The struggling vet against the precocious rookie. Or maybe he’s calm and collected, not that much is known about Drew Smyly at this point. He’s started 10 games in his first major league season and doing quite well for himself—his 119 ERA+ is helping Tigers fans to not miss Doug Fister quite so much. His last time out Smyly lasted six innings of four-run ball against the Red Sox. He gave up homers to Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks but held a very good lineup mostly in check, doing all that is expected of a rookie fill-in starter. The Indians don’t pack the punch the Red Sox do and Comerica is far more vast than Fenway, so Smyly could have a very good game against the Indians. He doesn’t walk a lot of guys (2.5 per nine innings) and that’s the Indians greatest strength, but perhaps his aggressiveness in pounding the zone could actually work out with free-swinging guys like Chisenhall and LaPorta now occupying spots in Cleveland’s lineup.
Jimenez is who he is at this point. He can throw a baseball through a barn (that’s a saying, right?) but he seems to just lose the strike zone. You can already pencil him in for at least two walks, both to Miggy, and add in another couple to anyone else who takes advantage of his wildness. He has walked 10 and struck out only five his last two starts. It’s just hard to find the good, but we still see those flashes of brilliance when he just baffles a great hitter. We’re bound to see that again, but chances are it will get ugly too. He can be good early and lose it late, or have nothing in the first and dominate for six after giving up four runs. You just never know.
Max Scherzer is leading all of baseball in K/9 with 11.7. That’s pretty nasty. Unfortunately (well, fortunately for the Tribe) he’s also given up 10.5 hits per nine and walked 3.2 per nine this year, and rarely lasts more than six innings (11 starts, 60 innings pitched). But at least his ERA coming into this game is an aesthetically pleasing 5.55. And hopefully it will go up. This will be his first time facing the Indians this season, and in his last start he earned a win in after holding the Red Sox to three runs on seven hits in six-plus innings. Scherzer is a very good pitcher at times, with an electric fastball and supporting change along with a nice slider. His splits favor lefties—they’re logging a .791 OPS against him, compared to .693 for righties. And if there’s one thing the Indians have in spades, it’s lefties. So what the heck, let’s win this one.
Meanwhile, Jeanmar Gomez has started to come back to earth, and hard. In his last two starts he’s struck out six, walked five, and given up two homers while opponents got on base at a .423 clip in the 10 ⅔ innings he pitched. He hasn’t faced Detroit yet this year, which could be a good thing. His worst outing this year against a team that hadn’t faced him yet was against the Rangers, when he was good for seven innings of three run ball. Of course, that could also mean absolutely nothing, and the leagues are just getting tape on him and are clobbering him. He needs to pitch smart and know when to bear down and when to give up and walk a guy—Cabrera and Prince will feast on guys who try to catch up when they fall behind in the count.
This could be a bad recipe for the Indians—a left-handed pitcher they haven’t seen before left handed in enemy territory. Casey Crosby has exactly one major league start under his belt, a 3 ⅓ inning outing against the New York Yankees in which he faced 18 batters, earned six runs and gave up four hits. Welcome to the majors, kid. The upshot to this is, the Indians know their zone, and if Crosby is still shaken from the Bombers’ assault the Tribe can fill the bases with walks as the rookie nibbles at the corners.
If you had Derek Lowe penciled in as the Indians’ ace as far in as June, take a bow. Now that nobody has done that, let’s just appreciate that Lowe has been the most consistent and best pitcher on the staff. He earned the sole win the Indians had against the Twins this past series, going 6 ⅔ and giving up one run on five hits. If the sinker is sinking, it could be a two-and-half-hour game in which he strikes out two and earns a shutout. Or he could pitch like he did against the White Sox recently: eight runs in 2 ⅓ innings as his ERA leapt from 2.15 to 3.25. Yet that was the only time this year besides his April 18 start against Seattle in which he gave up four or more runs. There’s no reason to believe the Indians can’t win this one.
With the White Sox on a roll this game has slightly less feeling of dire importance, but as we saw at the end of last season every win matters. The Tribe needs to get off the schneid here and win the series. After the Indians swept Detroit the last time, Jose Lopez remarked they were going to Chicago to win two of three there. While it’s the right thing to say, it’s the wrong attitude to have. Even if you won’t win every game, there’s no reason to believe you can’t. The Indians avoid Justin Verlander though, and they have a chance to bury the Tigers a little more while catching up to those dang White Sox. Say, weren’t they supposed to be rebuilding anyway?