Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Tampa Bay Rays

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Pitching Match-Ups:

In game one, the Tribe will send Corey Kluber to the mound for yet another start. Again, I have to admit that Kluber hasn’t been that bad. After last season I was skeptical of him as a major league pitcher. It may still come to fruition that he is nothing more than an emergency spot starter, a prototypical quad A guy, but for the time being he’s done enough to keep the Tribe in the games in which he has started. If he can minimize the damage then the Indians might have a chance.

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The Rays will send Matt Moore to the mound. He’s been spectacular all season long and may be looking at an all-star game start if he keep up the current pace he is on. At 8-0 he has easily had the most success out of any AL starting pitcher. It’s a good thing too. With David Price on the shelf, the Rays needed someone to step up and take charge of the rotation. Moore has definitely been that guy.

In game two, we get to enjoy the privilege that has become watching Ubaldo Jimenez pitch. Oddly, I’m only half-joking about this one. Ubaldo has been pretty good the entire month of May. He may not be the pitcher he was back in 2010 throwing triple digit heat, but he has regained his confidence and is looking like a competent starting pitcher for the first time in a long time. If he can continue to keep his walks under control, there is no reason to believe he won’t have a successful start.

Meanwhile, the Rays will send Chris Archer to the mound for his first start of the 213 season. This is typically the kind of game where the Indians struggle. When they face pitchers where there isn’t a decent scouting report, they struggle. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they helped make Archer look like a super-star on Saturday. The key will be remaining patient and not letting the youngster get comfortable on the mound.

Finally, in game three the Indians will call on Zach McAllister. In his last start against the Reds, McAllister was shaky at best. He allowed three runs in the first inning, but after that he settled down and labored his way through 5.1 innings in which he allowed 10 hits while striking out six and walking one. Look for him to come out and reestablish his dominance of the strike zone and deliver at least six quality innings. If nothing else, McAllister is sure to put the Indians in a position to win the game and you can’t ask for much more than that.

The final pitcher to take the mound for the Rays will be Jeremy Hellickson, at least for now. There is a slight chance that the Rays could throw Alex Cobb at the Indians, but all signs seem to point to Hellickson to close out the series. Hellickson is a phenomenally talented pitcher, but he has struggled quite a bit in 2013. A 2-2 record with an ERA well over 5 isn’t exactly what the Rays had envisioned with the young right hander. He has had moderate success against the current Indians, however. The current roster has combined for a .173 average against Hellickson with a home run and two RBI. Will history be trumped by current performance? We’ll have to wait and see.

Player to Watch: Rays

Evan Longoria: As previously mentioned, Longoria is the heart of the Rays lineup. He’s the reason you buy a ticket and go to the game. I fully expect him to keep up his offensive performance. The key will be limiting the amount of damage he can inflict. That means keeping the bases empty when he comes to the plate.

Player to Watch: Indians

Michael Brantley: Brantley has become a truly professional hitter. His approach at the plate is magnificent. He simply hits the pitch where it is thrown and doesn’t try to do too much. It’s a true testament to the amount of work he has put in. Crazy to think that he was the player to be named later in the C.C. Sabathia trade. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear he was the stud prospect brought back in return.

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