World Series Preview?
It's not totally out of the question that Cleveland and San Francisco could meet in the Fall Classic -- that exact World Series matchup is +16000 at sportsbooks. Neither the Tribe nor Giants are expected to win their divisions with powerhouses Detroit and the L.A. Dodgers heavy favorites in the AL Central and NL West, respectively. There's always the wild card, which Cleveland was last year.
The Indians got back to .500 by taking three of four games at home against Kansas City to start this week. They hadn't won a series since taking two of three from another NL West club, San Diego, a few weeks ago. Cleveland is looking smart thus far for not giving big money to re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez as he is struggling mightily in Baltimore, but the pitching staff without him was a question mark entering the season, and the Tribe rank 23rd in ERA and quality starts. Ace Justin Masterson, who can become a free agent after this season, has yet to win and has an ERA of 4.50. He could be traded if the Indians aren't contending in July. Masterson's velocity is down so far. Indians pitchers have allowed only 14 home runs, third-fewest in the majors.
Offensively, no Indians regular is hitting .300, with Michael Brantley leading the team in average (.296), home runs (four), RBIs (19) and on-base percentage. HIs four-year, $25 million extension at the start of spring training looks like a bargain right now for the Indians. Much like last year, this isn't a team that will hit for a high average or get on base a ton. Carlos Santana has been a major disappointment. Once considering one of the top catching prospects in baseball, he's now a largely a third baseman/DH and hitting .137. That's the worst in the American League.
The Giants enter having lost five of seven and dropped series in San Diego and Colorado after taking two of three at home against the Dodgers. Manager Bruce Bochy looked like a genius Wednesday when he gave All-Star catcher Buster Posey the game off against the Rockies and replacement Hector Sanchez hit two home runs, including a game-winning grand slam in the top of the 11th, to avoid a sweep. Michael Morse also had two dingers for the Giants. It was the first time in seven years the team had two players with multiple home runs in the same game. That's pretty hard to believe.
Struggling Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval left that game with a stomach virus but with Thursday's day off should be OK to play Friday. He's hitting .100 over the past seven days. Outfielder Angel Pagan also missed Wednesday's game with a sore knee, but he also should be fine. It was a day game after a night game Wednesday.
The Giants and Indians last met in 2011, with San Francisco sweeping three at home.
Cleveland starts right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who won the No. 5 rotation spot this spring over Josh Tomlin. Carrasco could be pitching for his job as he is 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA. He hasn't lasted more than 5.2 innings in three starts and has allowed at least four runs in all of them. Batters are hitting .302 off him. Very few Giants have faced him. Sandoval is 1-for-3 with an RBI.
San Francisco starts 38-year-old Tim Hudson (2-1, 2.40). He pitched well last time out, allowing two runs over seven innings in San Diego but suffered his first loss. He has been much better on the road in two starts (1-1, 1.23 ERA, no home runs allowed) than at home (1-3, 3.52 ERA, zero HRs). Hudson is 1-2 with a 6.33 ERA in eight career starts against Cleveland but those were back in his Oakland days. He has never faced the Tribe in interleague play. Former A's teammate Jason Giambi has faced him the most of any Cleveland player, going 9-for-24 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Giambi has only been active for a week or so and has played in just one game so it will be interesting to see if he gets the call at DH with his past success against Hudson. Nick Swisher is 3-for-4 with two RBIs career against Hudson.
MLB free picks: Double up on the Giants at -158 at sportsbooks as well as at +145 on the runline. San Francisco may score eight off Carrasco alone so lean over 7.5 runs (-120). The Indians are 3-13 in Carrasco's past 16 starts. The Giants are 9-2 in their past 11 at home against right-handed starters. The over is 6-0 in Carrasco's past six starts. The over is 6-1 in the Giants' past seven at home against a righty starter.