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Cleveland Indians at St. Louis Cardinals series preview

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This probably won’t be as easy as the last series.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

That was a satisfying series. Probably one of the best that the Tribe has had all year. After sweeping both the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Indians head to Busch Stadium to face the St. Louis Cardinals in a three-game series.

Looking ahead

After this series with the Cardinals, the Indians fly out to California to take on the Oakland Athletics for a weekend series. After that, they’ll head to Kauffman Stadium to play the Kansas City Royals for three games to conclude their road trip. For the Cardinals, they’ll welcome the Atlanta Braves for three games before heading out west to face the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games.

Pitching matchups

Monday June 25 8:15 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. John Gant (RHP)

Mike Clevinger just keeps getting better and better. He’s a little more than 20 innings shy of his 2017 innings total, and he’s every bit as effective as he was last year, perhaps more so. In his 99.0 innings so far in 2018, Clevinger has allowed 33 earned runs while walking 32 and striking out 90 (which translates to an ERA+ of 147). His most recent start came on June 19 against the Chicago White Sox; in that game, Sunshine went 7.2 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 10.

John Gant was a 21st round pick by the Mets in 2011. He was sent to the Braves in a trade that involved future LGFT Juan Uribe and was later traded to the Cardinals for Jaime Garcia. Despite having a really weird windup, he hasn’t done much this season in terms of fooling hitters in his limited time at the major league level. Across 26.2 innings, Gant has allowed 13 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 28 (which translates to an ERA+ of 90). He relies primarily on his fourseam (94 mph) and change (82 mph), which can generate an increased number of ground balls and swings and misses, respectively. He’s only made 3 starts for the Cardinals this season with the rest of his innings coming in relief. His last appearance came on June 21 against the Milwaukee Brewers; in that game, he pitched 2.0 innings of relief and allowed zero earned runs (4 unearned, though) on 3 hits while walking no one and striking out 2.

Tuesday June 26 8:15 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Carlos Martinez (RHP)

Tuesday will likely mark Corey Kluber’s final start in the month of June. Do you know how many people he’s walked in the month of June? 2. His 25/2 K:BB ratio is silly, but not quite as silly as it was in May when it was 41/1. That’s right; in nearly two months and almost 70 innings, Kluber has walked 3 batters. And people rave about Josh Tomlin’s control. Kluber’s been incredible all season, but you know this. In his 111.2 innings of work so far, Kluber has allowed just 26 runs while walking 12 and striking out 113 (which translates to an ERA+ of 210). His most recent start came on June 20 against the White Sox; in that game, Kluber went 7.0 innings and allowed zero earned runs on 1 hit while walking 1 and striking out 7.

Carlos Martinez has continued to improve nearly every year he’s been in the majors since his debut in 2013. The 26-year-old already has two All-Star appearances under his belt, and he’s working to add to that this season. Across his 66.2 innings so far, he’s allowed 24 earned runs while walking 42 and striking out 65 (which translates to an ERA+ of 121). His sinker (92 mph) is his main weapon of choice, and he uses it to generate a high number of ground ball outs. He pairs it with a sweeping slider (83 mph) and a fourseam (95 mph) and cutter (91 mph), all of which can get hitters to swing and miss or ground out. His most recent start came on June 21 against the Brewers; in that game, Martinez went just 4.0 innings nad allowed 5 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 2 and striking out 3.

Wednesday June 27 8:15 p.m. ET: Shane Bieber (RHP) v. Jack Flaherty (RHP)

Shane Bieber has definitely caught the attention of Cleveland fans, and not just because he shares his last name with a pop star. LGT and Baseball-America knew that Bieber had a lot of potential coming into the 2018 season, but many seemed to overlook him. Well he’s making a name for himself now at the major league level, having been added to the rotation along with Adam Plutko to take over for Josh Tomlin and the injured Carlos Carrasco. In his limited time in the majors this season (18.1 innings), Bieber has allowed just 5 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 22 (which translates to a SSS-assisted ERA+ of 182). His most recent start came on June 22 against the Detroit Tigers; in that game, Bieber went 7.0 innings of shutout ball on 4 hits while walking 1 and striking out 9.

