The Cleveland Indians have a lot riding on 2017. Their happiness, my happiness, your happiness, wads of cash, etc. Defending all that starts today, against the Texas Rangers. These two teams don’t have much of a history against each other, but some overlapping players may give them one in 2017. We’ll see the start of it tonight around 7:05 p.m. ET.
Arlington, Texas was inundated with rain over the last few days, but it appears to have cleared — skies will be clear and cloudless for the Tribe’s Opening Day 2017.
Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Yu Darvish (RHP)
Yu Darvish, entering the final year of a six-year deal he signed with the Texas Rangers back in 2012, is looking to enter free agency with his health and hopefully a few good starts under his belt. That’s fine if he wants to do that, but maybe he can not start tonight, ok?
Darvish missed all of 2015 following Tommy John surgery and a series of injuries shortened his 2016 campaign to just 17 starts. In that limited action, however, he looked like the Yu Darvish of old, striking out 31.7 percent of the batters he faced with just a 7.5 percent walk rate. Over a full season, those would both be right around career-bests.
Corey Kluber, as you may know, is very good at baseball. The 2014 Cy Young winner and almost-World-Series-hero will make his third-straight start as the Tribe’s Opening Day pitcher. Kluber pitched five games in spring training, allowing 16 earned runs in 23.1 innings. There was thought that the Indians might let Kluber sit out Opening Day to recover from his deep postseason appearances last season, but that is not the case.
The Klubot is activated. Baseball beware.
Tuesday, 8:05 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Martin Perez (LHP)
After a couple of injury plagued seasons in his early ‘20s due to Tommy John surgery, Martin Perez threw 198.2 innings for the Rangers last season — a career-high. In that time he had a 4.39 ERA and a 4.50 FIP. Perez is not exactly what you would consider an electric pitcher, with a strikeout rate that struggles to reach 15 percent and a bevy of below-average pitches, according to FanGraphs’ weighted pitch values. There is still potential in his arm, however, and on a good day Perez is perfectly capable of keeping opponents down for six or seven innings.
For the Indians, this will be Carlos Carrasco’s first start since he took a comebacker off the bat of Ian Kinsler last September that broke his hand. Carrasco’s hand appears to be fine, but he had some minor elbow issues throughout spring training that appear to be resolved.
Wednesday, 8:05 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Cole Hamels (LHP)
If you’re like me, you probably thought Cole Hamels was way older than 33. Alas, he is not, and he is still a very effective pitcher. Last season, his first full season with the Rangers, the veteran lefty had a 3.32 ERA and 3.98 FIP.
If there is a decline for Hamels on the horizon, based on last season, it appears to be walk rate. He issued free bases 9.1 percent of the time last season, which is a career-high. Then again, he struck out 23.6 percent of the batters he faced, which is right along his career average — he definitely still has something in the tank.
Danny Salazar had his own injury troubles last season, but he did at least make an appearance in the World Series. If he get off to the same start as last season, when he looked like a legitimate Cy Young contender, Game 3 of this opening matchup will be a quick win for the Indians.
After their first off-day of the season on Thursday (boo!), the Indians will head to Arizona for a three-game set before another off-day (boo!) followed by their home opener against the Chicago White Sox.
Texas Rangers roster
This Rangers offense has a couple familiar names for Indians fans. Most notably, Mike Napoli found a new home with Texas this offseason, signing a two-year deal to join the Rangers. Napoli’s power waned in the latter half of 2016, but even at 35 years old I don’t doubt his ability to get off to a hot start and kill a baseball or seven against the Indians.
Another familiar name is Jonathan Lucroy, who was one veto away from being a member of the Indians at the deadline last season. Considering the Indians made it so far without him and two of the prospects in the deal — Francisco Mejia and Greg Allen — look like studs, Indians fans shouldn’t feel too bad about it. Still, though, the Indians are going to have to deal with one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball over the next three days. That’s not fun.
Last season, Lucroy hit .292/.355/.500 with a career-high 24 home runs.
The Rangers’ starting third baseman, Adrian Beltre, will be missing from the lineup. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a calf strain. That’s good news for the Indians, but bad news for the Rangers and one of the most interesting players in baseball.
The Rangers starting rotation could be great or awful, depending on how a few things turn. Cole Hamels is aging and doesn’t appear to be on a steep decline, but it could happen any moment. Yu Darvish still has to prove he can be healthy over a full year, and Martin Perez still has not lived up to the hype.
The bullpen, on the other hand, is probably not going to be great. Last season they had the second-highest ERA among American League bullpens, and they allowed 66 home runs.
How many wins will the Indians have against the Rangers?
This poll is closed