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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox

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Spoiler alert: it got much worse.

Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Well that was garbage.

The Indians faceplanted against a very good Rays team and had it not been for late inning heroics on Friday night, they would’ve been swept right out of town. Now they head to Boston to face the Red Sox. The Red Sox started off the season much like the Indians. They massively under-performed and allowed a lesser team to leapfrog them in their division. The only difference is that while the Red Sox eventually course corrected and got better, the Indians trended in the other direction. After starting the year 10-15, the Sox went 18-10 to bring their record above .500 and within 2 games of the Rays and 6.5 games behind the Yankees. So how do they stack up now, at the end of the month of May?

Team in a box

2019 Boston Red Sox

Record 28-25
Record 28-25
Runs Scored 277
Runs Allowed 244
Run Differential +33
Streak W1
AVG .256
OBP .339
SLG .433
OPS .772
wRC+ 102
K/9 9.83
BB/9 3.30

Pitching was the culprit for the Red Sox early on. When you’re banking on Chris Sale being Chris Sale and he is anything but, things tend to go south. But he, like the Red Sox, figured things out when the calendar flipped to May and the team has been about what you’d expect from them ever since. So naturally, the Indians get to face them now as opposed to back in April when Boston fans felt that the sky was falling around them. They still feel like that, but the team is better now.

Projected starters

Monday, May 27 4:05 p.m. ET: RHP Rick Porcello (v. Jefry Rodriguez)

Rick Porcello is a far cry from his 2016 Cy Young campaign, but he’s still been a good starter for the Red Sox since then (2017 excluded). He’s closer to average than superstar now, but sometimes average is good enough when you have an offense who can hit as well as the Sox can. So far in 2019, Porcello has pitched in 56.2 inning and has allowed 28 earned runs while walking 19 and striking out 47 (ERA+ 103). He gets by with his fourseam (92 mph), a sinker (90 mph), a slider (85 mph), a change (82 mph), and a dash of curveball (76 mph). His change and curve will typically generate some flyballs. His most recent start came on May 22 against the Toronto Blue Jays; in that game, Porcello went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 run on 3 hits while walking none and striking out 4.

Tuesday, May 28 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Ryan Weber (v. Zach Plesac)

Ryan Weber has only made one start this season (his other three appearances have been out of the bullpen), but Alex Cora said that it’s likely that Weber will start on Tuesday as it lines up five days after his previous start. So far this season, Weber has pitched a total of 14.0 innings and has allowed 2 earned runs while walking 1 and striking out 11 (SSS-aided ERA+ of 364. More than a bit misleading). He’s primarily a sinker ball (89 mph), which is effective since his sinker is great at getting ground balls (not so great at getting swings and misses). He’s also got a curve (78 mph) and a change (81 mph). He will occasionally mix in a fourseam (89 mph) or a cutter (83 mph), but not often. His most recent start came on May 23 against the Blue Jays; in that game, Weber went 6.0 innings and allowed 1 run on 3 hits while walking none and striking out 4 (I kid you not, he had the exact same line as Porcello the day prior).

Wednesday, May 29 6:10 p.m. ET: LHP Chris Sale (v. Shane Bieber)

Despite his early season struggles, Chris Sale is back to doing what he does best: striking hitters out and not allowing runs. In the 62.1 innings he’s pitched this season, Sale has allowed 29 earned runs while walking 18 and striking out 88 (ERA+ 110). He’s gone to his slider (79 mph) a lot this season, which has been getting a lot of flyballs as of late. He’s also got a fourseam (93 mph) that’s been good at getting whiffs from hitters, thanks in large part to its sinking action. His change (85 mph) also has some sinking action and can generate a decent amount of groundballs, and his sinker (92 mph) is great at generating swings and misses. His most recent start came on May 24 against the Houston Astros; in that game, Sale went 6.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 3 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5.

Lineup highlights

  • 3B Rafael Devers: Devers had a disappointing 2018 after a promising MLB debut in 2017. Whatever adjustments he’s made have paid off as he has become one of the best (if not the best) hitters on the Red Sox in 2019. Across his 220 plate appearances thus far, Devers is slashing .330/.393/.508 (wRC+ 136). He’s increased his walks a bit has dropped his strikeout rate down tremendously (15.0% compared to 24.7% a year ago). He’s being more patient at the plate and he’s getting better pitches to hit. On a side note, I weep at these numbers because they could be the numbers of Cleveland’s third baseman.
  • RF Mookie Betts: It’s hard to say too much about Mookie Betts that hasn’t already been said. He’s a cornerstone player for the Red Sox, he’s a fan favorite, and he’s one of the top players in his generation and is doing wonders as one of the faces of MLB. He’s Boston’s Francisco Lindor. And he’s got the stats to match. Across 240 plate appearances this season, Betts is slashing .291/.404/.482 (wRC+ 133). His K% is similar to what it was a year ago, but his walk rate has ticked up a couple of percentage points. But nothing has really changed for Mookie; he continues to be one of the premiere talents in baseball.
  • “OF” J.D. Martinez: He technically can play the outfield, but it’s more likely that you’ll see Martinez hitting out of the DH spot as opposed to taking a spot in the outfield. FanGraphs has not made this distinction for Martinez yet for some reason. Regardless, his bat is what’s important, and it’s been fantastic once again this season. But even with how good he’s been hitting this season, it’s still arguably his “worst” season since coming to the Tigers in 2014. So far this year, across 204 plate appearances, Martinez is slashing .301/.387/.506 (wRC+ 131). He is also someone who has reduced his strikeouts substantially from a year ago. It still baffles me that he was bad enough to be cut by the Astros (back when the Astros were the Lastros) only to then completely turn his career around and never look back.

Boston Red Sox roster

FanGraphs

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    3
    (8 votes)
  • 2%
    2
    (2 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (31 votes)
  • 43%
    0
    (32 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now