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Cleveland Indians vs. Seattle Mariners series preview

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The Mariners meet the Indians for round two this season.

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Well, that’s over. After splitting a two-game set with the Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Indians continue their home stand with a four-game set against the Seattle Mariners, the team they began the season with.

Looking ahead

After finishing up with the Mariners, the Indians will welcome the Texas Rangers for a three-game set to end April and begin May. Then, on what should be an off-day, the Tribe will make up two games against the Toronto Blue Jays in a double-header. For the Mariners, after finishing up at Progressive Field, they will head back west to welcome the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels to Safeco Field, each for three games.

Pitching matchups

Thursday, April 26 6:10 p.m. ET: James Paxton (LHP) v. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

The last time the Indians saw James Paxton (on March 31), they tattooed him for six runs thanks to a pair of home runs and four walks. Paxton didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in that game. Since then, he hasn’t really fared much better. This season as a whole, Paxton has thrown 25.2 innings and has allowed 16 earned runs while walking 12 and striking out 34 (which translates to an ERA+ of 73). His most recent start came on April 21 against the Texas Rangers; in that game, Paxton went just 4.0 innings and allowed five earned runs on six hits while walking three and striking out six. With Paxton and Felix Hernandez both off to bad starts this season, the Mariners are in trouble.

Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer continue to battle for the number three role on the Cleveland pitching staff, and, so far, Clevinger is winning that battle this season. In the 25.2 innings he’s pitched (oddly, the same amount as James Paxton), he’s allowed just five earned runs while walking eight and striking out 17 (which translates to an ERA+ of 252). His most recent start, on April 21 against the Orioles, was the best yet in his career. In that game, Clevinger pitched his first complete game shutout, allowing just two hits and walking three while striking out two.

Friday, April 27 7:10 p.m. ET: Erasmo Ramirez (RHP) v. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Erasmo Ramirez had started the season in Triple-A on a rehab assignment after being on the DL with a right shoulder-latissimus dorsi strain. He was called back up on April 22 and has only made one start so far this season. He was moved midway through last season from Tampa Bay to Seattle and pitched much better once he got in a Mariners uniform. Overall, in 2017, Ramirez had a somewhat down year. In the 131.1 innings he pitched, he allowed 64 earned runs while walking 31 and striking out 109 (which translates to an ERA+ of 96). His first start this season came on April 22, and it was not a good one; against the Rangers, Ramirez went 4.2 innings and allowed five earned runs on five hits while walking one and striking out one.

Yeah, I’ll say it: Corey Kluber is on the decline. He had his worst start of the year last time out and his ERA jumped 0.44 points. 0.44! If he continues doing that, his ERA will be around 57 by the time the season is over. Sure, it’s 1.96 now, but what kind of “ace” gives up three whole runs in a game? Never mind the fact that Kluber is off to his absolute best start to a season ever by all measurable stats; the last time he pitched against the Mariners, he couldn’t even prevent them from scoring runs. Also, he didn’t get any hits himself. Can’t rely on everyone to do everything for you, can you, Corey? In previous years, Kluber has pitched over 200 innings; this season, he’s only pitched in 36.2 (that’s not even close to 200) and has allowed a whopping eight runs while walking six (if they had all come back to back, that’s two runs right there! For free!) and striking out just 37 (which translates to an ERA+ of 224; Mike Clevinger is laughing at you, Corey). Oh, and that worst start I talked about above? On April 22 against the Orioles, Kluber got absolutely shellacked for seven innings and gave up three runs (that’s 37.5 percent of all the runs he’s given up all year) on six hits while walking no one (rude) and striking out four. Sure, by baseball standards, Corey Kluber pitched a “quality start”, but what’s so “quality” about giving up two home runs to Manny Machado, a dude so bad he probably won’t even be with the Orioles by the end of July?

Saturday, April 28 4:10 p.m. ET: Mike Leake (RHP) v. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)

Mike Leake is also off to a poor start for the Mariners this season (I’m seeing a trend here). He pitched well against the Tribe during the opening series, giving up just two runs over seven innings, but his other four starts have not gone nearly as well. So far, Leake has pitched in 27.1 innings and has given up 20 runs while walking 10 and striking out 16 (which translates to an ERA+ of 63). His most recent start was absolutely abysmal; on April 23 against the White Sox, Leake only lasted 3.1 innings and he gave up eight earned runs on 12 hits while walking no one and striking out one.

