The Cleveland Indians’ offense is struggling. After saying goodbye to stars Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana in the offseason, the Indians are 14th in runs scored in the American League in the young this season, and 12th in batting average.
Their pitching, however, has been solid as the Indians prepare to host the finale of their two-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon.
The Indians, who lost the first game of the series Monday, 3-0, are seventh in the league in earned-run average and fifth in opponents’ batting average. The rotation, long a strength for Cleveland, remains so.
Shane Bieber, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, took the loss in Cleveland’s opening-day defeat in Detroit. But the 25-year-old right-hander still joined elite company by becoming one of just four pitchers to strike out at least 12 batters in multiple opening-day starts. The other three are Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson and Randy Johnson.
The temperature in Detroit on Opening Day was near freezing, with 15 mph winds and occasional bursts of heavy snow. Bieber allowed three runs on five hits in six innings. Two runs came on a home run by Miguel Cabrera that disappeared into the snowfall.
“It was pretty typical Bieber,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said after his pitcher’s start against the Tigers. “A lot of strikeouts, really sharp. Threw some really good breaking balls. I thought he looked a lot like Bieber.
“The home run, I never even saw the ball. It was getting to the point where the umpires were kind of trying to figure out do we keep going or not.”
Bieber is 4-0 in seven starts against the Royals in his career, with a 3.70 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings.
The Royals’ starter for Wednesday had not been announced Tuesday afternoon, though it appears likely to be “bullpen day.” The first to get the ball could be Carlos Hernandez, who picked up the win in relief on Opening Day, or Kris Bubic, who would need to be moved onto the active roster.
The Royals also have right-hander Ervin Santana on their taxi squad for the road trip. A 15-year veteran, Santana has starting experience and had stretched to as many as three innings by the end of spring training.
Danny Duffy’s outstanding starting performance against the Indians on Monday — when he gave up only two hits over six scoreless innings — was the first good outing by the Kansas City rotation. That made Royals manager Mike Matheny’s job a little easier, as Scott Barlow pitched two perfect innings and Jesse Hahn picked up his first save.
“I don’t think it was as much our bullpen being beat up as it was we need our starters to lead this staff,” Matheny said. “And part of that is to continue to take the ball deep into games. Danny was fantastic.
“It’s really hard to guess along when he had a couple good pitches that he could go to any time for strikes. It was as good as I’ve seen Danny, and as good of a time for us as any to have a start like that.”
–Field Level Media