Heading into their Friday home opener against the Minnesota Twins, the Cleveland Indians escaped their three-game series to open the season against Oakland with two wins. In all honesty, the team should probably be 0-3 right now, but their flare for the dramatic from last season has seemingly carried over into 2014—as the Indians got to Athletics reliever, Jim Johnson, for two runs in the 9th inning in game one and three runs in game three to steal the series.
Despite doing very little to calm skeptics doubts about the pitching staff and power in the middle of the lineup, Terry Francona’s ball club seemingly found a way—like they did last season—to just win. It wasn’t pretty, easy or how they wanted to win, but they got the job done anyway.
With their eyes firmly fixed on the rebuilding Minnesota Twins, the question on everyone’s mind should be pretty obvious. Can the Cleveland Indians keep up their late-inning magic in the 2014 season?
More importantly, Progressive field will be packaged to maximum capacity as young starter, Danny Salazar, takes the mound for the first time in a meaningful game since they lost in the one-game playoff last year. For the youngster’s sake—and the 40,000-plus in attendance—let’s hope some of the magic made its way back from the west coast.
The Twins are sending Mike Pelfrey to the mound to take on Salazar, and the Indians should be pretty excited to see him. Pelfrey finished 2013 with a 5-13 record and a 5.19 ERA, though he had mild success against the Indians—defeating them in May (six innings, one earned run), earning a no decision in a Twins win in July (5.2 innings, two earned runs) and earning a no decision in an Indians 3-1 win (five innings, one earned run). So technically, Pelfrey was 1-0 against the Tribe last season.
However, his record against the rest of the world wasn’t so great—which means the Indians bats, which are in desperate need of a jump start, could get just that on Friday afternoon. Though the forecast is calling for rain, the Tribe lineup should get plenty of cracks at turning their slow start around on Friday, and all weekend for that matter.
It may be early, but the likes of Jason Kipnis (.231 batting average), Asdrubal Cabrera (.200 batting average), Yan Gomes (.167 batting average) and Nick Swisher (.154 batting average) could really use some home cooking to get things going. They all look uneasy and like they are pressing at the plate, especially Kipnis and Swisher who seemed to be lunging at the ball more than usual in Oakland.
What would be a welcome sight is for the long ball to make an emergence this weekend. The Indians hit just one dinger this week, and that came from Goon Squad member, Mike Aviles. There were a couple of other close ones, but it seems that the lack of power is once again going to be a major issue this season—and hopefully the front office realizes this sooner rather than later and makes a deal for a bat.
All in all it should be a fun weekend. The Twins generally play the Indians tough, but getting to see the youngsters Salazar and Carlos Carrassco open up the series could give Tribe fans a look into the future of the rotation. Justin Masterson will close out the Minnesota Twins on Sunday before the team hosts the San Diego Padres, and by the way he is throwing the ball already this season that could be must-see Sunday action.