Carlos Carrasco is, like three of Cleveland’s other starters, absolutely dominating so far this season. He’s pitched in 35.0 innings this season and he’s’ allowed nine earned runs while walking six and striking out 28 (which translates to an ERA+ of 190). His most recent start came on April 23 against the Orioles; in that game, Carrasco went 7.1 innings and allowed just one earned run on six hits while walking two and striking out seven.

Sunday, April 29 1:10 p.m. ET: Marco Gonzales (LHP) v. Josh Tomlin (RHP)

Marco Gonzales, like the other members of the Seattle rotation, is struggling. He’s pitched in 22.2 innings this season and has allowed 14 earned runs while walking four and striking out 27 (which translates to an ERA+ of 74). Gonzales was traded from the Cardinals to the Mariners last year, his first season pitching after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016. His last start came on April 24 against the White Sox, and he actually had a solid game. In that game, Gonzales pitched six shutout innings on five hits while walking one and striking out eight.

Josh Tomlin. As redundant as it has become to say good things about Corey Kluber’s pitching, it has become equally redundant to talk about how poorly Josh Tomlin pitches. Yes, he pitched slightly above average in 2016, but he was below average last season and looks to be much, much worse here in 2018. So far, Tomlin has pitched in 12.2 innings and allowed 13 earned runs while walking four and striking out seven (which translates to an ERA+ of 49). I’d rather not revisit his most recent start, but let’s. On April 24 against the Chicago Cubs, Tomlin lasted just 3.2 innings and he allowed five earned runs (four solo home runs) on seven hits while walking no one and striking out three.

Players to watch

  • Mitch Haniger - The 27-year-old right-fielder has been getting better ever since his debut in 2016, and this year is no exception. He’s off to a blazing start, slashing .305/.372/.659 over 94 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 177). He’s also hit 8 home runs, which is tied for third most in baseball. Haniger is going to hit a ton, so watch for him this weekend.
  • Nelson Cruz - Cruz tormented the Indians during the opening series of the year. In the two games he played, he hit two home runs and had four RBI before being removed for an ankle injury. He had some time off for a couple of weeks, but he’s been great in the time he has played. He’s currently slashing .268/.293/.554 (which translates to a wRC+ of 128). He’s striking out less than usual and his BABIP is about 50 points below his career average, so he may be even better once his luck normalizes a bit.
  • Edwin Diaz - The Mariners’ closer is continuing the dominance he’s shown for the past two seasons. He’s pitched in 12.1 innings this season and he’s given up just one run and two hits. Those numbers are great, but what is stunning is that Diaz has struck out 23 batters, which equals a K/9 of 16.8. His upper-90s fastball will definitely sit some Cleveland hitters down this weekend.
  • Chasen Bradford - Edwin Diaz isn’t the only reliable pitcher in the Mariners’ bullpen. Bradford made his MLB debut last season with the Mets and has pitched even better so far this season for the Mariners. He’s pitched in 9.2 innings so far, but he’s allowed just two earned runs and he’s struck out five. His mixture of fastball, sinker, and slider, while they don’t generate a ton of strikeouts, will get hitters to either ground out or weekly fly out with relative regularity.

Storylines

Facing sub-optimal starting pitching

The Indians just recently finished a four-game series with the Orioles, and three of the four starters that they faced were struggling to start the 2018 season. The difference in this series is that all of the starters the Tribe will be facing are struggling. Conversely, the Indians are throwing out three dominant starters and Josh Tomlin. There’s no reason why the Indians can’t get three wins and possibly a sweep depending on if Josh Tomlin decides to pitch with any semblance of competency or not.

Andrew Miller injured?

During the final game against the Cubs, Andrew Miller threw two pitches before exiting the game with some hamstring tightness. He’s gone on to say he doesn’t think it’s serious, but we’ll know more after an MRI. Hopefully it’s just a pulled muscle and not anything that’s torn.

Where art thou, Jason Kipnis?

Kip has had a really bad start to the season. Like, OPS of .442 bad. In previous down years, Kipnis has been able to point to a current or lingering injury as to the source of his struggles, but all signs currently point to Kipnis being in fine health. So what’s going on? Well, his BABIP is currently sitting about 100 points below his career average, so there is definitely some bad luck in play. With two struggling righties on the mound this weekend, hopefully they’re just what Kipnis needs to start to turn his season around.

Seattle Mariners roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Mariners?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    4
    (20 votes)
  • 57%
    3
    (71 votes)
  • 16%
    2
    (20 votes)
  • 3%
    1
    (4 votes)
  • 6%
    0
    (8 votes)
123 votes total Vote Now