Phillies Series Preview: vs Cleveland Indians

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Apr 14, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 14, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies will host the Cleveland Indians for a three game series this weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

Fresh off a morale-boosting three game sweep of a series against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals down in the Nation’s Capital, the Fightin’ Phils will take on their first Interleague opponent of the season in the Cleveland Indians.

These two franchise’ have met very rarely over their respective long histories, mostly due to their placing in the opposite league. They have met 13 times, with the Phils taking seven of the 13 games, but the Indians outscoring the Phils by a 77-60 margin.

The last meetings came back in 2013, with the Indians taking three of four meetings. The teams split a pair of games in Cleveland at this same point in the season, and then the Tribe came to Philly and swept a two-game series in the middle of May that year.

The two fan bases share affection for a pair of recent-vintage players as well, as both Jim Thome and Cliff Lee played pivotal roles with both clubs. Thome will be inducted into both the Indians Hall of Fame and honored with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame this summer. Thome banged 337 of his 612 career home runs with the Tribe.

While the Phillies were winning the 2008 World Series, Lee was winning the American League Cy Young Award as a 22-game winner for the Indians. The lefty went 83-48 over parts of eight seasons with Cleveland. With the Phillies he was a 3x National League All-Star.

Another thing that the two clubs share is a managerial history. Charlie Manuel, who became beloved here in Philly while guiding the club to that ’08 championship and 780 wins over parts of nine years as the skipper, had been the hitting coach in Cleveland and then won 220 games in parts of three seasons as the Tribe manager from 2000-02.

And in even more managerial history, the current Indians skipper is none other than Terry Francona, who has now won 268 games over the last 3+ seasons in Cleveland. He won a pair of World Series as the Boston Red Sox skipper, and of course struggled through his first-ever managerial assignment here in Philadelphia. Tito’s 1997-2000 Phillies went 285-363.

The current version of the Indians is not much different from the current Phillies, results-wise. They sit at 10-9 and in 3rd place in the American League Central Division, four games behind the front-running Chicago White Sox. The Tribe has won three of their last five games, with the two losses both coming via walk-off at the hands of the Minnesota Twins.

Leading the Indians offensive attack are sluggers Mike Napoli (1B), Carlos Santana (DH), and Yan Gomes (C), and speedy center fielder Rajai Davis. They have former Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, now 38-years old, in right field. 37-year old 3rd baseman Juan Uribe is a noted Phillies killer from his days with the Giants and Dodgers.

The middle infield of the Indians is where the real versatile talent lies. 2nd baseman Jason Kipnis is a 2x AL All-Star, and 22-year old shortstop Francisco Lindor is considered one of the top young talents in the American League, finishing 2nd in last year’s AL Rookie of the Year race.

With no DH here in a National League ballpark, Francona is going to have to choose between Napoli and Santana, and for the opener will be going with the better defend in Napoli. It takes a big bat out of the lineup, but will give him a strong bat off the bench in a crucial late moment.

Closer Cody Allen has been inconsistent, allowing eight hits over 9.2 innings with an 8/5 K:BB ratio. Righty Bryan Shaw has 13 strikeouts over 10 innings, but has also all owed three homers and 10 earned runs.

Other bullpen righties include former Phillies reliever Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, and Joba Chamberlain. The lefty options for Francona are former Nationals starter Ross Detwiler, and Kyle Crockett.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

FRIDAY: Adam Morgan (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Corey Kluber (1-3, 4.67 ERA): the big 30-year old righty Kluber was the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, and finished 9th a year ago. He has struck out 269 and 245 batters in the last two seasons, and though his K/9 rate is down a tad this year, at 9.7 he remains a strikeout pitcher. He was originally a 4th round pick of the San Diego Padres in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, and came to Cleveland three-team July 2010 trade that included the Padres, the Tribe, and the Saint Louis Cardinals. With the combination of one of the game’s best starting pitchers and the Phillies woeful offense, it does not portend many runs in the home team column. The Phils have to hope for a big effort from Morgan in his 2016 big league debut, keeping them in the game until they can perhaps scratch out a late win against the Tribe bullpen.

