Series Preview: Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians

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Pitching Matchups

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Felix Doubront is quite the pitcher to watch. He’s got a propensity for getting himself into trouble whether through walks or hits (1.45 WHIP) then getting out of it with minimal damage. He strikes out 8.7 per nine and his SIERA (3.96) tells us he’s better than the results suggest. Certainly the uncertainty all over the diamond for the Red Sox defensively hasn’t helped, and he’s still young at 25. He could turn into a very good pitcher. Whether the Sox have lost the magic now that John Farrell is gone to manage the Blue Jays and Doubront will never find his command remains to be seen. He’s left-handed though, so he’ll be pretty lights-out against this squad. Though now they’ve shaken the losing streak, maybe they rock him. This will be an interesting start for Doubront.

In his last five starts, Ubaldo Jimenez is 0-4 with an 8.42 ERA over 25.2 innings with a 2.03 WHIP and 21 strikeouts. It hasn’t been pretty, but then this has been a rather forgettable season for Jimenez. He’s not facing the Royals or the Twins this time either—the Red Sox have spent a lot of money to make their lineup formidable. Patient, hard-hitting and able to gang up on a guy when he’s struggling, Boston isn’t going to make it easy for Ubaldo. Not that he does himself any favors. The Red Sox rocked him his last start against them this year too – seven runs on nine hits in 4 ⅓ innings. They’re really good and he can struggle with the best of them. Silver lining: hitters are recording a .370 BABIP against him over those last five games. Does this mean they’re probably just hitting him hard? At least partially, but that’s some bad luck.

Clay Buchholz is a bit of a conundrum as a pitcher. Yeah, he’s really talented, his curveball is a knee-breaker and he can locate a good fastball, but sometimes he just seems passive. He doesn’t exude that attitude the Red Sox co-aces Lester and Beckett do, though judging from last year that’s not a bad thing. He had a stellar 2010—his 187 ERA+ led all of baseball—but the peripherals were never there to back it up. His SIERA was 4.29 in ‘10 and this year it’s 4.44. The guy relies on his defense to pick him up much like Jeremy Hellickson in Tampa, but it just hasn’t been there. Expect a lot of grounders (49.5% of batted balls this year, 50.2 career) and some nifty D. The Indians can take advantage if they utilze whatever athleticism they have, put pressure on the defense so eventually they break, so perhaps it’s a good think Travis Hafner may be DL-bound. Not as much plodding on the basepaths.

Seddon pitched like a mid-level prospect called up to face a powerful division rival his last start. On August 5th he lasted 4 ⅓ against the Tigers and gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks, all in 88 pitches. The Indians were so battered two days later that he came out for a third of an inning of relief against Minnesota. He threw a pitch, got an out and that was it. This will be his sixth career start in parts of three years as a major leaguer and seeing as he’s 28 we know what to expect. He’ll grind and get the Tribe to and hopefully through the sixth. It’ll be like any of those Jeremy Sowers starts we got last year and in 2010. Hopeful but ultimately hard to win.

Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

The well-traveled and hard-working To Be Determined is slated to pitch two games this series; depending on how the Red Sox want to set their rotation with two key series against Baltimore and the Yankees coming up, and an off day after they leave Cleveland, this one should be Aaron Cook. He doesn’t walk many (2.7 per nine career, 1.2 this year in nine starts) and doesn’t strike many out (1.0 per nine this year and 3.7 in his career) but he’s 75-73 in his career. That kind of pitcher that’s just barely not good enough to be a starter, doesn’t do anything especially well to be a specialist, and just kind of floats around. It’s his first year in the American League, which usually leads to pitcher struggling but he’s been pretty consistent. He’s certainly a pitcher the Indians can beat, really this one all depends on the guy starting opposite him.

Remember when Zach McAllister was the Indians’ best pitcher? That was a weird couple of weeks. His last three starts he’s pitched 14 innings, struck out 13 and recorded a 5.14 ERA, which puts him up there as one of the better guys in the rotation over that span. Man, that was an ugly couple of games. Anyhow, Zach will hopefully be back in form against the Red Sox. His 3.76 SIERA is right with his ERA and he seems generally in command of himself at least. He’s got one career start against Boston and did well considering the opponent – seven innings, eight hits and four runs. He’ll be fine, count on it.

Morales is actually sixth on the depth chart for the Red Sox, but they’ll want their three best to face the O’s and Yankees, so Morales it probably is. He’s moved back and forth from the bullpen for spot starts, but he started against the Twins on the last weekend lasting six innings with three hits and an earned run. It could be Cook on Sunday or they could trot Lester since it’d be his turn technically, but again, big series coming. Morales debuted for the Rockies back in 2007 and has 21 starts since then. He’s struck out 7.8 per nine in his major league career and has a career 4.23 ERA. Unfortunately, he’s left-handed. Yes, a lefty who can strike people out – the Indians’ bane. If I were the Red Sox and needed wins quick, this would be the guy.

Kluber bounced back in his second career start after Kansas City hung six on him over 4 ⅓, going into the seventh with three runs allowed (one earned) and six hits. He was the starter when the Indians blew it to lose the 11th straight, and probably would have earned the win if he didn’t get bit by a couple bad errors. The Red Sox hit better than the Twins, but they’re one of those veteran-heavy teams that have trouble with new pitchers. He’ll need to pitch well because that lefty on the other side looks dangerous.

The Indians need a strong showing here. The season isn’t really super over, just the regular kind of over. Some sort of epic double collapse is possible by the Tigers and White Sox, they’re in just as tenuous of situations as the Indians. Maybe not “get shut down by journeyman lefties” tenuous, but neither is a perfect team. A sweep of the Red Sox catalyzed the Tribe’s hot start in 2011, so maybe this is a springboard to the best stretch drive baseball has seen in almost 365 days. As Rocky Balboa said in that one Lipton Brisk Iced Tea commercial: nothin’s over, just gimme something to drink. Gotta make it through the season somehow.

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Tags: Adrien Gonzalez Asdrubal Cabrera Boston Red Sox Cleveland Indians Dustin Pedroia Felix Doubront Shin Soo Choo Ubaldo Jimenez