Series Preview: Cleveland Indians @ Philadelphia Phillies

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First place, American League Central! We up in this!

Really though, it’s been a blast of a couple of weeks, the Cleveland Indians are rocking face and taking names, grabbing series here and there and everywhere with inspired pitching, dominant (at times) offense and prizes for everyone. I assume.

The Tribe heads into the second half of a spread out four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies having taken two of three from the detested Detroit Tigers and splitting a double-header with the New York Yankees, a makeup from a couple of weeks back. Since Justin Masterson decided to be a force of nature and Trevor Bauer continued what we hope is a proper growth into superstar ace magic dynamo, the ‘pen wasn’t worn out and the great bench the front office built gave marquee players a break. So rather than being exhausted emotionally and physically this team is riding their hot streak (10-3 in May) into P-town. Wait, that’s a different city of brotherly love.

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The last time we saw the Phillies, they were outscored by the Indians 20-2 over two games. Roy Halladay looked terrible, Trevor Bauer was lucky and Cliff Lee was ineffective. Since then they’ve gone 6-5 and sit at 18-21, four games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL Central. The same old cast of characters are pulling most of the weight, the problem is Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are beginning to ossify. That boneitis, man. It’ll get you. If I had to pick one of those three to find some of his old form, it’d be Utley. It’s great to see Chase still getting it done, leading the team in several categories with a 129 OPS+, seven homers and even 24 RBI’s, if that’s your thing. It’s a little impressive he has that many considering who’s in front of him in the lineup. The Phils decided to stand pat and hand out $125 million to guys who are worth half that, and this is what happens.

Remarkably, Michael Young is the second most potent offensive player on the team. While Young is a bit “garbage-ish” at third at this point in his career, his .390 OBP is a high for his career and he’s hitting .310. His power numbers (1 homer, .397 SLG) are pretty ugly, the Phils doing a good job of replacing Placido Polanco with added on-basing. Add to all this the struggles of Carlo Ruiz in his return from a suspension and Ryan Howard’s inability to baseball and Domonic Brown’s lack of development, the Phils are at a bizarre, contract-laden crossroads of misery. As befits Philadelphia.

Besides those guys, I’ve tried digging and finding some remarkable or potentially terrifying aspect of this Phillies team. It’s just not there. They’re old, their role players are sub-mediocre, their bullpen is full of holes – it’s not pretty. Of course, now I’ve committed this to digital canvas, they’ll go nuts. John Mayberry and Domonic Brown will combine to go 10-for-16 with three homers to tease their fans, or Ben Revere will have six stolen bases and nine web gems. But really, probably not. It’s a good way to spend the middle of the week though.

From the Indians this series, I expect domination if you couldn’t tell. Perhaps I’ve been sucked into the magic of this team with the homers and the winning, but now that Michael Bourn is back the defense will solidify a bit and the demotion of Lonnie Chisenhall may be a blessing in disguise for all involved. Nick Swisher is proving to be a great investment, and Jason Kipnis is starting to flash some power, four homers in his last 10 games. He’s got to walk more though, still only three over that same 10 game span. He’s too important. This team is getting dangerous though – I expect a Reynolds moonshot. Or at least bounce one off that bell in center.

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