Indians’ Current Record:
44-35, 8-2 over their last ten games. The Indians lead the AL Central over the second place Twins by eight games. The team is primarily dominant in Cleveland, with a 27-13 record at home but just a 17-22 record on the road.
Francisco Lindor - SS
Michael Brantley - LF
Jose Ramirez - 3B
Edwin Encarnacion - DH
Yonder Alonso - 1B
Jason Kipnis - 2B
Yan Gomes - C
Lonnie Chisenhall - RF
Rajai Davis - CF
Probable Starting Pitchers:
Trevor Bauer - RHP
Adam Plutko - RHP
Mike Clevinger - RHP
Recent Bullpen Usage:
While getting good length out of the bullpen during their series versus the Cardinals earlier this week, an off day on Thursday ensures that the bullpen will be fully rested for the weekend series.
Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor have been the leaders on offense for Cleveland all season long, each infielder managing an OPS north of .900 this season. Indians’ veteran Michael Brantley is also enjoying a nice comeback season after many injury hampered years, batting .312/.361/.504 through the years’ first half.
While Brantley has been as nice revelation once again for the Indians, the same can’t be said for the rest of their outfield, on offense, anyways. Rookie sensation Bradley Zimmer was sent down to the minors for striking out too much, and the highest slugging percentage among the remaining semi-regulars is Tyler Naquin’s .394. Long-time consistent veteran Jason Kipnis is having a down year, batting .218/.297/.345.
Cleveland has among the best starting pitching staffs in baseball, rivaling that of the Astros. Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer have been the leaders of the rotation this season, with other key names phasing in and out of the rotation due to injury, each of whom with an ERA around 2.50 and well over a strikeout per inning pitched. Kluber, in particular, has been elite at not allowing walks, and has a WHIP of just 0.86 this year.
Josh Tomlin was so ineffective he was unceremoniously been placed in the bullpen, where his numbers have admittedly improved of late. The Indians bullpen, in general, hasn’t been nearly as dominant has it has been in years’ past. Andrew Miller has blown multiple leads in between DL stints, and stalwarts like Cody Allen and Zach McAllister have rather inflated ERA’s for late-inning relief help, McAllister’s ERA sitting at 5.63.
A bevy of injuries to the pitching staff may play a small part in the Indians’ slow start to the season. As was mentioned above, Andrew Miller is currently on the disabled list with a knee injury, but joining him are starters Carlos Carrasco (elbow) and Danny Salazar (shoulder). Salazar specifically has missed the entire season and has no timetable for his return. Several other relievers have also spent time on the disabled list, but the Indians have managed to persevere.
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The A’s are riding high after an 8-2 road trip that saw a sweep of the Padres as well as a sweep of the Tigers, often snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the late innings during the trip. The A’s now stand solidly in third place in the toughest division in baseball, and are in shouting distance of a wild card spot. The A’s have done all this without two team’s worth of starting pitchers as well as their best offensive and defensive player on the field. As the calendar turns to July, surely the A’s are going to be surrounded by trade rumors through the deadline, but there are many, many good reasons to keep the team, and its farm system, intact.
The Indians really stumbled out of the gates this season, but thanks to playing in a non-competitive division where all the other teams are well below .500, Cleveland has perhaps the most secure playoff spot in baseball at the season’s midway point. While the Indians have long been known for their pitching, this season it has been the offense that is carrying the load, thanks to a mediocre bullpen that has driven up the team’s overall ERA. Cleveland has struggled away from home, while the A’s have struggled at home, so this series will be interesting to see which side gives in.
Game #83: Friday, June 29th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, Sportstime Ohio, MLB.tv
Paul Blackburn vs Trevor Bauer
After re-announcing his return to the bigs with authority in his first start of 2018 a month or so ago, Blackburn has left a lot to be desired on the mound ever since. The finesse righty is highly dependent on locating well to make up for his lack of movement or inability to overpower hitters, but he has been leaving far too many pitches over the plate and getting punished for it. Strikeout specialist and person-who-desperately-wants-you-to-know-he’s-smarter-than-thou Trevor Bauer should be a tough matchup for a strikeout-heavy offense, but if the team practices enough patience, they can get Bauer out of the game early and feast on Cleveland’s soft bullpen underbelly.
Game #84: Saturday, June 30th, 1:05 - NBCSCA, Sportstime Ohio, MLB.tv
Edwin Jackson vs Adam Plutko
The journeyman of journeymans Edwin Jackson dazzled in his first start with the A’s, giving up one run in six innings and even touching the upper nineties with his fastball. He will have a chance to debut in front of the friendly home crowd for a weekend day game. Adam Plutko has had to step in the rotation due to injuries and the ineffectiveness of others, and has performed like a team’s typical fifth starter.
Game #85: Sunday, July 1st, 1:05 - NBCSCA, Sportstime Ohio, MLB.tv
Frankie Montas vs Mike Clevinger
Montas has finally started to look more human in his last few tries out after a sensational start to his 2018. Montas will have to develop a better put-away pitch to increase his strikeout numbers in order to find long term success as a starter. Clevinger has quietly been emerging as one of Cleveland’s elite starting pitchers and will be a tough test to go up against.