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Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers series preview

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Hello, Mr. Kershaw.

Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians should wake up everyday and be thankful they are in the American League Central. Their .517 winning percentage 60 games into the season has them just a game back in the Central, but in either the American League East or West they would already be looking at a big climb to a division title.

In the East, the Indians would be third behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and in the West they would be a mile behind the best team in baseball, the Houston Astros.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have the opposite problem — they are in the same division as the National League team currently sporting the best record, the Colorado Rockies. Indians fans should know how good the Rockies are, having watched their team be stomped over a two-game set last week. But the Indians will get a shot at NL West redemption against the Dodgers, and in an AL park so there are no goofy DH-less rules.

Pitching matchups

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Clayton Kershaw (LHP) vs. Trevor Bauer (RHP)

I normally don’t care too much about players not on the Indians. There’s the occasional Byron Buxton that I will get excited about because I like speedy center fielders (that hasn’t gone well), but for the most part I don’t get too excited about other players. Clayton Kershaw is an exception.

The 29-year-old is an absolute star, and may be one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen. With a 2.20 ERA through 13 starts, if this continued for a full season it would be Kershaw’s worst season since 2012. Let that sink in.

Kershaw’s FIP is a bit higher than normal this season, mostly due to a strikeout rate that is not quite up to the outstanding numbers he’s had in recent years. If there is any kind of weakness to exploit based on the small sample size of 13 starts, it might be his changeup. According to FanGraphs’ pitch values, Kershaw’s change has been hit for 5.01 runs above average this season, compared to the pitch’s -0.08 mark over Kershaw’s career.

But that’s a minor thing against one of the best pitchers ever, so let’s not get carried away here: Kershaw is going to shred the Indians offense in game one. Our only hope is that Edwin Encarnacion gets into one, gives the Indians a one-run lead, and Trevor Bauer strikes out 14 batters again.

Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Brandon McCarthy (RHP) vs. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Brandon McCarthy is really good at Twitter. He’s one of the best players to follow, and he’s pretty consistent with his great tweets. Turns out he can also pitch, too.

This is the veteran right-hander’s third season with the Dodgers and it’s shaping up to be his best yet. His ERA is a career-low 3.28 and his FIP is even better at 3.07, all despite his strikeout rate being 22.1 percent, well below his recent numbers. The biggest change for McCarthy has been ground balls. He’s inducing grounders against nearly half his opponents, and he’s given up 0.62 home runs per nine innings. You don’t need to strikeout a lot of batters if balls keep rolling harmlessly to second base.

Now apparently recovered from a back injury, Corey Kluber is Corey Klubering again. His first return from the disabled list was a masterful dismantling of the Oakland Athletics, and his last outing against the Chicago White Sox was very Kluber-esque, too. Three starts in a row would have me pretty excited about the return of Kluber.

Thursday, 12:10 p.m. ET: Rich Hill (LHP) vs. Josh Tomlin (RHP)

At 37 years old, Rich Hill is a great comeback story in the majors. Prior to the Red Sox trying him out as a starter in 2015, he had not started a major league game since 2009 when he started 13 with the Baltimore Orioles. Now in his first full year with the Dodgers, he’s back to striking out a lot batters but also walking enough to Mike Clevinger blush.

Hill has walked at least three batters in half his starts this season; by far his worst was seven walks over four innings against the St. Louis Cardinals last month. But he also has the ability to shutdown an offense entirely.

In a way, Hill and Indians starter Josh Tomlin are similar pitchers. Just replace Hill’s walk issues with Tomlin’s launching pad home runs, and boom they’re the same. They both can go on a streak of great games, or they can both collapse and be gone in three innings. We’ll find out which pitchers show up Thursday.

Storylines

Bradley Zimmer and lefties

The Indians aren’t great against left-handed pitchers this season. They ranked 12th in the American League with an 86 wRC+ against southpaws, even though they have the third-most home runs with 23. Being decimated by Clayton Kershaw is probably going to skew those numbers a bit, but Bradley Zimmer probably won’t even get a chance to help, nor will he in game three against lefty Rich Hill. Stop platooning Bradley Zimmer, Tito. Please.

Welcome to Cleveland, Clayton

This will be Clayton Kershaw’s second career start against the Indians, and his first in Cleveland. The Indians won that last start, 6-4, all the way back in 2008. Cliff Lee started for the Indians and Kelly Shoppach homered. Also, Casey Blake hadn’t transformed into Carlos Santana yet, he was 2-for-4 with a walk.

Los Angeles Dodgers roster

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Dodgers?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    3
    (18 votes)
  • 27%
    2
    (60 votes)
  • 41%
    1
    (89 votes)
  • 22%
    0
    (48 votes)
215 votes total Vote Now