Good news Indians fans!  Travis Hafner is coming off the disabled list and is in tonight’s lineup.  To make room on the roster, Travis Buck was sent to AAA Columbus (I was still mad at him for the time he popped up to the catcher on the first pitch against Texas).  Anyway, I thought it might be a good idea to preview the series and share tonight’s lineups, and the pitching matchups for the weekend.

For Friday night’s game, Josh Tomlin (7-4, 4.14 ERA) will go against Kevin Correia (8-5, 3.73 ERA)Cleveland’s lineup: 1. Grady Sizemore, CF,  2. Michael Brantley, LF,  3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS,  4. Travis Hafner, DH,  5. Shin-Soo Choo, RF,  6. Carlos Santana, C,  7. Matt LaPorta, 1B,  8. Orlando Cabrera, 2B,  9. Jack Hannahan, 3B.  Pittsburgh’s lineup: 1. Jose Tabata, CF,  2. Xavier Paul, 2B,  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF,  4. Neil Walker, 2B,  5. Garrett Jones, DH,  6. Lyle Overbay, 1B,  7. Josh Harrison, 3B,  8. Michael McKenry, C,  9. Ronny Cedeno, SS

Thoughts on Friday night’s game: The Indians looked solid offensively in Wednesday night’s victory over Detroit.  Instead of trying to hit 20-run home runs every at bat, the offense put together a number of singles in order to score runs.  During their slump, Indians hitters were abysmal with runners in scoring position.  In fact, when Matt LaPorta came to the plate in the fourth inning on Wednesday, at that point the Indians were 7 for 76 with RISP.  They were 3-9 on Wednesday night, an obvious improvement.  They appeared to start out hot against Max Scherzer on Thursday afternoon, but failed to score again after their two first inning runs.

The Indians will need to string hits together against Correia, a pitcher with a career ERA of 4.48 who has kept his ERA at 3.73 thus far this season.  He’s been one of the Pirates’ more consistent starters; in his last appearance gave up 7 hits and 4 earned runs in 7.2 innings in a loss to the Mets, but held them hitless for the first 4.2 innings.  He’s also 7-1 with a 2.42 ERA on the road this year.

On the pitching side of things, Josh Tomlin needs to recover from several difficult starts in a row.  In his past four starts, he never lasted longer than 6 innings, and gave up 6 runs three times, and four runs once.  In two of those starts (Rays and Yankees) he gave up 10+ hits as well.  Even though the Pirates have been hot lately, they still rank toward the bottom of all Major League teams in most hitting statistics.  They’re 25th in runs scored, 26th in batting average, 22nd in on base percentage, and 26th in slugging percentage.   The Pirates have also struggled to find consistent offensive production at shortstop and catcher; the catcher issue is more due to injuries though.  (Former Cleveland Indian Wyatt Toregas was just released by the Pirates recently after a brief, miserable stint with the team). While those statistics would make their offense appear manageable, they’ve won four in a row, scoring 16 runs during their streak (although 3 of those games, and 13 of those runs, were against the lowly Houston Astros).  The Pirates are now two games above .500 and just three games behind first place Milwaukee in the NL Central.  This is a big deal, as this is a team that has not even had a season above .500 since 1992.

Pitching matchup for Saturday – Paul Maholm  (3-7, 3.12 ERA) vs. Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 4.09 ERA) This could end up being quite the pitcher’s duel.  Maholm hasn’t allowed an earned run in his past two starts, over a total of 13 innings, as the Pirates defeated the New York Mets and the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Carlos Carrasco hasn’t allowed an earned run in his past two starts either, for a total of 15.1 innings, as the Indians defeated the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees 1-0.  (I should add; that 1-0 victory against the Yankees was the first time the Yankees lost 1-0 at the new Yankee Stadium).

Pitching matchup for Sunday – Jeff Karstens (4-4, 2.66 ERA) vs. Justin Masterson (5-5, 3.16 ERA) While Karstens has been solid for the Pirates for much of this season, he’s definitely better during night games (2-0, 2.16 ERA) than he is during day games (1-4, 4.88 ERA).  Fortunately for the Indians, he’s pitching Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. Father’s Day start.  (Seriously, the offense could use all the help it can get at this point).  Three Indians have faced Karstens in the past five years, Orlando Cabrera, Austin Kearns, and Shin-Soo Choo.  Cabrera is 1-6 (.167), Choo is 2-3 (.667), and Kearns is 1-3 (.333) with an RBI.   Masterson has lost his last four starts for the Indians, but in the last two (against Detroit and Minnesota) he only gave up 2 earned runs in each game, despite the fact that he gave up his season high total in walks (5) against the Tigers.


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