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Red Sox at Indians Series Preview

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A look ahead to the week’s big series in Cleveland.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Let’s Go Tribe

The opponent in one sentence

After a slowish start to the year, the Indians have taken control in the American League Central thanks to a similar roster as the Red Sox that leans on pitching to go with a solid enough offense.

Record

68-54

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 2, Indians 1

Trend

Up. The Indians aren’t playing quite as well as they were last week as they’ve “only” won two of their last four, but if you extend the window they’ve won a whopping eight of their last ten and they’ve taken the last three series they’ve played.

Pitching Matchups

8/21: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Mike Clevinger, 7:10 PM ET

Rodriguez has been an outstanding-to-solid pitcher for the Red Sox when healthy in 2017, but the biggest issue has been consistent performance. The southpaw will come out in one start and completely shut down his opponent, and then the next time out he’ll simply keep his team in the game. He has, for the most part, avoided implosions, but the Red Sox would love to see him take the next step along with Rick Porcello.

Clevinger is certainly an exciting young pitcher, though he’s also not perfect. On the plus side for him, he has a herky-jerky delivery to go with good stuff that combines in a high strikeout rate. That alone will always make him interesting. That said, he also has major command problems and if the Red Sox are able to stay patient they should be able to do very well against him. That’s exactly what they did last time they saw him, scoring five runs in three innings off the 26-year-old righty. Clevinger features a mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup and a slider.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

8/22: Doug Fister vs. Carlos Carrasco, 7:10 PM ET

This will clearly be the toughest day for the Red Sox, as Fister is easily the least talented pitcher in their rotation and is coming off a bad start against this same Indians team. The good news is he’d been really solid in his couple outings before that, so this is a chance to prove it was his last start was the fluke. I wouldn’t bet on that being the case, but it’s certainly possible.

Carrasco is an outstanding pitchers and, along with Corey Kluber, helps Cleveland form one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball. That being said, it always feels like he should be a little better. He’s never been able to take that step from outstanding pitcher to elite one, though that’s obviously easier said than done. Either way, he gets a ton of strikeouts but loses his command ever so often. The Red Sox crushed him for five runs in just 1 23 innings the last time out. Carrasco features a mid-90s four-seamer and two-seamer to go with a changeup, slider and curveball.

8/23: Drew Pomeranz vs. Corey Kluber, 7:10 PM ET

On Wednesday, we get the best pitching matchup of the series, though it’s not one that is advantageous to the Red Sox. That, of course, is no slight to Pomeranz, who isn’t even a guarantee to make this start. He was lifted from his last start with back spasms, and while the hope is that he’ll be able to make the start, nothing has been made official just yet. The Red Sox could really use him, particularly considering the man pitching for the other side.

That would be Kluber, who is Sale’s only real competition for the Cy Young right now. The Indians ace has been incredible in 2017, and really for years now, striking out over 12 batters per nine innings while walking fewer than two. He’s been particularly good since the start of June with a 1.84 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 107 innings of work. Kluber features a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and two-seamer to go with a slider and a cutter.

8/24: Chris Sale vs. Trevor Bauer

Thursday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. While he was hit much harder than usual in his last time out, it was still a solid day for most pitchers. Still, Sale is coming off a bad start for him and we’ve seen how well he can pitch after an outing like that. Unfortunately, the last time he had such a bad outing was when Cleveland lit him up for his worst outing of the year. He’ll be seeking revenge on Thursday.

Bauer has always had the talent to be an elite hitter in this league, but he’s never been able to harness his command enough to be more than a mid-to-back-of-the-rotation starter. That has been evident this year, as he’s paired a career-high strikeout rate to a career-high home run rate, and that has led to a mid-4’s ERA. He did pitch well against the Red Sox earlier this month, allowing three runs over 6 23 innings with 11 strikeouts. Bauer features a mid-90s four-seamer and two-seamer to go with a curveball and a cutter.

