Can the Cleveland Indians get back in the win column in Los Angeles?
The Cleveland Indians are in the midst of their first west coast road trip since 2019 and while the trip started well with a 4-2 win, the Tribe have now lost their last three games by a combined deficit of 17-8. The Seattle Mariners managed to prove that the offensive struggles of the Tribe are far from fixed and that Shane Bieber is in fact human as his record-breaking strikeout streak came to a close. Luckily, Cleveland can now put that series behind them as they move south along the west coast to face the Los Angeles Angels.
Despite the skid against the Mariners, the Cleveland Indians still remain just 2.5 games out of first place in the American League Central, trailing the Chicago White Sox. However, the White Sox will face the Minnesota Twins over the next few days, so more struggles on the west coast by Cleveland could create a big gap in the division standings.
The good news for the Tribe is that the Los Angeles Angels are having hardships of their own that has them holding a 17-22 record and fourth place standing in the AL West. They were able to pick up a win in their last game against the Boston Red Sox, but have had mixed results of late, including giving up a 14-spot to the Los Angeles Dodgers not too long ago. For a team like the Cleveland Indians that sees their record drastically improve when they score four or more runs, this could be the key to the series.
So far in the month of May the Angels have played 15 games. Of those 15, they’ve allowed four runs or more in 11 including each of their last six games. That includes giving up eight runs to the Tampa Bay Rays twice, nine runs to both the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox and the aforementioned 14 runs to the Dodgers.
As for the Tribe, four runs has pretty much been the key to winning all season long. When Cleveland eclipses the four-run mark they hold a record of 18-1. However when they fall short of four runs, their record is just 3-16 with two of those wins being against the Chicago Cubs just this past week.
The scheduled starting pitchers for the Angels also show that scoring four should be more than doable. The series will start with Patrick Sandoval on the mound who enters boasting a 6.14 ERA. Now, he’s only had three appearances so far this season, but in his last start he gave up four runs in what would be a 9-1 loss to the Astros.
As for the second game, the Angels are set to throw Andrew Heaney who has a better, but not great, ERA of 4.75 on top of a 1-3 record in 2021. Heaney has been hit or miss this season with two starts where he didn’t allow a run, but also three starts where he gave up four or more runs. Most recently, he gave up four against the Mariners, then none against the Rays before allowing five against the Astros.
The Angels will round out the series with Shohei Ohtani on the mound, being his first pitching appearance against the Cleveland Indians. Ohtani has been one of the more steady arms this season for LA with 2.10 ERA and 1-0 record, allowing more than one run just once over five starts.
As for the Tribe, they are set to pitch Sam Hentges, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale over the course of the series. While all three have different approaches to the game, their production has been very similar with the trio all landing between 3.29 and 3.56 for ERA.
The bigger question for Cleveland will be whether or not the bats can actually produce four runs or more. Over the last eight games, the offense has scored four runs just twice, and to no surprise those were wins. Now, the Tribe have been outscored just 27-26 over those eight games, but that’s due largely to the 9-0 win against the Cincinnati Reds, which also came after being no-hit the night before.
This is a series that the Cleveland Indians could very well sweep, but that type of success will fall almost solely on the offense. If the pitching can continue to do what they have so far this season, this team will go as far as the offense will take it.