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Cleveland Indians vs. Tampa Bay Rays series preview

Just as the Indians start to figure out lefties... they are facing a trio of right-handers.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Wait, playing a team not in the American League Central? Are the Cleveland Indians allowed to do this? Someone check the rule book, this doesn’t seem legal.

For just the sixth time in the first handful of weeks this season, the Indians prepare to face an opponent that does not call the AL Central home. Instead, they will take on the Tampa Bay Rays, who are sitting fourth in the AL East and falling fast with the surging Toronto Blue Jays on their tail.

The Indians are coming off a confusing three-game series in which they looked like a lost puppy for two games, and a lion riding a baseball bat-wielding elephant in game three. Unfortunately, just as the Indians seem to be figuring out that left-handed pitchers throw baseballs they can hit, they will face all right-handed starters in this series. In fact, the Rays only have one lefty on their entire pitching staff — Jose Alvarado.

Weather looks great for the series, with temperatures reaching the mid-80s by Wednesday and no rain predicted in the area.

Pitching matchups

Monday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Chris Archer (RHP) vs. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)

Let’s see here, Chris Archer. Who drafted him again? I don’t think it was the Rays, did someone really tra- oh. Right. Let’s not talk about that. Let’s focus on his Comeback Tour 2017, instead.

Archer had a rough 2016, despite striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings and not really walking more than he has in his career. His big issue was fly balls, having allowed 1.34 home runs per nine. He was still a 3.1-win pitching, according to FanGraphs, but that’s not what the Rays expect out of their ace.

In eight starts this season, Archer looks more like his old self. He is allowing far fewer home runs than last year, though his groundball rate is well below his career average at 39.1 percent. So there might be an element of luck involved, especially considering the gap between his FIP (2.78) and expected FIP (3.57).

Is it too late to declare Cy Young candidates? Because I’m declaring Carlos Carrasco a Cy Young candidate. Out of the shadow of Corey Kluber, Carrasco has a 1.86 ERA and 3.01 FIP in 48.1 innings this season. He has walked 4.6 percent of the batters he faced, which is well below his career average of 6.4 percent, and it would the best walk rate of his career if he can keep it up. His 26.4 strikeout rate would also be higher than his career average.

Of course Carrasco probably will not finish with an ERA under 2.00, and his 90.3 left-on-base percentage hints at the regression that might be coming. But still, Carlos has made the temporary loss of Kluber much more palatable.

Tuesday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Jake Odorizzi (RHP) vs. Danny Salazar (RHP)

Many moons ago, Jake Odorizzi was the next can’t-miss pitching prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers, and later for the Kansas City Royals. He hasn’t quite lived up to his potential since debuting as 22-year-old in 2012, but he looks like he’s putting it together this season, with a bit of luck along the way. His 2.61 ERA looks great, as does his 1.74 walk rate, but his 4.65 FIP, 90.9 LOB%, and 32.6 GB% hint that some heavy regression is incoming. Let’s just hope it starts on Tuesday.

Go to Google’s random number generator. Roll the dice. If you got an odd number, Danny Salazar is going to have a great. If you got an even number, he’ll get rocked early and exit after three innings. That’s all the analysis I have here.

Wednesday, 12:10 p.m. ET: Alex Cobb (RHP) vs. Josh Tomlin (RHP)

After a rough start to the season, Alex Cobb has allowed just five earned runs over his last 20.1 innings. He still walks too many batters, but against the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and Miami Marlins, he allowed a combined 12 hits. That’s not bad for the 29-year-old back-of-the-rotation starter.

Speaking of recent success, here’s Josh Tomlin, Cy Young contender. Oh, what’s that? We have to include all of his starts, not just the last two? Oh. Well, if he can keep up the pace of his last two starts, he might just be in the conversation. Even if that conversation starts and ends with “remember that month where Josh Tomlin looked like a legitimate Cy Young contender?”

Storylines

Another annoying center fielder

The Indians just wrapped up a series against the fastest center fielder in the league roaming Progressive Field. And now they will face maybe the best overall center field defender in Kevin Kiermaier. The only solution? Hit it over the fences.

A fireballer in the Rays bullpen

The Rays recently demoted one Blake Snell, an exciting pitching prospect who hasn’t put it together in the majors yet. In his place, the Rays called up reliever Ryne Stanek, who is a right-hander that can hit triple digits. He made his debut yesterday and the Indians will likely see him at some point over this three-game set.

Keep it going at home

Including yesterday's win over the Twins, the Indians are 7-8 at home this season. A sweep could get them over .500 at Progressive Field this season for the first time this season since April 11 (their first game, and win, at home). A sweep would do wonders for their hometown confidence.

Tampa Bay Rays roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Rays?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    3
    (53 votes)
  • 50%
    2
    (88 votes)
  • 13%
    1
    (24 votes)
  • 5%
    0
    (9 votes)
174 votes total Vote Now