Series Preview: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox

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Pitching Matchups

Just who is Dylan Axelrod? No, that’s a real question, I don’t think I’ve seen him pitch. Really though, this is his third season in the Majors, having made 13 starts so far. With a 92 ERA+ thus far this season, he has room to improve, especially in the walks (seven in 15-plus innings) and home runs (eight) department. He’s faced the Indians for 5.2 innings earning a 6.35 ERA, but most of that came in a 4.2 inning start his rookie year when they rang him for seven hits and four runs. He’s got a great slider, his best pitch, along with a fastball in the high 80’s and a serviceable changeup. That thump I talked about the Indians carrying over? This is where it should come in.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians had a horse once, it was CC Sabathia. Though Justin Masterson isn’t that good, he’s who needs to shoulder the load for this team. He’s been great this season, a 3.39 SIERA not taking too much away from the could-be ruse of a 1.67 ERA. Looks like a real ace, the five innings of four run ball with 11 hits he had against Boston notwithstanding. He was brilliant when Chicago visited earlier this year, twirling a five-hit shutout with seven K’s. He’s throwing more strikes it seems, and looks comfortable which I chalk up to Terry Francona being his manager again. This could be a great game, for one side at least.

A matchup of two pitchers far exceeding what they should be able to do. First Quintana, with a 169 ERA+ in 17.2 innings of work. He’s been dirty early this year including seven shutout innings against Cleveland. If this were a year or two ago I’d fear him deeply because Jose is left-handed, but now that the Indians have discovered the magic of actual right handed hitters, the game has changed. He’s allowed only one homer, a solo shot by Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez on April 5th. This is his first game back at the homer-happy Cell, so maybe that will prove to be his undoing. His 2.55 ERA is scary, but a 3.37 SIERA slightly less so. Maybe he’s good, we have little to work off, but hopefully the tight fences break him.

Zach is like the Indains mirror image of Quintana. Originally slated to be a back-of-the-rotation starter, he’s proving to be one of the best out there. A 3.50 SIERA tells us he’s having good luck, but it’s much closer to his 3.12 ERA so maybe it’s a bit more sustainable? Hopefully? I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of McAllister thus far, his velocity is solidly in the low to mid-90’s and his secondary stuff has taken a step forward. He did well against the Sox earlier this year for 6.1 innings, allowing only five hits including a leadoff homer to Alejandro De Aza, as well as six strikeouts. I think it’ll continue, and he’s got a 2.66 ERA against the Sox in four starts.

This should have been Brett Myers’ start, but he has tendinitis in his elbow or some such thing and has hit the DL. Which I’m okay with, I wasn’t looking too forward to giving the White Sox four innings of batting practice. Kluber isn’t exciting, he’s probably not that great, but at least he’s not going to get a heap of dough to be terrible this year, just a little to be mediocre. It’s a spot start. Corey has thrown five innings of work with five hits and an earned run. He’s pitched 13.2 innings against the White Sox, and of their current hitters only Alex Rios has multiple hits (two). No homers though. He strikes them out a lot, 11 against Chicago. We’ll see how it goes—I won’t be surprised whatever happens.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still early so Chicago Sox fans shouldn’t worry too much about Chris Sale’s struggles. He’s giving up more home runs, four already after getting 19 hit off him all last year, and striking out only 7.96 per nine, down from nine last year. The positive is, he’s still getting the same ground ball rate at 45 percent, and his .282 BABIP is right around his career average. His velocities are all about right, and he’s walking less, so maybe it’s just a bad run, who knows. Once April is over we’ll have a better grasp of Chris, but for now, let’s get a repeat of his last start against the Indians with eight hits, eight runs and two homers. That’s what I want.

I don’t know about y’all, but this will be my first in-person ball for the year. So of course I will leave disappointed. It’s just science. The White Sox and Indians play each other tough though, I like these series. Don’t look forward to Hawk Harrelson on TV though. Almost.

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Tags: Adam Dunn Chicago White Sox Chris Sale Cleveland Indians Corey Kluber Dylan Axelrod Jason Kipnis Jose Quintana Justin Masterson Paul Konerko Zach McAllister