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Series Preview: Tribe (7-15) @ Oakland (12-10)

2003/04/26

The Indians continue their tour of the AL West tonight in Oakland, the place of residence for this transplanted Tribe fan. This will be my first chance to see Travis Hafner, Jason Davis and the rest of the new-look Indians this season. Injuries may prevent Milton Bradley and Brandon Phillips from making much more than cameos this weekend, as well as prevent many runners in road grays from crossing the plate.

Friday – Jason Davis (2-2, 6.97) vs. Ted Lilly (1-0, 3.24)

Davis has been something of a hard-luck pitcher this year.

Take away two poor innings in his first two starts and he would look much better right now. In those two innings, he has allowed nine hits (6 singles and three infield singles) and nine runs while walking three. In his last two starts, he has thrown 72% of his pitches for strikes (up from 53% in his first two starts), yet only struck out two batters.

He is an extreme ground-ball pitcher with a K-rate (3.05 per 9 IP) that makes him overly dependent on the defense behind him. With the exception of Erubiel Durazo, Oakland’s left-handed hitters have ground-ball tendencies that should be exaggerated somewhat by a sinkerballer like Davis.

The weather today in Oakland is cold and rainy, so it’s not hard to imagine some of those ground balls dying in the wet grass and being converted into outs. Jermaine Dye is expected to sit out tonight with a knee injury and Miguel Tejada has been slumping heavily for an Athletic offense that has managed only 10 runs in their last 4 games.

If Davis can keep the ball down and in the strike zone, he could keep the Indians close enough to pull this one out.

Ted Lilly is the polar opposite of Jason Davis; five inches shorter, lefthanded, power pitcher with extreme fly-ball tendencies and a high K-rate. The one trait they do seem to share is that neither tends to pitch very deep into games. The Oakland bullpen has been a strength so it will be important to get to Lilly early. Eric Wedge will not risk further injury to Milton Bradley’s hamstring in the damp chill of the Mausoleum tonight, so he will rely on Ellis Burks and Shane Spencer to pose any threat to Lilly on the hill.

Saturday – Jake Westbrook (1-2, 1.50) vs. John Halama (1-1, 3.60)

Previews are customarily published in advance of the event being previewed. As the game is now in the fourth inning as I wrtie this, I will bow to convention and instead offer a few notes regarding today’s game.

  • Who could have foretold that John Halama would no-hit the Indians for six-and-a-third anyhow? Brandon Phillips just broke up Halama’s bid for immortality, though his pitch count would have prevented him from pitching much longer regardless.
  • Bill Selby just plated two with a hard hit groundball to Scott Hatteberg when Chad Bradford bobbled the toss to first.
  • With the bases loaded and two outs, Eric Wedge made a curious decision in letting Shane Spencer bat against Bradford. Matt Lawton was available and hits righthanders much better than Spencer. The A’s had already spent their only lefty, Ricardo Rincon, so I wonder how much confidence Wedge has in Lawton right now.
  • Tim Laker made a terrible throw trying to force Hatteberg at second on MIguel Tejada’s dribbler. The mistake put Hatteberg at third where he scored the lead run on Erubiel Durazo’s liner to center. If Laker makes the play at first, the Tribe gets out of the inning unscathed.
  • Jose Santiago just entered the game in “relief” of Sadler. He promptly gave up three consecutive singles that plated two runs. He has now given up 22 hits and 5 walks in 13 1/3 innings. Should the Tribe really be wasting innings and a roster spot on Santiago when Dave Elder has K’d 14 in 11 IP down at Buffalo?
  • Sunday – C.C. Sabathia (0-2, 4.06) vs. Tim Hudson (2-1, 3.63)

    Come back Sunday morning for more on this game.

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