Series Preview #27, vs. Cleveland Indians

Christian Petersen

Interleague play is back in session, as the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks try to wrap up a disappointing nine-game home stand against Jason Kipnis and the Cleveland Indians.

What's New?

Arizona goes into the two-game set looking to wrap up their nine-game home stand, going 2-5 in their first seven games at Chase Field, winning one out of three games against the San Francisco Giants. The Diamondbacks kicked off the three-game set against the Giants strong, taking the opening game and taking advantage of Chris Owings' two-out RBI triple to win 4-1. On Saturday, the Giants got to starter Brandon McCarthy early and often, scoring four runs in the first two innings to power them to a 6-4 win. In the rubber match, a pitcher's duel between Madison Bumgarner and Mike Bolsinger was broken open by a three-run ninth inning as the Giants won 4-1.

The Diamondbacks remain in the top half of the majors in offense, ranking 12th in runs scored (317), good enough for an average of 4.06 per game while batting at a clip of .256/.308/.400 as a team. Their average drops to 4.02 runs per game when at home in 2014, as they bat .260/.313/.410 when at Chase Field. Arizona's pitching staff remains one of the worst overall in baseball, ranking 28th in team ERA (4.45) while putting together 30 quality starts. Their starter ERA is second-worst in baseball (4.81), as their poor starts may in part have led to their poor record. They have struggled at home this season (4.61 team ERA), surrendering a .269 batting average at Chase Field this season. Arizona is now 32-47 overall this season, 15 games behind San Francisco for first place in the NL West. They've won just three of their last ten games, and try to finish off their nine game set at home, where they are 14-29 this season.

Cleveland has been powered this season by the sixth-best run production in baseball (332), good enough for 4.43 runs/game while batting at a .256/.326/.394 clip. Their production tails off just a bit on the road, where they average 4.34 runs per game while batting .250/.321/.381 as a unit. However, their pitching staff has been below average this season, yielding the 23rd ranked team ERA in baseball (4.11) and a .258 batting average. They're even worse when on the road, as their ERA rises to 4.54 and they allow a .272 batting average when on the road.

The Indians come into Arizona having been swept at the hands of the Detroit Tigers as part of a 2-4 home stand overall. They're kicking off an eight-game road trip that'll see them go through Arizona, Seattle, and wrap up against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They head out on the road looking to improve on their 14-24 record outside of Cleveland in 2014. They're currently 37-39 overall, five games behind the Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central.

On The Mend

Arizona shortstop Chris Owings has been held out of the lineup on Saturday and Sunday, and is day-to-day with an ankle issue, according to Nick Piecoro of AZCentral Sports.

Roster Moves

On Friday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks activated outfielder Ender Inciarte from seven-day concussion disabled list; in a resulting move, Arizona designated right hander J.J. Putz for assignment. After denying a minor league assignment, the Diamondbacks had ten days from Friday to waive, release, or trade him.

Michael Brantley: Breakout Star?

Every season comes with its share of surprises and breakout seasons. One of baseball's biggest surprises has been Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, who has gone from everyday role player to a vital part of Cleveland's offense.

Brantley has been in the majors since 2009, and has emerged as the every day left fielder since 2011, but he has never had any season quite like this one. A career .282 hitter, Brantley has hit .320/.386/.511 through his first 71 games of 2014. He has already set a career high in home runs (taking less than half the games it took to set his previous high) with 11 home runs, along with 46 RBIs and nine stolen bases. He has already posted a 2.9 WAR this season, which matches his previous career-high that he set in 2012. He has mainly benefitted from his extreme comfort level at home this season, where he has batted .341/.390/.533 this season with six home runs and 27 RBIs.

It remains to be seen whether Brantley's hot start to 2014 can be sustained, but if it does it appears that Clevelan may have a star in the making in the 27-year-old Brantley.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1, Tuesday 6:40 PT: RHP Justin Masterson (4-5, 4.75 ERA, 3.89 FIP) vs. LHP Wade Miley (3-6, 4.62 ERA, 4.43 FIP)

Masterson has been up and down in 2014, making him very unpredictable to project. He was, however, strong in his last start, giving up just a run on four hits over seven innings in picking up the no decision against the Angels. He has struggled on the road this season, going 1-4 with a 6.20 ERA in eight road starts this season. Outside of giving up the home run ball at an alarming rate (17 this season), Miley appears to simply have been a victim of bad luck in most of his outings. He has not won since May 10th, but was solid in giving up three runs over 7.2 innings in a no decision against the Brewers in their last start.

Game 2, Wednesday 6:40 PT: RHP Corey Kluber (6-5, 3.30 ERA, 2.75 FIP) vs. RHP Chase Anderson (5-2, 3.18 ERA, 4.52 FIP)

Kluber has emerged to be the best pitcher on the Indians' staff, leading the team in ERA. He has given up just 11 runs over his last 23.2 innings, including giving up just two runs over seven innings in picking up the loss to Detroit in his last start. Anderson won his first five major league starts, but has lost two in a row in consecutive outings. He gave up two runs on five hits over six innings against Milwaukee in picking up a tough loss in his last start.

Series Pick'em

Arizona has had more than its share of struggles on this home stand, taking just one game from each series. I think they do the same thing here. Masterson has struggled on the road this season, and I simply feel that Wade Miley is due for a victory, and provided he has a solid performance they should get it. While Chase Anderson has pitched well this season, Corey Kluber might just be too good with his recent stretch of play.

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