Well one game was fun in the last series. After dropping the first two, the Cleveland Indians exploded against the Oakland A’s in the final game of this past series to avoid a sweep. Now they’ll head to Kauffman Stadium to face a very bad Kansas City Royals squad.
The Indians finish up this road series with Kansas City and then they will head home for their final home stand before the All-Star break. That stretch of games will begin with another three games against the Oakland Athletics followed by three games against the Cincinnati Reds. The Royals, on the other hand, will host the Boston Red Sox for three games after Cleveland leaves town before heading to Target Field to face the Minnesota Twins for three games.
Monday, July 2 8:15 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Jakob Junis (RHP)
Hey so is Corey Kluber broken? Most Cleveland fans will be waiting on bated breath when he takes the mound on Monday night because the Cleveland ace did not look good last time out. In fact, his last start on June 26 against the St. Louis Cardinals was the shortest outing of his career; in that game, Kluber went just 1.2 innings and allowed 6 runs on 6 hits while walking 1 and striking out 2. His numbers on the season are still fantastic, however: across 113.1 innings, Kluber has allowed 32 earned runs while walking 13 and striking out 115 (which translates to an ERA+ of 175). Kluber had two uncharacteristically bad starts in June, so hopefully they were the result of random baseball reasons and not injured arm reasons.
Jakob Junis, like many of his teammates, has struggled this season. Across his 96.1 innings of work, Junis has allowed 50 earned runs while walking 27 and striking out 90 (which translates to an ERA+ of 90). He’s also given up 22 home runs, so that’s lovely. His most recent start came on June 26 against the Milwaukee Brewers; in that game, Junis went 5.0 innings and gave up 5 runs on 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 7 (and giving up 3 home runs).
Tuesday, July 3 8:15 p.m. ET: Shane Bieber (RHP) v. Danny Duffy (LHP)
Shane Bieber was the one chosen to remain in the rotation upon Carlos Carrasco’s return, and for good reason. Where Adam Plutko has faltered a little bit, Bieber has shined. In his 24.1 innings of work so far, Bieber has allowed just 6 earned runs while walking 4 and striking out 27 (which translates to an ERA+ of 203). His most recent start came on June 27 against the St. Louis Cardinals; in that game, Bieber went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 6 hits while walking 1 and striking out 5.
If you’re looking for a bright spot on this Kansas City team, Danny Duffy is not it. The lefty veteran has really struggled this season and has been pitching worse than he’s done in years. Across 94.2 innings of work, Duffy has allowed 52 earned runs while walking 46 and striking out 83 (which translates to an ERA+ of 85). His most recent start came on June 27 against the Milwaukee Brewers; in that game, Duffy went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7.
Wednesday, July 4 8:15 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) v. Ian Kennedy (RHP)
If the Indians didn’t have Corey Kluber, we would all be talking about the emergence of Trevor Bauer as the ace that we all envisioned when he came over from Arizona a few years ago. Well, nothing says you can’t have two aces on your staff (and the Indians may actually have more than that). Bauer has been incredible this year; he’s in the midst of his best year yet. Across 113.2 innings of work this season, Bauer has allowed 31 earned runs while walking 36 and striking out 148 (which translates to an ERA+ of 181). His FIP of 2.19 is also a tad lower than his ERA of 2.45, so he may have some room to get even better. His most recent start came on June 29 against the Oakland A’s; in that game, Bauer went 6.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.
Oh look, another struggling Royals’ starter, this time in the form of veteran Ian Kennedy. Kennedy was great for the Royals back in his first year with them (2016), but it’s been all downhill ever since. So far this season, in 91.2 innings of work, Kennedy has allowed 52 earned runs while walking 33 and striking out 84 (which translates to an ERA+ of 82). His most recent start came on June 29 against the Seattle Mariners; in that game, Kennedy went 5.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4.
Players to watch
- Mike Moustakas - Remember when Mike Moustakas turned down a $17.4 million dollar qualifying offer from the Royals only to then later sign with them for $5.5 million (not including a $15 million dollar mutual option/$1 million dollar buyout for 2019)? It’s not really relevant here, but I just thought you’d like a reminder. Moose is probably kicking himself even more because he’s been one of the bright spots on the Royals this season and feels he deserves more than what he’s getting. Across 345 plate appearances thus far, Moustakas is slashing .258/.313/.471 (which translates to a wRC+ of 109). He does lead the team in home runs (16) and RBIs (53), so he is still a threat at the plate. The problem is if anyone else in the lineup can get on in front of him.
- Whit Merrifield - Fun fact: I just started a re-read of The Lord of the Rings, and Whit Merrifield is actually mentioned in the first few chapters. Yeah, he was supposed to get Bilbo’s silver spoon collection when Bilbo departed from the Shire, but that meddling Lobelia Sackville-Baggins had to ruin that, too. So instead of living out the remainder of his days in Bag-End, Whit Merrifield has been playing baseball for the Kansas City Royals and he’s actually been doing a pretty good job of it. Across 348 plate appearances this season, Merrifield is slashing .289/.360/.403 (which translates to a wRC+ of 111). Merrifield has the highest OBP (.363) of full time players, so he’s trying his best to set the table for his teammates, but they just aren’t coming through.
- Kelvin Herrera - The life of an elite closer has to be difficult when the rest of the pitchers (namely, the starters) can’t give you anything to work with. That is exactly the situation that Kelvin Herrera finds himself in this season...oh wait, he’s not even on the team anymore. The last time Cleveland saw Herrera was way back on May 11. Who knew that would be the last time he would pitch against the Indians in a Royals uniform? Kelvin was traded to the Washington Nationals in mid-June, and I can only imagine that he’s actually pitching in meaningful games again.
- Kevin McCarthy - With the departure of Herrera, the Royals are in need of a closer. Manager Ned Yost said that everyone is going to get a chance to audition for the role going forward. With Brad Keller recently being converted to a starter, one player with a good shot at securing the closer’s role is Kevin McCarthy. The Royals bullpen hasn’t been great this season, but McCarthy has at least done his part. Across 35.1 innings of work, McCarthy has allowed 13 earned runs while walking 12 and striking out 21 (which translates to an ERA+ of 128). He’s definitely not the best option for a closer, but he may be the best option that the Royals have.
Can the Cleveland Indians continue their destruction of the AL Central?
Most recently, the Cleveland Indians absolutely dominated the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox, which should be expected given the gulf between the Indians and the rest of the division. Every pitching matchup favors Cleveland during this series, and none of the Kansas City bats even come close to matching Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, or Jose Ramirez. This should be a great series for Tribe fans.
What will Corey Kluber look like this time around?
Kluber is known to start slow every year and then ramp up as the season progresses. This season, he flipped the script and decided to just be incredible right out of the gate. Perception is reality, but it seemed the Kluber had somehow gotten better in the offseason, so it was a bit worrying when he went out in his last start and didn’t make it out of the second inning. I’m hoping that it is just the randomness of baseball and we’ll be back to seeing Kluber being his old self during this series. But a tiny part of me can’t help but feel anxious at the thought that Kluber’s struggles are indicative of a larger, undisclosed problem. Hopefully he can put my fears to rest during this series.
Do you think Whit Merrifield will make an appearance in Amazon’s adaption of The Lord of the Rings?
People complained when Tom Bombadil was excluded from the Peter Jackson film adaptations, but the bigger snub was Whit Merrifield. Hopefully Amazon can correct this egregious error this time around.
Kansas City Royals roster
How many games will the Indians win against the Royals?
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