Series Preview: Cleveland Indians (44-38) @ Kansas City Royals (38-41)

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Pitching Matchups

I’ve been betrayed – after all the time I spent heralding Corey Kluber’s greatness, he goes out and lays an egg against the Orioles. Eleven hits and six earned runs (seven total) in 4.2 innings?  That’s just no good, especially when he was able to keep Chris Davis in the yard. It’s on him to keep the Indians on a roll, and he’s got it tough with the Royals being last in the league in strikeouts. Based on how the two have the same ERA but such a difference in SIERA, this could be a good example of how much we can get out of extrapolated numbers, as well as a good game. One of these guys has been a little lucky the other rather unlucky based on BABIP, Kluber at .347 on the year and Mendoza at .285.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MENDOZAAAAAA!! Luis has one of those names that’s just awesome to bellow. I almost wish he were better so I could curse his name properly. He walks a lot of guys and gives up a hit an inning without striking people, out, your proper back of the rotation warm body. He faced the Indians back on June 19th, really earning that loss with five innings of four hit, four run ball along with three walks. I don’t expect the Indians to dominate, this should be a solid game, the bullpens getting a nice amount of work. Thank goodness for Justin Masterson on Sunday.

  • Scott Kazmir (4-4, 4.83 ERA, 3.83 SIERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (7-6, 4.11 ERA, 5.19 SIERA)

I’m appreciating this version of Scott Kazmir, the kind that takes no-hitters into the sixth like he did against the White Sox last time out. Yeah, I can’t quite expect it yet, and should more just appreciate when it happens. I figure he’ll keep it going though, the Royals are pretty good but Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lough and particularly Alex Gordon are all left-handed, and lefties have a .524 OPS against Scotty this season. I’d be more worried about facing Billy Butler, but it doesn’t matter who your pitcher is, Butler is a fearsome hitter. At the least we’ll get five innings with more than that in strikeouts. As long as he keeps it in the yard, Kazmir has a shot.

He’s never impressed, but though the numbers aren’t stellar Guthrie is doing all that’s asked of him for the Royals. He adds some decent depth and he’s right around league average (ERA+ at 99 is close enough), he just doesn’t strike much of anyone out. He went 6.2 innings back in late April against the Tribe, holding Cleveland scoreless on six hits and three walks. He danced out of trouble a couple of times, luck on his side. I’ll take a similar offensive day from the Indians, I figure they can capitalize better than 0-for-8 on runners left in scoring position.

  • Ubaldo Jimenez (6-4, 4.63 ERA, 4.15 SIERA) vs. James Shields (3-6, 2.99 ERA, 3.64 SIERA)

Ubaldo Jimenez is striking out 9.1 batters per nine innings, the best mark of his career. Whether that’s the impact of Mickey Calloway, some sort of fluke that will regress, or he’s nibbling more (he’s giving up a hit less per nine from his career average but walking more guys as well) it’s still something I like to look at with rose-colored glasses. Optimism – it’s a curse. June was ugly though, five starts with a 7.13 ERA in 24 innings though he did bookend the month with two starts of a combined 13 innings and one run scored. So really, his June was a microcosm of what his time as an Indian has been. I hope he’s good this time.

Shields has been every bit the ace the Royals hoped they got in the Myers deal. His change-ups are pitching art – making impatient hitters look like idiots out there and he had it working against Cleveland  – four hits and an earned run over six innings but he looked better than the numbers suggest. He’s long been a great pitcher, and even if he’s not the solution to the Royals’ desire to play in October, he’s one of the best pitchers in the division. As crappy as the media likes to suggest the Central is, there’s some guys who can throw it, and Shields is up there.

Final Thought

Are they rivals? Of course they are – the Royals sit in a precarious position with a lot of youth that’s made the move to become a  contender. The Myers trade was one for Moore to save his job more than a “good of the franchise” move, but if it works he does look like a genius. I just don’t think it will work – everything is moving at just the wrong rate for them, with certain guys not old enough to make the impact they need to while other vets are going to be too old or gone by the time the young guns catch up. They’ll win one for sure, but the Indians can take this series for sure. They’re just too good right now.

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