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Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago White Sox series preview

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Can the Indians get back on track against a weak division opponent or is the season dooOOOOOMED?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians are entering their home opener, and coincidentally their first season against an American League Central Division opponent, later this afternoon with a 3-3 record. Even in a short NFL season, most fans would probably know that losing three games is nothing insurmountable. Luckily, for several reasons, the Indians are not an NFL team. They still have 156 games left to rebound from a single sweep in April, and they are starting that road back against a relatively weak team in the Chicago White Sox.

Unlike a year ago, the White Sox are not a team entering the season with big aspirations. There were no big trades for Todd Frazier or moves to shore up a winning roster. Instead, the went the other direction, dealing Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for massive returns that should help their future if even just a couple prospects pan out.

While the White Sox probably won’t see the full effects of those trades in 2017, Yoan Moncada — brought over in the deal that sent Sale to the Boston Red Sox — already made his MLB debut and looks ready to return as he shreds Triple-A pitching in the White Sox system.

Heavy rain isn’t expected around Cleveland for any first pitches, but there may be downpours before and after Tuesday’s game — it probably won’t be the prettiest scene for a baseball game, but least there will be baseball games.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday, 4:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. James Shields (RHP)

James Shields probably wasn’t the only reason the White Sox failed to go anywhere last season, but he was a great metaphor for it. He was awful once he arrived from San Diego, allowing 21 runs over his first three starts. The rest of his season was not a whole lot better, but he at least looked like a major-league pitcher again in spurts.

Shields’s 2017 debut was similar to the good pockets of baseball he had in 2016. In 5.1 innings against the Detroit Tigers, ‘Big Game James’ (as he is still sometimes referred to, I assume with a straight face) allowed one earned run off of two hits with five strikeouts. He also issued five walks, though, so the bad 2016 part of Shields is still lurking.

Carlos Carrasco quietly had the best start of any Indians pitcher so far this season when he pitched 5.2 innings of two-run ball against the Texas Rangers last week. He struck out seven, walked one, and was only pulled because he reached a pitch limit meant to ease him back into game action as he recovers from a spring training shoulder injury.

Wednesday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Derek Holland (LHP)

The biggest White Sox signing of the offseason, Derek Holland, is spending a season away from the Texas Rangers for the first time in his eight-year career. The 30-year-old lefty started the season with a six-inning outing against the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins in which he allowed two earned runs off of four hits.

Holland has been on quite the downtrend in his career lately, with a dropping strikeout rate and rising earned run average pointing to a pitcher who might be destined for the bullpen at some point. But for now, he’s filling up space in the White Sox rotation.

Danny Salazar’s 2017 debut was peak Danny Salazar. He walked four batters and looked absolutely wild at times on one hand, but on the other hand he struck out nine batters and didn’t allow the Indians to be completely blown out by the Rangers. Every start with Salazar is a wild ride and it only sometimes goes off the rains and into an active volcano.

Thursday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (RHP)

Miguel Gonzalez and Josh Tomlin are very similar pitchers in that they both attack the zone, they both have underwhelming stuff for the most part (Gonzalez’s split-finger fastball can occasionally fool a batter or two, as can Tomlin’s curveball), they give up a lot of home runs, and they don’t strike a lot of batters out. Where the two differ, and the reason Tomlin has stuck around on one team so much longer, is that the latter rarely walks anyone.

Upcoming schedule

The Indians will wrap up their first homestand of 2017 against the Detroit Tigers before hitting the road against the Minnesota Twins and the White Sox again.

Chicago White Sox roster

FanGraphs.com

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Mariners?

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  • 37%
    3
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