Manager: Terry Francona (4th season)
Last 10 games: 5-5
Who to watch: SS Francisco Lindor (.306/.356/.450 with 13 HR, 55 RBIs), 3B Jose Ramirez (.302 /.360/.428 with 44 RBIs), 1B Mike Napoli (28 HR, 79 RBIs), RHP Josh Tomlin (11-4, 3.81 ERA), RHP Cody Allen (2.49 ERA with 20 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: 1-1
Inside the Indians:
The Nationals will welcome a familiar unfamiliar foe in the Indians for a two-game series this week. Familiar in that these two clubs just faced off for two games in Cleveland two weeks ago. Unfamiliar in that they only play each other once every three years. However you look at it, we'll get to enjoy another matchup between two first-place teams, although one is currently faring better than the other.
At the start of the series two weeks ago, the Indians had a 5 1/2-game lead in the American League Central and the Nationals had a four-game lead in the National League East. Entering this series in D.C., the Tribe are just two games up over the Tigers while the Nats hold a commanding seven-game lead over the Marlins. In the 10 games since the last meeting, Cleveland is 5-5 and Washington is 7-3. That may seem like only a two-game difference, but consider that over that stretch, the Indians faced the Athletics and Twins (two last-place teams) at home and the Yankees on the road, while the Nationals played the first-place Giants twice.
The Indians are still led offensively by shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is slashing .306/.356/.450 with 13 home runs and 55 RBIs, and first baseman Mike Napoli, who leads the team with 28 homers and 79 RBIs (good for fourth in the AL). Indians 23-year-old third baseman Jose Ramirez is riding a 12-game hitting streak to help him lead the team with a .360 on-base percentage, while hitting .302. Second baseman Jason Kipnis is slugging .491 with 19 homers and 61 RBIs. Carlos Santana has knocked 24 longballs with 61 RBIs this season, but the Indians might be better off with the guitarist than the designated hitter at Nats Park. Manager Terry Francona will have to use him as a pinch-hitter or give him time at first base, where Santana has appeared in 37 games this season.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer will take the ball tonight for the Indians to start the series. The 25-year-old is 7-5 with a 4.08 ERA over 24 appearances this season (17 starts). Bauer hasn't won a start since June 27, going 0-3 with an 8.37 ERA in five starts over that span. He has never faced the Nationals, but is 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 13 interleague appearances (12 starts). Righty Josh Tomlin will start Wednesday's late-afternoon finale with an 11-4 record and 2.81 ERA. Tomlin can take the team lead in wins with a victory against the Nats, who he has never faced either. But he has found success in interleague play, going 7-2 with a 3.43 ERA in 13 career starts.
The Indians made a non-waiver trade deadline deal to bring left-handed reliever Andrew Miller over from the Yankees in exchange for four minor league players. Of course, the Nationals were rumored to have been targeting Miller, but made a trade for Mark Melancon the day before Miller was dealt to Cleveland. Because you're going to ask, Miller has given up one run on two hits with five strikeouts and a save in 2 2/3 innings over three appearances with the Indians, and Melancon as given up just one hit with six strikeouts and a save in four scoreless innings over four appearances with the Nationals.