(Updated: ADDS Angels wild card standing in paragraph 2)
The Los Angeles Angels face a tall task when they try to keep their American League wild card hopes alive against the visiting Cleveland Indians in a three-game series beginning Tuesday. The Indians are winners of 24 of their last 25 games and are busy trying to secure the best record in the AL ahead of the playoffs.
Cleveland, which is 1 1/2 games ahead of Houston in the race for homefield advantage in the AL, clinched the Central Division late Saturday and celebrated with their home fans after pulling off a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. “These guys do an unbelievable job of never letting the moment get too big or too small,” Indians closer Cody Allen told MLB.com. “Just focusing on the task at hand. And I think that’s the only way I think you can win as many games in a row as we did or be down early in the season and come back and battle with some of these teams in our division.” The Angels are trying to track down the Minnesota Twins for the second AL wild card, trailing by 1 1/2 games and staring at a tough week with Cleveland in town early and a trip to AL West champion Houston over the weekend. Los Angeles will try to hand the Indians a rare loss when lefty Tyler Skaggs goes up against Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger on Tuesday.
TV: 10:07 p.m. ET, ESPN, STO (Cleveland), FSN West (Los Angeles)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Mike Clevinger (10-5, 3.21 ERA) vs. Angels LH Tyler Skaggs (2-5, 4.37)
Clevinger fits right in with Cleveland’s success over the last four weeks and is riding a streak of four straight wins, during which he surrendered a total of one earned run. The 26-year-old Florida native had a string of three straight scoreless outings come to an end Wednesday, when he was reached for three runs - one earned - and six hits in 5 2/3 innings while earning a win over Detroit. Clevinger was not as sharp against the Angels on July 25, when he yielded six runs - five earned - and nine hits in 4 1/3 frames without factoring in the decision.
Skaggs earned his first win since April 22 on Wednesday against Houston, scattering three hits over seven scoreless innings and striking out five. The 26-year-old Californian recorded a quality start in each of his last two outings after failing to complete six frames in any of his previous four turns. Skaggs is seeing Cleveland for the first time this season and is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in two previous starts against the Indians.
1. Indians 2B Jason Kipnis got his first career start in center field Sunday and did not get a chance to make a play in the field.
2. Los Angeles 2B Brandon Phillips (back tightness) sat out the last two games and is day-to-day.
3. Cleveland allowed four or fewer runs in each of its last 24 games.
PREDICTION: Indians 5, Angels 3