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Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers series preview

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Michael Martinez not in the starting rotation but don’t rule anything out.

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

Well. The Cleveland Indians played a series against the Chicago White Sox and it’s over now. Let’s never talk about it again.

Instead, it’s time to focus on the upcoming series against the Detroit Tigers, another American League Central rival who currently leads the division along with the Minnesota Twins — just in case you needed proof that the world is slowly coming to an end. The urge to panic is there, of course, but just remember the Indians are 4-5. They have played nine out of 162 games. Chill.

The Indians will also be entering this series with a healthy Lonnie Chisenhall (which is either good or bad, depending who you ask), and an excellent Saturday pitching matchup between two top aces. If nothing else, it should be fun to watch. And if everything goes south again, maybe we’ll get to watch Michael Martinez defend his 0.0 ERA as the Tribe’s second ace reliever.

Weather for the series might be an issue. Friday looks to be partly sunny and perfect baseball weather, but rain will begin early Saturday morning and turn to thunderstorms Sunday.

Pitching matchups

Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Daniel Norris (LHP)

The 23-year-old lefty Daniel Norris entered 2017 coming off two-straight seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA. Last season was especially impressive for Norris, as his strikeout rate jumped to 23.5 percent and he finished with a 3.38 ERA.

However, there has always been a couple caveats with Norris’s game. For one, he gives up a lot of fly balls; only 38.9 percent of the balls he has given up have been on the ground in his career. Additionally, he had an 80 percent strand rate last season. Only five starters in the American League with at least 60 innings last season stranded more runners than Norris. A flyball pitcher who strands a lot of runners usually points to more luck than skill, but Norris has the ability to work out of his own jams with a solid changeup and slider.

Norris’s past fortunes did not carry over to his first start of 2017. In his debut against the Boston Red Sox, he gave up three earned runs off of seven hits in 6.1 innings of work. He walked (3) more batters than he struck out (2), though he kept the vaunted Red Sox offense to nearly 50 percent ground balls.

Trevor Bauer was one of many Indians pitchers than ran into the red hot Arizona Diamondbacks roster in his 2017 debut. He allowed four runs over 5.2 innings, though he struck out seven batters and walked just one.

Saturday, 4:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Justin Verlander (RHP)

The season is still young, but over his first two starts Justin Verlander looks like he wants another go at a Cy Young Award (or at least be close enough to annoy Kate Upton again). He currently sports the seventh-lowest ERA among qualified AL starters as he absolutely dominated the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox in his first two starts.

Verlander’s streak of total domination dates back to last season — he’s currently on a streak of 21 straight games allowing three or fewer runs to cross the plate. Verlander started slow last and became a Cy Young candidate last season, but he certainly doesn’t look like he is going to do that in 2017. Or maybe he will and his first-half downfall starts tomorrow against the Indians. We can hope.

The most remarkable part of this streak of dominance is that it’s all happening with Verlander’s velocity continuing to decline. This is not the same pitcher that used to light up the radar gun with high-90s fastballs, or even the same Verlander that was hitting 95 consistently last season. Instead, his fourseamer is sitting in the 93 range over his first two starts.

On the other side of this excellent Saturday matchup is Corey Kluber, who has battled two separate nagging injuries in his first two starts. His debut against the Texas Rangers was plagued with a blister, which oh by the way he worked his way through by sitting down 10-straight batters at one point. And in his second start, which concluded after six innings, he was dealing a sore back.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Matt Boyd (LHP)

Matt Boyd’s story is way more interesting off the field than on it.

On the field, the 26-year-old has been a perfectly serviceable back-of-the-rotation kind of pitcher, with a career 5.63 ERA and 5.40 FIP split between the Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. He’s got a fastball that struggles to reach 92, but a killer changeup that has been unhittable (literally, zero hits in 43 pitches) this season.

Off the field, Boyd and his wife, Ashley, have done a lot of great work with the Seattle Children’s Hospital, a place that Boyd spent a lot of time at as a child with severe asthma. His full story with the hospital, and all the time he spends there with sick kids, was detailed in a post on the Detroit Free Press last September.

Carlos Carrasco does a lot of charitable work as well, mostly revolving on early childhood education and literacy, but he also has a compelling story on the field. Because he’s Carlos Carrasco, and he is amazing. He’s been the best Tribe starter on the season so far, with three earned runs given up over 12.2 innings of work. He’s already struck out 14 batters and walked just one.

Storylines

Please just hit with runners on base

The Indians have been absolutely abysmal with runners on base this season. Heading into play yesterday, they had an OPS+ of 26 with runners in scoring position with 15 strikeouts in 85 plate appearances. That’s not how you win baseball games, I’m told. No matter what else happens in this series, if the Indians can’t hit with RISP it’s not going to end well.

Picking up right where they left off

The Indians absolutely pounded the Tigers last season, and it’s one of the big reasons they ran away with the AL Central on their way to a World Series. Depending on if the Kansas City Royals choose to begin their rebuild at the trade deadline, Detroit might wind up being the only team standing in the Tribe’s way of a division title repeat.

If things go the way they did last season, it won’t be much of a battle.

Miguel Cabrera, Cleveland killer

Miguel Cabrera has been on a decline in recent years. Granted, a decline for Miguel Cabrera is still a 152 wRC+ and 4.9 fWAR with 38 home runs.

Cabrera is off to a legitimately bad start to 2017, though. He’s 4-for-30 with a lone home run and nine strikeouts. Cabrera always kills the Indians, as he does every team — even last year when the Indians were repeatedly stomping his team. Can Bauer, Kluber, and Carrasco finally stop him for a full series?

Actually, Andrew Romine is amazing

Andrew Romine is kind of like the Tigers’ version of Michael Martinez. He’s always there, no one knows why, and when he plays he’s not very good. That’s usually how it is, anyway, but he’s played like an MVP in limited time this season. In only 16 at-bats, he’s tied for third on Tigers in hits (6), he leads the team in doubles (3), and he has a grand slam under his belt already.

Upcoming schedule

The Indians will hit the road against next Monday for a four-game series against the AL Central-leading Twins and another series against the White Sox.

Detroit Tigers roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many wins will the Indians have against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    3
    (15 votes)
  • 48%
    2
    (49 votes)
  • 25%
    1
    (26 votes)
  • 11%
    0
    (12 votes)
102 votes total Vote Now