Old Friends

Terry Francona is the most notable old friend on this team. For my thoughts on the best Red Sox manager of all time, you can re-read my last series preview.

As I said in that same series preview, Andrew Miller is one of the best relievers in all of baseball, though the Red Sox were able to get to him the last time they met. Of course, something was up with the southpaw as he was placed on the ten-day disabled list immediately after. He’s back now, though, and there’s always reason to be nervous when he’s in the game.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Hitters

This is copied and pasted from the last series preview, since these teams played just a couple weeks ago and not much has changed. Jay Bruce and Jason Kipnis have been added to the list of players.

Jose Ramirez is one of the most underappreciated players in the league and is going to be a problem for the rest of the American League for a long time. He has elite contact skills, makes solid contact more often than not, has hit for huge power this year and plays good defense at the hot corner. Oh, and he’s only 24 years old.

Francisco Lindor hasn’t been quite as good as some expected him to be this year, but he’s still been safely above average with the bat and should probably improve simply based on his luck on balls in play. Lindor is a special player with the bat in addition to being one of the better defensive shortstops in the game.

Edwin Encarnacion was a potential Red Sox target last winter though he was never realistic after it came out that they wanted to stay under the luxury tax. He ended up going to Cleveland on a three-year deal and things have started well. He’s striking out a bit more than he did in his prime but he’s drawing a ton of walks and hitting for plenty of power. The Red Sox could use that kind of bat in their lineup to be sure.

Carlos Santana is such an interesting player as he’s never going to give you a high batting average despite low strikeout rates. However, he is among the most patient hitters in baseball and when he’s going right he hits for enough power to be a well-above-average hitter.

Jason Kipnis was injured the last time these two sides met, but he’s now back in Cleveland’s lineup. The second baseman has had a down year mainly thanks to some serious issues on balls in play.

Bradley Zimmer is the outfielder Cleveland opted to keep over Clint Frazier, and while there’s plenty of swing and miss in Zimmer’s game there’s also a ton of loud contact.

Yan Gomes has bounced back some from his atrocious 2016 but there’s still not much power in that bat anymore.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Bruce was an August trade addition for Cleveland and the lefty bat has added some serious power to the Indians lineup since coming over. It’s a small sample, but this looks like a big addition for this team.

Bullpen Snapshot

Joining Miller in the back of Cleveland’s bullpen is Cody Allen to form one of the scarier one-two punches in the league. Miller gets most of the headlines in this duo, particularly after his postseason performance, which makes Allen one of the more underrated relievers in baseball. The righty walks a few more batters than you’d like but his fastball/curveball combination is gives batters fits more often than not.

Bryan Shaw is usually the pitcher called upon to go before Miller and he’s a nice change of pace in the bullpen. He’s not nearly as dominant as either Miller or Allen, but he keeps the ball on the ground on a consistent basis and induces plenty of weak contact.

Injuries

Michael Brantley just can’t catch a break. He finally got back to good health in 2017 and has had a solid year for Cleveland, but he sprained his ankle a couple weeks ago and hasn’t been able to make a recovery. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to return.

Lonnie Chisenhall has been outstanding when he’s been healthy for Cleveland this year but he went down earlier in the month with a calf injury and it’s not clear how much time he’ll miss.

Josh Tomlin isn’t the most exciting member of the Indians rotation, but he gets the job done and will be out until September with a hamstring injury.

Boone Logan was brought in to give the bullpen a second left-handed threat after Miller, but he’s been out since the middle of June with a lat injury and isn’t expected back any time soon.

Abraham Almonte has been a solid piece off the bench for Cleveland, but the outfielder has been down for a few days with a hamstring injury and it’s unclear when he’ll return.

Cody Anderson is starting pitching depth but he underwent Tommy John surgery at the beginning of the year and will miss all of 2017.

Weather Forecast

It should be a nice, clear week in Cleveland for these two teams, though Tuesday might be the only question mark. There are thunderstorms in the forecast, though right now it looks like they might be before the game gets underway.