Manager: Terry Francona, second year
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (.367/.436/.510, 12 XBH, 6 RBIs); LF Michael Brantley (.302/.370/.523, 9 HR, 36 RBIs, 6 SBs); RF Daniel Murphy (.294/.360/.483, 5 HR, 30 RBIs); RHP Corey Kluber (4-3, 3.43 ERA, 74 K)
Season series vs. O’s (2013): 4-3, 27 runs scored, 32 runs allowed
May 22: TBD vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 7 p.m., MASN HD
May 23: Justin Masterson vs. Bud Norris, 7 p.m., MASN HD
May 24: Corey Kluber vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, 12:30 p.m., MASN HD
May 25: Trevor Bauer vs. Miguel Gonzalez, 1:30 p.m., MASN2 HD
The Indians have been the picture of inconsistency so far this season, often alternating wins and losses and never stringing together more than four straight victories over the first two months.
But they arrive at Camden Yards on a high, coming off a massive three-game sweep of the American League Central-leading Tigers. Although Cleveland remains in last place in the division, the Indians moved to within 7 1/2 games - a much more manageable margin between first and fifth.
The Indians haven’t done anything especially well this season, but they did put on an offensive display against Detroit, scoring 21 runs in the three-game set with at least five in each contest. Even without All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has been out since May 2 with a strained oblique, Cleveland is up to sixth in the AL with 202 runs. But the Indians are eighth with 41 homers and 10th with a .252 average.
Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is having a strong start to the season, pushing for an increased role by leading the team with a .367 average and a .947 OPS with 12 extra-base hits in 98 at-bats.
Outfielder Michael Brantley is having a breakout campaign with team-highs of nine homers and 36 RBIs while adding an .893 OPS. Outfielder David Murphy has also hit well with an .843 OPS, 16 extra-base knocks and 30 RBIs.
That hasn’t fully allowed the Indians to overcome underwhelming showings from the likes of catcher Carlos Santana (.143 average), first baseman Nick Swisher (.211 average) and outfielder Michael Bourn (.299 OBP).
Cleveland’s pitching has been just as weak, ranking 10th in the AL with a 4.20 ERA. But the bullpen has been among the league’s best with its 3.28 ERA ranking fourth in the AL. Relievers Scott Atchison and Bryan Shaw have paced the ‘pen, allowing seven earned runs in 44 1/3 innings (1.42 ERA).
The Indians also lead the majors with 410 strikeouts, but their rotation has scuffled to a 4.75 ERA.
The Orioles will get to see the Indians’ top starter, however, as right-hander Corey Kluber will take on former Cleveland right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez in an elite matinee matchup on Sunday. Kluber leads the Cleveland rotation with a 3.43 ERA through 10 starts, but has a 2.34 ERA over his last six outings.
It remains unclear who will pitch tonight’s series opener for the Indians after scheduled starter Josh Tomlin was needed in relief during Wednesday’s 13-inning win over the Tigers.
That helped Cleveland arrive in Baltimore looking to stay streaking into the weekend.