The Cleveland We'll-Have-a-New-Name-Soons are on a roll. Going into the season, the Tribe was pegged as a third-place team, good but not as good as upstart Chicago or stalwart Minnesota. It's still earlyish, of course, but as this four-game series begins Cleveland has won 12 of their last 15 games and is just one back of the division-leading White Sox in the American League Central.
Like the Mariners had been until a little while ago, the Indians are succeeding with good pitching that counters middling offense. Third baseman José Ramírez is, unsurprisingly, their top hitter, but with an unexpectedly modest line of .252/.338/.545. The 2020 AL MVP runner-up does share the AL lead in home runs at this writing with 10, and by today's much-reduced standards is a very disciplined power hitter—a 13% strikeout rate. The other notable bat in the Cleveland lineup belongs to designated hitter Franmil Reyes, who emerged last season as an offensive force after coming over from the Padres in a big three-team trade that also involved current Mariner farmhand Taylor Trammell. Reyes leads the Clevelanders in RBI and extra-base hits.
On the mound, ace Shane Bieber leads a solid starting rotation that also includes youngsters Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac (nephew of Dan), and Triston McKenzie, all of whom are scheduled to start against the Mariners in this set. Bieber is the defending AL Cy Young winner, having led the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts in 2020. He currently leads in Ks again in ’21. Civale is 5-0 with four (out of seven) quality starts and Plesac is coming off a brilliant start of eight shutout innings against the Reds; McKenzie is the weak link, averaging under four innings per start and holding a 1.606 WHIP. The bullpen has been remarkably good as well, with rookie Emmanuel Clase notching seven saves to this point with a barely-above 1.00 ERA; sophomore righty James Karinchak has allowed all of one earned run in 18 appearances; and—go figure—ex-Mariner Bryan Shaw is cruising along, posting a sub-1.000 WHIP and sub-2.00 ERA in 14 appearances to date.
They're a formidable team, making for a challenging weekend for the slumping M's. Seattle will start rookie Logan Gilbert in his Major League debut in the first game, opposite Plesac; if the rotation holds, Friday will see Chris Flexen against Civale, followed by Justus Sheffield vs. McKenzie on Saturday and Yusei Kikuchi vs. Bieber Sunday afternoon.
|vs. AL West||0-0|
Who’s Hot & Not
Last ten games
.300/.333/.525, 5 XBH, 6 RBI
.270/.325/.486, 2 HR, 6 RBI
.171/.293/.314, 12 Ks
.111/.167/.111, 8 Ks
.190/.320/.333, 4 Ks
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|5/5/19||SEA 10, CLE 0|
|5/4/19||CLE 5, SEA 4|
|5/3/19||CLE 2, SEA 1|
|4/17/19||CLE 1, SEA 0|
|4/16/19||CLE 4, SEA 2|
|4/15/19||CLE 6, SEA 4|
|4/29/18||SEA 10, CLE 4|
|4/28/18||SEA 12, CLE 4|
|4/27/18||CLE 6, SEA 5|
|4/26/18||SEA 5, CLE 4|
Terry Francona: Among the most successful managers in the bigs (18th-most wins all-time and second-most among active managers), 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 2016 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. This is the Cleveland skipper's 21st season managing in the bigs, with stints in Philadelphia, Boston, and Cleveland, and he's won 90 or more games in 11 of them; since 2004, his teams have made the postseason ten times (if you count the Wild Card play-in as the postseason, nine if you don't).
Rene Rivera: Now 37 years old, the veteran catcher came up through the Mariners' minor-league system as a teenager and made his big-league debut with Seattle at age 20. The quintessential good-glove-weak-bat backstop, Rivera's Mariner career was brief, just 53 Major League games, and he left the organization as a minor-league free agent in 2007. By 2013 he'd established himself as a competent backup catcher and started spending more time in the Majors than the minors, logging games with San Diego, Tampa Bay, the Mets, the Cubs, the Angels, Atlanta, the Mets again, and now Cleveland. His best season was 2014, when he hit .252/.319/.432 as a Padre.
|Cleveland Indians||(1915 - present)|
|World Champions:||1920, 1948|
|League Champions:||1954, 1995, 1997, 2016|
|Division Titles:||1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2017, 2018|
Cleveland Indians: The club announced last year that it will finally be changing its name, ditching the Native American mascot once and for all. The "Chief Wahoo" logo, prominent for so many years, has already been phased out to a degree, but sometime soon—2022?—they will have a wholly new identity. What will that new identity be? Who knows, though many options have been bandied about, including the Guardians, Buckeyes, Blues (the franchise's original AL name), Spiders, Lakers, and, in a nod to the Hall of Fame attraction next door to their ballpark, Rockers.
Franmil Reyes marked the occasion of his Major League debut in ink—on his chest. Reyes has a tattoo of Petco Park, the San Diego SD logo, and his nickname "La Mole" with the date 5-14-18 on his left pec.
Shane Bieber: "I'm a pitcher, not a singer!" The Topps card company released a 2019 Bieber card that referred to him as "Justin" in the bio text, confusing the ace hurler with the pop star of the same surname. In response, Shane's Player's Weekend jersey nickname that year was "Not Justin," and a subsequent Topps series featuring player autographs included a Bieber card with "Not Justin" as part of the signature. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber has been seen wearing an Indians jersey with the name "Not Shane" on the back.