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Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers series preview

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Back to the AL Central and it feels so good.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The most recent home stand was pleasantly surprising for the Indians as they were able to take both games from a very good Milwaukee Brewers team. Now, they head to Comerica Park for the weekend to face the Detroit Tigers for three games.

Looking ahead

After this weekend, the Indians will head to Guaranteed Rate Field to play the Chicago White Sox for four games. They’ll then make it back to Cleveland to host the Minnesota Twins for a three game weekend set. The Tigers, on the other hand, will head to Target Field for three games against the Twins before hosting the White Sox for three games back home in Detroit.

Pitching matchups

Friday, June 8 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) v. Michael Fulmer (RHP)

Trevor Bauer is making his case for the All-Star team next month, and a good June would go a long way towards getting him on the roster. Thus far in 2018, he’s been stellar. Across 78.0 innings, Bauer has allowed 24 earned runs while walking 28 and striking out 97 (which translates to an ERA+ of 161). His most recent start came on June 2 against the Twins; in that game, Bauer went 5.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs (7 total; an error led to 4 unearned runs) on 6 hits while walking 3 and striking out 11.

Michael Fulmer just can’t find his groove this season. Every time he throws a good game or two, they’re followed up by awful outings. Because of this, his overall numbers on the year are not good. Across 66.2 innings, Fulmer has allowed 35 earned runs while walking 27 and striking out 55 (which translates to an ERA+ of 94). His most recent start came on June 3 against the Toronto Blue Jays; in that game, Fulmer went 6.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 3 and striking out 3. His K/9 is slightly elevated this season (7.4 v. 6.9 career), but so are his H/9 (8.6 v. 8.1), HR/9 (1.2 v. 0.9), BB/9 (3.6 v. 2.5), and WHIP (1.365 v. 1.176).

Saturday, June 9 4:10 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. Mike Fiers (RHP)

Clevinger has been holding down the #4 spot for the Indians all season long and he’s done fantastic up to this point. His overall numbers are a bit “down” from last year thanks in large part to a reduction in his strikeouts, but he’s still having an excellent year. Across 77.2 innings, Clevinger has allowed 29 earned runs while walking 26 and striking out 64 (which translates to an ERA+ of 133). His most recent start came on June 3 against the Minnesota Twins; in that game, Sunshine went 6.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 3.

Mike Fiers has rebounded after a dismal 2017 and is having his best season since 2015 when he was a member of the Houston Astros. In 2018, across 60.1 innings, Fiers has allowed 29 earned runs while walking 13 and striking out 42 (which translates to an ERA+ of 102). Compared to last season, Fiers is allowing more hits per 9 (10.1 v. 9.2), but he’s allowing fewer home runs (1.8 v. 1.9), he’s walking fewer hitters (1.9 v. 3.6) and he’s striking out fewer batters (6.3 v. 8.6). His most recent start came on June 4 against the New York Yankees; in that game, Fiers went 5.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6.

Sunday, June 10 1:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Artie Lewicki (RHP)

Corey Kluber is on his way to his best season yet, and he’s not showing any sign of slowing down. He hasn’t walked a batter since 1967 and he’s finally striking batters out consistently at the rate we’ve come to expect. So far in 2018, Kluber has pitched in 91.2 innings and has allowed 20 earned runs while walking 10 and striking out 95 (which translates to an ERA+ of 227). His most recent start came on June 5 against the Milwaukee Brewers; in that game, Kluber went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 7 hits while walking (spoiler) no one and striking out 7.

The injuries to Jordan Zimmerman and Francisco Liriano have created the opportunity for Artie Lewicki to step into the rotation and show the Detroit brass what he can do. After pitching in just 10.1 innings last year at the major league level, Lewicki has already surpassed that mark this year. In 18.2 innings so far in 2018, Lewicki has allowed 8 earned runs while walking 8 and striking out 14 (which translates to an ERA+ of 116). His primary pitches are his fourseam (93 mph) and his slider (86 mph), which produce ground balls and fly balls, respectively. His last start came on June 5 against the Boston Red Sox; in that game, Lewicki went 3.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 3 and striking out 2.

Players to watch

  • Jeimer Candelario - Candelario has been one of the key offensive forces for the Tigers this season. He’s transitioned into a full-time role for the Detroit Tigers and will be a staple in the Detroit lineup for years to come. This season, across 223 plate appearances, Candelario has a slash line of .272/.363/.518 (which translates to a wRC+ of 139). A big part of his offensive surge comes from his recently found power; he’s currently leading his team in home runs (9) and slugging percentage (.518).
  • Nick Castellanos - Castellanos is in the midst of his best season yet. He’s striking out less, he’s hitting for a higher average, and he’s hitting the ball harder than he’s done before. He is walking a tad less and his BABIP is an inflated .409, so there is some room for regression, but he’s been great up to this point. Across 264 plate appearances in 2018, Castellanos has a slash line of .331/.371/.512 (which translates to a wRC+ of 139). He leads the Tigers in batting average, hits (82), doubles (21), and RBIs (33). Expect him to make some noise this weekend.
  • Joe Jimenez - Jimenez has been a workhorse for the Tigers this season. He’s already appeared in 33 games for Detroit and he’s looked dominant virtually all season. He’s got a mid-90s fastball that gets hitters to swing and miss often and he pairs it with an 89 mph change and an 85 mph slider. Across 30.1 innings this season, Jimenez has allowed 8 earned runs while walking 8 and striking out 32. He’s not closing for the Tigers, but he’s pitching late in the game to get the ball safely to Shane Greene. Speaking of which...
  • Shane Greene - Greene isn’t having the otherworldly season like he did last year, but he’s been a solid closer for Detroit this year and has been a great compliment to Jimenez. Across 29.1 innings, Greene has allowed 11 earned runs while walking 9 and striking out 34. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning and he’s walking fewer hitters than he normally does, but he is allowing a few more base runners due to an increase in hits allowed. Also, he has a bit of a home run problem this season (1.5 HR/9).

Storylines

Corey Kluber v. Mike Leake?

Okay, so this one isn’t that significant, but it’s fun to look at nonetheless. Mike Leake walked a batter on Thursday after pitching to 140 consecutive batters without issuing a free pass. That surpassed Corey Kluber’s count at 139. So Corey Kluber needs to not walk either of the first two hitters he faces on Sunday to reclaim the title. The world is watching, Klubot.

Angry Hamster Home Run Derby Hopeful

Jose Ramirez is tied with Mike Trout with 19 home runs apiece, which is one behind the league leader J.D. Martinez. Ramirez will be facing a few pitchers this weekend who have a tendency to give up home runs, so it’ll be exciting to see if he can take over the #1 spot and further solidify his case to be included in the Home Run Derby.

Is the bullpen actually okay now?

Small sample sizes galore, but the bullpen hasn’t been entirely awful as of late. I wouldn’t say they’ve been good, but they’ve only given me slightly elevated heart rates recently as opposed to significantly elevated heart rates.

Detroit Tigers roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    3
    (49 votes)
  • 50%
    2
    (73 votes)
  • 12%
    1
    (18 votes)
  • 4%
    0
    (6 votes)
146 votes total Vote Now