SATURDAY: Jerad Eickhoff (1-3, 4.07 ERA) vs Trevor Bauer (1-0, 4.76 ERA): the 25-year old righty Bauer was the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He came to Cleveland as part of a three-team trade in December of 2012 that involved the Dbacks, Tribe, and Cincinnati Reds. The sticking point in Bauer becoming anything more than a mid-rotation starter to this point in his career has been a propensity for walks. His 79 free passes led all AL starting pitchers a year ago, and his year he is on the same four-walks-per-game pace. The Phils need to be patient, and if the wold Bauer shows up they could put up a crooked number.

SUNDAY: Vincent Velasquez (3-1, 1.78 ERA) vs Danny Salazar (2-1, 2.35 ERA): another righty, the 26-year old Salazar was signed by the Indians as a 16-year old 2006 international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Over the last three seasons he has steadily risen in the Tribe rotation from 10 to 20 to 30 starts. Last year he emerged as one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the AL, allowing just 156 hits over 185 innings with 195 strikeouts. This should make for a fun pitching matchup, if it is played. Early weather forcasts (see below) are saying that Sunday will be a steady, day-long rainy day. If it’s called, hopefully it’s before the game is even played, so as to not waste the Velasquez outing.


KEYS TO PHILLIES VICTORY

MORGAN SEASON DEBUT: the left-handed 26-year old finally overcame an early career injury history to make his big league debut last summer. He went 5-7 with a 4.48 ERA and 1.245 WHIP, allowing 88 hits over 84.1 innings with a 49/17 K:BB ratio over 15 starts. Eight of those outings were of the Quality Start variety. He was strong in spring training, and was a leading contender for a rotation spot, but was simply beaten out by the outstanding performance of Velazquez. Now he gets the shot, unfortunately thanks to the Charlie Morton injury. He was pitching really well with the AAA Lehigh Valley squad, going 1-1  with a 3.57 ERA and a 20/4 K:BB ratio over 17.2 innings in three starts. The Phillies have been getting strong starting pitching for most of the season. Morgan needs to step up and prove that he belongs here, that he isn’t just a 4A “tweener” or a bullpen arm. That begins tonight.

OFFENSE – THIS IS NOT A REPEAT – WELL, MAYBE IT IS: the Phillies have the worst offense in the National League, scoring just 3.27 runs per game to this point. They are 23rd in baseball in team homer runs, 25th in doubles, and 28th in On-Base Percentage. Something has to change drastically if this team is going to have any hope over the long haul of a 162-game season to stay above the .500 mark. The likelihood is that nothing major is going to change until the personnel changes, and that is not likely to happen until later in the summer with the promotion of 2-3 of the club’s top prospects. Until then, the club is going to have to continue the formula that has worked to this point: great starting pitching, solid relief, just enough key offense to sneak out the wins.

BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Friday, April 29thvs. Cleveland Indians7:05 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM Radio
Saturday, April 30thvs. Cleveland Indians7:05 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM Radio
Sunday, May 1stvs. Cleveland Indians2:35 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM Radio

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE for Citizens Bank Park in South Philly

Tonight

A chance of showers, mainly before midnight. Cloudy, with a low around 44. Northeast wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Saturday

Partly sunny, with a high near 62. Northeast wind around 6 mph becoming east in the afternoon.

Saturday Night

Rain likely, mainly after 2am. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 47. East wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Sunday

Periods of rain. High near 60. East wind around 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.


INJURIES / DISABLED LIST

Cleveland Indians

DatePlayerStatus
4/25Carlos Carrasco, PStrained left hamstring (on 15-day DL)

Philadelphia Phillies

DatePlayerStatus
4/24Charlie Morton, PTorn left hamstring – out for season (on 15-day DL)
4/2Aaron Altherr, LFTorn tendon in left wrist (on 60-day DL)
4/2Matt Harrison, PLower back inflammation (on 60-day DL)
4/2Mario Hollands, PRecovery from left elbow surgery (on 60-day DL)
3/25Cody Asche, LFStrained right oblique (on 15-day DL)
3/25Michael Mariot, PRight ankle sprain (on 15-day DL)

Next: Phillies 2016 Already a Success

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