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Cleveland Indians vs. Oakland Athletics series preview

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The second half starts out on the road in California

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With the first half of the season in the books, the Cleveland Indians begin the second half of the season with a 2.5 game lead in the AL Central. Their first series after the All-Star break is against a team who has been dreadful this season in the Oakland Athletics. The Houston Astros are running away with the AL West, but the A’s haven’t exactly put up a fight as they are 21 games out of first place and last in their division.

Cleveland continues their road trip after a weekend series against Oakland by heading across the bay to play against the somehow worse San Francisco Giants. The Athletics will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays at the conclusion of this series.

Pitching matchups

Friday, 10:05 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Sonny Gray (RHP)

After an injury-plagued 2016, Sonny Gray is having a bit of a bounce back season. He’s nowhere near the dominance that we saw from him in 2015, but he’s pitching above average and at least being competitive, which is about all you can hope for with Oakland this season. The 27 year old has thrown 78.2 innings so far in 2017, and in that time he has allowed 35 runs while walking 25 and striking out 74 (good for an ERA+ of 106). His final start before the All-Star break came on July 5 against the Chicago White Sox. In that game, Gray went 6.0 innings and allowed just 2 earned runs on 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5.

Carlos Carrasco gets the first start of the second half for Cleveland and if he can throw at all like he did in the first few months of the season, Cleveland fans will be in for a treat. Currently in the middle of one of his best seasons yet, Cookie has been a source of stability and dominance in an otherwise volatile starting rotation. So far this season, Carlos has, in 104.2 innings, allowed 40 earned runs while walking 27 and striking out 114 (good for an ERA+ of 138). Carrasco finished up his first half on July 7 against the Detroit Tigers when he went 7 dominant innings and allowed just 2 earned runs on 9 hits and 1 walk while striking out 11.

Saturday, 9:05 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Paul Blackburn (RHP)

Paul Blackburn has made two starts at the major league level since being called up from AAA Nashville to replace Jharel Cotton in the rotation. In those two starts, Blackburn has done exceedingly well, giving up just 1 earned run over a span of 13.2 innings while walking 2 and striking out 4 (good for an ERA+ of 657; small sample sizes are fun, everyone!). Blackburn got his first major league win in his last start on July 6 against the Seattle Mariners. In that game, Blackburn went 7.2 innings of 1 run ball while walking 1 and striking out no one.

You almost have to feel bad for the A’s; after facing Carlos Carrasco, they face the even better Corey Kluber. It may be hard to believe, but Corey Kluber actually struggled with injury and middling results early on in the season. But whatever was ailing Kluber in the early weeks of the season are long gone and he is back to being the dominant ace that we’ve come to love. On the season, he’s gone 93.1 innings and allowed just 29 earned runs while walking 24 and striking out 123 (good for an ERA+ of 170, his best of his career). Kluber’s last start was short due to an elevated pitch count, but he was still able to hold the Detroit Tigers to just 1 run over 3.0 innings of work while walking 3 and striking out 8 on July 9.

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Sean Manaea (LHP)

For the finale, the A’s have the odds in the favor in terms of pitching matchup as they send Sean Manaea to the mound. So far in 2017, Manaea has been worth 2.3 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference), which is the most on his team. In 2017, Manaea has also pitched 93.1 innings, but he has allowed 39 earned runs while walking 34 and striking out 93 (good for an ERA+ of 112). In his last start of the first half on July 7, Manaea held the Seattle Mariners to 3 earned runs over 7.0 innings while walking 1 and striking out 3.

Trevor Bauer continues to inch his way towards having average stats on the season, which is a positive. His season up to this point has been a rocky one; in 92.2 innings, Bauer has allowed 54 earned runs while walking 34 and striking out 103 (good for an ERA+ of 91). Bauer looked a little rough in his most recent start, however, when he went 5.0 innings against the San Diego Padres and allowed 3 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7.

Storylines

Jose Ramirez cannot carry the offense

The Angry Hamster is amazing, no one is disputing that. In fact, he probably could carry the offense, but that’s not an optimal strategy to win baseball games. In order for Cleveland to continue to maintain a lead in the AL Central, all members of the team will need to start clicking on offense. Look for Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, and Yan Gomes to (hopefully) have a better offensive showing than in the first half.

Don’t waste good pitching

With Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco on the mound, Cleveland should have the edge in the first two games of the series. Taking 2 of 3 for the majority of the remaining series’ will be key to ensure an AL Central title and control in the postseason (none of this wild card play in crap). In a series in which both of your aces are going, there’s no reason that this series can’t be a win for the Indians.

Oakland Athletics roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Athletics?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    3
    (63 votes)
  • 51%
    2
    (77 votes)
  • 6%
    1
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    0
    (1 vote)
150 votes total Vote Now