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Cleveland Indians vs. Baltimore Orioles season preview

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Edwin Encarnacion will face Baltimore for the first time since walking off in last year’s AL Wild Card.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Remember when the Baltimore Orioles were really good? Then the New York Yankees happened, and they started to look really bad. The opposite could be said about the Cleveland Indians, just replace the Yankees with the Minnesota Twins and suddenly the Indians look unbeatable after sweeping a bad team.

The Orioles probably are not a team the Indians can “prove” themselves against, though. They’re 3-7 in their last 10, dealing with some major injuries, and just not looking like a playoff team right now. If the Indians win, they beat a team they were supposed to beat, who cares. If the Indians lose, they are obviously a terrible team. Really can’t win with this series, so just enjoy the wave of hot takes.

For all the pitching troubles Baltimore has, they sure can hit. The St. Louis Cardinals scored a total of 23 runs in their three game set against the Orioles over the weekend, but they still lost the series because of Baltimore’s 23-run explosion in the last two games. As long as Manny Machado breathes, the Orioles offense has a shot.

Pitching matchups

Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Dylan Bundy (RHP) vs. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Gonna be honest, I kind of wish this was a Dylan Bundy-Trevor Bauer matchup. I love some pointless linking players, and for some reason Bundy and Bauer are always matched in my mind because of how closely they were drafted together in 2011 — Trevor went third and Dylan went fourth. Instead, I guess I’ll settle for Corey Kluber taking the mound again.

Bundy raced to the majors similar to Bauer, making his debut in 2012, but a series of injuries limited him to just 63 minor-league innings between 2013 and 2015. When Bundy returned in 2016, he began as a reliever before being shifted to a full-time starter late in the season. Now he appears to be locked in as a starter — all of his 14 appearances have been in the rotation this season.

Bundy carries a 3.29 ERA through those 14 starts, with a few rocky outings dotting a mostly successful season to this point. He started the season on fire — four earned runs total over his first four starts — but he has allowed seven over his last 11 innings. So far he’s been just kind of pretty good. Not great, but not terrible, and nothing pushing him in either direction right now.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, has been phenomenal since returning from a lower back injury. He has 28 strikeouts in his three June starts, and he’s gone at least six innings in every outing.

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Chris Tillman (RHP) vs. Josh Tomlin (RHP)

Chris Tillman looked great in his 2017 debut, but that’s about where the good ends. He has not pitched a shutout since, and he allowed 14 runs over his last two starts, including a 1.1-inning disaster against the Yankees. He is probably not as bad as his 8.07 ERA or 6.27 FIP, but he hasn’t looked great since he returned from a short disabled list trip earlier this season.

As FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan noted earlier this month, something just isn’t right with the Orioles starter:

Chris Tillman has started five games since coming off the disabled list, and he’s thrown 452 pitches. When he’s thrown a pitch out of the zone, he’s gotten a swing 24% of the time. When he’s thrown a pitch in the zone, he’s gotten a swing 75% of the time. Tillman, therefore, is running a swing-rate difference of 51 percentage points. Hitters who’ve faced Chris Tillman to this point in 2017 have, on average, been about as disciplined as Joey Votto.

Maybe the Seattle Mariners finally have a silver lining to that awful Erik Bedard trade.

The Indians enjoyed a nice streak of Good Tomlin for a few games, but that seems to have passed. A Bad Tomlin stormfront is passing through, but most of the extreme weather went through in early June. Maybe it’s over now and I can stop this awful weather analogy.

Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Kevin Gausman (RHP) vs. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)

Twenty-six-year-old Kevin Gasuman has been in the majors since 2013, but he is on pace for his worst season ever.

In 15 starts for the Orioles, Gausman has a 6.60 ERA and 5.50 FIP. His walk rate has skyrocketed to 10.3 percent, and he is striking out a career-low 15.1 percent. Opponents are averaging .335 against him. How many more ways can I describe that he’s bad? Opposing batters are not at all fooled by his outside stuff, as they are swinging at just 28.0 percent of pitches outside the zone. I bet he owns a dog and it’s ugly.

Carlos Carrasco is coming off a trio of intradivision games, so he might be excited to face batters not in the AL Central. On second thought, he probably wants to face the Twins everyday; I know I would.

Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Wade Miley (LHP) vs. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

Wade Miley is the lone lefty the Tribe will face this week, which is a nice departure from the three they dominated over the weekend. Miley has started 14 games for the Orioles this season, and with a 4.29 ERA he’s one of their best starters. His strikeout rate is on track for a career-best 20.4 percent, though his walk rate is also climbing over 12 percent.

Miley started the season great, but like most Orioles players he’s stumbled late. He has allowed 15 runs over his last three starts — he managed to avoid the Yankees and still looked bad.

Mike Clevinger keeps doing just enough to stick around, as he did in his four-inning start in Saturday’s doubleheader. He struck out four Twins batters and allowed one run off four hits. If he gets pummeled by the Orioles, which is a team that can certainly pummel pitchers, he might be in danger of being optioned again. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Storylines

Injuries have the Orioles on the ropes

The once-great 2017 Orioles have stumbled hard lately, in large part due to several devastating injuries. Chris Davis, Ryan Flaherty, and Zach Britton are all on the 10-day disabled list, and JJ Hardy might be headed there soon too after he Brandon Guyer’d on Sunday and left the game injured.

Also semi-related to injuries, the Orioles still have Anthony Santander, a former Indians prospect selected in the Rule 5 draft, on the 60-day disabled list. The longer he sticks around injured, the more likely he is to stick with the Orioles indefinitely in a roundabout way.

Will the parrot make the flight to Baltimore?

Edwin Encarnacion has been hot hot hot lately, slashing .348/.430/.717 with 10 home runs over the last month. To shorten the hot streak time frame even more, four of those home runs have come in his last five games, including two Sunday against the Twins.

There’s also some history with Edwin against the Orioles, specifically last year’s American League Wild Card.

He’s unlikely to face Ubaldo Jiminez in the 11th inning this series, but at least we know he won’t face Zach Britton, either.

Baltimore Orioles rosters

FanGraphs