So this is a battle that doesn't exactly set the box office humming, and doesn't get the gaudy headlines in the national media. Hey, that's cool, especially when the "combatants" are both under .500.
But there is also something to be said about finishing in second place in a five-team division, especially if you are the Indians and have not finished that high since winning the division in 2007.
So as the Tribe opens a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox with a day/night doubleheader on Tuesday, there is something to be played for, something that would feel good in those long days of December and January when the record won't matter as much as where you finished in September.
In today's split proceedings Cleveland will send Fausto Carmona against Gavin Floyd in the 1:05 opener, while in the 7:05 nightcap Zach McAllister will take the mound vs. the White Sox' Dylan Axelrod in a battle of rookies.
Carmona is 6-15 with a 5.26 ERA and has not won since August 17 when he beat the White Sox in Chicago 4-1 in what might have been his best start of the season. In that game Fausto went 8.1 innings and allowed just four hits and one run. Carmona has since appeared vs. the Chisox, again in Chicago, on September 10. In that game he did not fare quite as well, going 5.1 frames and surrendering three earned runs but receiving a no-decision in a game won by Chicago 7-3.
For his career Carmona is 8-5 vs. the White Sox with a 5.54 ERA in 87.2 innings.
Floyd (12-11, 4.42 ERA) was the starting pitcher on September 8 in Chicago and received no decision in an 8-1 win. Floyd worked 5.2 innings that day, allowing just one run.
For his career Floyd has gone 6-3 vs. Cleveland with a 4.33 ERA in 70.2 innings.
McAllister (0-1, 12.27 ERA) will, like Axelrod, be making just his third career appearance. Zach got a no-decision in his Major League debut on July 7 vs. the Blue Jays, and lost in his second outing when the Mariners defeated the Tribe 12-7 on August 23. In that game, McAllister worked only 3.1 innings and allowed eight earned runs.
Axelrod (0-0, 2.25 ERA) will be making his second start in this, his third outing in the Bigs. Axelrod worked two innings in his debut on September 7 against the Twins, then got the start and went six innings vs. the Tigers last Wednesday and acquitted himself well. In that game Axelrod allowed the American League Central champions only two runs on six hits.
This series will continue with 7:05 games on Wednesday and Thursday nights.