Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins

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Pitching Match-ups:

Game 1: Justin Masterson (4-2, 3.12 ERA/3.77 SIERA) vs. Pedro Hernandez (1-0, 2.35/4.89)

Justin Masterson is coming off of a start in which he allowed 7 runs over the course of 6.1 innings of work and did little to put the Indians in a position to win. Given how he has pitched this year, I would expect Masterson to be out for vengeance against a weak hitting Minnesota Twins lineup. Hell hath no fury like Justin Masterson scorned. Yeah, I just made that up, but it’s true. There is no way Masterson can be happy about his last outing and I fully expect him to right the ship tonight.

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For the Twins, Pedro Hernandez makes his third start of the season. So far the 24-year old lefty has been impressive. He’s allowed only 4 earned runs in 15.1 innings of work (2 of his four appearances have been in relief). He doesn’t throw very hard, topping out somewhere around 88 mph on his fast ball. Look for him to pitch to contact, only 4 k/9 innings, and rely on the defense behind him to get him from one inning to the next. This is the type of match-up in the past that would give the Indians fits. Let’s see how this new lineup responds.

Game 2: Scott Kazmir (0-1, 8.64/4.81) vs. Kevin Correia (3-1, 2.23/4.61)

Scott Kazmir had a great Spring Training. Then he got hurt. So far, the pitcher we saw in Arizona has yet to make an appearance during the regular season. In his first start, a start I’m convinced was sabotaged by the Indians 19 run explosion, Kazmir was pretty bad. In his second start his was better, but still not great. By that logic, this should be the start where Kazmir reasserts himself, at least we should be hoping. The Indians need a fully functional and competent Scott Kazmir if they have any hopes of being competitive over the long haul.

Meanwhile, Kevin Correia has been spectacular in 2013. The main reason appears to be his reigning in the number of long balls he’s given up. For his career, Correia has allowed 1.09 HR/9 and home runs on 10.6% of his fly balls. This year, those number have dropped to .50 and 4.8% respectively. He’s also done a great job of stranding runners on base, 82.9% LOB%. How much longer can he keep this up, and more importantly, can the Indians be the team that finally knocks Correia around a bit? If Tuesday was any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Game 3: Corey Kluber (2-0, 2.25/2.71) vs. Mike Pelfrey (2-3, 7.66/5.58)

Corey Friggin’ Kluber! WHere did this come from? I guess I have to apologize. I have spent so much time ragging on Kluber, justifiably so based on his performance, but this year has been so much different. Kluber has pitched great, which is surprising considering how hard he was hit during Spring Training. But, can he keep it up? I’m not entirely sure, but I do think it might continue on Sunday against the Twins.

Finally, Mike Pelfrey will take the bump in the final game of the series for the Twins. He’s had a rough go of things so far in 2013. After a successful first start against the Tigers in which he threw 5.1 scoreless innings, it’s been downhill ever since. He’s thrown 17 innings in four starts and given up 19 runs. The Indians should be foaming at the mouth come Sunday. Pelfrey is the type of pitcher this team should be able to exploit.

Player to Watch: Twins

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Joe Mauer: Say what you want about his contract, the lack of power, or his dip in production in recent years, but Joe Mauer is still an elite hitter. He hits for average and he gets on base. Sure, it might not be flashy, but it doesn’t need to be. Put him in a situation with runners on base and a chance to score and let’s see what happens. More often than not, those runners are coming home. It’s just a shame that Mauer is being forced to spend his peak years in a less than favorable situation.

Player to Watch: Indians

Ryan Raburn: C’mon… the man is on fire right now. Who else was this really going to be? Raburn probably will get playing time in some way shape or form so long as he continues to hit at such a torrid pace. Where he’ll be playing is anyone’s best guess. Could be left field, could be right field, it could even be second or third base. Whatever Terry Francona decides though, it should be fun.

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