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Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals series preview

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Oh wow the Royals are awful.

Kansas City Royals v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For the first time since 1947, the Cleveland Indians did not win a series against an opponent. However, since they split the four-game series with the Boston Red Sox, they still haven’t lost a series in an eternity. Now, they’ll take on a much less competent Kansas City Royals team this weekend.

Looking ahead

After the Indians finish up with Kansas City, they’ll travel to Target Field to take on the Minnesota Twins for three games before they head back to Cleveland to welcome the Tampa Bay Rays for three games. On the other hand, the Royals will sit tight at home and welcome in the Detroit Tigers for two games before the Baltimore Orioles fly in for a three-game series.

Pitching match-ups

Friday, August 24 8:15 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) v. Brad Keller (RHP)

Mike Clevinger has blown past his season-high innings total from last year (121.2), but he may have been showing some signs of fatigue after a couple of rough outings in July. However, once the calendar flipped to August, he’s been stellar yet again. On the season as a whole, Clevinger has thrown 157.2 innings and has allowed 57 earned runs while walking 53 batters and striking out 155 (which translates to an ERA+ of 136). His most recent start came on August 19 against the Baltimore Orioles; in that game, Clevinger went 6.0 innings and allowed zero runs on 7 hits while walking 1 and striking out 7.

The name Brad Keller may seem vaguely familiar to you. This is Keller’s debut season in the majors and he’s primarily been a bullpen arm for the Royals this season. He’s been a starter in the minors and was a Rule 5 draft for the Royals, meaning he has to stay on the 25-man roster the entire season or be offered back to his original team (the Arizona Diamondbacks). Because the Royals’ rotation was just brimming with talent, Keller started the year as a relief pitcher, but he made his way back into the rotation on May 30 and has been there ever since. So far this season, Keller has thrown 100.1 innings and has allowed 37 earned runs while walking 40 hitters and striking out 67 (which translates to an ERA+ of 129). He’ll throw a mid-90s fastball (95 mph) that will get grounders with regularity, and he’ll pair it with a slider (86 mph) and a change (89 mph) that also induce groundouts. His most recent start came on August 18 against the Chicago White Sox; in that game, Keller went 5.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 7 hits while walking no one and striking out 5.

Saturday, August 25 7:15 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) v. Heath Fillmyer (RHP)

There goes that man again. Corey Kluber steps on the mound this Saturday for his 27th start of the season and my parent’s 28th wedding anniversary, so no pressure, Kluber. Kluber has battled injury all year, but overall he still is the ace we all have come to know and love. Over 174.1 innings this year, Kluber has allowed just 53 earned runs while walking 23 hitters and striking out 166 (which translates to an ERA+ of 162). His most recent start came on August 20 against the Boston Red Sox; in that game, Kluber went 6.1 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 9 hits while walking 1 hitter and striking out 6.

Again, Heath Fillmyer may sound vaguely familiar in that the Indians have seen him in relief earlier this season. But since late July, he’s been a part of the rotation and this will be his first start against the Tribe. So far in 2018, Fillmyer has thrown in 45.1 innings and has allowed 23 earned runs while walking 23 batters and striking out 27 (which translates to an ERA+ of 94). The rookie’s got a mid-90s fastball (93 mph) that can generate ground balls, while his slider (84 mph) acts more like a 12-6 curve and can also induce grounders along with his change (86 mph). He features an actual 12-6 curve (80 mph), and that pitch usually gets hitters to pop up. His most recent start came on August 19 against the White Sox; in that game, Fillmyer went just 3.0 innings and allowed 6 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 1 batter and striking out 3.

Sunday, August 26 2:15 p.m. ET: Shane Bieber (RHP) v. Jorge Lopez (RHP)

Shane Bieber, also in his rookie year, is having a good season. So far this year, he’s thrown in 74.1 innings and has allowed 36 earned runs while walking 15 hitters and striking out 76 (which translates to an ERA+ of 102). His most recent start came on August 21 against the Red Sox; in that game, Bieber went 6.1 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits while walking no one and striking out 5.

Jorge Lopez is not in his rookie season, but he’s a new face for the Kansas City Royals, having arrived in the trade that sent Mike Moustakas to the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this season. He’s not pitched much at the major league level, however. This season, across 29.1 innings in the majors, Lopez has allowed 13 earned runs while walking 18 hitters and striking out 21 (which translates to an ERA+ of 107). His main pitch is his ground ball-inducing curve (82 mph), but he pairs it with a good fastball (95 mph) that sinks a bit and gets hitters to fly out. He also has a sinker (95 mph) that is a good swing-and-miss pitch, and his change (89 mph) also sinks and gets fly balls (are you noticing a trend, here?). His most recent start came on August 20 against the Tampa Bay Rays; in that game, Lopez went 5.0 innings and allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits while walking 3 hitters and striking out 3.

Players to watch

  • Whit Merrifield - You know him. You love him. It’s our own Matt Schlichting! Or at least I’ve never seen them in the same room at the same time, so my theory is just as good as anyone’s. When Merrifield isn’t moonlighting as a writer for LGT, he’s busy being the best hitter on the Royals in 2018. Across his 548 plate appearances this year, he’s slashing a cool .306/.374/.433 (which translates to a wRC+ of 121). He’s a solid presence in Ned Yost’s lineup, leading his team in doubles (33), walks (49) and stolen bases (28).
  • Kevin McCarthy - Do you remember the Royals’ super bullpen from a few years ago? Well it doesn’t exist anymore. With Brad Keller moving into the rotation, the best reliever that Kansas City has now is Kevin McCarthy. This isn’t a knock on McCarthy, he’s a fine pitcher, but he’s not Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, or Wade Davis. Or Ryan Madson. Or Franklin Morales. Kevin McCarthy, in 55.2 innings this season, has allowed 22 earned runs while walking 17 hitters and striking out 34 (which translates to an ERA+ of 120). He’s got a good ground ball sinker (93 mph), while his slider (88 mph) gets more flyballs than usual. Finally, he’s got a good LOB% at 76.2% for the season, up 5% from his career average.
  • No really, the Royals are that bad. - I guess you can always count on Salvador Perez to have a good game, but seriously this Kansas City team has been absolutely dreadful all year.

Storylines

Lindor & Ramirez

Everyone freaks out whenever your two MVP-caliber players slump at the same time. Thankfully, despite not getting much from Lindor or Ramirez in the Boston series, the team was able to take 2 out of the 4 games. That being said, it’ll be nice to see the duo (hopefully) rebound against an atrocious Kansas City team.

Facing unknown starters

One of the popular memes for the Cleveland Indians is that they can’t do anything against pitchers they have never seen before. Things are even worse if they throw with their left hand. Thankfully, all three of the Kansas City starters this weekend are right handed, but none of them have ever started a game against the Cleveland Indians. Two of them have made a couple of relief appearances, but by and large they are all unknowns to the Cleveland hitters. If there is even a tiny inkling of a chance that the Royals have an advantage in this series, it’s in this regard.

No more silly errors

Maybe it’s recency bias from the other day, but it doesn’t feel like the Cleveland Indians have been playing sharp defense as of late. On more than a few occasions during the last series, I found myself face palming due to someone making a really bad play (Kipnis dropping an infield fly comes to mind). Hopefully the team can tighten the screws a bit this weekend and clean up some of the minor mistakes that were plaguing them in Boston.

Kansas City Royals roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    3
    (60 votes)
  • 32%
    2
    (32 votes)
  • 4%
    1
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (3 votes)
99 votes total Vote Now