Indians Welcome Padres to Cleveland for First Time Since 2008
Over the weekend, the Indians faced off against a very familiar foe in the Minnesota Twins. However, this week is a very different story. The Indians will welcome the San Diego Padres to Progressive Field for the first time since the 2008 season.
Because the Padres are a National League team, the Indians only ever face them when the planets align just right. Well, it turns out that the planets have reached that magical alignment and the Padres turn to travel all the way across the country to take on the Indians has come up. Not only does that mean that the Indians get to face an opponent they rarely, if ever see, it also means that I get to talk about a team I know very little about.
Buckle up, folks. This could get a little crazy.
The Padres come into tonight’s game with a record of 2-4, good enough for fourth place in the NL West. While no one really expects the Padres to compete for much of anything this summer, there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Of course, the Padres will have to be extremely careful with how April plays out. Being in a division with two World Series contenders ( San Francisco and Los Angeles) means that while they can’t win their division, they sure as hell can lose it by burying themselves in an almost insurmountable hole.
As a team, the Padres are struggling. While the season is still young and sample sizes are admittedly extremely small, they appear to be living up to (or down to) many of the expectations the outside world had for them. Currently, the Padres are next to last in runs scored and dead last in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. In their defense though, they’ve played three games at home in Petco Park, one of the worst offensive ball parks in all of baseball, and three other games in Miami, also a terrible hitter’s park. Could they woeful offensive number be deflated because of that? It’s possible, but the fact remains that this is one of the lighter hitting teams in all of baseball.
As currently constructed, the Padres lack any real power on offense. Their two major power threats, third baseman Chase Headley and second baseman Jedd Gyorko, aren’t exactly 30 home run 100 RBI type of guys. At least they aren’t playing 81 games at Petco Park. After them, the Padres lineup is full of speedsters and slap hitters. With the exception of Yonder Alonso at first base, the rest of the Padres are little to no threat of taking an opposing pitcher deep on a regular basis.
If the Padres stand any chance of remaining competitive throughout the course of the 2014 season, it will have to come via their pitching staff. Where as the offense is at a disadvantage playing so many games in Petco Park, the opposite is true for the pitching. Petco is a pitcher’s paradise. Unfortunately, it’s not as if the Padres employ a dominating pitching staff either. With the exception of Andrew Cashner and possibly Ian Kennedy, there isn’t much to be fearful of when it comes to the Padres starting rotation.
That should come as a relief to Indians fans as the Tribe will miss the top two starters in the Padres rotation. Instead of dealing with Cashner and Kennedy, the Indians will match up against Robbie Erlin, Tyson Ross, and Eric Stults. Ross and Stults are both 0-1 with ERA’s well over 5. In Stults’ case, his ERA is nearing 12. As for Erlin, this will be his first start of the season after making one relief appearance thus far.
If the Padres do manage to carry a lead into the ninth inning, the Indians will be forced to deal with veteran closer Huston Street. So far this year, Street has closed out both of the Padres wins and has yet to surrender a hit or a run. As a veteran closer, he knows what it takes to get the job done and should prove to be a formidable adversary for the Indians’ young lineup.
As for the Indians, who are coming off of a series in which they lost two of three to the lowly Minnesota Twins, this will serves as an opportunity to “right the ship.” The Padres are a weaker opponent, the type of opponent that a team like the Indians should jump all over. Of course, I said that about the Twins also and look how that turned out.
Either way, the Indians should be able to take two of three against the Padres and I fully expect them to do so. The offense seemed to come to life over the weekend, Saturday’s game excluded, and appears primed to break out in a big way. We should also feel confident that Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Danny Salazar will all bounce back from rough first outings to start the season, particularly Kluber.
We should also pay attention to how Terry Francona decides to utilize his non-core players. With both Michael Brantley and Jason Giambi set to return from the disabled list, the Indians will be forced into making some tough decisions on some players they would probably prefer to keep around. Whether that means one less pitcher, or cutting ties with Nyjer Morgan or even Lonnie Chisenhall remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s something to pay attention to as these decisions get closer.