The Cleveland Indians begin a three-game set with the Oakland Athletics tonight at Progressive Field with plenty of celebrations on tap for the holiday weekend. The 31-49 Indians, losers of 13 of their last 15 games since crawling to only seven games under .500, are in the midst of a deciding portion of their franchise history. An extra trade or a few more motivational wins will change the course of this team for the rest of this season and probably the beginning of next year, as Manager Eric Wedge and company look to right the ship and contend for the playoffs again in 2010.
This will be the first series of the season with the Athletics, owners of a 33-44 record, last in the AL West and only 3.5 games ahead of the Indians. Last season, Cleveland lost four of six against Oakland in April before proceeding to sweep them in a three-game set at Progressive Field in early May. The Athletics have allowed about 90 fewer runs than the Indians thus far and their young starters going to work this weekend represent what the Indians pitching staff could look like by the end of this season. GM Billy Beane has transformed his team into contenders time in and time out, but this season and next will be a true test of his ability to make a playoff team out of a bunch of new prospects and no big-name superstars at all.
I am just looking forward for a series victory this weekend. The last time the Indians won a series was when they won three straight against the White Sox, Royals and Cardinals en route to improving to 29-36 on June 14th. In the 15 games since then, the Tribe have been out-scored by over two runs per game at 74-107 or 4.9 to 7.1 runs per game. The pitching has been the bulk of the problem, but there have been several times where the batters have just not come through in clutch situations as well.
Here are the projected pitching matchups for this series:
Fri, July 3: LHP David Huff (3-3, 6.26 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Cahill (5-6, 4.23 ERA)
Sat, July 4: RHP Carl Pavano (6-7, 5.56 ERA) vs. RHP Vin Mazzaro (2-3, 2.95 ERA)
Sun, July 5: LHP Cliff Lee (4-7, 3.39 ERA) vs. Brett Anderson (4-7, 5.45 ERA)
In other Indians-concerning news around the league, David Dellucci was promoted up to the Majors yesterday in the Blue Jays organization after having mild success with Las Vegas. Columbus is in Toledo for a three-game series this weekend before returning home Monday for a three-game series against Indianapolis and the Akron Aeros meanwhile, take on the Bowie Baysox for the conclusion of a five-game series and hit the road for a four-game, thre-day series in Harrisburg tomorrow.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)