In what may be turning into the most bitter rivalry among AL Central clubs, the Tigers will yet again face off against the Indians, and in the immortal words of Justin Verlander they will try, and try, and try, and try, and try times 21, to best the Cleveland club.
Coming off a rough nine-game losing streak, the team is hoping to win pretty much any game at this point to regain a little confidence, especially with upcoming series against division leaders like the Cubs and Twins.
The Indians, meanwhile, are hoping to BECOME division leaders with thanks to the struggling Tigers.
We took some time to chat with Matt Lyons, managing editor of the SB Nation Indian’s site Let’s Go Tribe, about the coming series and what has been working for the team so far this year.
BYB: The Tigers have gone *checks notes* 20 consecutive games against the Indians without a win. That’s, uh.... not great. Why are the Indians just so good at beating the Tigers, and how can I make them stop?
ML: There is no stop, this is just your life now. Wouldn’t it be fun to at least be part of history? OK, maybe not, but I also don’t feel too bad because the Tigers ruined my formative early 20’s by dominating the Indians through the early part of the last decade. I still have nightmares about Miguel Cabrera so you can enjoy Carlos Santana walking and hitting 500-foot home runs for now.
It was just announced that Triston McKenzie would be making his debut this weekend, what can both Tigers and Indians fans expect from him?
Your guess is as good as mine. His ceiling was an ace (and then some) early in his minor league career, but injuries slowed that tremendously. He hasn’t pitched in a real game since Aug. 2018, but the Indians seem pretty confident in his work rehabbing last year and at the alternate site in Eastlake this year. If he’s even close to his former self, he’ll have a nasty curveball and maybe a fastball that can touch the low-mid ‘90s.
The Indians are currently only a half game behind the Twins for first in the AL Central, and all but assured a postseason berth, what is working so well for them this season?
Pitching, pitching, and their pitching is also good. Shane Bieber has been a savant, and Aaron Civale looks like a mini Corey Kluber. Even with Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger breaking the rules and being put in the shame zone, the Indians seemingly have endless pitching depth. The offense is also good at standing at the plate and giving the pitchers a break. Scoring, not so much, but at least Bieber gets to sit for a few minutes while they all strikeout with the bases loaded.
Soooo about that Plesac and Clevinger thing. Obviously that hit hard in the clubhouse, but it’s also pretty obvious we’ll see them back with the big club soon enough (maybe just long enough to get an extra year of service out of Clevinger?) What do you think they need to do to rebuild faith with their colleagues and the fanbase?
Oh man, I don’t know. Breaking the rules was bad enough, but it was their actions afterward that really seemed to sour their standing in the clubhouse. Clevinger lied about being out and ended up traveling with the team right after — potentially exposing everyone, including a leukemia survivor (!!!) to COVID-19 because he wanted to party for a night. Plesac, on the other hand, got caught right away but decided to put out an Instagram video saying it was all the media’s fault. That was after Francico Lindor, Adam Plutko, and even Terry Francona came out and condemned their actions. It was clear that the clubhouse was upset at them, but they blatantly ignored their feelings. So, to answer your questions again, I don’t know. I’m sure forgiveness will set in eventually, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Clevinger traded before he ever pitches in Cleveland again.
Who has surprised you the most this season, for good or for bad?
Francisco Lindor, for bad reasons. I can’t say I’m surprised about Shane Bieber because I always thought he’d be great, but Francisco Lindor struggling this much is new, depressing territory. Teams have found a way to attack him with off-speed pitches and shifting, and he hasn’t adjusted whatsoever.
Aside from McKenzie, is there anyone else left in the alternate camp you’re dying to see this season?
Nolan Jones! He was probably on track to debut this year, and I still hope we see him get a shot at third base, DH, or whatever. I think his looming promotion is the reason the Indians opted for a one-year deal on César Hernández so we still might not see him until 2021 but he’s one of the most exciting bats to come out of the system in a while.
Total personal question, but will it be weird seeing Jason Kipnis in a Cubs jersey if there’s a 2016 World Series rematch?
This interview is over, no further questions, thank you.
Thanks so much to Matt for taking the time to chat with us about the deepest thorn in our collective sides. Hopefully the Tigers can manage to stop their losing streak, as well as their series of losses against the Indians this weekend. You can read more of Matt’s work at Let’s Go Tribe.