Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays

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Pitching Matchups:

Josh Johnson hasn’t been the pitcher the Blue Jays thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Marlins during last winter’s fire sale. As a matter of fact, Johnson hasn’t been right for quite some time now. While his 9.11 k/9 rate is his highest since 2010, his .345 BAbip is career high along with his 14.3% home run/fly ball and 3.38 bb/9 rates. He gets knocked around pretty well for a power pitcher. He missed most of May with an injury, but since his return he as not been very effective and in his 10 starts this season he has only allowed three or fewer runs four times. The Indians should be able to jump all over him if they are patient.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, Ubaldo Jimenez has been consistent but not great. He hasn’t thrown six complete innings since June 1, but over his last five starts he is 2-0 with a 3.81 ERA. Walks are still an issue though for Jimenez as he has continued to walk close to four batters per game during that same time frame. The result is high pitch counts, thus the early exits. Jimenez continually has to weave his way in and out of trouble and can never do anything the easy way. That could be problems against a Blue Jays team that can take advantage of mistakes by putting crooked numbers on the board via the long ball.

Say hello to former Indians Emil Rogers, the reliever turned starter. Much to the surprise of everyone, Rogers has been pretty good as a starter posting a 3.55 ERA in seven starts. The experiment began on May 29th with a spot start and became permanent June 7th. Since taking over as a starting pitcher, Rogers has actually seen improvements across the board. He has increase his strikeout and k/9 rates while also decreasing his walk rate. Even his WHIP has improved as a starter. His slash line against, .265/.321/.408, isn’t too shabby. He did get roughed up in his last start on July 4th allowing 7 runs to the Tigers. Can the Indians repeat that or will Rogers find a way to bounce back?

Also looking to bounce back after a rough start will be Justin Masterson. His last time out against the Tigers did not go as we had all hoped. He allowed 6 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks while striking out 6. ON the plus side, Masterson was recently named to the AL All-Star team for the first time and may be looking to make a case for why he should be starting. Granted, it seems most likely that the starting nod will got to Max Scherzer, but it may be the motivation Masterson needs to turn in another dominant pitching performance.

Mark Buehrle, our old friend from way back when in Chicago will make the start on Thursday. So far in 2013 the results have been mixed. Buehrle has pitched well, he’s been about league average as his 95 ERA+ would indicate. However, he is walking hitters at a rate we have not seen since he made his debut with the White Sox back in 2000, 2.45 BB/9. He has been much better of late though following a very rough start to the season. Since allowing 5 runs to the Yankees on May 17th, Buehrle is 4-2 with a 2.73 ERA in his past nine starts. In those starts he is averaging just over 6 innings per start. Adding to that momentum, in his last start he went 7 innings and allowed 0 runs while striking out 5. In his career against the Indians, Buehrle is 15-17 with a 4.87 ERA.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

As for the Indians, they have yet to declare a starter for Thursday’s game, at least as of Monday night. Carrasco was originally slated to be the starter, but following his most recent implosion that seems unlikely. He was sent back to Columbus Sunday. The most likely contenders to make the spot start appear to be Wahoo’s on First’s favorite prospect Trevor Bauer or the Indians other top pitching prospect Danny Salazar. Either way, Thursday should be an exciting day as it will give fans an opportunity to see the future on full display.

Final Thought:

The Indians need to have a solid series against the Blue Jays in order to build positive momentum heading into the All-Star break. They also need to keep pace with the Tigers, who now have a 3.5 game lead in the division following the events of the weekend. Can they take advantage of a team that appears to be going through another cold spell? Can the starting pitching keep the Blue Jays from putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard? The primary focus should be on limiting the amount of damage that can be done by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. If those two are allowed to do their thing, then the Indians may be in a world of hurt come Friday,

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