Let's dispel the myth that the Cleveland Indians are only good against bad teams. Granted, they have played a lot of bad teams this season, but if the tables were turned and the Indians were dropping all these games to weak AL Central opponents the cree would be "well if they were good they would beat these teams." The Indians are good. Period.
Now is their chance to really prove that, as they take on one of the hardest hitting teams in the league in the Baltimore Orioles. Two of the Indians' most home run-prone pitchers are set to take the mound (Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin), so the thumping Baltimore lineup could prove to be trouble for the Tribe. Luckily, the Indians have built up such a lead in the AL Central that they could swept and still come out of the weekend in first. Let's not try it, though.
The Orioles, meanwhile, are right in the thick of the AL East hunt. They are currently second in the division behind the Boston Red Sox by just half a game, and ahead of the third place Toronto Blue Jays by a full game.
The Indians left the scorching heat of Kansas City just time in to... face the scorching heat of the East Coast. Baltimore is expected to have temperatures reach as high as 99 over the week, but skies should be clear.
Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Dylan Bundy (RHP)
This pitching matchup is an interesting because of where both players were drafted. Trevor Bauer was selected with the third overall pick of the 2011 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Dylan Bundy was selected fourth by the Orioles. Trevor shot right to the majors, while Bundy slowly worked his way up the latter and began his major-league career as a reliever. Get ready to hear about this non-stop on the television broadcast.
This will be Bundy's second career start, after 23 appearances out of the bullpen this season. In 41.1 innings -- again, mostly out of the bullpen -- Bundy has a 3.70 ERA and a 4.60 FIP. His last start on July 17 did not quite as planned. He allowed four earned runs off of five hits in just 3.1 innings of work. Conversely, in Bundy's last bullpen appearances he struck out 7(!!) batters in 2.1 innings.
It seems like it's taken Bundy a while to get the majors, but he is still only 23 years old with plenty of weapons to work with him, including a fastball, curveball, changeup, and cutter.
Trevor Bauer's last two starts did not look great, but only because of how good he has looked the rest of the year. Over those two starts, Trevor allowed eight earned runs off of 15 hits over 11.2 innings. Of particular interest to this Baltimore series, Bauer has a career-low HR/FB rate this season at 8.2 percent.
Saturday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Kevin Gausman (RHP)
Do not expect Saturday's game to be a low-scoring affair. We already know about Josh Tomlin's penchant for giving up home runs, but Orioles starters Kevin Gausman gives them up just as frequently.
Gausman's home run issues have him at a 4.05 ERA and a 4.23 FIP this season, even with a solid 17.1 percent strikeout-to-walk ratio, again, just like we see with Josh Tomlin. The biggest difference between these two pitchers is the fact that Gausman induces ground balls in nearly half of matchups, while Tomlin rarely has a ground ball rate over 40 percent.
In Gausman's last start, one of his best of the season, the 25-year-old allowed two earned runs over 6.2 innings of work while striking out six New York Yankees batters and walking one.
Sunday, 1:35 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Vance Worley (RHP)
If you squint hard enough you could imagine the first two matchups being pretty even, or even leaning towards the Orioles a bit. Not this one.
The Indians are sending their ace, Corey Kluber, to the mound on Sunday while the Orioles will counter with Vince Worley. Worley has put up some good seasons in the past, and his ERA is not bad this season (3.16), but his 4.20 FIP suggests some regression may be coming for him.
Worley's last started a 4.1 inning loss to the Yankees. He faced 20 batters over 4.1 innings, allowing three earned runs off three hits and striking out three batters.
The Indians finally return to Progressive Field next week, now that the RNC has left the city of Cleveland. They will face the Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, and Minnesota Twins over the next three series.
Team in a Box
There's no hiding what this Orioles team is: They are big, slow, home run hitters. Their defense ranks near the bottom of the the league in just about everything, and their pitching staff has major issues (as any staff with Ubaldo Jimenez does).