Cleveland Indians (2-1) at Tampa Bay Rays (1-2)
Series 2, Games 4, 5, and 6
Tropicana Field (2012): 0.874*, Slight pitchers park. (Dome)
*Park Factor compares the rate of stats at home vs. the rate of stats on the road. A rate higher than 1.000 favors the hitter. Below 1.000 favors the pitcher.
The Rays, despite winning 90 or more games for four of the past five seasons, failed to make the playoffs in 2012. The front office responded this off season by being fiscally conservative and dropping payroll by 2.7% from last season. They traded all-star starting pitcher James Shields to the Kansas City Royals, cutting $10.25 million from the operating expense category for 2013. Unlike the Indians, the Rays decided to keep quiet on the free agent market this past off season, as their talented group of core players take another shot at the AL East crown. The organization has earned respect since Stuart Sternberg took over the ownership of the club in 2005, taking on the financial behemoths of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees and making the postseason three times with a much lower payroll. This will be the Indians second straight series playing on an artificial surface; it will also be their last one for 2013. Luckily, the roster is more athletic than in years past so that "turf-toe" should be a non-issue.
Friday, April 5, 7:10EDT (STO)
Zach McAllister (0-0) vs. Matt Moore (L) (0-0)
In Moore's final start of the spring, he pitched four scoreless innings allowing only one hit while walking one and striking out five against the Tigers. He showed great improvement in his final start of the spring, needing only 54 pitches to work through the outing and 37 of those were strikes. In his rookie season in 2012, he had two starts against the Tribe; back to back starts with the all-star break in between. In each of those starts, he did not make it to the sixth inning. In fact, he only had four starts all season where he walked more batters than he struck out; two of them came against the Tribe.
Saturday, April 6, 7:10EDT (STO)
Trevor Bauer (0-0) vs. Alex Cobb (0-0)
A rough outing for Trevor Bauer on March 20th vs. the Angels (three earned runs on five hits and three walks over three innings) consequently ended Bauer's bid for a spot in the rotation. But, with Scott Kazmir's abdominal injury, he will get his opportunity to showcase his skills in the regular season for the first time. He is a smallish pitcher, with a bit of an unconventional motion, but his quirks are not the flaky flamethrower type, they're more of a dazzling "bag-of-tricks" variety. While he can reach 100mph if he wishes, he doesn't actually pitch there, preferring to stay down around 94mph with great and varying movement on his selection of sliders and cutters. If there is one game you decide to watch this series, make it this one. He will face a pitcher in Alex Cobb, who threw his change up 34 percent of the time last season, the highest rate of any pitcher with at least 20 starts. Batters chased 50 percent of those change ups out of the zone, the second-highest rate among those pitchers, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Sunday, April 7, 1:40EDT (STO)
Justin Masterson (1-0) vs. David Price (L) (0-0)
Price went six innings Tuesday, giving up two earned runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four and getting a no-decision against the Orioles in his first outing of the season. He wasn't as sharp as usual as he needed 100 pitches to get through six innings, but he was in line for the win until Jake McGee gave up five earned runs in the seventh inning. Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds are two of the Indians batters with 1.) the most at-bats (34 and 22 respectively) against Price and 2.) the most success facing the southpaw: Swisher is .353/.500/.500 and Reynolds has belted two home runs.
I hope the 1:40pm start does not disrupt the time you eat your lunch.