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Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles series preview

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A long stretch of games without a day off begins at Camden Yards.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Back on the mainland, the Cleveland Indians find themselves in Baltimore after splitting the two-game series in Puerto Rico with the Minnesota Twins. They’ll take on the Orioles at Camden Yards for the next four days.

Looking ahead

This series marks the beginning of a stretch of 18 games in 17 days for the Cleveland Indians, starting with 4 games at Camden Yards. After this series, the Tribe flies back to Progressive Field for 11 games, starting with 2 against the Cubs and then 4 against the Mariners. The Orioles, on the other hand, are currently in the middle of a 23-game stretch with no off days. After Cleveland leaves town, Baltimore will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays followed by the Detroit Tigers to end the month of April.

Pitching match-ups

Friday, April 20 7:05 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) v. Dylan Bundy (RHP)

Say what you want about Trevor Bauer, but the man is having a good year thus far. He’s walking fewer batters than usual (3.2 BB/9 this season v. 3.7 career), he’s striking more batters out than usual (9.5 K/9 this season v. 8.7 career), and he has a FIP much lower than his career norm (3.01 v. 4.12). He’s only pitched in 20 innings so far this season, but all indicators point to Trevor Bauer stepping his game up in 2018. His most recent start came on April 12 against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, Bauer went 7.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7.

Dylan Bundy is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster rotation. And by bright spots, I mean not incredibly awful. He and Kevin Gausman anchored the rotation in 2017, but they weren’t aces by any stretch of the imagination. Last season, Bundy went 169.2 innings and allowed 80 earned runs while walking 51 and striking out 152 (which translates to an ERA+ of 101). His slider is one of his main weapons to get batters swinging and missing or spiking the ball directly into the ground (Yandy Diaz’s worst nightmare). Despite his struggles in the past, he’s off to an electric start in 2018; in his 25.2 innings, he’s allowed just 4 earned runs while walking 7 and striking out 31. His most recent start came on April 15 against the Boston Red Sox; in that game, Bundy went 5.2 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 7 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6.

Saturday, April 21 4:05 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. Chris Tillman (RHP)

Sunshine is hitting his stride in 2018 and looks to give the Indians a full season in the rotation. His strikeouts are down (7.6 K/9 this season v. 9.5 career), but so are his walks (3.2 BB/9 this season v. 4.5 career) and his FIP (3.29 v. 4.08). His last start was on April 13 against the Toronto Blue Jays and it was his worst so far in 2018; in that game, Clevinger only went 4.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 3 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.

Back in 2016, Chris Tillman was excellent. Last season, a shoulder injury caused him to miss significant time during the season and played a major part in his worst major league season yet. Oh man was Tillman bad last year. For starters, he pitched in just 93.0 innings spread over 24 games (19 starts). He never pitched more than 6 innings in a game and only reached that mark 3 times all season. In those 93 innings, Tillman allowed 81 earned runs while walking 51 and striking out 63. Brooks Baseball says that his fastball generates a lot of ground balls, but every other pitch is “basically never swung at and missed”. This season has not been kind to Tillman, either; he’s pitched in 11.1 innings and has allowed 15 earned runs while walking 10 and striking out 3. His most recent start on April 13 against the Red Sox was his worst yet; he lasted just 2.0 innings and allowed 6 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 2 and striking out no one.

Sunday, April 22 1:05 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Kevin Gausman (RHP)

Corey Kluber is good. Real good. Many writers on LGT have written at length about the goodness that is Corey Kluber. His 2018, unlike most seasons, has gotten off to an impeccable start; he’s thrown 29.2 innings and allowed just 5 earned runs while walking 6 and striking out 33. All of his peripherals are right in line with or better than his numbers from last season. Good luck other teams. His last start came on April 17 against the Minnesota Twins. In that game, Kluber went 6.2 innings (shortest outing of the year, what a scrub) and allowed just 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6.

Remember earlier when I said that Gausman held down the rotation for the Orioles last year in conjunction with Dylan Bundy? He started in 34 games last season, the most he’s ever done in a single season. Unfortunately for the Orioles, those innings weren’t necessarily quality innings. During the 186.2 innings he pitched, Gausman allowed 97 earned runs while walking 71 and striking out 179 (which translates to an ERA+ of 92). His splitter can get hitters to swing and miss while his slider can induce some ground ball outs, so he does have some tools to play with. So far in 2018, however, Gausman has not pitched all that well; in the 21.0 innings pitched, he’s allowed 13 earned runs while walking 6 and striking out 19. His most recent start came on April 18 against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, Gausman went 6.0 innings and allowed just 2 earned runs on 9 hits while walking no one and striking out 4.

Monday, April 23 7:05 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Andrew Cashner (RHP)?

