Pregame Notes: Cleveland Indians start road trip with three in Arlington

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The Cleveland Indians were that close. They were two outs away from earning their first series win of the month until Marc Rzepczynski happened and the Tribe was ousted by St. Louis at Progressive Field.

Tough loss. But it’s a long season and the Indians have a lot of ground to make up.

Tonight’s three-game set with the Texas Rangers begins with veteran left-hander Bruce Chen on the mound, making his second start of the season. Chen started last Saturday and allowed six runs on 10 hits in just four innings of work, prompting manager Terry Francona to decline naming a fifth starter until Tuesday.

The Tribe will continue to evaluate their staff in hopes of finding a fifth starter that can take the mound and give the team a chance to win every fifth day. T.J. House, who was in that role prior to injuring his left shoulder, will make a rehab start with Lake County alongside Yan Gomes today. 

Opposite Chen will be Rangers’ southpaw Wandy Rodriguez, who is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA on the season. After spending the spring with Atlanta, Rodriguez joined the Rangers rotation and has allowed just seven earned runs over 23.1 innings pitched. He has struck out 22 batters and allowed just 15 hits in the early going, but something’s got to give.

Rodriguez owns a career 4.04 ERA and is dangerously prone to the long ball. While the Indians have had their share of struggles against left-handed pitching, Rodriguez has been no more effective against lefties in his career than he has righties. The 10-year veteran has allowed lefties to hit .261 against him over the last three seasons, including 20 extra-base hits in 238 at-bats.

Either way, Francona will likely load his lineup with as many right-handed bats as possible as the Indians are still looking to right the ship on what has been a disappointing season thus far.

Here are the starting lineups:

News & Notes:

According to Ted Berg with USA Today, the Indians are much better than their record indicates. Well, no kidding. Berg writes that every single pitcher who has started a game for the Tribe this season has an ERA well above his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), a stat that estimates ERA based on an average defense and typical luck. According to Berg, no team since 1920 has finished a season with an ERA-FIP over 0.33. The Indians current number sits at 1.15, which should not stay true the rest of the season. 

More from Away Back Gone

Michael Clair of MLB.com writes the Indians still have the talent to turn a putrid start into a stretch run into the postseason. According to Clair, the likely minimum number of wins needed to reach the playoffs is 88 and the Tribe would have to go 76-53 to hit that mark. He writes:

"The lineup could help soothe over some of those issues, though. Cleveland’s shortstops have put up a .479 OPS, which ranks last in the Majors. No. 1 prospect Francisco Lindor, who should arrive this summer, will be an upgrade on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, catcher Yan Gomes may begin a rehab stint earlier than expected, and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall should begin to resemble last year’s .770 OPS performer once his .229 BABIP turns around. Add that to left fielder Michael Brantley‘s second straight AL MVP Award-caliber campaign and strong performances from second baseman Jason Kipnis and first baseman Carlos Santana, and the Indians have all the makings of a strong lineup."

-Unfortunately for Tribe fans, Lindsey Foltin of FOX Sports is reporting the Tribe have no plans to call up top prospect Lindor anytime soon. Despite the struggles of both Jose Ramirez and Zach Walters, general manager Chris Antonetti doesn’t believe Lindor is the answer. According to Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the Tribe wants to see him force the issue and dominate all facets of the game. Apparently his .262/.347/.357 numbers aren’t “dominating” enough for the Tribe at this point.

-The Indians announced some sad news that may have been overlooked a bit in national media markets, but super utility man Mike Aviles is back with the Tribe after being away from the club for five days while tending to his 4-year-old daughter, Adriana, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Thoughts and prayers go out to Adriana and the Aviles family.

-In the interest of not leaving you with bad news, today is Indians’ beloved outfielder Michael Brantley’s birthday.

Go get ’em a win on your birthday, Dr. Smooth.

Next: Wroundtable - Judging the new look lineup

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