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Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox series preview

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This one is for all the marbles (it’s not)

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

In true second-half Cleveland Indians fashion, the Tribe finished up taking another series, this time against the MLB-worst Baltimore Orioles. Now, the Indians will head to Fenway Park and face the MLB-best Boston Red Sox in a four-game series in which I’m sure will consist of warm takes that are calm and level-headed and not knee-jerk or reactionary at all.

Looking ahead

After facing the juggernaut that is Boston, the Indians are rewarded with three games against the Kansas City Royals followed by three games against the Minnesota Twins. For the Sawx, they are rewarded by getting to go and face the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins in a three- and two-game set, respectively.

Pitching match-ups

Monday, August 20 7:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Rick Porcello (RHP)

In a potential preview of the 2018 ALCS, it’s very possible that Corey Kluber would be the game one starter in that series as well as this one. That’s mainly because Corey Kluber has been incredibly dominant all year, once again. He’s had some bumps along the road due to injury, but he seems to be mostly back to his normal self (strikeouts could still use some work). Overall this season, across his 168.0 innings of work, Kluber has allowed 50 earned runs while walking 22 batters and striking out 160 (which translates to an ERA+ of 166). His most recent start came on August 14 against the Cincinnati Reds; in that game, Kluber went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7.

Rick Porcello is now in his fourth year with the Red Sox, and he’s now two seasons removed from being the Cy Young winner. He’s not quite as good this season, but he’s still pitching well. Across 151.2 innings of work, Porcello has allowed 68 earned runs while walking 36 batters and striking out 150 (which translates to an ERA+ of 109). He’s got a good groundball-inducing sinker (90 mph) to pair with a fourseam (92 mph) that gets hitters to swing and miss with a high frequency and a big, sweeping curveball (75 mph). His most recent start came on August 14 against the Philadelphia Phillies; in that game, Porcello went 7.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 2 hits while walking none and striking out 10.

Tuesday, August 21 7:10 p.m. ET: Shane Bieber (RHP) v. Nathan Eovaldi (RHP)

Shane Bieber has been perfectly average so far this season (technically slightly above average), and that’s just fine. It may prove challenging against a team like the Red Sox, but hey, he did have a quality start against the Yankees back in July. So far this season, across 68.0 innings of work, Bieber has allowed 33 earned runs while walking 15 and striking out 71 (which translates to an ERA+ of 102). His most recent start came on August 15 against the Reds; in that game, Bieber went 4.1 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 2 batters and striking out 5.

After missing all of 2017 recovering from a second Tommy John surgery, Nathan Eovaldi is back pitching and he’s done really well in his first season back. He struggled with the Tampa Bay Rays to begin the season, but since being sent to Boston near the trade deadline, he’s been absolutely dominant. Overall this season, across 79.2 innings of work, Eovaldi has allowed 32 earned runs while walking 11 batters and striking out 67 (which translates to an ERA+ of 116). He’s got a fiery fastball (97 mph) that not only gets hitters whiffing but also hitting the ball into the ground. His other pitches are elevated in velocity as well, but none are as good as his fourseam. His most recent start came on August 15 against the Phillies; in that game, Eovaldi went 5.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 7 hits while walking no one and striking out 5.

Wednesday, August 22 7:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) v. Brian Johnson (LHP)

Carlos Carrasco has really hit the ground running since returning from his stint on the DL. Down the stretch, he’s pitched like the second ace we all knew he is. His numbers this season are great; across 143.1 innings, Carrasco has allowed 53 earned runs while walking 28 batters and striking out 161 (which translates to an ERA+ of 133). His most recent start came on August 17 against the Baltimore Orioles; in that game, Cookie went 7.0 innings and allowed zero earned runs on 3 hits while walking a batter and striking out 6.

No joke, when MLB.com listed Wednesday’s pitcher, my first thought was “huh, glad the former AC/DC frontman is finding work (side note: if you are just now finding out that Brian Johnson was ousted from AC/DC in favor of Axl Rose, I am so sorry that I have to be the one to break this news to you in this way). Lo and behold, his name is actually Brian Johnson. You probably don’t know much about him because, prior to 2018, he pitched a grand total of 31.1 innings at the major league level across 3 seasons dating back to his debut in 2015. This season, he’s primarily been a relief pitcher but he’s been converted to a starter since the end of June and hasn’t looked back. So far in 2018, Johnson has pitched in 78.2 innings and has allowed 35 earned runs while walking 27 batters and striking out 72 (which translates to an ERA+ of 110). All of his pitches are below average velocity, including his fastball that sits at about 89 mph. His sinker (89 mph), however, gets a ton of whiffs and fly balls despite coming in at a lower velocity. His most recent start came on August 17 against the Tampa Bay Rays; in that game, Johnson went 5.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 2 batters and striking out 2.

