Baseball has not been kind to the Cleveland Indians thus far in 2018. After dropping a three game series to both the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels, the Indians return to Progressive Field for the first time this season. To kick off the home games, the Indians welcome their AL Central rival, the Kansas City Royals.
The Cleveland Indians have a fairly lengthy home stand that stretches from April 6 through April 15. KC will be in town for the weekend, followed by the Detroit Tigers for a four game series and then the Toronto Blue Jays next weekend. After the Royals finish up in Cleveland, they’ll head back to Kauffman Stadium to face off against the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels.
Friday, April 6 4:10 p.m. ET: Danny Duffy (LHP) v. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)
When Danny Duffy isn’t getting DUIs in Burger King parking lots, he’s been a pretty solid, reliable pitcher for the Kansas City Royals over the past few seasons when he’s healthy. The peak for Duffy was in 2016 when he had career highs in innings (179.2) and strikeouts (188) and a career low in BB/9 (2.1). He regressed a bit last year, but was still the best starter that the Royals had. In 2017, Duffy pitched in 146.1 innings and allowed 62 earned runs while walking 41 and striking out 130 (which translates to an ERA+ of 118). 2018, on the other hand, has not started off well for him. He pitched on Opening Day against the Chicago White Sox and got torched to the tune of 5 runs on 7 hits over 4.0 innings while walking 2 and striking out 5. That game featured 6 home runs by the White Sox, 3 of which came at the hands of Danny Duffy. Our friends over at Royals Review believe that a drop in velocity may have been the cause of Danny’s rough outing.
Carlos Carrasco, similarly, has made one start so far this season and it was not good. There were moments where he looked great, but as the lineup turned over a second and third time, Cookie ran into issues which culminated in a home run by Nelson Cruz. In that game on March 31, Carrasco went 5.2 innings and allowed 5 earned runs on 7 hits while walking no one (nice) and striking out 4 (not as nice).
Saturday, April 7 4:10 p.m. ET: Ian Kennedy (RHP) v. Trevor Bauer (RHP)
Ian Kennedy is attempting a bounce back season after a poor showing in 2017. After an excellent 2016 campaign, Kennedy pitched just 154.0 innings in 2017 and gave up 92 earned runs while walking 61 and striking out 131 (which translates to an ERA+ of 84). Kennedy just turned 33 this past December, so he is racing against the clock in terms of productive seasons left; from 2010-2012, Ian Kennedy ranged from merely above average to spectacular. In 2011, he was fourth in Cy Young voting and even garnered a handful of MVP votes. Since then, he’s been pretty bad outside of 2016; Royals fans must be wondering whether 2016 was a return to form or merely an aberration. If his first start of this season was an indication of things to come, Ian Kennedy may very well be in the middle of his own renaissance. On March 31 against the White Sox, Kennedy went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.
Trevor Bauer began his season against the Mariners and he gave his team a chance to win. Bauer typically throws a lot of pitches in each outing, so him going deep into games is less likely than what we saw on Sunday, which was an acceptable five and fly. Against the Mariners, Bauer went 5.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 3 and striking out 7.
Sunday, April 8 1:10 p.m. ET: Jason Hammel (RHP) v. Mike Clevinger (RHP)
Jason Hammel is a strange pitcher. He’s been in the league for over a decade and alternates frequently between being stellar (circa 2012), above average (2009, 2014, 2015, 2016), to being below average (everywhere else). In 2017, Hammel had one of his bad seasons in his first year with the Kansas City Royals. Last season, he pitched a career high 180.1 innings and gave up 106 earned runs while walking 48 and striking out 145 (which translates to an ERA+ of 85). His first start this season came against the Detroit Tigers on April 2. In that game, Hammel went 5.0 innings and allowed 5 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 3.
Getting to watch Mike Clevinger wheel and deal in person at Angel Stadium was an absolute treat for me. In hindsight, it also helped that it was the best game of the series. Clevinger had a shutout going for 5.1 innings before being lifted, but across those innings, he allowed no runs on just 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.
Players to watch*
- Cheslor Cuthbert - Cuthbert is only 25 years old and 2018 marks his fifth season in the majors. Up to this point in his career, he’s been downright dreadful. With that being said, he’s off to a blistering start to this season with a team best OPS of .962 (SSS alert: he’s had all of 13 plate appearances).
- Kelvin Herrera - The closer for the Royals is all that is left from the elite bullpen of 2014 and 2015; he isn’t as dominant as he was in those seasons, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. He’s given up just one hit in his 2.1 innings of work so far in 2018 and he’s struck out 5 without giving up a walk.
- Mike Moustakas - One of the remaining players from the 2015 core, Mike Moustakas was brought back on a one-year deal. After an injury plagued 2016, Moose bounced back in a big way in 2017 and played at an All-Star level for the Royals once again. He’s off to a moderate start in 2018 with a current slash line of .250/.294/.438, but don’t be surprised to see Moustakas put up big numbers again for his last year (potentially) in Kansas City.
- Justin Grimm - Grimm was an elite bullpen arm for the Cubs back in 2015 and has been average to below average ever since. After being released by Chicago during spring training, he got picked up by the Royals. He’s in the conversation to be the setup man for Kelvin Herrera, but he’s currently up against Brandon Maurer and Blaine Boyer. So far, in 2.1 innings of work, Grimm has given up just 1 run.
The return of Michael Brantley
Tito has indicated that the plan for Michael Brantley is to be activated in time for the home opener on Friday. Brantley has been struggling to remain healthy for the better part of two seasons (he played in just 101 games across 2016 and 2017). With that being said, when he is healthy, he’s the potential to be one of the best hitters in the game. If all goes to plan, Friday will hopefully be Brantley’s first of many games this season.
Playing through the cold
The highest temperature in Cleveland this weekend is supposedly going to be 46° with temperatures reaching down to as low as 27°. Thankfully, all three games are going to be day games, but that doesn’t change the fact that the climate will be vastly different than what the Tribe just experienced out west *sits back and sips on some lemonade in Irvine, CA*
The non-home run offense
So far in 2018, the Indians have scored 21 runs. Of those 21 runs, 16 of them have come via the longball. With Yonder Alonso, Endwin Encarnacion, and even Francisco Lindor, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Indians to hit a decent amount of home runs this season. The problem comes when they are unable to score in other ways. It is still early in the season, so it’s not something to get worked over just yet, but it is something to keep in mind as this first month of the season continues to unfold.
Kansas City Royals roster
*One player notably absent from this list is All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. Salvy is currently on the DL after sustaining a knee injury carrying a suitcase.
How many games will the Indians win against the Royals?
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