Red Sox on the road to Cleveland: series preview


May 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher

John Lackey

(41) delivers a pitch during the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox hit the road to Cleveland for three games. Can they keep the winning streak alive? Not if the Indians have anything to say about it. The Sox (27-29) and Indians (27-30) are in similar positions in the their divisions; next to last and six games out of first. In other words, they both have the same need to succeed.

Game 1 – John Lackey (6-3 and 3.27 ERA) versus Justin Masterson (2-4 and 5.21 ERA). Former Red Sox Masterson hasn’t been as good this season as he has been in the past. Lackey is coming off a nine-strikeout win over the pesky Rays. The advantage looks to be to the Sox here, but with so many young guys on the team, Masterson will be a bit of a mystery to many of the batters.

Game 2Jake Peavy (1-2 and 4.50 ERA) versus T.J. House (0-1 and 4.05 ERA). If Masterson is a little bit of a mystery to Sox batters then T.J. House is a total enigma. The 24-year old lefty from Louisiana has pitched just three games in the major leagues.

Game 3Brandon Workman (0-0 and 3.24 ERA) versus Corey Kluber (6-3 and 3.04 ERA). Workman’s last two starts have been against the Rays. He gave up only nine total hits in 10.1 innings and held TB to a .216 batting average. Kluber is coming off a 12-strikeout win over the Rockies in which he went 7.1 innings with only five hits allowed. The 28-year old could be tough for the Sox to hit.

Brian Heise from WahoosOnFirst took the time to answer some questions about the series.

What’s the recipe for getting the Indians back to .500?

The Indians need to find some way to improve their defense. If they can do that, they can start winning more games than they are losing. TO date, the Indians are the worst defensive team in baseball by any metric you want to examine. Not only do they continually flub the routine plays, their range at many key positions, especially on the left side of the infield, is non-existent. Offensively they have had their ups and downs, but most teams go through dry spells so that isn’t much of a concern, but all the extra pitches, batters faced, and runs allowed because of the defense is really taking its toll, especially on the pitching staff.

Another thing that would really help would be Carlos Santana remembering how to hit a baseball. He’s been awful so far and it’s beginning to go from just a slow start to cause for legitimate concern. He’s still getting his walks, but the power and ability to get a key hit with runners on base have been non-existent. As a cornerstone of the franchise we have to play him and hope he wakes up, but right now he’s definitely hurting this team more than he’s helping. Perhaps the emergence of Lonnie Chisenhall will allow Terry Francona to move him back to the DH spot on a more permanent basis. The added stress of playing third base is the only possible cause anyone can come up with and making such a move could help him relax and refocus on hitting.

After last season’s pleasant surprise, is there a lot of pressure to get back to the playoffs?

Yes, there was… to an extent. I think a lot of fans, myself included, are hoping they can make it back to the playoffs. However, because they didn’t do much to improve themselves this offseason (David Murphy looks like a smart signing right now), no one is thinking playoffs or bust. Most of us can see that the Indians overachieved in a lot of areas in 2013, record included, and regression was to be expected without making an effort to really improve. They didn’t do that so the fact that they are struggling right now isn’t all that surprising. Is it disappointing though? Yes, for sure. They still have time to turn things around though, and anything can happen between now and October.

Kluber has been doing really well this season. What’s the key to his success?

The emergence of Corey Kluber as the ace of our staff (yes, he is our ace since Justin Masterson has done little to hold onto that title this season) is a complete surprise. I once said that I didn’t think Corey Kluber was all that good of a pitcher. Actually I said that a lot prior to last season. So maybe it’s the reverse jinx working its magic. In all seriousness, I think Kluber’s success stems from his ability to keep himself out of trouble. He doesn’t walk a ton of guys and when he needs to get a strikeout, he can get one. Really it’s as simple as that. Go figure that not walking guys and being able to get a strikeout when you need it would be a key to success.