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Cleveland Indians Series Preview: One last series, but in two cities

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The Royals will travel to Cleveland to play the Indians and then travel back to KC to play...the Indians.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The final time the Royals will face a Cleveland team called the Indians is now a four-game series that’s taking place between both Cleveland and Kansas City. The series will begin with what would have been the finale on Wednesday afternoon, but instead was pushed to a mutual Monday off day because of rain. Since these two teams just played, I won’t get into great detail on the Indians. We know that they’ve been somewhat disappointing because of a lack of offense and a ton of injuries to their pitching staff. They’re finally healthy, but it’s too little, too late. They do still have an opportunity to finish above .500 for the ninth straight season, but they need to win six of their final seven games, which is possible, but seems unlikely for a team that has only done that a couple different times this season.

Royals vs. Indians Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Indians
Category Royals Indians
Winning % .458 .490
Team wRC+ 89 93
Team xFIP 4.53 4.23
Run Differential -96 -17
H2H Wins 3 12
Highest fWAR Nicky Lopez, 4.4 Jose Ramirez, 6.3

Indians Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Myles Straw CF 604 .272 .350 .347 10.6% 20.0% 98 3.1
Amed Rosario SS 563 .278 .314 .401 4.8% 20.6% 95 2.2
Jose Ramirez 3B 603 .258 .360 .548 11.6% 13.8% 141 6.3
Franmil Reyes DH 446 .256 .325 .535 9.0% 32.1% 129 1.5
Bobby Bradley 1B 263 .213 .300 .452 9.1% 34.6% 102 0.2
Harold Ramirez LF 340 .267 .306 .406 4.1% 15.6% 92 0.4
Bradley Zimmer RF 324 .223 .327 .331 9.3% 36.1% 87 0.9
Roberto Perez C 151 .152 .248 .333 10.6% 35.1% 60 -0.1
Andres Gimenez 2B 192 .208 .272 .347 5.7% 27.1% 69 0.4

Indians Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Austin Hedges C 295 .174 .215 .296 4.7% 28.1% 35 0.0
Yu Chang INF 232 .227 .263 .418 4.3% 28.0% 81 0.2
Owen Miller INF/OF 193 .203 .244 .313 4.7% 26.9% 50 -1.0
Oscar Mercado OF 215 .216 .293 .366 8.8% 18.1% 82 0.6

Indians Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Emmanuel Clase 68 66.2 4 5 26.4% 5.9% 1.35 2.58 2.1
Nick Wittgren 57 60.1 2 8 24.6% 6.5% 4.77 3.42 -0.3
Bryan Shaw 76 74.0 6 7 21.6% 11.3% 3.53 4.31 -0.1

Probable Starting Pitchers

Monday - Jackson Kowar vs. Cal Quantrill, 12:10pm (@ Cleveland)

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jackson Kowar 7 22.0 0 4 16.7% 15.8% 11.45 6.58 -0.3
Cal Quantrill 39 143.2 7 3 19.6% 7.9% 2.82 4.42 1.6

Facing a team twice in a row is always difficult, and even though the Royals offense isn’t especially good right now, Quantrill will get the Royals again in the makeup game. As we talked about last week, he’s been fantastic since the break, posting a 1.76 ERA in 82 innings, and he shut down the Royals on Tuesday last week in Cleveland. The thing that strikes me is how much contact he allows. It’s not that he doesn’t get any strikeouts, but 73 in those 82 innings isn’t great. His control is good enough that it works, but he really gets by on weak contact which can be exploited by a team like the Royals. In a windy day, a lot of contact might end up being a problem for him, but until he does have a bad start against the Royals, it’ll be hard to assume it’s possible.

Jackson Kowar last started on September 19 against the Mariners, and it was a bit of a mixed bag. The overall line was bad with five runs on seven hits allowed in four innings. The bad part is that he allowed all five runs in the first three innings. The good part is he had a 1-2-3 fourth. It’s been pretty much the worst possible debut season for Kowar in the big leagues and this will likely be his second to last start if they stick with the six-man rotation, so he has two more opportunities to show something to the Royals coaching staff for next season. He needs to throw more strikes and I think he needs to get to his changeup more often because the fastball looks very hittable. We’ll see how this goes.

Tuesday - Aaron Civale vs. Brady Singer, 7:10pm (@ KC)

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Aaron Civale 19 113.0 11 5 20.2% 6.4% 3.90 4.29 0.7
Brady Singer 26 127.2 5 10 22.5% 9.0% 4.72 4.09 2.0

Aaron Civale missed almost three months with a finger sprain and has come back with actually mixed results. He’s made four starts. One of them was short but very good. Two of them were absolute disasters and then a fourth was just great. His last one was the biggest disaster as he allowed seven runs on seven hits with four homers allowed in 1.2 innings against the White Sox. One of the most interesting things about Civale’s season before the injury was that he was an absolute workhorse. He was averaging 6.2 innings per start before the injury. Since he’s been back, it hasn’t been quite as good for him. He’s gotten it done this season with a cutter that’s been out of this world, allowing a .178 average and .287 SLG, but his four-seam fastball has been hit hard. He’s only gotten whiffs on 15.2 percent of swings on it and has allowed a .276 average and .575 SLG. That’s the pitch to focus on for the Royals. Righties have actually hit him better than lefties and he’s been hit hard early in games, so Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez in the first inning could be a nice combination.

