It’s a new start for the big Jamaican, a chance to let go of the frustrating outings that plagued his first half. His last start against the Jays was Opening Day and he was electric—eight innings of one run ball and 10 strikeouts. Can he do it again? Certainly, and despite a miserable last outing against the Rays (4 ⅓ innings, eight earned runs) he really has turned the corner. Rogers Centre is a good park for hitters, but when he’s on Masterson is bad for hitters. We’ll see which side breaks first.
Ricky Romero is a bit of an enigma. He seems to pitch really well (he’s allowed only 8.5 hits per nine) but he leads the AL in walks. This is where the Indians must get to him, because he is left-handed. How many times have we seen a middling lefty dominate this lineup? Romero has been pretty good the last couple of years, but he’s been having a pretty bad year; a 5.22 ERA is bad, and a 4.73 SIERA isn’t much better. This could be one of those games the Indians win against a left-handed pitcher, if only because of the walks. Plus maybe going against a struggling pitcher will get the offense back in gear coming off a long layoff.
- Game Two: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Aaron Laffey
Ubaldo has turned it around of late, going at least six innings his last seven starts and allowing four runs only twice. He’s a joy to watch when he’s on and misery incarnate when he can’t find the plate, but as ever the roll of the dice is part of Jimenez’s charm. Or something. He went seven and gave up two runs when he last faced the Jays and kept Bautista hitless.
Aaron Laffey, how the heck are you? Remember when he was a starter for the Indians back in 2008 and ‘09, and a little bit of ‘10? Well, he’s made the rounds out west and back east, and ended up on one of the hardest-luck teams in the business, thrust into a starter’s role again due to that decimated rotation. He’s also a lefty, but he’s of the soft-tossing variety and relies on guile to get guys out. Wouldn’t it be something if the Tribe could stack back-to-back wins against southpaw pitchers? He’s got three starts with the Blue Jays, 27 innings of total work, and has allowed 21 hits and eight earned runs, good for a 161 ERA+. We know what we’re going to see, so hopefully the Tribe hitmen can do some damage.
- Game Three: Derek Lowe vs. Carlos Villanueva
If anyone on the Indians’ roster needed a a break, it was Derek Lowe. The senior member of this pitching staff was looking a little winded towards the end of the first half (he gave up 36 hits and 17 runs his last four starts) and most likely slept quite well with all this time off. Hope it worked, because for better or worse Derek is a key cog in any playoff hopes the Indians have. He’s 1-6 in 22 starts at the Rogers Centre with a 6.29 ERA, for whatever that’s worth so who knows what we’ll see here. He was really, really good against the Jays earlier in the year and helped the Indians to their first win so there’s no reason to believe that couldn’t happen again.
Villanueva is another guy who was given a chance to start because of the injury bug—this is just his third start of the year. He started 13 games a year ago and was good for a 107 ERA+, so he’s plainly a competent pitcher. His numbers (140 ERA+ and 9.9 K/9) are inflated from his bullpen work this year and some early good outings, but based on his career work this is unnaturally high. Cleveland gets a break because he’s a righty, though in the 11 ⅓ innings he’s worked against the Indians over his career the Tribe has notched a .669 OPS.
A scuffling Toronto team could be just what the doctor ordered to start the second half on the right foot. A series win here could springboard into a great rest of July, and considering how close they were to trimming the White Sox lead to 2.5 games last week, there’s nothing out of reach in this division. “162-plus” (as Vinnie Pestano says repeatedly on Twitter) starts right here.
Topics: Aaron Laffey, Brett Lawrie, Carlos Villanueva, Cleveland Indians, Colby Rasmus, Derek Lowe, Edwin Encarnacion, J.p. Arencibia, Jose Bautista, Justin Masterson, Ricky Romero, Series Previews, Toronto Blue Jays, Travis Hafner, Ubaldo Jimenez