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Cleveland Indians vs. Baltimore Orioles series preview

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The Indians take on the worst team in baseball.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

With the Ohio Cup firmly in hand (none of this tie nonsense), the Cleveland Indians return to Progressive Field as champions to face their next opponent, the Baltimore Orioles.

Looking ahead

After a weekend with the O’s, the Tribe heads to Fenway Park to face off against the Red Sox for four games. After that, they’ll head to Kauffman Stadium to find the second worst team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals, for three games. So the Indians, in terms of records, face the worst team, the best team, and then the second worst team. The Orioles, on the other hand, will finish up with Cleveland and will fly north to the Rogers Centre to face the Toronto Blue Jays for three games before returning stateside to welcome the New York Yankees to Camden Yards.

Pitching match-ups

Friday, August 17 7:10 p.m. ET: David Hess (RHP) v. Carlos Carrasco (RHP)

David Hess is one of the young members of the Orioles who figures to be a part of the core for the foreseeable future. Or maybe he won’t be, who knows what’s going to happen in Baltimore, they are so, so bad. At any rate, Hess is in the middle of his rookie season and he’s having a tough go of it. Across his 59.0 innings of work this season, Hess has allowed 41 earned runs while walking 24 batters and striking out 37 (which translates to an ERA+ of 67). Most of his pitches are flyball heavy pitches, including his fastball (93 mph) and his change (84 mph). Unfortunately for Hess, a lot of those flyballs find the seats (his HR/FB ratio is a horrendous 14.1%). His most recent start came on August 9 against the Tampa Bay Rays. In that game, Hess went 5.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 3.

Carlos Carrasco is back to his old ways during the month of August. He has two appearances where he didn’t allow an earned run sandwiching a quality start, and he’ll look to keep the ball rolling in his fourth start of the month on Friday. So far in 2018, Cookie has pitched 136.1 innings and allowed 53 earned runs while walking 27 batters and striking out 155 (which translates to an ERA+ of 127). His most recent start came on August 12 against the Chicago White Sox; in that game, Carrasco went 7.0 innings and allowed zero earned runs on 3 hits while walking no one and striking out 9.

Saturday, August 18 4:05 p.m. ET: Alex Cobb (RHP) v. Adam Plutko (RHP)

I have an irrational hatred of Alex Cobb thanks to his performance in the 2013 wildcard game against Cleveland. I had just started following the team regularly the year prior and was excited to see my favorite pitcher (Danny Salazar) start in Cleveland’s first playoff appearance since 2007. And then Alex Cobb had to go and out-duel Salazar and ruin everything. This image is still burned into my memory.

Ugh.

Alex Cobb has struggled mightily this season. Across 123.2 innings of work, Cobb has allowed 73 earned runs while walking 33 batters and striking out 85 (which translates to an ERA+ of 78). He’s got a good knuckle curve (82 mph) that can get him ground balls when he needs them. Otherwise, many of his pitches are fairly unremarkable, including his sinker (92 mph) and his splitter (87 mph). His most recent start came on August 12 against the Boston Red Sox; in that game, Cobb went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7.

In the absence of Trevor Bauer, Adam Plutko has returned to fill in for the time being. Nothing against Plutko, but I sincerely hope that we see as little of him as possible for the rest of the season (please be okay, Trevor). In his limited time this season, however, Plutko has been a bit deflating. He’s had glimpses of greatness (remember his six innings of shutout ball against the Cubs in May?), but it hasn’t come together overall just yet. Across 41.2 innings this season, Plutko has allowed 22 earned runs while walking 11 batters and striking out 29 (which translates to an ERA+ of 94). His last start (he had a couple of relief appearances since) for Cleveland came way back on June 30 against the Oakland Athletics; in that game, Plutko went 5.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 3.

Sunday, August 19 1:10 p.m. ET: Andrew Cashner (RHP) v. Mike Clevinger (RHP)

Andrew Cashner has been oscillating between fantastic and dreadful for the better part of five seasons. This year, he’s closer to dreadful than fantastic. Across 128.0 innings of work this season, Cashner has allowed 67 earned runs while walking 54 and striking out 91 (which translates to an ERA+ of 88). His sinker (93 mph) doesn’t sink and his fastball (94 mph) isn’t necessarily fast enough, and like his teammate David Hess, way too many of his flyballs find the seats for home runs (12.1% HR/FB). His most recent start came on August 14 against the New York Mets; in that game, Cashner went 7.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 3 and striking out 3.

With Trevor Bauer out, Mike Clevinger’s role with the Cleveland Indians is now enhanced. But if we’re looking at the season so far, the 27-year-old is up to the challenge. Across 151.2 innings this season, Clevinger has allowed 57 earned runs while walking 52 batters and striking out 148 (which translates to an ERA+ of 132). His most recent start came on August 13 against the Reds; in that game, Clevinger went 5.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 6 (!!!) and striking out 4.

Players to watch

  • Manny Machado (traded)
  • Kevin Gausman (traded)
  • Richard Bleier (injured)
  • Jonathan Schoop (traded)
  • Mark Trumbo (!) - Ah, there we go. Mark Trumbo, purveyor of the Trumbomb. He’s a far cry from his first year in Baltimore when he hit 47 dingers, but Trumbo has hit 17 so far this season (best on the now Machado-less squad) to pair with his .263/.317/.461 slash line across 347 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 110).
  • Miguel Castro - Castro has been the best pitcher on the staff in terms of ERA+, which should tell you a lot about the state of the Orioles’ pitching squad. Across 67.2 innings this season, Castro has allowed 29 earned runs while walking 44 batters and striking out 50 (which translates to an ERA+ of 108). He’s got a good sinking fastball (96 mph) that can get a lot of ground outs, and his slider (85 mph) can get similar results as well.

Storylines

The Return of Adam Plutko

If you lose a top contender for the Cy Young award, it’s very hard to find a replacement. Plutko will be the guy for now who is stepping into Trevor Bauer’s vacated rotation slot. Expecting him to replicate Bauer’s production is a fool’s errand, but since he’s facing the Orioles and then (probably) the Royals, there’s a chance he can be solid at least in his next couple of starts.

Another series win

The Indians haven’t lost a series since they played the Pirates at the end of last month. They keep finding ways to overcome random issues (such as bullpen implosions), which is great to see in the lead-up to October. And with a Lindor-Brantley-Ramirez top of the order, this team is never truly out of a game.

Baltimore Orioles roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Orioles?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    3
    (64 votes)
  • 44%
    2
    (56 votes)
  • 2%
    1
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    0
    (3 votes)
126 votes total Vote Now