Tuesday night Kansas City welcomes the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians to Kauffman Stadium for a three game series. A couple weeks ago the two teams met at Progressive Field which the Tribe won so we thought it was time to check in with Brian Heise who’s the Editor at Wahoo’s on First for another installment of our series Q&A’s.
Kings of Kauffman – How surprised are you that Cleveland will enter this series in Kansas City in a first place tie with Detroit?
Wahoo on First – I have to be honest, I’m pretty surprised the Indians are in a first place tie right now. After the stretch they went through losing eight in a row, a lot of us were worried that the bottom had fallen out (we can’t help it we’re genetically hard wired to think the worst). They’ve rebounded nicely, though, and honestly I think they might be playing better baseball now than they did back in early May. Back during that stretch they were hitting home runs at a pace that was unsustainable and blowing teams out. Now they’re doing it in every way imaginable – timely hitting, dominant pitching, and the occassional clutch homer. It’s exciting.
WOF – This is a tough one to answer for a couple of reasons. Reynolds went on a home run hitting binge earlier this season, the likes of which we hadn’t seen since Albert Belle. He was looking like an all-star and the biggest bargain of the offseason. However, the bottom has fallen out and he’s doing Mark Reynolds type things again, i.e. striking out… a lot, so his impact has begun to lessen. Meanwhile, Swisher has been up and down while struggling with a sore shoulder, but his presence in the clubhouse has been invaluable in building the team’s chemistry. I guess for that reason I’d have to say Swisher. His positivity and enthusiasm is just too contagious.
WOF – Masterson has been the Tribe’s best pitcher, no questions asked. The rest of the rotation hasn’t been as nearly bad as their records might indicate. They’ve tended to fall victim to that one bad inning or racked up most of their losses during the stretches of the season when the offense was struggling to score runs. Within our bubble of Indians fandom, I think most of us feel confident in the staff as a whole because they’ve been better than we thought they’d be. Plus, we have depth in Carrasco and Bauer and Zach McAllister should be back soon. Sure they could always make a move, but I don’t think there is one out there that would he beneficial enough over the long term to warrant making.
KOK – What has been Terry Francona‘s solution for the teams bullpen and do you see the team addressing this at the deadline?
WOF – Terry Francona has been all about the philosophy of “next man up.” So far it’s worked out pretty well. They’ve weathered the injury bug and finally have everyone back at full or near full strength. The added wrinkle is the amount of vertical depth the front office built during the offseason. They have enough serviceable arms between the big league and triple-a clubs to allow for them to interchange pieces on a constant basis. Its helped straighten guys out who are struggling and helped get them through the injuries relatively unscathed. Of course there’s the issue of Rich Hill, who has been awful of late. He’s our lefty specialist and can’t get anyone out right now. If the indians are going to make a move, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was for a left handed, specialist reliever.
KOK – Concerns heading into this road series if anything after a long series on the Southside?
WOF – Surprisingly, I have none. Francona was able to rest a lot of his starters on Sunday and didn’t have to touch the bullpen thanks to Masteron. Our core is coming into this series with Kansas City with what essentially amount to two full days of rest. They should be fresh and ready to go. Oh, actually I do have a concern. Jason Kipnis is in such a groove right now at the plate that I’m worried him having Sunday off could throw him out of rhythm. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
KOK – Predictions for this series?
WOF – I think the Royals really luck out by not having to face Masterson. Instead they get Kluber, Kazmir, and Jimenez. While each has pitched well this year, any of the three is susceptible to imploding on the mound so this could play out any number of ways. I’ll say the Indians win two out of three. The two wins will be close and hard fought, but the loss will be thanks to one of the aforementioned implosions.
Here’s the other half of the conversation at Wahoo’s on First
Series Pitching Match-Ups and Game Times:
Tuesday – Corey Kluber (6-5, 4.16) v. Luis Mendoza (2-4, 4.16), 7:10 pm/FSKC and 610 Sports
Wednesday – Scott Kazmir (4-4, 4.83) v. Jeremy Guthrie (7-6, 4.11), 7:10 pm/FSKC and 610 Sports
Thursday – Ubaldo Jimenez (6-4, 4.63) v. James Shields (3-6, 2.99), 1:10 pm/FSKC and 610 Sports