Fresh off a sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland's insensitively-nicknamed squad arrives in Seattle a team in trouble. Heavy preseason favorites to win the AL Central division, Cleveland is currently sporting one of the worst offenses the game has seen in ages. True, 15 games is a small sample size, and many teams go through slumps. But as this series begins, Cleveland is dead last in the league in most offensive categories and, with the notable exception of Carlos Santana, struggling up and down the lineup.
Santana, a Mariner ever so briefly during the offseason, is doing his best to be a one-man wrecking crew, batting .383/.508/.532 in the early going. But aside from fellow ex-Mariner Leonys Martín, who had a three-hit game in Sunday in Kansas City to raise his average over .270, no one else is doing his share. Even All-Star and perennial MVP candidate José Ramírez is scuffling, carrying a .140/.180/.193 line into Seattle.
Cleveland pitchers have fared somewhat better, with at least two starters holding their own and a bullpen that's been more than serviceable. Tervor Bauer and Shane Bieber have put up exceptional numbers in their first few starts (2.29 and 1.80 ERAs, respectively), and closer Brad Hand has four saves and a WHIP under 1.000 in limited action. Ace Corey Kluber got hammered on Sunday to raise his ERA over 6.00, though, and veteran Carlos Carrasco, typically among the better starters in the league, has had a miserable go of it thus far, managing only ten innings over three starts and serving up 22 hits, including three homers, en route to a 12.60 ERA. Bauer, Bieber, and Carrasco are scheduled to take the hill for Cleveland in this series against Yusei Kikuchi, Mike Leake, and, most likely, rookie Erik Swanson, called up to take Wade LeBlanc's place after LeBlanc strained his oblique against Houston. Kikuchi may well be limited to an inning or two as he is due for one of is scheduled short starts, intended to limit his workload as he adjusts to the Major League rotation schedule after years in the Japanese league's once-a-week starting rotations.
Over the weekend, the Tribe made a couple of roster moves, bringing up veteran outfielder Carlos González and activating second baseman Jason Kipnis from the injured list. Kipnis' return spelled doom for former Mariner Brad Miller, however—despite being one of Cleveland's more productive hitters in the early going, Miller was deemed redundant and DFA'd to make room for Kipnis. “Obviously," said Miller, "they don’t want the best guys up here. So I’m just trying to take it somewhere else and see what we’ve got.”
Mariners vs. Trevor Bauer (CAREER)
Mariners vs. Shane Bieber (CAREER)
Mariners vs. Carlos Carrasco (CAREER)
Players to Watch
Carlos Santana: Traded from the M's to Cleveland for Edwin Encarnación and a competitive balance pick in the draft, Santana has been a one-man offense for Cleveland. The career .248 hitter is mashing at an astounding .383 clip and has struck out a mere five times while drawing 12 walks.
Hanley Ramírez: The onetime Marlins and Dodgers superstar fell on hard times, performance-wise, when he joined the Red Sox in 2015. In three and a third seasons in Boston, Ramírez only hit .260 and ended up getting released despite his $22 million+ contract. Trying to make a comeback with Cleveland, he's off to a slow start—just .179 in 39 ABs so far, and he's yet to play the field.
Leonys Martín: The fleet-footed outfielder is currently the best Cleveland hitter not named Carlos Santana, but it's a low bar. What's more impressive is that he's drawn ten walks from the leadoff spot in 14 games, a surprising feat to those of us who remember him posting OBPs of .306 and .221(!) as a Mariner in 2016 and '17.
Terry Francona: Among the most successful managers in the bigs (25th-most wins all-time), Francona already has two World Series championships under his belt with the Red Sox, but feels the sting of losing a dramatic Game 7 to the Cubs in 2015 and wants to bring the Indians back for another go. Francona was an outstanding college player with the University of Arizona (go Wildcats) and a respectable one in the Majors (.274 career average over 10 years with five teams, including the Indians), but managing is where he made his mark—he keeps his teams loose with practical jokes and fosters loyalty with a general positive attitude and humor. The Cleveland skipper has managed 18 seasons in the bigs and has won 90 or more games in 10 of them, most among active MLB managers.
Oliver Pérez: The journeyman reliever spent two years with the Mariners, pitching to a solid 3.16 ERA in 822⁄3 innings out of the Seattle 'pen in 2012 and '13. Since leaving the M's as a free agent, the Mexican lefty has pitched for Arizona, Houston, Washington, the Yankees, and now Cleveland. Pérez was a starting pitcher with mixed success—enough to get him a three-year deal from the Mets in 2009—but a disappointing year in '09 led the Mets to release him and his career looked like it might be over. He joined a team in Mexico to play winter ball, hoping he could generate interest form somewhere in the Majors, and the Mariners noticed; they sent a scout to check him out and then gave him a shot as a reliever, and he seized the opportunity and has become well-regarded as a lefty-specialist.
|Cleveland Indians||(1915 - present)|
|World Champions:||1920, 1948|
|League Champions:||1954, 1995, 1997, 2016|
|Division Titles:||1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2017, 2018|