I know that all good things must eventually come to an end, so I’m just going to enjoy the 1-2 punch of Kluber and Carrasco while I can. Similar to his counterpart, Carlos Carrasco enjoyed a career year last season and is looking as good or better (depending on which stat you look at) this season. He’s thrown in 27.2 innings so far this season and has allowed 8 earned runs while walking 4 and striking out 21. His most recent start came on April 18 against the Minnesota Twins; in that game, Cookie went 7.0 innings and allowed zero runs on 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 7.

MLB currently has the projected pitcher for the Orioles as TBD, but I’m guessing that it’ll be Andrew Cashner. The reliever turned starter has spent the majority of his career in the National League and only recently came over to the AL as of last season when he pitched for the Texas Rangers. And he was fantastic for the Rangers last year. In 166.2 innings, Cashner allowed 63 earned runs while walking 64 and striking out 86 (which translates to an ERA+ of 138). He’s also continued that dominance into this season with the Orioles, who hope that he will add some much needed stability to a shaky rotation. His sinker and fastball will get hitters to pop up while his cutter will have hitters grounding out. He’s thrown in 24.0 innings this season and has allowed just 8 earned runs while walking 11 and striking out 21. His most recent start came on April 17 against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, Cashner went 6.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 5.

Players to watch

  • Richard Bleier - Bleier got traded to the Orioles from the Yankees for a PTBNL before spring training started in 2017. In the 2016 season, the lefty had given up just 5 earned runs in 23 appearances. Not only does this speak to the stupidly good depth of the Yankees bullpen, but it gives Bleier an opportunity to pitch in higher leverage situations now that he’s not blocked by the likes of Betances, Robertson, Green and Chapman. So far this season, Bleier has gone 12.2 innings and allowed just 1 earned run. Expect him to be called upon to take down some of Cleveland’s many left handed batters.
  • Manny Machado - Machado had a bit of a down year last season and was highly talked about in trade rumors during the offseason. But no trades were found and Manny has slid over to SS for the Orioles and has continued to play like an All-Star. He’s currently slashing .319/.402/.528 across 82 plate appearances in 2018 (which translates to a wRC+ of 157). With the added pressure of a contract year, expect Machado to perform both offensively and defensively at elite levels.
  • Brad Brach - Brach was an elite closer in 2016 and was still fantastic in 2017 despite pitching in fewer innings. 2018 marks Brach’s fifth year with the Orioles and he continues to close games for Baltimore with efficiency and authority. His fastball/change-up combo often has hitters swinging and missing; if they do make contact, it’s usually weak contact that results in lazy pop-ups. Brach has only allowed 2 earned runs this season across 7.2 innings of work while walking 6 and striking out 9. He will be tough to break through against if the Orioles are leading in the ninth.
  • Trey Mancini - Trey Mancini did an excellent job last year in his first full year as a starter for the Orioles. He played in 147 games and slashed .293/.338/.488 with 24 home runs (wRC+ of 117). He’s gotten off to a similar start this season, slashing .292/.366/.417 across 82 plate appearances (wRC+ of 119). What makes Mancini effective is not only his bat, but his defensive versatility as well. In 2017, he played in left field primarily, but he also was able to spend time in both right field and at first base while also filling in to DH every once and a while. Regardless of where he is on the diamond, expect him to be an impact bat in the lineup.

Storylines

Scoring early

With the exception of Andrew Cashner, the starters that the Indians will be facing this weekend are mediocre at best. Conversely, the bullpen has a number of good arms that can come in at any point and neutralize a threat. The Indians’ best chance at victory will be to score early and knock starters out before the bullpen has a chance to come in and seal a win for the Orioles. With the Orioles in the middle of a long stretch of games and starters who won’t get deep into games, the Indians need to take advantage and force manager Buck Showalter to lean on an already taxed bullpen.

Please no more Matt Belisle

Matt Belisle may have found a way to be effective for the Twins last season, but he’s a year older (38) and his peripherals from last year hinted at an inevitable decline. That decline is here. Obviously there are times when Belisle taking the mound makes sense; those times are when either team is up by 10 or we are in the 14th inning of a game and you’ve used every other relief pitcher. Otherwise, Belisle should be on the bench.

The bunting should probably stop

Yes, this meme is overplayed on LGT, but until Tito stops doing it, we’re going to keep talking about it. The only finite thing in baseball are the number of outs you have, and in the majority of those situations, willingly giving up a scarce resource is not the recipe for success. Yes, Francisco Lindor currently owns an OPS of .657, but that doesn’t mean he will always hit this poorly. You know how you raise those numbers? Hit the ball. Bunting to move a runner is the right play in a very limited amount of scenarios; otherwise, let your best hitters hit.

Baltimore Orioles roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Orioles?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    4
    (18 votes)
  • 56%
    3
    (49 votes)
  • 16%
    2
    (14 votes)
  • 3%
    1
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    0
    (2 votes)
86 votes total Vote Now