This weekend was not a fun baseball weekend for the Cleveland Indians. I mean, five Cleveland players were announced for the All-Star Game on Sunday, and that was fun. But losing 2 out of 3 to the Oakland Athletics for the second weekend in a row was not fun. But the A’s and their super bullpen have gone, and they have been replaced by the Cincinnati Reds for another meeting between the two Ohio teams as they battle it out for the Ohio Cup.
After this series, each team has one more series to play before the All-Star break hits. The Indians will welcome in the New York Yankees to close out the first half of the season while the Reds will travel to Busch Stadium to face the St. Louis Cardinals before the All-Star break.
A brief history of the Ohio Cup
In its first iteration, the Ohio Cup was purely for exhibition purposes. Before interleague play began, the Indians and Reds only ever met in spring training or in exhibition matches. Couple that with the fact that residents of Columbus, Ohio were often torn between the two major league teams, and a friendly rivalry was born and the first Ohio Cup game was held on April 2, 1989 (Cleveland won 1-0) at Cooper Stadium, the then-home of the Columbus Clippers. From 1989-1996, Cleveland dominated the Ohio Cup rivalry with a record of 6-2 in Cup games. In 1997 when interleague play was introduced, the Cup feel by the wayside and the teams instead engaged in the “Battle of Ohio” since they were now meeting in games that mattered.
The Cup was remade and reintroduced in 2008, ultimately combining the “Battle for Ohio” with “The Ohio Cup”. The rules are simple: the two teams meet throughout the course of the season, and whichever team wins the most games against their Ohio counterpart is named the victor of the Ohio Cup. In the event of a season series tie, the Cup remains with the previous winner until next year’s competition. The Cup has been with Cleveland since they won it back in 2015 with a dominating 5-1 record. They swept the season series in 2016 and tied in 2017. This week’s series marks the first meeting of these two teams in 2018 with the final series being played August 13-15. Hopefully the Indians can retain the Cup for another year and maintain their claim as the best Ohio baseball team.
Monday, July 9 7:10 p.m. ET: Anthony DeSclafani (RHP) v. Mike Clevinger (RHP)
After being sidelined with a UCL injury for all of 2017, Anthony DeSclafani is back in 2018 trying to replicate the success he had with the Reds two seasons ago. Unfortunately, things have not gone well for him so far this season. He hasn’t pitched much at the major league level, and the innings he has pitched haven’t been productive. In 33.2 innings this season, DeSclafani has allowed 19 earned runs while walking 10 and striking out 29 (which translates to an ERA+ of 82). None of his pitches really fool hitters and don’t get them swinging and missing too often. He relies primarily on his fourseam (94 mph) and slider (87 mph) to get hitters to pop up, but too often (2.4 HR/9) those pop ups are leaving the yard. His most recent start came on July 3 against the Chicago White Sox; in that game, DeSclafani went 5.1 innings and allowed 5 earned runs on 6 hits while walking 1 and striking out 5.
Mike Clevinger is just 12 innings from a new career high in innings pitched during a season, and while my math says he won’t clear that threshold during this start, it’s very possible that he might do it this upcoming weekend against the Yankees. Not only is Clevinger pitching a lot of innings this season, they’re quality innings. In 110.0 innings, Clevinger has allowed 38 earned runs while walking 36 and striking out 99 (which translates to an ERA+ of 141). His most recent start came on July 1 against the Oakland Athletics; in that game, Clevinger went 6.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 8 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.
Tuesday, July 10 7:10 p.m. ET: Sal Romano (RHP) v. Trevor Bauer (RHP)
Sal Romano, despite being one part of this awesome pitching matchup a year ago, has not pitched well at all this season. Romano was a rookie last season and was about what you would expect from a rookie pitcher, but his growing pains have continued into 2018. So far this season, Romano has pitched in 95.0 innings and has allowed 57 earned runs while walking 38 and striking out 73 (which translates to an ERA+ of 76). His fourseam (95 mph) and sinker (95 mph) both sink significantly, whereas his slider (87 mph) moves almost like a 12-6 curveball, so it definitely seems like Romano has the tools to be effective but he just hasn’t put them all together yet. His most recent start came on July 4 against the Chicago White Sox; in that game, Romano went 5.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 6 hits while walking no one and striking out 6.
Trevor Bauer will make his first start since being named to the AL All-Star Team in place of Justin Verlander this Tuesday. The power right-hander has earned his spot on the All-Star squad this year, and it’ll be exciting to see how he does both in that game as well as the remainder of this season. Across 121.1 innings this season, Bauer has allowed just 33 earned runs while walking 37 and striking out 156 (which translates to an ERA+ of 180). His most recent start came on July 4 against the Kansas City Royals; in that game, Bauer went 7.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8.
