Game One: Phillip Humber vs. Josh Tomlin
We just saw this one in Chicago. The two friends and workout partners go at it again in Cleveland. They both went six innings last time, giving up three runs—but if they’re really that similar, it has to be Tomlin’s turn to throw a perfect game, right? Tomlin will need to be wary of Dunn after letting the big man smack a ball the other way and over the fence with ease, but Humber will see the left handed, big swingin’ version of Carlos Santana, who nearly cleared the bleachers on a blast of blasts last time they matched up.
There will be scoring for sure, though it seems Tomlin is trying to work the edges more as he again had multiple walks in a game last time out, a rarity for him. He needs to go deep in this game, as he generally hasn’t this season, and give that ‘pen a break for an afternoon. If he can get back to the way he put the clamps on the Mariners for eight innings of one-run ball, life will be better for everyone in the long run. The offense needs to do its part here, that’s for sure.
Game Two: TBD vs. Zach McAllister
Mr. Determined is going to be getting a lot of work this series—he’s scheduled to take the mound for the Sox Monday and for the Indians Wednesday. One has to think he will be replaced if he can’t make the flight, though the Sox have no starters on their 40-man roster pitching in Charlotte. The Indians have to feast on whoever comes up and be patient until he makes a mistake.
Zach McAllister has spent all of 2012 in Columbus so far and has recorded a 2.83 ERA in 35 innings over six starts. He was not so good in the majors last year, allowing 26 hits and 12 earned runs in 17 ⅔ innings (four starts). There’s a reason he’s never stuck around in the majors, but he is a gamer. Look for him to give the Indians five innings of solid work, scrappy pitching before giving it over to the bullpen. It will be very important for Tomlin to last a while in the first game because the bullpen (particularly Vinnie Pestano) got a lot of work this weekend and needs a break. Look for Nick Hagadone to give two strong innings, and hopefully we won’t have to see too much of Dan Wheeler.
We saw this matchup last Thursday, and it was decidedly one-sided. Perhaps the Sox’ bullpen was depleted, because manager Robin Ventura left Danks out there to get knocked around for six runs in seven innings. He’s having a miserable season, allowing 9.6 hits per nine while striking out only six per nine, a career low—he’s just not getting it done. The Indians jumped on him early last game and he was strong for a couple before Santana’s big blast, so that may be the formula again here. When he is comfortable he’s a very good pitcher, so the key is to keep him off balance.
Masterson was decent against the Sox last time. He held Chicago to three runs in 6 ⅓ innings while striking out six and walking three. His velocity got up to 95 on his fastball and he sat in the low 90’s with the sinker, and he generally seemed in command. Later in the game he seemed a little off off, but got out of everything with minimal damage. He may have turned a corner and the comforts of home could do him good. It looks like the Indians like scoring when he’s on the mound this year, so that should take a little pressure off his back.
Game Four: Jake Peavy vs. TBD
Really though, is TBD a pseudonym for the great Old Hoss Radbourn? This would be a light workload for the 59-game winner, pitching only two of four over three days. Anyway, this slot is likely to be filled by either Jeanmar Gomez or David Huff on a call-up from Columbus. You’ll remember Huff as being in competition for the fifth starter slot before Gomez had a stupendous spring, as well as from several stints with the Indians over the last few seasons. Last year Huff logged 50 ⅔ innings with the Indians, good for 10 starts and a 4.56 SIERA. He’s that kind of pitcher, a back-of-the-rotation guy who can keep you in the ballgame before turning it over to your bullpen on a good day.
Meanwhile, Jake Peavy was April’s Pitcher of the Month award and has become a new pitcher on the South Side. He used to throw a four-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup when he was a Cy Young winner in San Diego. Following a series of bad and bizarre arm injuries, though, his four-seamer use has dropped from 55 percent in 2009 to 36 percent this year; he’s supplemented it with a new cutter and two-seamer. Perhaps he learned from the same guru that Brandon McCarthy of the A’s did, but he’s once again looked brilliant.
This year he’s pitched 45⅓ innings with a 1.99 ERA (3.47 SIERA) and two complete games, one a shutout. Clearly the pitch additions have had an effect. He’s been brilliant against the Tribe in his career; he’s held Indians hitters to a .234/.284/.443 triple-slash. With a spot starter of some kind opposite him Peavy will probably be in line for another win, though given how well the Indians have been playing lately that’s not a foregone conclusion. He doesn’t walk many (he’s allowed only six this year, and his 0.75 WHIP leads the league) so that great walking talent the Indians have could be put to the test. Everyone is going to have to contribute in this one.
Once again, it’s AL Central baseball. These teams know each other and have fought countless times for that one prize. The series win against the Rangers was awesome, but these are the games that truly matter. To win in your division is one of the surest paths to success. Last year the Tigers were 50-22 in the division and the Indians only 36-36—take those games away and Cleveland makes the playoffs. Every game is important, but they have to make hay in the Central with such a compressed schedule. Three wins would be nice, but a sweep would really show that the Windians are in it for “#162Plus” in 2012.