Jack Flaherty struggled in his MLB debut last season, allowing 15 earned runs in just over 21 innings of work. He seems to have left the growing pains behind as he’s been one of the best starters for the Cardinals here in 2018. In 57.2 innings this season, Flaherty has allowed 16 earned runs while walking 16 and striking out 68 (which translates to an ERA+ of 157). His fourseam (93 mph) and sinker (91 mph) induce a ton of ground balls, whereas his slider (83 mph), curve (77 mph), and change (86 mph) will all get hitters swinging and missing. His most recent start came on June 22 against the Brewers; in that game, Flaherty went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 1 hit while walking 2 and striking out 13 (a number he’s now reached twice in 2018).

Players to watch

  • Jose Martinez - Martinez has transitioned to the full-time first baseman for the Cardinals and the success he had last season has translated to 2018. Across 295 plate appearances thus far in 2018 (just 12 fewer than all of 2017), Martinez owns a slash line of .300/.373/.492 (which translates to a wRC+ of 137). He’s leading his team in RBIs, so watch for him to make some noise when runners get on base in front of him.
  • Matt Carpenter - The 32-year-old infielder (he plays third base primarily, but he can also play first and second) continues to be a constant, productive presence in the St. Louis lineup. Since his first full season in 2012, he’s been at least an above-average bat in every season he’s played, and this season is no exception. Across 303 plate appearances so far, Carpenter is slashing .237/.347/.467 (which translates to a wRC+ of 121). He has a team leading 20 doubles, 13 home runs, and 43 walks. He won’t hit for a high average, but he’ll find his way on base and he’ll hit the ball hard when he does make contact.
  • Jordan Hicks - Hicks was drafted out of high school in the 2015 draft and he’s already made it through the minor league system and has debuted with the Cardinals this season. And in his limited time, he’s flourished. Across 39.1 innings, Hicks has allowed 9 earned runs while walking 21 and striking out 32 (which translates to an ERA+ of 191). How does he do it? Well, his sinker and his fourseam are both thrown, on average, over 100 mph. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to hit against a 100 mph fastball that suddenly sinks like a curveball, so good luck.
  • John Brebbia - Brebbia doesn’t throw as fast as Hicks does, but he can still get his fastball up into the mid-90s and can get hitters to pop up or swing and miss, depending on what he’s throwing. He’s got a great slider (82 mph) that he can pair with his fastball as well. Across 27.1 innings this season, Brebbia has allowed just 9 earned runs while walking 7 and striking out 31 (which translates to an ERA+ of 133).

Storylines

Succeeding against good teams

I’m not taking anything away from the Indians after their recent series’ against the White Sox and Tigers. They did what good teams are supposed to do to bad teams; they outplayed them in every aspect of the game. Now they’ll be heading to another team’s stadium and will face a team that’s much, much better than either of their two recent opponents. If they completely face plant in this series, it won’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it would be cool to see that dominant success translate over to a better opponent.

The Lindor/Ramirez Power Hour

Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have combined for 42 home runs so far this season. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have combined for 38. But that’s none of my business *sips tea*.

So Neil Ramirez may be the bullpen solution, just as we all predicted

Neil Ramirez has allowed 4 earned runs so far this season since making his first appearance for Cleveland on May 15. Those 4 runs all came in his second, third, and fourth outing. Since then, he’s been nails. He’s stranded 8/11 inherited runners, and in June alone he hasn’t allowed a run and has only allowed 4 hits. He should be quickly rising through the ranks in Tito’s circle of trust.

St. Louis Cardinals roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Cardinals?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    3
    (43 votes)
  • 60%
    2
    (142 votes)
  • 17%
    1
    (40 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (8 votes)
233 votes total Vote Now