It’s always nice to see an old friend, and seeing Jake Westbrook succeeding in St. Louis is somehow heartening. He’s solidly entrenched as an innings eater for the Cardinals, as he should be. Like usual, Jake isn’t dazzling, but with an SIERA at 3.64 he seems comfortable in the confines of Busch Stadium and is giving the Cardinals a good go every time out. He’s a control pitcher hovering on the line toward junkballer, but with the Tribe’s propensity for walking combined with the hot bats they’ve got coming in, this could turn into a slugfest. Not only because of Westbrook, but because of the man taking the hill opposite him.
That man, of course, is Josh Tomlin. As has been previously noted, Tomlin is going to give up a lot of homers, but since he doesn’t walk anyone they’ll usually be bases-empty. His last outing wasn’t that pretty though, as he went six innings and gave up five runs on ten hits in a 7-4 loss to the Twins. Plainly we can’t expect much from a guy who barely tickles 90 on his fastball, and against one of the best offenses in the game right now, a slugfest is probably in the works.
Kyle Lohse, along with the guy starting the game on Sunday, Lance Lynn, is a guy pitching darn near like an ace, but isn’t even the number two guy on the Cardinals. It’s pretty nice that the Indians will avoid Wainright and Carpenter, but it won’t be easy with this guy. He nearly threw a no-hitter on opening night, and even though he’s come back to himself, he’s a gutty performer and induces a lot of ground balls. He learned a lot from Dave Duncan and “pitches to contact” quite well. The Indians’ running game could be key here, but with Molina behind the dish, the best base-stealing club in the American League could be neutralized. Lohse has given up more than three runs just twice this year, but has never lasted an entire game. We’re sure to see the bullpen in this one, but all that means is lefty specialists. The Indians need to jump on Lohse early if they can. With all these sinkerballers on the Indians’ staff, you’d think one of them would have a pointer or two of how to hit them well.
Prediction time: It’s gonna be Masterson being Nasty-son this Saturday. He’s finally going to break that base on balls problem and pitch a shutout, giving the ‘pen the day off. Sure, right-handed batters are logging an .821 OPS against him, and the Cards have guys like Beltran (whose power comes more from the right), Freese, Holliday, Craig and Molina who hit from the right side of the plate. But the sinker will be sinking, and a particularly heavy humidity front will strike early in the season all over the region, and nothing will carry. For real though, Justin was quite good his last time out, bouncing back from a horrid outing against Kansas City to last six innings of three run, three walk, three strikeout ball. He’s seemed to have turned a corner, and though perhaps last year was a peak for him and this is more of what can be expected from him going forward, we can live with that. It’s just that with that big frame and ridiculous pitching motion, you want him to be better. But I say he’s going to blow them away Saturday, because why not?
- Game 3: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Lance Lynn
Forget Lynn for a second, how about Ubaldo up in Detroit the other day, huh? That’s the guy we want to see. He pitched 7.1 very good innings of two-run ball and allowed only one walk, and kept a powerful Tigers club in check. The offense gave him enough and he sealed it up. Sure, he struck out just four, which continues to baffle considering his arsenal (he’s a monster in video games, really). But Jimenez was, for a day at least, the dominant pitcher we wanted and hoped for. So how about an encore? Maybe that humid front from Masterson’s shutout will hang around and give him a hand.
Lynn, meanwhile, is like the definition of found money. Maybe the Cardinals were grooming him to be a starter (though I’d heard the talk was to convert Marc Rzepcynski to the rotation, and yes, I mentioned this just to get you to read that name) and nobody talks about it, but Lynn is simply a fine, fine pitcher. He throws hard, up to 95 on his four-seamer and hanging around 92-93, along with complementary pitches, a, 84 mph change with good movement and both a two-seamer and cutter among them, he’s more than just a big can of gasoline. He does walk 3.2 per nine innings, but strikes out 8.3. He has an OPS against him of .661 with bases empty, and that drops to .542 with men on, so though Cleveland can fill ‘em up, Lynn can shut them down when it matters. Looks like it could be a long game of impotence of offense and frustrated fans.
So it’s exciting, right? Going to St. Louis, facing the World Champions. It’s a measuring stick series again, even if the team avoids the big guns on the mound. Nothing is impossible, and a sweep is always somewhere in the realm of possibility. The Indians are 129-136 in interleague play, but hey, a series win here and we could start turning that around. We all know what really matters is that Ohio Cup against those dang Reds, but this would be a fun one to win, too.