Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago White Sox

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Seems like these two teams just can’t get enough of each other. The Chicago White Sox (13-15) come to Cleveland for a four game set against the Indians (15-11) today, a mere four days after their last face-off. In the interim the Indians hosted the AL West-leading Texas Rangers and their thump-happy lineup, while the Sox cruised to Motown for three against the Tigers. The Indians played a wonderful series and won two of three against Texas (they took it to extras before they lost the other), while the White Sox lost two of three despite keeping it close against the favorites to win the division.

After handling the Sox in the series in Chicago and playing so well against the two-time defending pennant-winning Rangers the Indians have to be coming into this four-game set with a lot of swagger. It’ll be four games because there’s a day-night doubleheader to make up for the snow-out from their first series of the year, so a good showing could go a long way in stymieing any early momentum the Sox have built on, and at the same time give the Tribe some needed in-division victories and added mojo.

Key to this series will be shutting down Adam Dunn. The Donkey hit two homers against the Tribe last week and two against the Tigers this weekend—including one that was just ridiculous, almost clearing the right field bleachers at Comerica. His bounceback this season has changed the face of what was a moribund offense in the South Side last year. He’s got nine home runs in 2012, already two away from his total of a year ago, and is getting on base at a .372 clip. Clearly the man is comfortable again, and that spells danger for AL pitching. That one-two punch in the middle of the order with Paul Konerko is finally coming to fruition.

Besides Konerko doing his typical thing but better (.351/.432/.629) and A.J. Pierzynski showing some impressive power (five homers, .506 slugging percentage) it’s Alejandro De Aza that’s doing some good things at the plate. His 116 OPS+ is fourth on the team, and he’s shown some good baserunning ability. He won’t be what cures the ailments of this lineup, but De Aza does a good job out of that leadoff hole. He packs some punch (12 extra-base hits including three homers) and he keeps pitchers off-balance. He’s not someone you can sleep on.

Meanwhile, the Indians’ Jason Kipnis is just on fire right now. He’s 16-for-38 with five walks and two home runs in his last 10 games. His 147 OPS+ is making many Tribe fans (your dear writer included) believe last year was only the beginning. Along with Asdrubal Cabrera emerging last year as an incredible offensive threat—his success has continued into this year (169 OPS+)—and Carlos Santana turning into a phenomenal catcher on both sides of the ball (132 OPS+, plus he’s 5-for-12 on steals and does a great imitation of a brick wall when his sinkerballer pitchers keep pounding the dirt), things are looking amazing in Cleveland. Add to that Johnny Damon‘s immediate impact and the “#162Plus” campaign several Indians players have started on Twitter doesn’t sound that farfetched.