The Pirates are enjoying what is, for them, a successful season so far. At 35-33 the Pirates are only fourth in the NL Central, but Pittsburgh trails the first-place Milwaukee Brewers by only three games, and have won seven of their last ten games, including four in a row.
Cleveland, meanwhile, comes in at 36-31, a game behind the Detroit Tigers and in second place in the AL Central.
Pittsburgh -- which is 20-15 on the road so far in 2011 -- will send Kevin Correia (8-5, 3.73 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. Correia lost his last start, against the New York Mets on Sunday. In 89.1 innings, Correia has allowed 90 hits and 19 walks, while striking out 41 and giving up nine home runs. On the road Correia is 7-1 with a 2.42 ERA -- sounds like a tough customer for the Tribe to face on Friday.
This will be Correia's first-ever outing against Cleveland.
The Indians will send Josh Tomlin, who will be trying to break a personal two-game slide and a four-game stretch of shaky starts. Tomlin (7-4, 4.14 ERA) was 6-1 with a 2.41 ERA after beating Cincinnati on May 21, but since then has gone 1-3, and has been touched for 22 runs in 23 innings over that four-start span since beating the Reds. In his last outing, Tomlin lost to the Yankees in New York on Sunday, lasting only five innings and allowing six runs on ten hits to the Bronx Bombers.
This will be Tomlin's first appearance vs. Pittsburgh.
The Pirates are only 26th in the Majors in hitting, at .240. Pittsburgh is led offensively by Andrew McCutchen at .290. McCutchen also leads in homers with ten, while Neil Walker is the team leader with 45 RBI.
It is the pitching which has contributed to the Pirates' good beginning to the 2011 season. Pittsburgh comes in with a team ERA of 3.48, good for fourth in the bigs, although of course that number is skewed a bit by playing in the National League, where pitchers also bat.
Even so, Pittsburgh will be a formidable opponent and the Tribe needs to find their "A" game to make a good weekend of it.
Cleveland has dropped to 19th offensively in the Majors with a .250 team batting average. Asdrubal Cabrera leads in average among players expected to play this weekend at .295. Asdrubal also leads in homers with 12, and with RBI with 43.
Pitching-wise, the Indians are 20th in the bigs with an ERA of 4.03.
The Indians are only 12-15 all-time against Pittsburgh, which has not had a winning season since 1992. The Pirates have not been as close as three games from first-place this late in a campaign since 1997.