I cannot remember the last time this season I’ve seen a Guardians probable pitcher list and been this excited about multiple starters — it’s been rough out there, folks. But this weekend, Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and rookie Logan Allen will take the mound as the Guardians look to start clicking during a tough stretch of games. All three have the potential to be good.
Bieber may be looking more like a Very Good Pitcher than a dominant ace these days, but I won’t doubt his ability to keep the Red Sox off the board for a few good innings. And until Allen has several bad outings in a row, I’m going to remain excited about him every time his name comes up. Even Plesac, who still holds a 6.50 ERA on the season, looked alright in his last outing, holding the Marlins to three runs over five innings with five strikeouts and two walks.
The Guards have also been a much better team on the road (8-5) than at home (4-8) this season. A lot of that this early in the season comes down to who you are facing when, but they have played plenty of “easy” teams both home and away and seemingly struggled against them all. Maybe they have some road mojo this year that can bring to Fenway Park.
If the offense needs an excuse to finally get going, this series could be it. The Red Sox have struggled mightily to field a starting rotation this year. No starter on their staff has an ERA under 4.50 as of this writing, and their supposed ace, Chris Sale, has an 8.22 ERA in his 23 innings. Old friend Corey Kluber was their Opening Day starter at age 36.
Sale missed almost all of 2022 due to injuries of various levels of absurdity. It started with a run-of-the-mill rib injury that kept him out until July. Then a pitch hit him in the pitching hand and broke the pinky finger. And finally, he broke his wrist in a bicycle accident in September and officially ended his season.
Injury free so far in 2023, Sale has looked extremely hittable in his five starts this season as the life on all of his pitches has been sapped. He can still induce his fair share of swings and misses (as evidenced by his 11-strikeout performance against the Twins on April 18), but he has also allowed 30 hits and 21 earned runs. He also may be a lefty, but he’s not what I would say qualifies as a “soft-tossing” lefty, so maybe the Guardians still have a chance on Sunday.
Nick Pivetta and Garrett Whitlock — Game 1 and Game 2 starters, respectively — have faired a little better than Sale, but barely.
Thirty-year-old Pivetta has been around the league for seven years now and it doesn’t look like he’ll ever get out of the hole of being a back-end starter with a career ERA at an even 5.00. He features a 94.3 mph four-seamer, curveball, slider, cutter, and very occasional changeup. The cutter is a new wrinkle in his repertoire that, so far, he hasn’t been able to locate very well. But he can get some whiffs with it when he gets batters to chase.
Whitlock is entering this third year with the Red Sox and his first with a dedicated rotation spot. He missed the beginning of the year with an offseason procedure on his hip, and has been up and down in his three starts. He looked great against the Angels on April 16, striking out five and holding Los Angeles to one run over seven innings, but allowed a combined 10 runs in nine innings in his other two starts. He’s a sinker-slider-changeup bread and butter pitcher with 99th percentile extension playing up his 93-mph fastball.
Red Sox hitters are not world-beaters by any means, but they rank third in runs scored this season and sixth in home runs. This isn’t any kind of predictive thing, just an observation, but they also rank second in +WPA (19.93). In other words, they have a lot of clutch moments. That is probably a big reason they rank highly in runs scored (third overall) but middling in most other offensive stats. Hitting the sixth most home runs doesn’t hurt either.
Six Boston batters with regular starts have a wRC+ over 100, led by Alex Verdugo and Jarren Duran finally putting together some good at-bats. Rafael Devers has a pedestrian (for him) 119 wRC+ to start the year, but his power threat is always lurking in a lineup. There are enough bats here to make things rough for Guardians pitchers if they struggle.
Team at a glance
- Record: 13-13
- Runs scored: 146
- Run differential: +8
- Last 10: 5-5
- Slash: .252/.329/.429
- wOBA: .332
- wRC+: 107
- ERA: 5.13
- SIERA: 4.21
- K-BB%: 14.1%
Friday, April 28, 7:10 p.m. ET: RHP Nick Pivetta vs. RHP Shane Bieber
Saturday, April 29, 4:10 p.m. ET: RHP Garrett Whitlock vs. RHP Zach Plesac
Sunday, April 30, 1:35 p.m. ET: LHP Chris Sale vs. LHP Logan Allen
How many games will the Guardians win against the Red Sox?
This poll is closed