Masterson really took it on the chin his last time out, getting lit up for six runs and seven hits over six innings in Boston. He walked only one batter, only the third start he’s had without multiple walks, but other than that it just wasn’t a pretty day for a guy still trying to find his way. He stands with a 72 ERA+ on the year and the groove he was in last season is seemingly gone. Though it doesn’t seem like it, it’s still early and he’s only made eight starts, so we’re less than a quarter of the way through the season. He’ll have to work against this lineup though—the Marlins have a lot of power so his sinker will need to keep sinking, and with their speed his woes with men on base (teams are posting a .936 OPS against him when guys are on) could be a major problem here. All the same, when your (alleged) ace is having issues, you want him to go against strong competition so it lights that fire in him again. Hopefully that’s actually true and not just the irrational hopes of a mildly desperate fan. Justin needs to be great for this team to make the jump, so why not make the jump now?
Carlos Zambrano—what can you say about him? Fiery, competitive, sometimes insane, and very talented in flashes, he’s found a home in Miami that suits him well. His time with the Chicago Cubs ended ignominiously with the Cubs simply not having him come to work for a month to end the 2011 season then trading him. With the move he’s been reborn, recording a 206 ERA+ throwing a shutout two outings ago. He’s walking 3.2 per nine, so look for the Indians to take advantage of his wildness, seeing as that’s what they do. Get to Zambrano early, get him flustered, and he can be gone by the fourth inning. He gets into a groove and it can be over right then and there, so the Tribe needs to post a good early lead. He’s a pitcher with two sides and no in-between, so who knows which one we’ll get this time around.
Jeanmar Gomez dominated his last time out, facing the Twins for seven innings and allowing no earned runs (though three did score) and three hits. It was a good bounceback from that nine-hit, eight-run tilt in Chicago, when he saw his ERA go from 2.82 to 4.66. He just gave a good team too many chances, and couldn’t locate his pitches. Gomez continues to be a decent back of the rotation guy though. ERA+ has him just above average (106) and he’s doing an alright job with base runners with a 1.14 WHIP. Against the Marlins we can be sure to see a good performance, since they’ve never seen him before and typically it’s pitchers that have the upper hand in these situations. As long as he doesn’t spoon feed Stanton, Morrison, Ramirez or Gaby Sanchez anything up over the plate, he should keep the Indians in the game.
Anibal Sanchez has a great name. It’s just fun to say. He also happens to be having a spectacular year in his new home with a 171 ERA+ and 9.7 K/9. It’s been the pitching that’s been saving this team while the offfense adjusts to the new park, and Sanchez is one of the men doing yeoman’s work. He’s typically a wild thrower, lots of speed and middling control, but while he’s walked 3.5 men per nine for his career, that number is down to 2.8 this year. Unfortunately hitters have recorded a .484 OPS when men are on against Sanchez, as opposed to .619 with nobody on. He can bear down when it counts. He’s a fine pitcher and considering we never get to see him, it could be fun if only because it will be exposure to a new sight. He hasn’t gotten shelled this year yet, giving up three or more only once so far; combine that with the fact that the Indians haven’t seen him before and it could be a low-scoring affair. Of course, there’s a first time for everything, right?
Game 3: Josh Johnson vs. Derek Lowe
Derek Lowe has been the ace and stopper for this Cleveland crew. He pitched a shutout against the Twins on Tuesday and did not strike one batter out. The ground ball was just killing worms all day, with Lowe forcing 22 for the infield to dig out and four double plays. This 16th season of his is a throwback though, and though by advanced metrics he’s not that dazzling (4.29 SIERA) he’s getting the job done and keeping runs off the board with only 12 earned in 52 ⅔ innings pitched. The speed of the Marlins, and with the athletes they have it’s throughout the lineup, will put pressure on his defense to turn those double plays and pick up those ground ball outs. He makes it exciting, the best thing about sinker ballers is they keep the defense involved so the fans have something to cheer about, so at the least we’ll get a lot of action.
While Lowe has kind of fallen into the ace role by default, Josh Johnson has carried Miami’s pitching staff for years despite myriad arm injuries, and he’s coming off another shortened year due to a shoulder problem. The big (well, borderline-giant at 6’7”, 250, but we were spoiled with the Sabathia years) righty is having a tough year though, striking out 7.5 per nine, a career low, even with his velocity not down too terribly (92.7 on the four-seamer this year compared to 94.3 career) so perhaps it’s just all that time off last year has him knocking extra rust off. Plain and simple, he’s getting hit, 11.3 per nine (8.2 career) so maybe that will carry over. The Indians have a propensity for being the team that great pitchers turn it around on, but that was last year, and this year they feast on walks like no other. He throws strikes, so maybe that means this hot streak Asdrubal Cabrera and Travis Hafner have been on at the plate will continue, and Shin-Soo Choo will have a multi-hit day out of the leadoff spot (by the way, it’s so nice to see him leading off, it’s how it should be really). Whatever happens, and if Johnson is on his game it could be a two hit shutout, we’re in for a treat. He’s one of the best in the game when healthy, so for fans everywhere, hopefully he re-discovers that dominant hurler he was. In his next outing.
It’s two teams that don’t really know a lot about each other, but with Guillen in the building, there’s history there. At least the Tribe avoided Mark Buehrle—seriously, if he pitched against the Indians every game he’d win the Cy Young. The way the Tribe is playing now though, if Masterson can have a solid outing, this could be a sweep. At the least, with Johnson struggling and Zambrano so volatile, two wins seem likely. Getting to the Marlins’ bullpen is key; they’ve been miserable for this squad this year and the Indians need to take advantage. Hopefully it’s sunny and the Marlins have to wear their black uniforms. Any little bit helps, after all. They have to protect the Wigwam though, and beat this marquee team to continue to prove to the naysayers the Indians are, in fact, for real.