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1st Series Of Road Gauntlet Through NL Cities Begins Friday Night In San Francisco

The Indians are on the road for the next nine games while the Detroit Tigers are at home for ten games during the same stretch (including a make-up game against the Tampa Bay Rays). If the Tribe is going to maintain their lead in the AL Central, or remain right in the thick of things heading toward the All-Star break, a decent road trip will probably be mandatory.

The trip starts on Friday night in San Francisco vs. the defending World Champion Giants, who are in second place in the National League West, but only a half-game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks -- whom the Tribe will visit beginning Monday.

Carlos Carrasco will be trying for his fourth straight win on Friday. Carrasco (7-3, 3.87 ERA) has not lost since June 2, and is unbeaten on the road this season at 4-0. Carrasco, who has never faced the Giants, has gone 21.2 innings in his last three starts, allowing only twelve hits and one run in that span to rocket into the conversation of who is perhaps the Indians' best starter at present.

Beating the World Champions in their own park would only amp that conversation up further, although Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson both could lay claim to the same title.

San Francisco will send Jonathan Sanchez to the hill in the series opener. Sanchez (4-5, 3.71 ERA) has faced the Indians once in his career, emerging victorious with 7.2 innings of five-hit, one-run work.

Sanchez is in his sixth big league season, and has a career record of 38-44 with an ERA of 4.19 in 691.2 innings.

The Giants, who are 21-13 at home, are led offensively by Freddy Sanchez, who is hitting .289 in 60 games.  Fortunately for the Indians, Sanchez is on the Disabled List and will miss the series. The team leader in homers and RBI is Aubrey Huff. Huff has eight long-balls and has driven in 37 for a team which is tied for 25th in baseball with a .239 average and is tied for 24th in homers with only 47.

The strength of the Giants is in their pitching, which is fifth in the Majors in ERA at 3.28. The leader of the staff is Tim Lincecum, but the Tribe will be fortunate enough to miss Lincecum this weekend. Ryan Vogelsong has had a strong first-half, and stands at 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA, but Cleveland will also miss Vogelsong in this series.

Cleveland is tied for 18th in batting average at .251, and is led in all three major categories -- among players who will not probably be relegated to pinch-htting this weekend -- by Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera is hitting .296, with 12 homers and 43 RBI.

In their only other trip to the City by the Bay, the Indians swept San Francisco in 2005.

After Friday's 10:15 game, the two teams will meet on Saturday at 4:10, and then play in a nationally-televised game on ESPN at 8:05 on Sunday.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.