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Cleveland Indians vs. Texas Rangers series preview

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Mike Napoli returns to the city that fell in love with him and his party attitude.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, the Cleveland Indians are required to play 82 home games per year. If they could somehow get out of that requirement, they might have a better shot this season, because they have been absolutely awful at Progressive Field.

The Tribe are just 15-20 with home cooking; the only teams to have fewer wins at home are the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants. Let me save you a trip to your favorite standings page — those teams aren’t very good. Coming off a sweep against the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland will have a shot at home redemption against the Texas Rangers.

Texas is coming off a 2-3 series win against the once-hot New York Yankees. They also have a player some Indians fans might have heard of in Mike Napoli. You know, the guy with the beard who has parties at his house according to stadium signs? The one who donated a tremendous amount of money via t-shirt sales to local Cleveland charities? The one who reportedly helped bridge the racial gap in the Indians clubhouse last season? The one who completely disappeared when the Indians needed him most in October. Yeah, that one. He’s kind of a big deal.

Not to harp on Napoli too much — I like him a lot, and I’m forever grateful for how he helped the Indians reach the World Series last year — but oh boy Indians fans shouldn’t be too upset that the team passed on him in the offseason. I’m sure most people stopped caring once Edwin Encarnacion was inked to a deal, but if you were once upset that the Indians opted for one of the best hitters of the past five years over Napoli, you shouldn’t be anymore.

The 35-year-old first baseman is slashing .192/.727/.418 for the Rangers this season, which is only slightly better than his October numbers last year. He’s still hitting homers of course (14) but nothing else about his game is looking good right now. He is striking out more than ever and walking less than ever. Hopefully he turns around eventually, just not over the next four days.

The Indians will give Napoli his well-deserved American League Championship ring prior to Monday night’s game.

Pitching matchups

Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Cole Hamels (LHP) vs. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)

Cole Hamels was having a weird season before he was placed on the disabled list with an oblique injury, there’s no other way to put it. He was allowing a lot of home runs, not striking many batters out, yet he was on pace to have his best earned run average over a full season since 2012 when he was still with the Phillies.

This will be Hamels’ first start since April 26 when he held the Twins to three runs over 6.2 innings. That game was the epitome of his season-long weirdness. He allowed a home run, struck out just one batter, walked three, yet left with only three runs allowed. In his start before that, he only had three strikeouts, but pitched a strong eight innings against the Kansas City Royals.

The last time Carlos Carrasco pitched was an innocent time. We thought the Indians were back, baby. They looked better than ever, the offense was slugging, and Cookie struck out a season-high 10 batters against the Baltimore Orioles. Over his last two starts, Carrasco has pitched 12.1 innings with 17 strikeouts and three walks. Cookie good.

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Tyson Ross (RHP) vs. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

Tyson Ross was also injured early in the season, but this will be his third start since returning from the disabled list following thoracic outlet surgery. His first start back against the Seattle Mariners went okay — 5.2 innings, two runs, five strikeouts — but he was absolutely clobbered by the Toronto Blue Jays over three innings last week. Ross is a long ways away from that outstanding season he had with the San Diego Padres in 2014.

Injuries and general ineffectiveness eventually led to a non-tender by the Padres in the offseason and the Rangers picking him up on a low-risk $6 million deal. His velocity has been on a steady decline since 2013, and his four-seamer is averaging a career-low 90.94 this season.

Mike Clevinger might finally be putting it together. Maybe? Sort of? His last start was 5.0 innings against the Baltimore Orioles and he struck out four while allowing two runs. Not bad, but he also walked four, which is something he has done a lot this season — 4.71 per nine innings, to be exact. He has only allowed three or more runs in three of his eight starts this season, though, so maybe he can find a way to succeed despite the walks. Or he could stop walking people. That works, too.

Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Yu Darvish (RHP) vs. Trevor Bauer (RHP)

This is a big year for Yu Darvish. After missing all of 2015 and most of 2016 following Tommy John surgery, the 30-year-old is about to hit his first free agent year since coming over from Japan in 2012. So far he’s playing well enough to fill his wallet in the offseason, and importantly fill the win column for the Rangers.

His strikeouts are down quite a bit in 2017 — 26.9 percent compared to a 29.9 percent career mark — but opponents are batting just .197 against him. His FIP and xFIP indicate a bit of luck may be involved in his 3.12 ERA season, as they sit at 3.87 and 3.82, respectively. Darvish is, however, keeping the ball on the ground at a 41.3 percent clip, which over a full season would be his highest groundball rate since his rookie year.

Trevor Bauer insists it was just bad luck after bad start this season, and honestly he might be right. His .340 BABIP against is the sixth highest in the American League, with teammate Josh Tomlin just a couple spots ahead of him at .353. And, despite a strikeout rate (26.6 percent) much higher than his career average (22.1 percent), and a walk rate (8.9 percent) much lower than his career average (9.9 percent), his earned run average is the worst it has ever been since he became a full-time starter.

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

The Rangers have not yet announced who will start on Thursday. Corey Kluber will start for the Indians, so it might not even matter who the Rangers send out.

Storylines

Nap’ is back

He’ll get his AL Championship ring and probably receive a standing ovation from a city that loved having him here for a year. Then he’ll probably strike out a few times.

...and so is Jonathan Lucroy

Look, at this point if you’re still angry at Jonathan Lucroy for turning down a potential trade last July you should probably stop. Francisco Mejia, who was the centerpiece of the prospects going back to the Milwaukee Brewers in the deal, looks like he could be a once-in-a-generation offensive catcher. Not to mention, Lucroy hasn’t been very good this year. But the story still remains, and Lucroy still has his comfy mattress.

Can the Indians avoid a lengthy losing streak?

The Indians have not lost four games in a row in a long, long time. They are currently on a three-game losing streak since being swept by the Twins. A win Monday with Carlos Carrasco on the mound will mean the streak of not having long losing streaks will continue and all be right in the world. A loss means the sky is falling, trade everyone, burn the city down and start over.

Texas Rangers roster

via FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Rangers?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    4
    (13 votes)
  • 32%
    3
    (34 votes)
  • 38%
    2
    (40 votes)
  • 10%
    1
    (11 votes)
  • 6%
    0
    (7 votes)
105 votes total Vote Now