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Cleveland Indians vs. Pittsburgh Pirates series preview

Temperatures should be back in the double digits; however, it’s looking like there’s a lot of rain on the way.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was a frustrating game, but the Indians were able to take 2 of 3 in their first series since the All-Star break. The mantra “just win series” seems to be applicable. Now, the Tribe heads back to Progressive Field to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a new three-game set.

Looking ahead

After this interleague series, the Indians will be back in their own division with three games against the Tigers in Detroit followed by three games against the Twins in Minnesota. The Pirates, on the other hand, will hed to New York to take on the Mets for four games and then will be back at home to welcome the Cubs for a quick two-game series.

Pitching matchups

Monday, July 23 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Williams (RHP) v. Corey Kluber (RHP)

Trevor Williams had his first full season in 2017 and he had a good season. There were some issues (too many walks, too few strikeouts), but he was able to be successful. This year, however, those issues are still prevalent and Williams has not enjoyed the same success as he did last season. In 99.0 innings so far in 2018, Williams has allowed 48 earned runs while walking 35 and striking out 71 (which translates to an ERA+ of 92). He’s got a fourseam (92 mph) and a sinker (90 mph) that drop off the table, and Williams uses his sinker to get batters to swing and miss. His slider (83 mph) can move both vertically and horizontally and it can induce pop-ups when needed. His most recent start came on July 11 against the Washington Nationals; in that game, Williams went 5.0 innings and allowed zero earned runs on 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 3.

Just before the All-Star break, Corey Kluber received an injection in his knee and was able to avoid the DL, thankfully. Now, he’ll make his first appearance since before the break and will hopefully look more like vintage Corey Kluber than he had in his previous few starts. Despite his health issues, Kluber has been in the midst of another fantastic season. Across 133.2 innings, Kluber has allowed 41 earned runs while walking 17 and striking out 132 (which translates to an ERA+ of 160). His most recent start came on July 12 against the New York Yankees; in that game, Kluber went 7.1 innings and allowed 6 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 2 and striking out 9.

Tuesday, July 24 7:10 p.m. ET: Joe Musgrove (RHP) v. Shane Bieber (RHP)

Joe Musgrove was a piece in the Gerrit Cole trade before the 2018 season began. In his first season away from Houston, Musgrove has pitched better than he has in his previous two years with Houston. In 53.0 innings so far in 2018, Musgrove has allowed 24 earned runs while walking 16 and striking out 50 (which translates to an ERA+ of 99). His fastball (94 mph) acts like a sinker and can get ground outs when needed, while his cutter (90 mph) can get flyballs when needed. He’s ditched his curve in favor of more sinkers (93 mph) and changeups (86 mph), both of which tend to sink. His most recent start came on July 15 against the Milwaukee Brewers; in thatgame, Musgrove went 7.2 innings and allowed 5 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 4 and striking out 5.

Shane Bieber has returned to the fold and looks to build on an impressive MLB debut. In the 43.1 innings so far in his rookie season, Bieber has allowed 17 earned runs while walking 8 and striking out 42 (which translates to an ERA+ of 125). His most recent start came on July 13 against the New York Yankees; in that game, Bieber went 7.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 6.

Wednesday, July 25 1:10 p.m. ET: Jameson Taillon (RHP) v. Trevor Bauer (RHP)

Another young starter for the Pirates, Taillon is having a good year after a somewhat disappointing 2017. In 111.1 innings so far this season, Taillon has allowed 47 earned runs while walking 31 and striking out 109 (which translates to an ERA+ of 106). He’s got a live fastball (96 mph) that can get hitters to swing and miss, while his sinker (96 mph) induces groundballs . He’s also got fantastic offspeed stuff, ranging from his sharp curve (83 mph) to his slider (90 mph) that acts like a cutter. Even his changeup (88 mph) is thrown hard. His most recent start came on July 20 against the Cincinnati Reds; in that game, Taillon went 5.1 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 6 hits while walking 1 and striking out 6.

Bauer’s first half was stellar. In 140.1 innings, Bauer allowed 38 earned runs while walking 47 and striking out 182 (which translates to an ERA+ of 181). His most recent start, however, was his shortest outing so far of the 2018 season. On July 20 against the Texas Rangers, Bauer went 4.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 5 and striking out 7.

Players to watch

  • Corey Dickerson - In Dickerson’s first season with the Pirates, he has hit the ground running and is in the middle of his best season since 2014 when he was with the Rockies. Across 360 plate appearances so far, Dickerson is slashing .315/.347/.509 (which translates to a wRC+ of 128). He leads his team in doubles (23), so there’s a good chance that he will bring runners in if they’re on ahead of him.
  • Starling Marte - Marte has been a central part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization since he came up from the minors and debuted in 2012. He had a down year last year, but every other year has been fantastic for the young outfielder. So far in 2018, across 367 plate appearances, Marte is slashing .287/.333/.494 (which translates to a wRC+ of 122). Marte’s got speed on the bases; in 30 attempts, Marte has stolen 25 bases. Expect him to keep pitchers honest.
  • Kyle Crick - Crick is another player who’s first season with Pittsburgh is this season. And so far, he’s done incredibly well. Crick has appeared in 39 games thus far, and across 37.1 innings, he has allowed 8 earned runs while walking 16 and striking out 39 (which translates to an ERA+ of 210). He’s got a good fastball (96 mph) and a blazing fast sinker (97 mph) that he pairs with a sweeping slider (82 mph). He’s stranding almost 80% of runners, so expect Crick to come into high leverage situations and douse the fire.
  • Richard Rodriguez - Rodriguez is now with the Pirates after being with the Orioles last season. He only pitched in 5.2 innings last season, so for all intents and purposes, this is Rodriguez’s debut season. And so far, he’s done great. Across 39.1 innings, Rodriguez has allowed 10 earned runs while walking 8 and striking out 50 (which translates to an ERA+ of 177). He’s got two pitches, a fastball (94 mph) and a curveball (82 mph), both of which are great at getting hitters to swing and miss.


Is Corey Kluber’s knee intact?

Kluber did not need to go on the DL due to his recent knee injury. Instead, they injected him with a shot to hopefully help him out. He hasn’t pitched yet since his outing on July 12, so many folks will be nervously watching when he takes the mound later this afternoon.

Will the Indians make a trade with Pittsburgh before the deadline?

It’s been a bit of a pipe dream from folks on this site, but Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte are both great outfileders who would look good in a Cleveland uniform. It would take a lot for the Pirates to part with Marte or to cut bait in the Dickerson department, but if the Indians want to make another huge impact both now and in the future, both players are intriguing targets.

Will the offense continue to score a billion runs per game?

Despite yesterday’s shutout, the Indians have had the best offense in baseball for the month of July, scoring about 7.5 runs per game. This has allowed the Cleveland pitching a little breathing room, which has been good since the bullpen has reared it’s ugly head periodically as of late.

Pittsburgh Pirates roster



How many games will the Indians win against the Pirates?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    (30 votes)
  • 50%
    (90 votes)
  • 17%
    (32 votes)
  • 14%
    (26 votes)
178 votes total Vote Now