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Cleveland Indians vs. Kansas City Royals series preview

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Hopefully a series win is in order this time around.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
“Whit was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms, foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched, twisting what he ruled, lord of werewolves; his dominion was torment. Also he hits the ball wicked far.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, probably
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

If you feel like the Cleveland Indians just played the Kansas City Royals, you’d be right. Just before the four game series with the Oakland Athletics, the Indians dropped a three game set to their AL Central rival at Progressive Field. Now, a new three game series begins at Kauffman Stadium as the Indians begin a quick five game road trip to Kansas City and Colorado. The Royals just wrapped up a series against the Tigers where they lost 2 out of 3 games.

Pitching matchups

Friday, 8:15 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Jason Vargas (LHP)

Jason Vargas’ last outing came against Cleveland last Saturday and he looked solid, holding the Tribe to just 2 runs over 5.2 innings. That game marked just the third time all season that Vargas did not make it through at least the sixth inning; in short, he’s been the best starter for Kansas City this season. In his ten starts so far, Vargas has thrown 60.1 innings and allowed just 16 earned runs while walking 15 and striking out 51 (good for an adjusted ERA+ of 180, fourth best among all pitchers in baseball). The Tribe will need to do a better job against Vargas this time around if they are hoping to take game one of this series.

For Cleveland, Josh Tomlin takes the mound for the first time since his complete game domination over the Royals last Sunday. In that game, Tomlin limited Kansas City to just 1 earned run over 9 innings. Sure, the one run was a home run, but it’s not a Josh Tomlin start without a solo home run, is it? On the season, Tomlin still has a ways to go before he could be considered to be having a “good” season; so far in 56.0 innings, Tomlin has allowed 36 earned runs while walking just 4 batters and striking out 39.

Saturday, 2:15 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Jason Hammel (RHP)

If you can make it through Friday’s game, you’ll be rewarded with a much more favorable matchup on Saturday. The Royals send Jason Hammel to the mound, and to say he’s pitched poorly this season would be an insult to pitchers who have pitched poorly. In his 51.0 innings of work thus far, Hammel has allowed 35 earned runs while walking 23 and striking out 40 (good for an ERA+ of 70).

Things were going swimmingly for Hammel in his most recent start against the Detroit Tigers until the fifth inning hit. Hammel was unable to escape the fifth and ended up surrendering four runs. He lasted just 4.1 innings and he gave up four hits and walked four batters.

When I said you’d get a favorable matchup, I meant it because Carlos Carrasco takes the mound for Cleveland and he is rivaling Corey Kluber for the title of “ace” so far in 2017. He’s really looked incredible thus far; in 65.1 innings of work, Cookie has allowed 21 earned runs and walked only 16 batters while striking out 65 (good for an ERA+ of 160). His latest start came this past Monday when he baffled Oakland hitters for 7.0 innings, giving up just 2 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 1 and striking out 7.

Sunday, 2:15 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Eric Skoglund (LHP)

Oh great, another no-name lefty who will probably do his best Cy Young impersonation against the Tribe. Eric Skoglund was called up from Triple-A Omaha to take Danny Duffy’s spot in the rotation after Duffy landed on the DL with an oblique strain. On May 30, in his first major league start, Skoglund dazzled and shut the Detroit Tigers down through 6.1 innings and held them to just 2 hits and zero runs while walking just 1 and striking out 5. Skoglund has had middling to good results all throughout the minor leagues, so expect him to pitch 12 scoreless innings against Cleveland on Sunday.

For Cleveland, Trevor Bauer returns to the mound after his best outing of the year on May 30 against the Oakland Athletics. In that game, Bauer struck out a career high 14 batters over 7.0 innings and surrendered 3 earned runs on 7 hits while walking just 1 batter.

Bauer has definitely struggled this season; in his 57.0 innings, he’s allowed 38 earned runs while walking 19 and striking out 73 (!) (good for an ERA+ of 77). Bauer decided last game that it would be easier if he just didn’t let the opposition hit the ball, so I hope that he continues this nuanced approach against the Royals.

Storylines

Can the starting rotation keep being awesome?

Cleveland just finished a turn through their rotation and it was absolutely brilliant. Dating back to Tomlin’s last start on May 28, the Cleveland starters have a combined stat line that looks like this: 5 G, 35.2 IP, 24 H, 9 ER, 5 BB, 41 K, or a combined ERA of 2.27. It’s hard to pitch much better than the starting rotation pitched over the last five days. Thankfully, the Royals, much like the Athletics, are not very good at hitting baseballs.

Can the Indians actually hit against a left handed starter?

Outside of a couple of rare outbursts this season, the Cleveland Indians as a whole have struggled to hit left handed pitching, owning a team slash line of .236/.321/.379 against southpaws. With two left handed starters, one amazing and one unknown, going against Cleveland this weekend, there is a potential for the bats to go cold once again. Please don’t do that.

Will Whit Merrifield continue to wreak havoc on baseballs despite his Shire-like name?

One of my favorite pastimes is referring to Whit Merrifield as a hobbit from The Lord of the Rings. But at this point, he may be more akin to Sauron because he destroys everything in his path and no man can defeat him. Seriously, over his last 89 plate appearances, he owns a slash line of .333/.386/.531. Hell, in the last series against Cleveland, he went 4-for-9 and he’s currently riding a 16 game hitting streak. Any more destruction and I may have to upgrade him from Sauron to Melkor.

Kansas City Royals roster

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    3
    (37 votes)
  • 63%
    2
    (89 votes)
  • 7%
    1
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    0
    (3 votes)
140 votes total Vote Now