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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox

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Time to widen the gap

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

What an exhilarating weekend of baseball! Now that the Indians share a portion of the AL Central lead, they’ll look to build on it, starting with a new series against the middling Red Sox. Confidence in the Indians should be at an all-time high, so I expect some great things in this upcoming series.

Team in a box

2019 Boston Red Sox

Record 62-58
Record 62-58
Runs Scored 692
Runs Allowed 632
Run Differential +60
Last 10 3-7
AVG .273
OBP .344
SLG .473
OPS .817
wRC+ 109
K/9 9.94
BB/9 3.50

The Red Sox, less than a year removed from winning the World Series, are probably missing the playoffs entirely this season unless something drastic happens between now and October. In looking at their run differential, it’s not too difficult to see what the problem has been. The Red Sox may be second in terms of runs scored across the league, but their also sixth in runs allowed. Every other team that has allowed more runs has a negative run differential; Boston is at +60. If it weren’t for a prolific offense, the Sox would be in much worse shape than they currently are.

Projected starters

Monday, August 12 7:10 p.m. ET: LHP Eduardo Rodríguez (v. Zach Plesac)

Eduardo Rodríguez has been silently a great pitcher for the Red Sox for the last few seasons. With David Price and Chris Sale in the rotation, it’s easy to overlook everyone else, but one shouldn’t overlook Rodríguez. This season, across 140.1 innings across 24 starts, Rodríguez has allowed 65 earned runs while walking 53 and striking out 140 (ERA+ 115). He’s got a good fastball (93 mph) that is good at generating swings and misses, and he pairs it with his changeup (88 mph) that often induces ground balls. He also has a cutter (89 mph) and a sinker (93 mph) that he’ll use as well. His most recent start came on August 7 against the Royals; in that game, Rodríguez went 5.0 innings and allowed 2 earned runs on 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 1.

Tuesday, August 13 7:10 p.m. ET: LHP Chris Sale (v. Mike Clevinger)

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Granted, “fallen” for Chris Sale means being merely above-average as opposed to one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. 2019 marks the first season that Chris Sale was not named to the All-Star team since 2012, and if things hold up they way they currently are, it will also be the first season since 2013 that he finishes outside of the top 5 in AL Cy Young award voting. Across 140.2 innings in 24 starts, Sale has allowed 69 earned runs while walking 35 and striking out 206 (ERA+ 109). So he’s still striking out everyone in site. His fastball, after sitting 97-98mph a year ago, is only hitting 94 mph this season. He pairs that with his sweeping slider (79 mph) while also using a change (86 mph) and a sinker (92 mph). His most recent start came on August 8 against the Angels; in that game, Sale went 8.0 innings and allowed no runs on 2 hits while walking no one and striking out 13.

Wednesday, August 14 1:10 p.m. ET: LHP Brian Johnson (v. Shane Bieber)

MLB isn’t sure who’s going to be starting for the Sox on Wednesday, but based on the rotation last week, Brian Johnson would be in line to start. FanGraphs agrees with that assessment so Brian Johnson it is. He’s not pitched well for the Sox this year; across 19.2 innings in 9 appearances (4 starts), Johnson has allowed 16 earned runs while walking 8 and striking out 16 (SSS assisted ERA+ 66). He’s got a slow fourseam fastball (89 mph), which he complements with his curve (75 mph) and his slider (78 mph). He doesn’t throw hard at all is what I’m getting at. Like mentioned above, his most recent start came on August 9 against the Angels; in that game, Johnson went 2.2 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 2 hits while walking 2 and striking out 1.

Lineup highlights

DH J.D. Martinez: It still baffles me how off the Astros were on J.D. Martinez. Conversely, could you imagine how much more of a nightmare the Astros would currently be if they had Martinez in their lineup? Martinez continues to be an offensive powerhouse in 2019. Across 494 plate appearances in 109 games, he’s slashing .308/.381/.562 (wRC+ 141). He leads his team in home runs with 27.

SS Xander Bogaerts: Bogaerts struggled in 2017 but he took a big step up and had a career year in 2018. Now, in 2019, he’s even better than he was a season ago. Across 523 plate appearances in 116 games, Bogaerts is slashing .303/.380/.551 (wRC+ 139). His BB% has gone up a couple percentage points from last season, and his entire slash line is slightly elevated as well. He’s surpassed his career home run mark and is currently sitting at 25, second behind J.D. Martinez.

3B Rafael Devers: Rafael Devers hit a bit of a sophomore slump in 2018, but he’s bounced back in a big way in 2019. Across 516 plate appearances in 117 games, Devers is slashing .317/.365/.563 (wRC+ 136). The biggest change for him this season compared to his first two is his reduced strikeout rate; after being between 23-25% his entire career, he’s reduced the strikeouts to 16.5% in 2019. Couple that with a power surge (24 home runs) and hitting for a higher average, and Devers is having the best season of his young career.

Boston Red Sox roster

FanGraphs

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    3
    (73 votes)
  • 63%
    2
    (197 votes)
  • 11%
    1
    (35 votes)
  • 2%
    0
    (7 votes)
312 votes total Vote Now