Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (17) throws the ball to the infield in the third inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

The Indians ended an 11-game losing streak yesterday, behind former Red Sox hurler Justin Masterson. Boston lost their last series to the Texas Rangers, who won each of the three against the Sox in 2012 (and six of eight games overall). Boston needs to beat Cleveland down in order to move past a disappointing home stand and get back into the thick of the wild card race, while the Indians are just hoping to avoid the start of another crushing win-less streak.

The Indians were still in this thing last time the Sox faced them, but their negative run differential has caught up to them, and they now sit at 51-60, 9-1/2 games back of the first place White Sox and nine back of a wild card spot. This four-game series means more to Boston than it does to Cleveland at this point because of it, as the Indians have a long road ahead of them to matter again in 2012, while the Sox are just trying not to lose their way.

Game 1: Ubaldo Jimenez (127-2/3 IP, 1.3 K/BB, 73 ERA+) vs. Felix Doubront (118-1/3 IP, 2.3 K/BB, 96 ERA+)

Game 2: Chris Seddon (4-2/3 IP, 0.7 K/BB, 54 ERA+) vs. Clay Buchholz (122-2/3 IP, 1.9 K/BB, 97 ERA+)

Game 3: Zach McAllister (70 IP, 3.3 K/BB, 108 ERA+) vs. TBA

Game 4: Corey Kluber (10-1/3 IP, 1.8 K/BB, 66 ERA+) vs. TBA

Doubront has seen his K/BB dip in the second half, but he's maintaining most of his overall productivity. His 2012 seems to be cementing him as a back-end starter, if nothing else, but as fans of the 2011 team remember, that's not such a bad thing. It only seems like it when everyone else is pitching the same or worse despite heightened (and justified) expectations. He'll be taking on Ubaldo Jimenez, who in 2012 knows something about horrific K/BB and failing to even come close to what's expected of him.

Well, it finally happened. Clay Buchholz is leading all Red Sox starters in ERA+. That's great news for Clay, who was far, far worse off than any other pitcher early in the year, and has worked all the way back to average thanks to strong performances since. It's awful news for everyone else, except maybe Doubront, who has been around that ERA+ neighborhood all season long. He'll face Chris Seddon, a 28-year-old lefty who has bounced between the majors and minors since 2007, with all of 44 career innings to his credit.

These to be announced figures are easy enough to sort out. Bobby Valentine said Aaron Cook will get a start against the Orioles, meaning that Franklin Morales and Jon Lester are the ones who will pitch in these two contests. Morales was recently named to the rotation, rather than as a spot starter, and Lester took his turn against the Rangers on Tuesday.

Zach McAllister is having a solid year, but it's not as good as it looks. Of the 46 runs he's allowed, 18 have been unearned, meaning his Run Average is 5.91 while his Earned Run Average sits at 3.60. The superlative Sam Miller discussed this at Baseball Prospectus recently, and you should see what that's all about.

Corey Kluber, besides being the owner of an excellent baseball name, is a 26-year-old right-hander with 14 major-league innings in his career. He's come to Cleveland by way of San Diego, and has never made much of an impression in the minors. That's the state of the Indians' rotation at the moment, though, and hopefully, Boston can take advantage.

The lineup has its useful points, but besides Shin Soo-Choo, no one is standing out in 2012. Carlos Santana is having a very quiet .237/.363/.407 season, while Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera are similarly pretty good, but not great, at their respective positions. The combination of poor pitching match-ups for Cleveland and a lineup that doesn't stand a chance compared to Boston's means just two things: the Red Sox are going to crush the Indians, or we're in for more heartbreak. Given the shape of 2012, don't get too attached to one concept or the other.

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