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Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians series preview

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Winning another series would be just lovely.

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Indians bounced back from back to back abysmal series’ against the Mariners and the Angels with a slightly less abysmal series against the Royals. Sure, they got shutout for 23 consecutive innings by a team projected to be in the bottom of the American League, but they pulled out two victories in three opportunities, so there are silver linings in the world. Now, Cleveland has their first four-game series of the year against the Detroit Tigers.

Looking ahead

The Indians keep rolling in this home stand with four games against the Tigers. They’ll then wrap up at home with three games against the Toronto Blue Jays before heading out to Minnesota to face the Twins for a quick two-game set. The Tigers, on the other hand, will fly back home to face the Yankees and the Orioles after finishing up in Cleveland.

Pitching match-ups

Monday, April 9 6:10 p.m. ET: Francisco Liriano (LHP) v. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Francisco Liriano has been struggling since his stellar 2015 where he pitched 186.2 innings and struck out 205 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last season, Liriano split time between the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros, and while he did better once he found his way to Houston, he was not good. Over just 97.0 innings, Liriano allowed 61 earned runs while walking 53 and striking out 85 (which translates to an ERA+ of 80). His only start so far in 2018 was great, however; on April 2 against the Kansas City Royals, Liriano went 6.2 innings and allowed just 1 run on 4 hits while walking two and striking out three.

Corey Kluber is back to his Corey Kluber ways in 2018. He’s made two starts and has been dominant in both yet has had no run support in either. His most recent start came on April 4 against the Los Angeles Angels. In that game, Kluber went 7.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on three hits while walking two and striking out six. Maybe the bats will come around for him this time?

Tuesday, April 10 6:10 p.m. ET: Matthew Boyd (LHP) v. Josh Tomlin (RHP)

Boyd came to the Tigers from Toronto in 2015 and has struggled ever since. He reached a career high in innings pitched in a season (135.0) last year, but they weren’t good innings. Across those innings, Boyd allowed 79 earned runs while walking 53 and striking out 110 (which translates to an ERA+ of 86). His one start so far in 2018 was Kluber-lite; on April 3 against the Royals, Boyd went 6.0 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits while walking no one and striking out one. The Tigers went on to lose that game 1-0.

Until Danny Salazar is healthy, Josh Tomlin is going to keep starting games for the Cleveland Indians whether you like it or not. He’s a number five starter and a decent one at that, but number five starters are not aces, so don’t expect ace-like material when Tomlin pitches. With that being said, you shouldn’t expect him to be as bad as he was in his first start of 2018, either. On April 3 at The Big A, Tomlin went just three innings and allowed eight earned runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out one.

Wednesday, April 11 6:10 p.m. ET: Jordan Zimmermann (RHP) v. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)

Jordan Zimmermann was one of baseball’s elite pitchers a few years ago when he was on the Nationals. He made the All-Star team in both 2013 and 2014 and was in the Cy Young discussion in those years as well. As soon as he was signged by the Tigers in 2016, he became awful. Call it aging, call it switching between the NL and the AL, call it whatever you want. Jordan Zimmermann is not a good pitcher anymore. In 2017, for example, he pitched 160.0 innings and allowed a career high 108 earned runs while walking 44 and striking out 103 (which translates to an ERA+ of 74). He’s picked up in 2018 right where he left off; during his last start against the White Sox on April 5, Zimmermann went 4.1 innings and allowed six earned runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out three.

After a bad showing in his first outing, Carlos Carrasco bounced back and had a much better start his second time around, this time against the Royals on April 6. In that game, Cookie went 6.0 innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits while walking one and striking out four. The strikeouts have been slow to start for Carrasco this season, so look to him to get his swing and miss stuff working on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 12 6:10 p.m. ET: Michael Fulmer (RHP) v. Trevor Bauer (RHP)

Michael Fulmer is the current and future ace for the Detroit Tigers. In 2016, he finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting and won the AL Rookie of the Year award. Last year, while not as dominant as his first season, he pitched well enough to earn a spot on the AL All-Star team. In his sophomore season, Fulmer upped his innings to 164.2 and allowed 70 earned runs while walking 40 and striking out 114 (which translates to an ERA+ of 118). He’s off to a blazing start this season, and if it weren’t for a certain two-way phenom out in Anaheim, he may have had the best week last week among pitchers in the AL. His last start came on April 7 against the Chicago White Sox; in that game, Fulmer went 5.1 innings and allowed zero earned runs on six hits while walking three and striking out four.

