CLEVELAND -- Two teams coming off contrasting weekend series will meet Monday at Progressive Field for the start of a three-game series. The Cleveland Indians, who swept a three-game series from the Chicago White Sox over the weekend, will host the Tampa Bay Rays, who were swept at home in a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants.
The Indians will send perhaps the best pitcher nobody knows to the mound Monday in the first game of a three-game series with the Rays. Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.27) will make his 13th start of what so far has been the best year of his career.
One of the things that makes Tomlin so hard to beat is that he doesn't beat himself. In 11 of his 12 starts, he has walked one or no batters. His average of 0.85 walks per nine innings is the best in the American League by a wide margin.
Tomlin came to spring training and had to win a spot in the rotation, which he didn't do until the last week of camp. Since the start of the season he has been the Indians' most consistent starter.
Offensively, Indians manager Terry Francona continues to push most of the right buttons, getting just enough offense out of what is sometimes a makeshift lineup to support the team's elite pitching staff.
A big sparkplug for the Indians offense has been outfielder Rajai Davis, who had four hits in a 3-2 win Sunday. Davis is hitting .263 and leads the American League with 20 stolen bases.
"He's a better base stealer than I realized," said Francona. "He's getting stolen bases when they are holding him and using a slide step."
Another key for the Indians has been infield/outfielder Jose Ramirez, whose walkoff RBI single Sunday won the game in the 10th inning.
Ramirez is the Indians' best clutch hitter. He's hitting .414 (12-29) with two outs and runners in scoring position.
"He's been huge for us in driving in runs," Davis said. "He drives the ball all over the park so they don't know where to play him."
In Monday's series opener, Tampa Bay will start left-hander Drew Smyly (2-7, 4.75). In his last five starts, Smyly is 0-3 with a 7.07 ERA. Opposing teams have hit .308 against him and he's given up eight home runs in 28 innings.
He did show some progress in his last start, however, striking out 12 Seattle Mariners in 6 2/3 innings. The Rays won that game but Smyly didn't get the decision. Smyly is 2-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 14 career appearances versus Cleveland, and he has a 5.73 ERA and 1-0 record in six career starts at Progressive Field.
Rays manager Kevin Cash, who was a coach under Francona in Cleveland before being hired as Rays manager, said a road trip may not be the worst thing for the Rays, who scored just six runs while getting swept by the Giants over the weekend at Tropicana Field. That included a 5-1 loss Sunday
"Good to be getting out of here," Cash told MLB.com. "That was just kind of a series of us not getting it done whatsoever. Big hit eluded us, we had baserunners all over the place the first two innings (Sunday) and to come out of that with a run -- we have to be able to capitalize on that and we did not."