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Cleveland Indians vs. Oakland Athletics series preview

How high can Sonny Gray get his trade value before July 31?

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians will finish up their homestand against the Oakland Athletics. For most teams, that’s probably a bad thing, but the Indians have struggled to win at home so it might be a welcome getaway when they head for Kansas City on Friday. The only team to have a worse record than the Tribe’s 9-13 at home is the San Diego Padres, who are 9-14.

The Indians will have a chance to improve that against the A’s.

Pitching matchups

Monday, 4:10 p.m. ET: Daniel Mengden (RHP) vs. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)

Daniel Mengden is an intriguing pitcher. Not exactly because of his caliber — he was never a top-30 prospect for the Athletics — but just because of what he is. He has a serious mustache and an odd-looking wind-up. The A’s brought him, along with Jacob Nottingham, over for Scott Kazmir two years ago and he made his MLB debut last season.

Monday’s start against the Tribe will be the first for Mengden this season. In 20.1 Triple-A innings he allowed five runs off 14 hits. He’s striking out nearly a batter per inning and walking hardly anyone. He had the strikeouts last season, 8.88 per nine, but he walked nearly 10 percent of the batters he faced in 14 major-league starts.

Carlos Carrasco has suddenly looked mortal over his last two starts. Against the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays, he allowed a combined nine earned runs over 10.0 innings, walking seven batters and striking out 12.

Tuesday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Sonny Gray (RHP) vs. Trevor Bauer (RHP)

The A’s made a gamble not dealing Sonny Gray in the offseason. Although he was coming off an injury and a bad season in 2016, there was still hope for a rebound in 2017. Maybe the A’s could have played off that and got more than his actual value. Or, he could do what he is doing now by pitching up to his potential and increasing his trade value even more. It’s still early, and Gray has only started five games, but it looks like the A’s made the right gamble.

Gray’s last start was a brilliant seven-inning performance against the Miami Marlins in which he struck out 11 and walked just one. He has lasted at least six innings in four his five starts and is has struck out 23.3 percent of the batters he has faced. If he can keep that pace up, it would be highest strikeout rate since his rookie season.

Trevor Bauer’s recent streak of quality starts may have saved his starting job. Well, that and Danny Salazar spiraling into the ground. Bauer’s last outing was a 5.1 no decision against the Reds in which he struck out six and walked two. His 27.3 percent strikeout rate this season would be a career-high, just a shade under five percent higher than his previous high set in 2015.

Wednesday, 6:10 p.m. ET: Sean Manaea (LHP) vs. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

After a rough start to the season, Sean Manaea has recovered nicely in his last few starts, including a seven-inning domination of the New York Yankees Friday. He struck out eight Yankee batters and allowed no runs off four hits for his first shutout of the season.

Similar to Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger may have saved his job with an outstanding game against the Houston Astros last week, and a passable outing against the Kansas City Royals Friday. After walking nine batters in his first two starts, the 26-year-old pitcher has walked just three over his last 12.1 innings (including a relief appearance).

Thursday, 12:10 p.m. ET: Jharel Cotton (RHP) vs. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Right-handed pitcher Jharel Cotton was the No. 3 A’s prospect according to FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen coming into 2017. He was brought over at the trade deadline last year when the A’s shipped Josh Reddick to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Cotton looked great for the A’s last season, with a 2.15 ERA over five starts, but he’s struggled in 2017. He has struck out more batters this season, but he’s also walked twice as many.

Thursday will mark the triumphant return of the Tribe’s ace, Corey Kluber. The Klubot hasn’t made a start since May 2 due to lower back soreness. He twirled an absolute gem for the Akron RubberDucks in his only rehab start, leading Terry Francona to name him the starter this week.

Storylines

Rajai Davis returns to Cleveland

Rajai Davis only spent a year in Cleveland, but he was part of such a magical run that it’s hard to see him as anything but an Indian. His game seven home run will always be one of the best moments of many Indians fans’ sports lives, and his speed around the bases was fun to watch all year long. It made sense why the Indians moved on from him, but it would have been nice to see him have one more chance to win a World Series with the Tribe. According to the Indians, Davis will be given his American League Champion ring on the field prior to the game.

Danny Salazar out of the bullpen

Discounting his appearance in the World Series last year, Danny Salazar has never pitched out of the bullpen for the Tribe. He’s pitched in 95 games, 536.2 innings, all as a starter. He could get his first taste of regular-season relief action as early as Wednesday. I’m sure Salazar isn’t happy with the “demotion,” but it’ll be exciting to see how hard he throws in just an inning or two of work, instead of pacing himself a full game. His strikeout rate was already through the roof as a starter this season: 12.55 batters per nine innings.

Oakland Athletics roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Athletics?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    4
    (7 votes)
  • 63%
    3
    (38 votes)
  • 21%
    2
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    1
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    0
    (1 vote)
60 votes total Vote Now