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Series #14: Athletics vs Indians - Glass Houses

MLB: Miami Marlins at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

After winning two of three games against Reds, one of those games in historic fashion after Mike Fiers through the 300th no hitter in baseball history and became the thirty fifth pitcher to ever throw two or more no hitters, the A’s will now get to take on the other team from Ohio, the Indians. The Indians have been one of the better teams in baseball over the last handful of years, the team going to, and nearly winning, the World Series in 2016 and snatching the record for most consecutive wins during the regular season in 2017. Last year, the Indians returned to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

With three teams in the AL Central marred in various different stages of rebuilding and the Twins waffling back and forth between good and bad seasons, the Indians appeared poised to run away with their division and become a shoe-in for the playoffs yet again. However, during the offseason, despite not having won a World Series in 70 years, despite having an elite pitching staff and strong position player core, and despite having every excuse to put the pedal to the metal and make another World Series push, the Indians cried poverty and focused on trimming salary. For A’s fans, this type of behavior from the front office is normal, though fans are buying the idea that teams are as poor as they claim to be less and less. It is a shame to see a team with such potential settle for good enough, when the small but devoted fanbase deserves more.

So far this season, the Indians are in second place with a 20-16 record, currently 3.5 games behind the Twins. Part of the reason the Indians are where they are is that they have the benefit of playing primarily against three teams with no skin in the game, but that doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have some real talent on it.

The Indians, at this moment, have the second best team ERA in the American League, sitting at 3.69 entering Friday’s game. The leaders on the pitching staff are Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, two strikeout artists who have long anchored a prodigious rotation. Shane Bieber, who burst onto the scene last year, has actually been the top performing starter pitcher of the bunch, currently possessing a 3.32 ERA over seven starts on this young season. The rotation’s success hasn’t necessarily been surprising, but the team has achieved the success it has without the help of Corey Kluber, who pitched to an ERA near 6.00 before going down with an injury.

More impressive than the starting rotation has been Cleveland’s bullpen. Full of dominant names arms like Brad Hand and Alex Cimber, along with good and familiar names like Tyler Clippard and Dan Otero, the true success of the Indians’ pitching staff has been at the back end of ballgames. Very few teams are tougher to beat when leading in seventh inning or later than the Indians.

For as dominant as the Indians have been on the defensive side of the ball, the Indians have been equally weak on offense, their team OPS just .003 points better than the league-worst Blue Jays. The re-acquired Carlos Santana has been the best hitting regular of the bunch, batting .293 with a team leading five home runs over the first month of the year. Francisco Lindor has also been fine with the bat, though a far cry from where his expectations have been set, currently OPSing .771 in limited action this season. Beyond them, however, no regular has done much at all with the bat this season. Jose Ramirez has a slash line of .206/.297/.316 after an MVP level season last year. Jason Kipnis has fallen below the Mendoza line and hasn’t shown many signs of life while standing at home plate.

Upon his designation for assignment, Brad Miller scathingly commented that the Indians didn’t want their best guys on the field for the sake of being cheap. For as tough as the Indians are to beat when trailing late in games, there are few teams one can be more confident going up against when holding a tight lead late in games.

This should be an interesting series between two teams who operate under a very similar philosophy in terms of team spending and player handling, but who currently have complete opposite strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, playing at home will give the A’s the advantage, but time will tell.

Potential Lineup

1. Francisco Lindor SS

2. Jason Kipnis 2B

3. Jose Ramirez 3B

4. Carlos Santana 1B

5. Jordan Luplow CF

6. Carlos Gonzalez DH

7. Jake Bauers LF

8. Roberto Perez C

9. Tyler Naquin RF

Pitching Matchups

Frankie Montas vs Cody Anderson

Aaron Brooks vs Trevor Bauer

Mike Fiers (potentially being replaced by Daniel Mengden) vs Jefry Rodriguez

Game Information

Game #40: Friday, May 10th at 6:37

Game #41: Saturday, May 11th at 1:05

Game #42: Sunday, May 12th at 1:07

Games #40 and #42 will be on NBCSCA. Game #41 will be on FS1.