The Cleveland Indians could not be in better shape coming into this West Coast road trip. The American Central-leading Indians kick off this trip with a four-game set against the Seattle Mariners, who are fresh off of getting swept by the Texas Rangers. Hopefully, a three-hour delay to the Tribe's travel plans did not create any jetlag issues, because they are going to be up late every night with each game of the series starting at 10:10 p.m ET.
Cleveland left the Kansas City Royals battered and bruised after their last series, but the defending champs are not the only team gunning for the AL Central lead. The Chicago White Sox just completed a trade for James Shields, a clear signal that they are not ready to give up on this season, even without their clubhouse leader, 14-year-old Drake LaRoche.
But forget all that, the Indians are not even just eyeing the AL Central lead anymore: With a sweep against the Mariners and some help elsewhere, the Indians could be looking at the best record in the American League come Friday morning.
- Monday, 10:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. James Paxton (LHP)
- Tuesday, 10:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Wade Miley (LHP)
- Wednesday, 10:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Taijuan Walker (RHP)
- Thursday, 10:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Nathan Karns (RHP)
In years past, facing two lefties in a series would be a death knell for the Tribe. Not this year. Of the nine Indians batters to have at least 40 plate appearances against southpaws this season, five (Francisco Lindor,
Marlon Byrd, Mike Napoli, and Jose Ramirez, and Rajai Davis) have a wRC+ over 100 against lefties.
It also helps that the lefties the Indians are facing are not exactly intimidating on the mound. Trevor Bauer will face James Paxton in game one, who recently returned from a disabled list stint and allowed three earned runs (including two home runs) in just 3.2 innings. Wade Miley has not been much better in his 11 starts this season, with s 5.85 ERA and a 5.00 FIP. Miley was roughed up in his last outing as well, allowing nine earned runs in 4.2 innings of work against the San Diego Padres.
Taijuan Walker is starting to put his outstanding stuff to good use, and will likely be the most difficult pitcher the Indians face in this series. His last two outings have been rough (11 combined earned runs), but when he faced this Indians lineup back on April 20 he held them to just three hits while striking out six. If he can get his fastball and other-worldly changeup working, the Indians may be in trouble on Wednesday. However, if Danny Salazar is also on his game we could have a 0-0 game going into the seventh inning, easily.
Nathan Karns is the Mariners' "best" pitcher, according to FanGraphs WAR, thanks to high strikeout rate and not-terrible walk rate. Josh Tomlin may no longer have his guaranteed-win-after-a-loss superpowers, but he has still shown a tendency to be a curiously great pitcher at times. Let's hope we see it on Thursday.
The Indians will continue their West Coast trip against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California Raisins with a three-game weekend set. Following that they travel to Kansas City to play the Royals before returning home to host the Chicago White Sox. If they can come out of this West Coast trip with a winning record, they will have a chance to really extend their AL Central lead in the coming weeks.
Team in a box
The Mariners look like a great team on paper, but most of that is leftover from when they started the season as one of the best teams in the league. They have been falling apart lately and rank near the bottom in the last 14 days, including an AL-worst 5.81 team ERA. Their offense has remained stellar, at least, as they rank third in team-fWAR behind the Boston Red Sox in the Tribe.
At one point, the Mariners were looking like a runaway winner in the American League West but injuries have caught up to them. Primarily, the loss of Felix Hernandez will hurt this team for a while -- although he was not very effective before going on the disabled list, either.
Not only are they now left looking up at the Texas Rangers in the AL West standings, but the surging Houston Astros are right on their backs, as well.
- No timetable yet on a return for Felix | MLB
Felix Hernandez is nursing a strained right calf, but the team is still not sure on when he will return. He is expected to at least miss "a couple" starts, including the one he was going to have against the Indians on Monday against Cleveland. King Felix is still one of my favorite pitchers in baseball, so I hope he returns soon and healthy.
- Mariners (Stefan Romero) spoil Iwakuma's stellar start as Rangers complete sweep | Lookout Landing
Things are not going well for our SB Nation sister site, but as always, their stable of excellent writers at least entertain everyone else in their misery.
Seattle Mariners roster
- C: Chris Iannetta
- 1B: Adam Lind
- 2B: Robinson Cano
- SS: Luis Sardinas
- 3B: Kyle Seager
- LF: Franklin Gutierrez
- CF: Nori Aoki
- RF: Seth Smith
- DH: Nelson Cruz
- C: Steve Clevinger
- 1B: Dae-Hoe Lee
- LF: Shawn O'Malley
- RF: Stefen Romero
After a disappointing 2015 campaign, Robinson Cano is back to dominating ways. For perspective, he has already passed the 2.1 fWAR he had in 156 games last year, with 2.5 fWAR in 56 showings already this season. His current .570 slugging percentage would also be the highest of his entire career if it were to hold up over a full season. He already has 16 home runs as well, putting him on pace to well beat-out his 21 long balls last season. And he is doing all this with a .276 BABIP, the lowest of his career. His power is just unreal right now.
Cano is not the only power threat on the Mariners of course. There is also Nelson Cruz with his 13 home runs and .525 slugging percentage. Third baseman Kyle Seager, who seemingly came out of nowhere a few years ago to be a legitimate home run hitter has 10 already on the season while slugging .517.
Even being in the wide open Safeco Field and in the damp Northwest has not slowed down the offense. At home, Seth Smith leads the team with a 1.027 slugging percentage; Robinson Cano's slugging is worse than his unbelievable overall rating, but still sits at .471.
- RHP: Hisashi Iwakuma
- LHP: Wade Miley
- RHP: Taijuan Walker
- RHP: Nate Karns
- LHP: James Paxton
- RHP: Steve Cishek
- RHP: Joaquin Benoit
- LHP: Mike Montgomery
- LHP: Vidal Nuno
- RHP: Nick Vincent
- RHP: Steve Johnson
- RHP: Edwin Diaz
Pitching has been the Mariners major flaw this season, especially in their recent struggles. Steve Cishek has been worth it at least, to this point in the season. He has struck out 31 percent of the batters he has faced so far, which would be a career-high over a full season. The rest of the Mariners bullpen is eerily similar to the Indians', with a few standout arms but a few too many pitchers capable of single-handedly destroying a game.
- LHP: Charlie Furbush, 15-day DL
- RHP: Felix Hernandez, 15-day DL
- SS: Ketel Marte, 15-day DL
- CF: Leonys Martin, 15-day DL
- RHP: Tony Zych, 15-day DL
- RHP: Evan Scribner, 60-day DL
- C: Jesus Sucre, 60-day DL