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Cleveland Indians at Los Angeles Angels series preview

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Thankfully, the Indians won’t face Ohtani on the mound during this series.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The first series of the season did not go well for the Cleveland Indians. Corey Kluber pitched a complete game and the team hit four home runs across three games (including a grand slam), but they came away with just one victory. Now, the Tribe heads to Anaheim to meet the Los Angeles Angels for the second series of the season.

Looking ahead

The Indians will finish up with the west coast, until June 29, with this three game set with the Angels. After that, they’ll fly back to Cleveland to host the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field to begin their games at home. The Angels, on the other hand, will host the Tribe for three days until having a day off. They’ll then welcome the Oakland Athletics to the Big A before flying out to Texas to face the Rangers.

Pitching match-ups

Monday, April 2 10:07 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. JC Ramirez (RHP)

The Los Angeles Angels drafted Mike Clevinger in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. Three years later, they traded him to the Cleveland Indians for a declining Vinnie Pestano. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Vinnie is playing baseball currently. Based on my research, the last contract he had was a minor league contract with the Yankees before being released by the team in July of 2016.

In short, the Indians are looking pretty good in terms of this particular trade.

Mike Clevinger stepped into the role of full-time starter last season and he took to the new responsibility fairly well. He was able to make 21 starts (up from 10 the year prior) and doubled his inning workload without losing his effectiveness. In fact, he was downright dominant. Across 121.2 innings in 2017, Clevinger allowed just 42 earned runs while walking 60 and striking out 137 (which translates to an ERA+ of 147). This will be Clevinger’s first start of 2018, and the hope is that he can build on his excellent 2017 to take over for the perpetually injured Danny Salazar *sobs internally*

JC Ramirez had his first full season with the Angels last year after being traded from the Reds midway through the 2016 season. Since his move to Orange County, Ramirez has fared better than he had previously with the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Mariners, and Reds. In 2017, Ramirez threw 147.1 innings (his most in a single season) and allowed 68 earned runs while walking 49 and striking out 105 (which translates to an ERA+ of 101). He is also making his first start of 2018 this evening.

Tuesday, April 3 10:07 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) v. Garrett Richards (RHP)

Josh Tomlin is back for another year, and before you get into it, remember that there are worse #5 starters across the league. Tribe fans can be spoiled with the top two pitchers in the rotation, but try to remember that Kluber and Carrasco being good doesn’t make Josh Tomlin bad. However. Josh Tomlin is what he is and that’s all that he’s ever been: a pinpoint accurate, soft-tossing right handed pitcher who is prone to giving up a home run or seven. The 32-year-old is entering his ninth season with the Cleveland Indians and will make his first start of the 2018 season on Tuesday night. Last year, Tomlin took a bit of a step back from his 2015 and 2016 seasons in which he was well above average. In 2017, Tomlin pitched 141.0 innings and allowed 78 earned runs while walking just 14 batters and striking out 109 (which translates to an ERA+ of 92).

When healthy, Garrett Richards is a stud and a legitimate Cy Young candidate. The problem is that health is definitely not a guarantee with Richards, who has been dealing with on-and-off injuries since 2015, chief of which was his UCL injury that required Tommy John surgery in 2016. Between 2016 and 2017, Richards pitched a grand total of 62.1 innings. Granted, they were great innings, but they haven’t been enough. In 2018, his first full season post-TJ surgery, Richards will try to revert back to his dominant self while also consistently maintaining good health. His first start came on Opening Day against the Athletics; in that game, Richards went 5.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 4.

Wednesday, April 4 7:07 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Tyler Skaggs (LHP)

Corey Kluber is back on the mound and will hopefully get some run support this time. He pitched on Opening Day for the Tribe and was classic Kluber: 8.0 innings, 2 earned runs, 6 hits, 1 walk, and 8 strikeouts. Please give Kluber runs this time, rest of team.

I was sitting at lunch last week and a guy in a Mike Trout jersey was sitting at the bar and expounding knowledge of the Angels to his friend next to him. As he was going through the list of players on the roster, upon reaching LHP Tyler Skaggs, he proclaimed “Skaggs sucks”. I immediately messaged my friend (a much more informed Angels fan) and he said that he’s average. He had Tommy John surgery and that messed him up for a bit (like most TJ recipients), but he’s still young and has some upside. Looking at his numbers, I would have to agree. The 26-year-old enters his sixth MLB season (fourth with the Angels; he missed all of 2015 due to TJ surgery) and will attempt to improve upon his lackluster 2017. Last season, Skaggs pitched 85.0 innings and allowed 43 earned runs while walking 28 and striking out 76 (which translates to an ERA+ of 93). His first start of 2018 was solid. On March 30, Skaggs faced the A’s and went 6.1 innings and allowed no runs on 3 hits while walking none and striking out 5.

Players to watch

  • Mike Trout - He’s aight (side note: holy crap Trout is only 26. He’s entering his prime).
  • Shohei Ohtani - The two-way superstar from Japan has made his debut in the lineup and on the mound stateside, and his pitching has been much better than his hitting. In his one game at DH, he got a slap single into right field but that was it. But yesterday, Ohtani made his first pitching start and he was electric. He allowed just 3 hits (all coming back to back to back in one inning) which culminated in a 3-run home run. But outside of those blips, he went 6.0 innings and walked a batter while striking out 6. His fastball sat 96-100mph, his splitter was ridiculous, and his pitch selection was effective and efficient. Don’t expect him to pitch against the Tribe this week, but he may drop in and DH for a game.
  • Zack Cozart - Last season saw a breakout season for the 32-year-old shortstop. His wRC+ skyrocketed to 141, he hit 24 bombs, and his walk rate jumped up 5% while his strikeout rate dropped slightly. I’m not sure what change Cozart made, but it’s working. He’s picked up in 2018 right where he left off last year; his early slash line on the year is .357/.400/.857. Granted, it’s currently buoyed by a .444 BABIP so his numbers won’t be this silly forever, but expect him to drive some pitches around the diamond during this series.
  • Blake Parker - Another breakout candidate from 2017, Parker looks to be in the mix to be the Angels closer this season (though Mike Scioscia hasn’t named an official closer), and for good reason. He appeared in 71 games last season (Shaw-esque) and had 86 strikeouts compared to 16 walks. He has multiple pitches that can get hitters to swing and miss, so expect to see Parker appear in high leverage situations this week.

Storylines

Which bullpen is going to show up?

On Saturday, the Tribe bullpen went 3.1 innings and allowed no runs and struck out 4. On Sunday, the bullpen went 3.0 innings and allowed 3 runs and struck out 1. Sunday did not feature Andrew Miller or Cody Allen, and neither day featured Bryan Shaw (for obvious reasons). The bullpen arms not named Miller and Allen are going to have to step up to replace those innings that Bryan Shaw would have covered if he had stayed with Cleveland.

Francisco Lindor/Jose Ramirez

It’s too early to worry, so let’s get that out of the way right now. With that being said, the Cleveland lineup depends on consistent contributions from about 5-6 players since there are so many players currently in platoon roles/covering for injuries. Two of those consistent players are Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez; thus far on the young season, the left side of the infield is a grotesque 2-for-25 and just 1 walk. To break it down further, Lindor has both of those hits and the lone walk. The Indians lineup gets awfully thin if Lindor and Ramirez aren’t hitting, so hopefully they find their groove sooner rather than later.

Los Angeles Angels roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Angels?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    3
    (37 votes)
  • 53%
    2
    (89 votes)
  • 15%
    1
    (26 votes)
  • 7%
    0
    (13 votes)
165 votes total Vote Now