Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

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There’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is the Indians just got swept in embarrassing fashion by the Cincinnati Reds. The good news is they get a nice three-day break before facing them again. So they have that much going for them right now. On a related note, I think Brandon Phillips just doubled and drove in three more runs 21 hours after the game ended. Brandon, we get it. You kill the Indians. Now please go channel all that hate somewhere else.

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Anyway, the Indians finally head home this weekend to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates after what was a semi-respectable nine-game road trip. Believe it or not, the Indians went 4-2 against the Tigers and Cardinals before running into the juggernaut that is the Reds. To be honest, they couldn’t have played much worse than they did the past three days. They didn’t pitch well, they were sloppy in the field, and they didn’t get timely hits. That’s a recipe for a disaster. In fact, it was almost as if the Indians looked at what they did versus Detroit and St. Louis and said to themselves, “Well, this trip has been a success!” and then went into autopilot. It’s the same mentality that bit them in Chicago after sweeping the Tigers. It’s obvious when it happens and when it does it results in some ugly baseball.

The main positive to take away from the road trip was the performances we saw from both Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. For the first time all year both of them showed up in a big way, especially Jimenez. In three starts they gave up a combined five runs and were down right dominant. Both will take the mound this weekend for the Tribe so hopefully they can keep things rolling.

As for the Pirates, they’re a pleasant surprise for the second straight year. They come into the weekend over the .500 mark with a record of 32-30 and trail the Reds by only three games in the NL Central. Like the Indians, they’ve lost their last three games and are looking to bounce back in a big way.

This should be an interesting series for a multitude of reasons. First off, there’s the whole Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry. Sure, it’s not football, but it still plays a minor role for the fans of both teams. Also, neither team is what you would consider an offensive powerhouse. Both teams come into play with a run differential of -31 and have been forced to rely heavily on their pitching staffs thus far—especially the Pirates, who have scored only 204 runs to the Indians’ 270. If you’re expecting a lot of offensive fire power, think again.

The biggest obstacle facing the Indians will be the Pirates’ young superstar outfielder Andrew McCutchen. While the Pirates do struggle to score runs, it’s not because they lack a truly dynamic player in the middle of their lineup. McCutchen leads Pittsburgh in every offensive category. If the Indians can manage to keep him in check and force the players around him to beat them, then the results should speak for themselves.

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