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Red Sox vs. Cleveland Series Preview

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A look at this week’s three-game set against Cleveland.

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Texas Rangers v Cleveland Indians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

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Covering the Corner

The opponent in one sentence

Cleveland’s potent pitching factory has been hit hard this season, with Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, and Aaron Civale currently all on the IL, and it has put any hopes and aspirations for 2021 playoff baseball all but out of reach for Cleveland.

Record

63-62

Head-to-head record

0-0

Trend

Down. Since the All-Star Break, Cleveland’s record is 18-20, and the team has been clawing hard to get over .500. They find themselves coming into the series with Boston one game over .500. The best stretch of baseball for Cleveland since the break was a three-game set, including the final game played in Williamsport, as the Little League Classic, where the club proceeded to sweep the Los Angeles Angels.

Pitching Matchups

8/27: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Logan Allen, 7:10 PM ET

Eduardo Rodriguez looks to regain his form after a rather up and down season and settle into a good rhythm against Cleveland’s offense, which is currently ranked 22nd in baseball. Rodriguez had been pitching well up until his last start against Texas where he pitched only 3 23 innings, gave up eight hits, five earned runs, one walk, and struck out three. If on his A-game, Rodriguez should pitch deep into the game, giving the Red Sox bullpen some much-needed rest.

Logan Allen is a former Red Sox farmhand, taken in the 8th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of IMG Academy in Flordia. Allen was part of Boston’s trade package to acquire closer Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres in November of 2015. Allen was recently recalled from Triple-A Columbus after the club placed McKenzie on the IL. In seven starts this season, Allen pitched to a 9.13 ERA, 8.84 xERA, 8.73 FIP, a 5.67 xFIP in 22 23 innings. Look for the Red Sox offense to have a strong showing against Allen.

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images

8/28: Nate Eovaldi vs. Cal Quantrill, 4:05 PM ET (FS1)

Oh, Nate Eovaldi. What more could Red Sox fans ask from Nate Eovaldi this season? The short answer is nothing. Nate Eovaldi, if he keeps brilliantly pitching as he has in 2021, could and should gather up quite a few Cy Young votes. Eovaldi’s last start against the Rangers was nearly perfect. Eovaldi pitched seven innings, gave up four hits, no earned runs, and collected seven strikeouts. Nathan Eovaldi is second in the American League in FIP, with a 2.82, only behind Yankees Gerrit Cole, who has a 2.81 FIP. Nate Eovaldi has been darn good in 2021, and he’s been healthy, something crucial to his success.

Cal Quantrill, the son of former Red Sox pitcher, Paul Quantrill, has pitched rather well for Cleveland in 2021. Quantrill has pitched to a 3.85 FIP and a 1.21 WHIP. His last start against the Angels was rather impressive, where he tossed seven innings, gave up two hits, zero runs, two walks, and nine strikeouts. Quantrill will likely be the starter Boston’s bats will struggle the most against in this series.

8/29: TBD (Most Likely Tanner Houck) vs. Eli Morgan, 1:10 PM ET

Tanner Houck’s season has been quite the roller coaster, being treated like a yo-yo with his many options between triple-A Worcester and the Red Sox. Alex Cora told the media and fans that Houck will not be going back down, and will become a permanent part of the Red Sox rotation for the rest of the 2021 season. Houck wasn’t sharp in his last start against the Minnesota Twins, where he tossed 4 23 innings, gave up eight hits, three earned runs, struck out six, and walked one. What Houck did though was pitch into the fifth inning and faced some batters third time through the order, something Alex Cora had been hesitant about in Houck’s previous starts.

Eli Morgan has pitched 5823 innings in 12 starts and owns a 5.98 ERA, 5.02 xERA, 4.94 FIP, and a 4.84 xFIP. Morgan’s last start, in 4 1/3 against the Texas Rangers he gave up eight hits, and four earner runs, Texas is currently ranked 29th in offense in baseball, so look for the Red Sox to be able to jump on Morgan for an early lead.

Old Friends

Former Red Sox manager, Terry Francona stepped down this season as manager of Cleveland to undergo hip and toe surgery. Francona hopes to be ready to step back into his role for the 2022 season. Taking over for Francona the rest of the season is Cleveland’s bench coach, and former Red Sox third base coach, DeMarlo Hale. Former Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis is the current Cleveland pitching coach. So many old friends, so little time.

Notable Position Players

Cleveland , while their offense hasn’t been top-notch in 2021, the team does have arguably one of the best third basemen in baseball, in José Ramírez. Ramírez is batting .258/.344/.541, 29 home runs, a 133 wRC+, 4.6 fWAR, and a 5.5 defensive WAR. He’s been nothing but stable and solid for Cleveland. Ahmed Rosario, who came over in the Francisco Lindor trade with the New York Mets is ironically having a better season than Lindor. Rosario owns a 102 wRC+, putting him slightly above league average at shortstop. The other slugger for Cleveland is right fielder Franmil Reyes who is having a great season, hitting .256/.324/.538, 23 home runs, a 127 wRC+ and a 1.1 fWAR. Reyes’ defense is the worst aspect of his game, coming into the series with a -8.4 dWAR. They collectively haven’t hit well, but it does not in any way mean the Red Sox pitching staff won’t have some difficulty getting a few of the players out.

Bullpen Snapshot

Cleveland's bullpen has a collective 3.58 ERA, with 32 saves, and a 1.29 WHIP. The Red Sox bullpen, while at times early on in the season seemed an asset, has become nothing but a liability since the All-Star Break. Boston’s collective bullpen ERA sits right at a 4.00 ERA, with a 1.40 WHIP and 38 saves. If the Red Sox dream of being successful in this series, the starters need to pitch deeper, as once an opposing offense gets into the bullpen the whole landscape of the game can change in the favor of the opposing team.

Injuries

Shane Bieber, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner has been on the IL since June 14th, with a right shoulder subscapularis muscle strain, per the Cleveland ballclub. Bieber hopes to return in 2021 and recently completed a 25-pitch bullpen session on August 17th. Starter Aaron Civale was placed on the 60-day IL with a finger injury. Triston McKenzie on the 10-day, with arm fatigue. Catcher Roberto Pérez was placed on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation. The scariest of the injuries occurred to Cleveland’s right fielder, Josh Naylor, who suffered a closed fracture and dislocation of his right ankle after a nasty collision with second baseman Ernie Clement. The injury bug has been a major factor in Cleveland’s overall lack of success this season.

Weather Forecast

The weather looks a little dicey around Progressive Field in Cleveland for the weekend series, but, what else is new this season. Whether it’s true, or not, the Red Sox seemingly has been rained out or delayed more this season than in previous seasons. Today’s game looks to be the best of the three weather-wise, with mostly sunny skies. Saturday appears to be a 30% chance of rain, so likely the game is played uninterrupted. Sunday’s weather is forecasted as a 60% chance of rain, with scattered lightning. All three games should be able to be played, but maybe bring a rain poncho if you find yourself in Cleveland this weekend.