Since Brady Singer came back from the IL on August 11 against the Yankees, he’s made seven starts. Four have been very good to excellent. Two have been very bad and then another has been okay but marred by defense. The two best have come this month. The first was seven shutout innings against the White Sox, but his most recent start against Cleveland was his first career complete game. Yes, it was seven innings, but he saved the bullpen and it was great to watch him work. In his career, he’s now 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four career starts against the Indians. It’s been a lucrative matchup for him before, but this is another instance of a starter facing a team twice in a row, so you just never really know.

Wednesday - Zach Plesac vs. Daniel Lynch, 7:10pm (@ KC)

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zach Plesac 24 136.2 10 6 17.2% 5.4% 4.54 4.64 1.1
Daniel Lynch 14 65.0 4 6 18.0% 9.9% 5.40 5.27 0.5

While Zach Plesac looked great last year in eight starts and hasn’t been quite so good, he almost always seems to handle the Royals just fine. He wasn’t great against them in July, but at the end of August, he threw seven shutout innings with no walks and two hits along with seven strikeouts. Since then, though, it’s basically been the same as it has been before for him. He isn’t struck hard by home runs, but he’s not getting enough strikeouts and he’s giving up far too many hits. He’s been hit very hard by his four-seam fastball with a .324 average and .620 SLG against it. His slider is the pitch that’s gotten the Royals, but it’s gotten pretty much every team he’s faced. If he can’t get to it, though, he likely won’t be able to use it. He has been far worse on the road than at home. One thing to watch for is how he fares with runners in scoring position if the Royals can just get there. He’s allowed an OPS of .880 with RISP and .700 with the bases empty. They need to find their way on base because he changes to a different pitcher.

Daniel Lynch needs to find a way to get through the first and then he should be good to go. In his last start against these same Indians, he couldn’t throw strikes and then had some bad luck when Andrew Benintendi lost his footing and then let a ball go off his glove for a triple that absolutely should have been an error. But he bounced back and struck out the next two hitters and then gave up just one run over the next five innings. That’s the second start in September in which he took a few batters to settle in but had already given up a bunch of runs before he did. If he can just get through that first inning, I’m curious to see how successful he can be. While the Indians offense isn’t very good, they have done much better against lefty starters than righties.

Thursday - Shane Bieber vs. Angel Zerpa, 7:10pm (@ KC)

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Shane Bieber 15 93.2 7 4 33.9% 8.4% 3.17 2.83 2.5
Angel Zerpa (MILB) 22 88.1 4 4 28.9% 7.5% 4.58 3.84 ---

Shane Bieber missed more than three months a shoulder issue and came back against the White Sox on a pretty strict pitch count that only got him through three innings. He’ll likely continue to be on a pitch count, but might be able to get to five innings. The Indians have badly missed him. He hasn’t been quite as effective this year as his fastball has been a bit more hittable than in his bonkers Cy Young season, but he’s still one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball. There might be some concern about his fastball velocity which has dropped a fair amount this year and then was down to 91.4 MPH in his return start. I imagine they won’t worry too terribly much because he’s still an incredibly effective pitcher, but it’s slightly different if he’s not throwing as hard as he was last year, but his curve and slider are still pure filth. While he never struggles to get strikeouts against the Royals, he did give up four runs on nine hits against them in six innings earlier this year. He likely won’t have a chance to get that deep, but he’s always a tough matchup.

Angel Zerpa will make his big league debut in this one. He was added to the 40-man in the off-season in a bit of a surprise, but he has the looks of a guy who can help a big league staff. He throws strikes and his velocity is pretty solid. I’ve seen reports of it dipping a bit at times, but when he’s got it working, he can sit 94-96 with a good slider (I think it’s a slider...it can get a little slurvy from what I’ve seen) and a changeup that I’ve heard better things about than I’ve seen on video. He comes from a different arm slot, so he might be a guy tough to pick up, especially without much of a scouting report on him.

Prediction

The Royals finally broke their drought against the Indians by sweeping them in a double header last Monday. They still don’t appear to match up well with them and now that they have their starting pitching healthy and the Royals will see all of the best in this series, I just don’t feel great about it. Still, I feel like predicting a split is the right thing to do.

Poll

Four more games against the Indians...how do they go?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Royals sweep and move just a game behind the Indians.
    (3 votes)
  • 11%
    Royals take three of four to guarantee a sub-.500 season for the Indians.
    (5 votes)
  • 35%
    Split, which is boring but fine.
    (15 votes)
  • 30%
    Indians take three of four and get 15 wins against the Royals this year.
    (13 votes)
  • 14%
    Indians sweep the series and Mike Matheny will never go to the Rock and Roll HOF again.
    (6 votes)
42 votes total Vote Now