The Indians, with a two-game lead over Kansas City, take on the Royals tonight in the second game of their four-game set, with Jeanmar Gomez slated to get the start for the Tribe in his first appearance of the season.
Gomez will be filling in for injured Mitch Talbot, and will be trying to give Cleveland a second straight victory over their nearest competitors — a win which would guarantee that the Tribe would leave K.C. in first place, no matter what would happen on Wednesday or Thursday.
Jeanmar was 4-5 last year with the Indians in his first major league action. In eleven games — all of which were starts — Gomez, in 57 2/3 innings, allowed 73 hits and 30 earned runs for an ERA of 4.68. He walked 22 and fanned 34, and his combined hit/walk total per inning of 1.67 was very high. That is a number he will be looking to — and will need to — cut down if he hopes to stick with the big club, especially when Talbot (who is on the DL with an elbow strain) comes back in a couple of weeks.
In three appearances against the Royals last year, Gomez went 1-1 with an ERA of 2.70 in 16 2/3 innings of work.
Kansas City will start Bruce Chen, a 33-year old left-hander who will be making his fourth appearance of the year. In his first start, against the Angels, Chen received a no-decision after allowing five runs in five innings, but in his last two starts, Chen has been nothing short of terrific.
In those two starts, covering 14 innings against Detroit and Seattle, Chen has not allowed a run and has held the opposition to nine hits, walking two and striking out eight. Chen was the winning pitcher in both games, giving him a 2-0 mark on the season and an ERA that has shrunk to 2.37.
This will be Chen’s 10th career appearance against Cleveland. In his previous nine games — five of which were starts — Chen is 3-2 against the Tribe, with a high ERA of 5.57.
Overall in his career, Chen is 50-50, with a career ERA of 4.59, so his good start to 2011 might be seen as an aberration.
Of course, last night’s Kansas City starter — Kyle Davies — came into the game with an ERA of 9.00 and, once he settled in, pitched very effectively for six innings, allowing only two runs. At this stage of the season it is hard to say what is an aberration; what is a good pitcher who had one or two bad games; and what might be a pitcher who has found the magic elixir of throwing strikes and keeping the ball on the ground.
In other words, anything goes against Chen, and the Indians would do well to not look too hard at their past achievements against him, and focus on trying to solve the Chen who has pretty much dominated his last two opponents.