Trevor Bauer, when not donating his surplus salary to fan-chose charities, has been dominating on the mound for the Cleveland Indians this season. His last start was his best Corey Kluber impersonation yet; on April 7 against the Royals, Bauer went 8.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7. The Indians went on to lose that game 1-0.

Players to watch

  • Nick Castellanos - The young right fielder for the Tigers has been steadily getting better since he debuted in 2013 and will most likely be a part of the Tigers’ long term plans if they can sign him to an extension (he would be a free agent in 2020 otherwise). His 2018 season is off to a terrific start with a slash line of .324/.395/.500 (which translates to a wRC+ of 154). He hasn’t hit any home runs yet this season, but he had 26 last year, so don’t be surprised if he launches one during this series. He also already has 2 triples on the year after having 10 in 2017, so his speed will definitely be a factor for the Indians to consider.
  • Dixon Machado - Dixon is another young player who the Tigers will be building around if he can stay productive. With Ian Kinsler out of the picture, Machado looks to be the full time second baseman for the Tigers moving forward; this will mark his first full season at the position. To start 2018, Machado owns a slash line of .281/.324/.469 (which translates to a wRC+ of 123). Of his 9 hits, 6 of them have been doubles, so watch for him to try and take an extra base here and there if possible.
  • Daniel Norris - Pitching is not the strength of this Tigers team, so I’m reaching a bit in order to fill out this list. But Norris, who is in the bullpen at this point, has looked good in his 3.1 innings of work this season. He’s allowed just the one earned run while walking two and striking out six. If starters get in trouble for Detroit (and all evidence point to they will), Norris could eat some innings as a long man out of the pen and be effective doing it. I would say he should take Zimmermann’s spot in the rotation, but when you hand out a five-year/$110 million dollar contract to a starter, he’s going to start, dammit.
  • Miguel Cabrera - I wanted to do it. I wanted this to be the season where we don’t worry about Miguel Cabrera. But I can’t do it. Because the day I write Cabrera off is the day he goes 5-for-5 with three home runs and 10 RBI against Cleveland. So yes, worry about Miguel Cabrera. Ignore the fact that he’ll turn 36 next week. Don’t take into account that, in 2017, he had an OPS under .800 for the first time since 2003. Instead, remember that he owns a career slash line of .335/.412/.583 against the Tribe. You can even look to his excellent beginnings in 2018 (.276/.353/.483, wRC+ of 127) and see evidence that there is still some power left in his bat. Cabrera isn’t nearly the threat that he once was at the plate, but he can still punish a bad pitch as well as anyone in baseball.

Storylines

So runs would be nice

The Cleveland Indians currently have a -5 run differential on the season thanks in large part to the 23-inning scoring drought brought on by the Kansas City Royals. To the Royals credit, they actually have some pitchers who are good at pitching. Not great, but good. The Tigers, on the other hand, have Michael Fulmer, but he can’t pitch for four days in a row. The bullpen is in absolute shambles and the majority of their starters are ticking time bombs waiting to implode. Yes it’s cold, but if there was ever a series for the offense to take off, it would be this one.

Lindor. Stop. Bunting.

You’re down one run. It’s the eighth inning. Your fastest runner is on second base. There are no outs. The count is 2-0. All internal and external sensors should be screaming “DON’T BUNT”, but Francisco Lindor, despite being the best hitter on the team, continues to do just that. This is not the baseball. Bunting is okay in very specific circumstances, but it’s mostly just a waste of an out. Trust me, the offense has been very capable of making plenty of outs without the aid of bunting.

The Return of Tyler Naquin

With Lonnie Chisenhall out (again) for an extended period of time (again) due to a calf injury (again), Naquin hopped back on the bus and headed to Cleveland after barely making it to Columbus. Naquin will need to use this time to prove that he belongs on the major league roster and do enough to make the decision hard for Tito & Co. once the Chisentray returns.

Detroit Tigers roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    4
    (27 votes)
  • 55%
    3
    (96 votes)
  • 23%
    2
    (40 votes)
  • 1%
    1
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (6 votes)
172 votes total Vote Now