, the Indians strung together a seven-run fifth inning to tie the game after Justin Masterson‘s implosion the inning prior. The bats finally cooled off on Wednesday against lefty Jason Vargas and then ran into the ultimate stopper in the form of Felix Hernandez who shut them down over the course of eight innings (five hits, one walk, 12 strikeouts) before Cleveland rallied against closer Brandon League in the ninth.
Not to rain on the hit parade, but the pitching over those six games could have been better. Yes, Josh Tomlin was spectacular Thursday night and Derek Lowe had a nice outing in Kansas City, but as a whole the starters looked far worse than they did the first time through the rotation. Fortunately, the Indians received some great pitching out of the bullpen and again the offensive explosion has been the story of the road trip thus far.
The Athletics come into tonight’s action 7-7, having won three in a row against their division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Many saw the A’s as one of the worst teams in baseball before the season. This isn’t the best team ever assembled and they struggle to score runs, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t quality pieces in place. Jemile Weeks, Josh Reddick, and Yoenis Cespedes are all quality young players with tremendous amounts of upside and should be anchors of the A’s lineup for years to come should. Until then, though, this is a lineup the Indians’ starters should be able to use to get back on track.
Oakland’s pitching staff is a work in progress. Brandon McCarthy is the ace of the staff and the A’s believe he has the potential to be a front line starter, but so far the results have been mixed. After that, things get interesting with the likes of Bartolo Colon, Tyson Ross, Tommy Milone, and Graham Godfrey. With the exception of Colon this is a very young rotation. Can the young arms grow into the second coming of Hudson, Mulder, and Zito? Only time will tell, but given how the Indians have been hitting lately they probably won’t look like it this weekend.
Series Trivia: In 2011, this person made history by throwing spring training batting practice to the Cleveland Indians and then repeating the feat three days later with the A’s. Who is it? (Answer at the end)