After splitting the last series against the Washington Nationals with one of the best and one of the worst games of the season, the Cleveland Indians set their sights on a (hopefully) easier target: The Oakland Athletics. Unlike the surging Nationals, the A's sit 11.5 games back in their division and are likely sellers at the deadline. They have not been good.
This is the first matchup between these two teams this season -- after this series the Indians will have played every American League team in at least one series. The American League Central division lead is still technically safe, but a sweep at the hands of the A's, and three-straight Detroit Tigers victories over the weekend would put a lot of added pressure on the next few series, which do not get any easier.
All three games will be dealing with showers around the Cleveland area, but whether or not they hit while the teams are playing is another thing. Let's hope they don't.
Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Kendall Graveman (RHP)
Kendall Graveman was one piece in the awful 2014 trade the A's made when they dealt Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays. He was not the focus of the deal (that honor goes to Brett Lawrie, who is now on the Chicago White Sox), and he has not been great since the move.
This season, Graveman carries a 4.15 ERA and a 4.43 FIP over 110.2 innings of work. His strikeout rate in the minors was never very high and he was still able to produce, but his 14.7 percent whiff rate in the majors is just not getting it done. One strength of Graveman's is that he is an innings eater, which was apparent in his nine-inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays. He allowed nine hits and three earned runs off the day, but did not walk a single batter.
Trevor Bauer, as we know, is a bit of the opposite. He throws a lot, and he throws hard, and sometimes he gets into trouble that gets him pulled from starts prematurely. Bauer's last start lasted just four innings, his shortest outing of the season since shifting back into the rotation on April 21. Hell, his "relief" appearance in the 19-inning game against the Toronto Blue Jays lasted a full five innings.
Over Bauer's last three starts he has allowed eight earned runs and walked seven batters in 10 innings.
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Dillion Overton (RHP)
Dillion Overton has not been great in his first couple of career starts. The 24-year-old rookie has started three games this season and has allowed 14 earned runs in 15 innings. To be fair, eight of those runs came in one three-inning start against the San Francisco Giants. And his last game was also not too bad -- a six-inning no-decision in which he allowed three earned runs off of nine hits in 6.1 innings. He also struck out six batters for a new career-high.
Josh Tomlin has been on a bit of an up-and-down streak lately, allowing one run, five runs, one run, and four runs in his last four starts. Based on the time-tested theory of patterns meaning things and "being due," that obviously means Tomlin is going to have a good game against the A's. Or, if you are into the nerdy "numbers," the A's are not a great home run-hitting team, so Tomlin could be able to rely on his attacking style and not worry too much about balls flying out of the park.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. TBD
Just counting backwards five days, the A's starter should be Sonny Gray, but there is a chance he may not even be with the A's as the trade deadline looms closer. If Billy Beane decides to hold onto the young pitcher and deal him in the offseason instead, the Indians will be facing another pitcher who has not been great this season. Gray has a 5.43 ERA and a 4.73 FIP over his 19 starts. His strikeout rate is right along where it has been his whole career, but his 8.4 percent walk rate is a career-high and he has already allowed 17 home runs this season. Last season he allowed 17 over a season's worth of starts.
Gray has not pitched more than six innings many times this season. In fact, eight of his last nine starts lasted exactly six innings. His lasting outing was a win against the Texas Rangers, but two of the five hits he allowed were out of the park. He also struck out eight batters, a season-high.
Corey Kluber is really good, you guys. I don't need to tell you that anymore.
Team in a box
The A's are coming off one of their best 10-game stretches of the season that includes a 3-1 series win over the Tampa Bay Rays, and a 2-1 series win over the Rangers. They have been good since the All-Star break in general, going 9-4 in that span.
Nobody expected much out of the A's lineup this season, and no one got much of anything. They have a just a .306 on-base percentage... the Boston Red Sox have a .289 batting average. It has been bad.
A's pitching on the other hand, has been a major disappointment. Their starters have a 4.94 ERA -- 12th in the AL -- and they are walking 3.29 batters per nine innings -- fourth-worst in the AL.
Oakland Athletics roster
- C: Stephen Vogt
- 1B: Yonder Alonso
- 2B: Jed Lowrie
- SS: Marcus Seien
- 3B: Ryon Healy
- LF: Khris Davis
- CF: Jake Smolinski
- RF: Josh Reddick
- C: Bruce Maxwell
- IF: Max Muncy
- IF: Danny Valencia
- OF: Coco Crisp
With the A's signalling they are sellers at the trade deadline, this roster could shift around a lot by the time the series concludes. Danny Valencia has been the subject of trade talks, as has outfielder Josh Reddick. Those two have a 126 wRC+ and a 122 wRC+, respectively.
Twenty-seven-year-old Jake Smolinski currently leads the A's in wRC+ with a .306/.358/.500 slash and six home runs in his 137 plate appearances. Most impressively, he has only struck out 9.5 percent of his at-bats this season, although he has only walked in 6.6 percent.
Old friend Coco Crisp is playing in the twilight years of his career at 36 and his defense is hitting an all-time low. The A's have played him in center field for 239.1 innings this season, and in that time he has been worth -11 defensive runs saved. Last season, over a full 900.2 innings, he was worth -18 DRS.
- RHP: Sonny Gray
- LHP: Rich Hill
- RHP: Kendall Graveman
- RHP: Sean Manaea
- RHP: John Axford
- LHP: Daniel Coulombe
- RHP: Dyan Dull
- RHP: Liam Hendricks
- RHP: Ryan Madson
- RHP: Zach Neal
- LHP: Marc Rzepczynski
- RHP: JB Wendelken
Rich Hill has been the surprise hero of the A's, making them almost watchable every fifth day. The longtime veteran pitcher, who has started just 88 of his 215 career games, is having a solid year for the A's. In 14 starts this season, he has a 2.25 ERA and a 2.53 FIP.
A lot, just trust me.