- Jonathan Sanchez (1-0 6.39 ERA/5.70 SIERA) vs. Derek Lowe ( 2-1 3.50 ERA/5.72 SIERA)
- Luke Hochevar (1-1 5.87 ERA/4.06 SIERA) vs. Josh Tomlin (1-1 4.86 ERA/3.01 SIERA)
- Luis Mendoza (0-2 6.92 ERA/5.45 SIERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2 4.00 ERA/5.41 SIERA)
Game one gives us the pleasure (or is it displeasure?) of seeing Jonathan Sanchez for the second time in just over a week. As you may recall, the last time the Indians faced Sanchez he plunked Shin-Soo Choo and incited a bench-clearing shouting match. Combine that with his near maiming of Choo last season in San Francisco and there is some legitimately bad blood brewing between Sanchez and the Indians. Theatrics aside, Sanchez hasn’t been very good so far this season. He’s been prone to big innings, which has not eased concerns about his mental makeup. Clearly he is not the same pitcher who helped the Giants win the World Series in 2010.
As for Lowe, he has been a model of consistency thus far. He’s been exactly what the Indians needed, pitching well into the seventh inning in two of his first three starts, including a win over the Royals. If the early returns are any indication, Lowe appears to have gotten over whatever problems were ailing him last season in Atlanta.
The Royals will send Luke Hochevar to the mound in game two. The last time the Indians saw Hochevar was Opening Day in Kansas City, when he took a Carlos Santana line drive off of his ankle. Unlike Sanchez, Hochevar’s issues appear to be more the result of bad luck thanks to a .348 BABIP. We that saw firsthand as the Indians routinely found holes, got excuse-me singles, and literally lined pitches off of Hochevar in their first meeting.
Josh Tomlin is coming off an absolute gem in which he matched Seattle ace Felix Hernandez pitch-for-pitch to secure his first win of the season. It was the type of performance that reminds you just how important it is to effectively locate pitches, change speeds, and dominate the strike zone. When Tomlin is on, he can be just as dominant as someone who throws 98 MPH. The key as always for Tomlin is avoiding the home run ball.
In the finale, the Royals will use Luis Mendoza. Whatever stats you use, Mendoza has been awful. A .415 BABIP doesn’t help matters any, but he’s walking batters at a higher rate than usual while striking out fewer batters and giving up more hits (.414 batting average against). This should be easy pickings for the Tribe unless Manny Acta goes with his getaway day “B-team” line up.
Ubaldo Jimenez will take the hill for the Tribe and look to find the form that was so impressive the second game of the season. In his past two starts Jimenez has labored and had issues with commanding the strike zone. Despite his 2-0 record, he just hasn’t looked comfortable thus far. The crazy part is despite Jimenez’s struggles he is still carrying a BABIP of .268. Unlike last year he’s had some luck on his side, which means his issues are largely self-made. If he can correct those problems we might finally get to see the dominant Jimenez.
Players to Watch: Kansas City
- Billy Butler: Butler is a hitting machine. He leads the Royals with a .310/.355/.517 triple-slash and has been their best all-around hitter for some time now. What makes him so dangerous is his ability to use the entire field and take what the opposing pitcher gives him. He won’t hit a ton of home runs, but since the beginning of 2009 he leads all of baseball in doubles with 146 (he has six so far this season).
- Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer: As mentioned above, both Gordon and Hosmer have been disappointing so far—if they can get going, it could change the complexion of the series. For Hosmer it may come down to nothing more than finding a few holes and getting a few lucky bounces. His current BABIP is an abysmal .170. As for Gordon, he needs to show more patience at the plate: his strikeout rate is way up this season (28 percent, compared to 21 percent for his career). It may also help if Ned Yost could decide on his spot in the batting order—Gordon has spent 11 games leading off, two in the No. 5 hole, and now two batting second.
Players to Watch: Indians
- Asdrubal Cabrera: Cabrera has been activated from the bereavement list and will be ready to go tonight. While his absence was not baseball-related, Cabrera was on a tear before he traveled back to Venezuela. Will the stress of the past few days negatively effect his performance? Will it take him a few days to get his groove back? Hopefully not, but we’ll have to wait and see.
- Jack Hannahan: Hannahan has been on a tear to start the season, batting .341/.429/.488, and he’s tied for the team lead with 11 RBI. He’s batting .600 with runners in scoring position, and with two outs his average jumps to a mind-boggling .833. Is this something Hannahan can keep up? No, but even so it’s been fun to watch him come to bat in the early goings.
Trivia Answer: The 1889 Louisville Colonels lost an MLB record 26 straight games from May 22 to June 22. The record for consecutive losses in the modern era was set by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 23 in a row from July 29 to August 20 (that’s tied with the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys for third all-time). Second place belongs to the Cleveland Spiders, who lost 24 straight in 1899.