Wednesday, July 11 7:10 p.m. ET: Tyler Mahle (RHP) v. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)
The Reds have an exciting young pitcher in Tyler Mahle, and unlike Romano, Mahle has pitched very well since his MLB debut last season. So far this season, Mahle has pitched in 98.1 innings and has allowed 40 earned runs while walking 41 and striking out 97 (which translates to an ERA+ of 113). His fastball (93 mph) fools hitters fairly often either by getting them to swing and miss entirely or to hit on top of the ball and strike it into the ground. His slider (84 mph) moves both horizontally and vertically and his change up (84 mph) can induce fly balls that still leave the yard at an elevate rate (1.5 HR/9), but not as bad as DeSclafani. His most recent start came on July 6 against the Chicago Cubs; in that game, Mahle went 6.2 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.
Carlos Carrasco made his return on July 6 and he looked solid, all things considered. He wasn’t great as many were hoping, but he also wasn’t a raging dumpster fire like some feared he would be after taking a line drive to his pitching elbow on June 16. Instead, Carrasco went 5.1 innings against the Oakland Athletics and allowed 3 earned runs on 7 hits while walking no one and striking out 7. Overall this season, Cookie has slowly dropped from being pitcher #1B for the Cleveland Indians to being maybe the worst pitcher in the rotation. In 96.2 innings, Cookie has allowed 46 earned runs while walking 22 and striking out 103 (which translates to an ERA+ of 103). Here’s to another bounce back game for Carrasco.
Players to watch
- Eugenio Suarez - Suarez is in the midst of his best season to date, and he has been rewarded by being named to his first All-Star Game. The Reds starting third baseman has been a menace to opposing pitchers this season, slashing .315/.405/.590 across his 321 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 162). He leads his team in home runs (19) and RBIs (68), so expect Suarez to cause problems for Cleveland pitchers during this series.
- Scooter Gennett - Gennett will also be making his first All-Star appearance next week thanks to the incredible year that he is having thus far. He’s currently slashing .326/.368/.515 over 359 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 135). His lofty batting average is tied for best in the NL with Albert Almora Jr. from the Cubs. He’s also leading his team in hits (107), doubles (20), and runs scored (54), so expect him on the base paths early and often in this series.
- Joey Votto - The 34-year-old continues to defy time and continues to be one of the best offensive forces on the Reds, and this season is no exception. Having been named to his sixth All-Star game, Joey Votto is showing that you can continue to excel as a baseball player despite getting older (don’t forget that Votto plays in the NL, so he doesn’t have the luxury of converting to a full-time DH). Across 393 plate appearances so far this season, Votto is slashing .292/.425/.437 (which translates to a wRC+ of 138). Unsurprisingly, Votto’s keen eye has been hard at work again this season as he leads all of the NL in OBP (.425) and leads his team in walks (68).
- Jared Hughes - Hughes has been an excellent reliever since 2014, but he’s taken his pitching to another level this year. In his first season with the Reds, Hughes has been virtually untouchable out of the bullpen. In his 48.0 innings of work, Hughes has allowed just 8 earned runs while walking 13 and striking out 38 (which translates to an ERA+ of 276). His main weapon is his sinker (93 mph) which devastates hitters on a daily basis either by forcing them to swing and miss or pounding the ball into the ground for easy ground outs. His slider (86 mph) can do basically the same thing. If the Reds are in a jam, expect Hughes to play the Dan Otero role and be brought in to get a ground out and potentially a double play.
tHe InDiAnS cAn OnLy BeAt BaD tEaMs
There’s this narrative building again that the Indians can only beat bad teams and flounder against good teams. This narrative isn’t exactly accurate, and even if it was, it’s hardly indicative of a larger pattern or problem. But if the Indians would like to continue to feed into this narrative, then they should definitely easily dispose of the 39-51 Reds over these next three games.
Can the bullpen not revert back to the month of May?
Remember when every arm out of the bullpen seemed to be an exercise in futility? I was quite enjoying not having to be on edge every time a starter was pulled, but those memories came rushing back this weekend when the Indians went into the 8th inning with a 3-0 lead and ended up losing the game 6-3. A blip on the radar is going to happen every now and then, so it’s not time to panic just yet, but I’d like the bullpen to keep those blips few and far between.
Cincinnati Reds roster
How many games will the Indians win against the Reds?
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