Cleveland Indians return to divisional play versus the White Sox
Following a seven-game road trip, in which the the team went 3-4, the Cleveland Indians head home for an exciting nine-game homestand. Cleveland will open with a short two-game series on Tuesday when the Chicago White Sox visit Progressive Field for the first time in 2021.
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The Indians will be glad for the return to some home cookin’ after suffering a bruising on the road. Although they split a four-game set against the same White Sox to start the trip, unfortunately their offensive woes travelled with them. The Tribe averaged just 2.25 runs in the series and hit a wretched .142 as a team. The Cleveland Indians offense reached a complete stall in game three when left-hander Carlos Rodón threw the 20th no-hitter in White Sox history.
It was thanks, largely, to the pitching staff that Cleveland left Chicago with any wins at all. Shane Bieber tossed a masterpiece in a classic pitcher’s duel with Lucas Giolito. The current AL Cy Young threw nine shutout innings while striking out eleven in a 2-0 victory in extra innings. On ‘Jackie Robinson Day’, Aaron Civale went six strong innings before the lethal trio of Wittgren, Karinchak, and Clase slammed the door over the final three frames to earn a series tie.
Cleveland then paid a visit to the southern half of Ohio to face off against the Cincinnati Reds in the first leg of the ‘Ohio Cup’. The signs were not auspicious heading into the series. The Reds had started the season 5-1 at home, and were averaging over nine runs per game at Great American Ballpark.
That firepower was on full display in game one as Cincy scorched the Tribe for ten runs. Cleveland’s pitchers managed to cool the Reds’ bats, in the second match-up, but, alas, Cleveland’s ineptitude at the plate, and a costly fielding error by Josh Naylor in the ninth inning, conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a 3-2, extra-inning loss.
The Tribe, thankfully, salvaged a 6-3 win in the series finale thanks to home runs by José Ramírez, Roberto Pérez, and Jordan Luplow. Over the three games against the Reds, the offense showed a bit more life with the lumber, hitting .250 as a team.
On Tuesday the Tribe return to divisional action just a game and a half back of first place in the AL Central. Their opponents, the White Sox, come to Progressive Field after earning a four-game split against the surging Boston Red Sox. José Abreu and company are owners of a 5-6 road record, and lead the American League with 58 runs scored away from home, while trailing only Boston in total runs scored (81).
As much as the Indians’ pitching will have their hands full with a potent Chicago lineup, Tribe hitters will also be rocked by unpleasant flashbacks as they watch Carlos Rodón take the mound in game one; less than a week after the 28-year-old was a Roberto Pérez foot away from a perfect game. The offense will need a better approach if they hope to have success facing the reigning ‘AL Player of the Week’.
Toeing the rubber for the Indians will be Zach Plesac. Plesac had a horrendous outing last time against the White Sox when he surrendered six runs and failed to make it out of the first inning in an 8-0 defeat for the Tribe. He will be looking to dust himself off and put together a quality outing against a team he knows can stack up runs in a hurry.
Projected starters are yet to be announced for game two as Terry Francona considers his options after the Indians had Monday off, and the White Sox played a double header over the weekend to make up for an earlier postponement.
There is plenty of room to improve for the Tribe offense as the team begins a crucial nine games at home. The homestand offers a great opportunity to pick up a good number of important wins. Five of the nine contests are against division rivals, with a four-game set versus a New York Yankees team, that is floundering with a 5-10 record, sandwiched in-between. It’s time for the bats to show more life and start backing up the teams’ excellent pitching efforts.