May 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion follows through after hitting a single in the third inning against Philadelphia Phillies at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Cleveland Indians (18-20) @ Toronto Blue Jays (19-20)


They say that sometimes, you have to look yourself in the mirror in order to make a significant change. For the Toronto Blue Jays, it doesn’t get any closer to looking into a mirror than looking at the Cleveland Indians on the other side of the field.

Inconsistency has been the downfall for both Cleveland and Toronto in the early goings of 2014, with an inability to match up quality pitching with a potent offense has doomed both teams to hovering near the .500 mark. For the Indians, a team that ranks 16th in team ERA, the issues have been offensive, as Cleveland sits 24th in batting average and 17th in runs scored. The opposite can be said for the Blue Jays, who rank 3rd in runs scored and OPS, but 25th with a team ERA of 4.45.

This will be the second time these two teams have met in 2014. In their first go-around, the Blue Jays took two of three in Cleveland. However, it should have been a solid sweep, as Aaron Loup‘s late-inning meltdown in game three turned a victory into a loss and the Blue Jays went on to lose 5 of 6 the following week.

Both teams come into this match-up playing decent baseball. The Blue Jays have won 6 of their last 10, while the Indians are 7-3 over the same stretch. However, their respective situations in the division are quite different. At 18-20, the Indians sit 6 games behind the Detroit Tigers, the Blue Jays 19-20 mark has them trailing the Baltimore Orioles by just 2.5 games.

Pitching Probables

Game 1: Justin Masterson (2-1, 3.86 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (3-3, 4.72)

The 29-year-old Masterson has had his share of success against the Blue Jays over the course of his career, first as a reliever with the Boston Red Sox and now as a starter for the Indians. In 15 appearances (7 starts), the right-hander owns a 4-1 record with a 2.79 ERA and a 7.3 K/9 ration. When the two teams met up earlier this season, Masterson was brilliant, tossing 6.1 innings of 2-run ball, striking out 9 Jays hitters in the process and took a no-decision for his efforts.

He’ll be opposed by Blue Jays knuckle-baller R.A Dickey who missed the Indians the first time through. Over the course of his career, Dickey has made 11 appearances, including 5 starts, against Cleveland, and owns a 2-2 record with a 3.61 ERA and a 8.3 K/9 ratio against the tribe.

Game 2: Corey Kluber (3-3, 3.48 ERA) vs Dustin McGowan (2-1, 4.63)

Game 2 will see a match-up of 28-year-old Corey Kluber and 32-year-old Dustin McGowan. Like Masterson, Kluber got a solid dose of the Blue Jays over 6.2 innings of work on April 19th, allowing 9 hits and 5 runs in the process. However, since that start, Kluber has been outstanding. In his last 28.1 innings of work, Kluber owns a 1.91 ERA and owns a 38:6 K/BB ratio over those last four starts.

The Blue Jays will send Dustin McGowan to the hill. In three games since deciding to go ahead and wear an insulin pump to the mound, McGowan has turned his season around. Over those last three starts, the right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average. However, the Cleveland Indians have not been nice to McGowan, as he holds a lifetime ERA of 11.05 over the course of 4 appearances (3 starts) against the Tribe.

Game 3: Danny Salazar (1-3, 5.65 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (1-1, 4.63)

It remains to be seen if the Blue Jays will still send Happ to the hill on Thursday to face Danny Salazar. The Jays lefty was lifted after throwing 60 pitches in just 2.1 innings against the Angels on Saturday, allowing 7 hits and 4 earned runs in the process. Speculation has run rampant this week, with Todd Redmond a good choice to replace Happ if the decision is made.

The Indians will go with young righty Danny Salazar in the finale. His sophomore season has been a bit of struggle, with the 24-year-0ld flamethrower struggling with a 5.65 ERA after 7 starts. However, he has shown improvement over his last 3 starts, where Salazar has posted a 3.44 ERA and a 21:4 K/BB ratio.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Blue Jays:

Jose Reyes – SS
Melky Cabrera – LF
Jose Bautista – CF
Edwin Encarnacion – 1B
Dioner Navarro – C
Adam Lind – DH
Brett Lawrie – 2B
Juan Francisco – 3B
Steve Tolleson – RF

Indians:

Michael Bourn – CF
Nick Swisher – 1B
Michael Brantley – LF
Carlos Santana – 3B
Ryan Raburn – DH
Asdrubal Cabrera – SS
Yan Gomes – C
David Murphy – RF
Jose Ramirez – 2B

Worth the price of admission

Edwin Encarnacion was named the American League Player of the Week by Major League Baseball on Monday. Over his last 7 days, Encarnacion has clubbed four home runs, drove in 10 runners, and collected 25 total bases. That’s helped push his triple-slash to .252/.335/.477 and vaulted him 1 behind the team lead with 27 RBI. The parrot is back, and it is beautiful.

 

Worth the vomit bag give-away

After a great start to the season, Dioner Navarro has struggled over his last 7 games. He has just 3 hits and 1 walk over his last 20 at-bats, putting together a slash-line of .150/.190/.150 during that time. Given his cool-down, and Encarnacion’s heat-up, it may be prudent to slide the Jays catcher down in the order and move a hotter hitter behind Encarnacion so that he isn’t pitched around.

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