Thursday, August 23 1:05 p.m. ET: Adam Plutko (RHP) v. David Price (LHP)

Plutko will make his second start in place of Trevor Bauer in the finale of this series. Across his 48.2 innings of work this season, Plutko has allowed 25 earned runs while walking 12 batters and striking out 35 (which translates to an ERA+ of 96). His most recent start came on August 18 against the Orioles; in that game, Plutko went 7.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 6.

David Price is pitching well this season. That is undeniable. But for $30 million, you would probably think he’d be pitching better than how he is. Across 141.1 innings this season, Price has allowed 58 earned runs while walking 41 batters and striking out 142 (which translates to an ERA+ of 119). He’s still got a fantastic sinker (93 mph) that is paired with a naturally sinking change (85 mph) and fourseam (93 mph), and then he’ll hit you with a loopy curve (79 mph) just to mess with your head. Basically, if Price can stay low in the zone, he’ll succeed. His most recent start came on August 18 against the Rays; in that game, Price went 7.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 8.

Players to watch

  • Mookie Betts - We’ve all become enamored with Jose Ramirez, and rightfully so. But Mookie Betts is also having the best season of his career and is a legitimate MVP candidate. If the season ended today, voters would have a hard time choosing between Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, and Mookie Betts. Betts is on fire this season, owning a slash line of .343/.430/.652 across 479 plate appearances (which translates to a wRC+ of 186). The one knock against Betts is his K%, which is slightly up this year at 13.6%, but he’s even supplemented that with an elevated BB%. Seriously, be afraid of Betts.
  • J.D. Martinez - Another MVP-caliber talent that will be a tough out. You’ve probably heard about Martinez this season in relation to the home run race between him and Jose Ramirez. But JD Martinez does more than just hit dingers; across 510 plate appearances this season, Martinez holds a slash line of .331/.402/.662 (which translates to a wRC+ of 181). He strikes out a ton (23.1%), but if you make a mistake against him, he’s going to punish a baseball.
  • Craig Kimbrel - Kimbrel has really had an incredible career up to this point, and 2018 is just another stellar chapter in the story of his pitching life. Across 51.0 innings this season, Kimbrel has allowed just 14 earned runs while walking 23 batters and striking out 77 (which translates to an ERA+ of 179). He’s got that incredible fourseam (97 mph) paired with his hard curve (87 mph), both of which can generate a lot of whiffs. This season, his LOB% is a cool 90.3%; for reference, FanGraphs lists a LOB% of 80% as “Excellent”.
  • Matt Barnes - Not quite the elite arm that Kimbrel has, but Matt Barnes is no slouch. He’s been nearly as effective as Kimbrel out of the Boston bullpen this season. Across 54.0 innings, Barnes has allowed just 16 earned runs while walking 27 batters and striking out 86 (which translates to an ERA+ of 165). He also has an incredible fastball (97 mph), and he also pairs it with a phenomenal curve (85 mph). Oh, and he throws in a splitter (90 mph) and a slider (85 mph) just to keep hitters on their toes, all of which are effective out pitches. Finally, he’s got a LOB% of “only” 80.3%, so expect him to come in with runners on and keep them there.

Storylines

The home run chase goes head to head

Jose Ramirez currently trails JD Martinez in the home run race 38-37. With four games together this series, expect some fireworks as Ramirez tries to catch Martinez and Martinez tries to get some distance from Ramirez. Or, because baseball is weird, they’ll go a combined 3-for-38.

No Chris Sale

Another awards race will be on hold this series as both Trevor Bauer and Chris Sale are on the DL and unable to gain any more points in the Cy Young race. For each respective team, that’s fantastic news. For general baseball, it sucks because two of the best players in baseball are both sidelined with injuries.

Remember, it’s August

A lot of folks will be tempted to put a lot of stock into this series since both teams will be in the playoffs and are likely to face one another with larger implications in October. However, it’s important to remember that that series, if it happens, won’t be for another month and a half. This series, right now, won’t mean much of anything. It would be nice to curb stomp the “best team that’s ever walked the planet” (according to Chris Sale), but even if the Indians get swept in this series, it doesn’t really mean much of anything. And if the Indians do the sweeping, it also doesn’t mean much of anything...erm, I mean, YEAH TAKE THAT SAWX YEEEEEEAH.

Boston Red Sox roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Red Sox?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    4
    (25 votes)
  • 16%
    3
    (56 votes)
  • 53%
    2
    (183 votes)
  • 16%
    1
    (57 votes)
  • 5%
    0
    (18 votes)
339 votes total Vote Now