Colby Lewis is probably the best pure pitcher the Rangers have right now. He doesn’t have dominating stuff, but he knows how to use what he can and is a great piece in the middle of that rotation. He’s good for 200 innings has a 7.6 K/9 rate in his career. It’s since he came back from pitching in Japan that he really showed up though—he learned to command his pitches and throw strikes, the simplest method of being successful in the majors. This year he’s walked four and struck out 29 in 32 ⅔ innings, holding fast to a (very unsustainable) 230 ERA+. His away splits are what matter here, because of the jet stream in the Ballpark at Arlington, and Lewis is great on the road. In 2010, ‘11 and ‘12, he’s held batters to OPS’s of .654, .681 and .745 this year. He won’t give Cleveland any freebies, so they’ll have to work against Lewis.
Jeanmar Gomez has what can be considered two real starts under his belt, his first two ending early due to rain and being ejected for defending his right fielder. In his two starts since then, he’s thrown 11.1 innings, struck out 10, given up 10 hits and walked three. Seven of those strikeouts came against what should be a potent Angels lineup. He goes fastball, slider, curve and change, the curve being his least used pitch. His slider can get in there in the 90’s. When it’s on it’s filthy, and he uses it to get a ton of ground balls (groundball rate of 62.8 percent this year). He’s never faced the Rangers. This is his chance to prove what he is made of for the Indians. It’s a tall order, but he’s shown every indication he rises to challenges rather than shrinking. He could be great.
The Battle of the Dereks, both spelling their names that same odd way, could be the best matchup of the weekend. Lowe has been the ace of this Indians staff this season. Though he’s struck out only nine in 31 ⅔ innings, his 175 ERA+ does more than enough convincing that this guy is still on top of his game. He’s pitched against the Rangers 25 times and held them to a .665 OPS and despite Texas’ historically being known for clubbing the ball, he’s given up only two homers to the club. That could mean nothing considering how much turnover this team has seen in recent years, but for his own head that’s a wonderful little tidbit. Lowe is walking a few too many people (his 1.421 WHIP a little high going into face a team that does great work with men on base) and his 4.83 SIERA is a little unsettling, but as long as his sinker stays low, double plays will be the order of the day.
Meanwhile, Derek Holland is turning into a fine pitcher. In his time in a Rangers uniform, he’s pitched 41 games away from Arlington and held hitters to a .310 OBP. He’s still growing into his own as a pitcher though, and has mental lapses at times with the ability to be truly dominant, so who knows which one we’ll see on Saturday. The Indians can help him to beat himself, and have a shot at a win here.
Game Three: Yu Darvish vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
Here we have what is effectively an enigma against an unknown. Ubaldo Jimenez is not doing well this year. He leads baseball in walks, gets into his own head on the mound, seems to not trust what should be superb stuff, and frustrates Indians fans to no end. Realistically, it could get very ugly on Sunday, because after he struggled against a much less patient White Sox lineup, the Rangers will be licking their chops.
Then of course, there’s Yu Darvish. We still don’t know what we have here in Darvish, the mega-import from Japan. He has something like a dozen pitches, including the “shuuto” pitch, a fastball of sorts that breaks away from the armside of the pitcher (to the right for Darvish) but in a more violently than a two-seamer does. He’s 4-0 so far this year, but all that means is he’s got a lot of run support. Through five starts he holds a 218 ERA+ with as many strikeouts (33) as innings pitched. He’s also walked 17, a weakness the Indians could be in good position to explot. Of course, considering he can make a ball move any which way at speeds ranging from 75 to 96, they could just look foolish up there. He’s got two different curves, a slider and four variations of a fastball according to Japanese reports, but from what some MLB scouts have said, that simply stems from Japanese writers overblowing things. Darvish is going to be fun to watch simply because he’s new. If he mows it down, well, how about that. But if the Indians blast him, well, awesome.
It could be a tough weekend for the Indians, but at least they’ll be at home and enjoy some of that cookin’. The best they can hope is for a 2-1 series win, but even one win and a couple grind sessions would be a nice barometer reading for this squad. If the Tribe’s offensive breakout this week is an indication of something special coming to Cleveland though, this could be the series that is the jump off point for a great summer. Mistake-free baseball is the key this weekend, so pour out a little extra rum for Jobu.