PITCHING MATCH UPS
Salazar looked pretty wicked his first start of the season. Despite not having much of a spring, he got into the sixth with two outs and left allowing two runs. The offense more than gave him help in the eventual 7-2 victory and other than a homer to Chris Colabello, who I’m worried is going to be an unlikely star ala Evan Gattis, as well as a few walks, he was very good. Knocking the rust off seems to have been a theme for several Tribe pitchers, so I expect a great outing for Danny. He faced the Sox once last year when he was still on that 85 pitch limit and struck out nine in 3.2 innings. His fastball looked good, his slider made guys look foolish, and his change is coming along. Salazar is going to be a lot of fun to watch this year though, I can feel it.
I mentioned earlier Danks’ first outing of the year being alright, and it was – seven innings of three run ball against Kansas City. He was wild, walking four, which is good news for the ever patient Indians, and struck out six, again good news for the sometimes contact poor Indians. Last season he was dreadful, actually worth negative WAR while returning from shoulder surgery and whatnot, and being that he’s being paid $14,000,000 this year, the Sox would like something more out of him. He’s still youngish, 29 next Tuesday, so Hahn and Co. surely hope for a bounce back. He’s got history with the Indians but it’s all pre-shoulder problems, though in two games a year ago against Cleveland he went a combined 10 innings with seven earned runs, seven walks and four strikeouts. He took the loss both times. His velocity is unsurprising, high 80’s for the fastball, so he’s going to rely on deception and control, of which he has little, to get out. Guts, the will to win, all that jazz, he’s gotta be Hawks’ favorite.
If you wanted to judge raw stuff, we all know Carrasco is top of the tops for the Indians. He’s electric when he’s on, but it’s almost like his pitches move too much, they wander out of the zone. And sometimes into batters’ heads. He needs to avoid that, first and foremost. In his first start of the season against the Twins he was pitching ugly for two nonconsecutive innings, allowing five runs. He seemed to be overthrowing a bit though, and once he dialed back from 96 or so to about 92, he shut the Twins down, one hit in his final fourteen batters faced. He’s my favorite pitcher on the team if only because when he clicks it’s frightening, and I like that little crazy he has too. Everything he throws is filth, it’s just whether he’s locating it. In 11.2 innings in his career at the Cell he’s got an 8.49 ERA, though surprisingly only one homer given up. The hope here is Calloway saw that second half of Carrasco’s outing and is trying to get Carlos to do that more. Have faith Tribe fans, at least for a bit.
Chris Sale is something special. I love watching him pitch, it’s just so furious, there’s such an animosity to the way he throws even when it’s offspeed. There’s just something so… Chicago, so White Sox about him, gritty, powerful, unpolished, it’s great. When you look at him, all willowy and whipish, you’d expect fire and lightning to explode from his hands, and it does, but his breaking stuff is wicked too. He’s developed a nice changeup to complement that fireball that he can locate at about 85 mph with batters whiffing on it 16% of the time. When they don’t, they usually just roll it over. He’s going to need it, because last year he was just dreadful against the Tribe, 0-4 in four starts with an 8.61 ERA. Indians hitters hit .340 off him with six homers. It was ugly every time out, it seems. That’s the past though, and he’s only gotten better (so have the Indians, but let him find out for himself) so it’ll be a good game to watch. When you look at it, with Carrasco’s losing his mind now and then and Sale being so bad against the Tribe last year, this could be the bullpen battle of the series.
If there’s one silver lining to come out of Justin Masterson’s laying an egg in his last outing, it’s that it let fans back up and stop a bit of the teeth gnashing over his contract extension talks being tabled. Even so, It would have been nice to win that one against the Twins. He just didn’t have it – 3.2 innings of laborious baseball with six runs (five earned) on seven hits along with too many walks and not enough strikeouts. Justin is a feel pitcher, many sinker baller pitchers are, and on a chilly day like it’s been in Cleveland thus far sometimes you just can’t get a grip on the ball right. If the past is any indication, he should find it again against Chicago. Last year he just mowed them down – he threw 32.2 innings (including a relief appearance) and allowed three earned runs. That’s just savage. The only Southsider that hits him is De Aza at .296, he’s also homered off him in the past. De Aza just murders the Indians though.
Who is Felipe Paulino? When I heard the name last week while watching a Sox broadcast it rang a bell but for the life of me I couldn’t figure why. Turns out he missed all of last season with a few arm problems, but in a part of 2011 and all of ‘12 you might remember him from the Royals. In 162.2 innings for them over those two seasons he locked in a 3.55 ERA and 8.8 K/9. Unfortunately for him, the elbow blew out then a cyst was found in his shoulder, effectively destroying his 2013 season. So it’s a bit of a reclamation project, and already he’s seen heavy use, more than 200 pitches in only 10.1 innings of work this year. Colorado can be rude to pitchers, I guess. He packs a four- and two-seamer in the low to mid-90’s and a nice change up to put people away. He also tries a slider from time to time, but with Tommy John returnees, sometimes that’s a hesitant pitch. Now that I learned all this about him, I’m intrigued and a little worried – what if he’s suddenly a beast? That would be rude. He probably won’t, he’s got a career 5 and change ERA and he’s 30, but the wizardry of Dr. Andrews and his acolytes can’t be underplayed.
You can’t stop the Klubermeister. I’m still working on that. Kluber was not good his first outing of the season, seemingly hesitent to pitch inside and as a result the A’s rocked him. He was better against the Padres though, six innings of three run ball with eight K’s, but he was better than that. A few defensive miscues cost him some pitches, which is something I feel like I’ve written a lot about Kluber. He was decent against the Sox last season, 3.95 ERA in two starts, though he did only walk one. He’s gotta pitch bold, otherwise what’s the point, you know?
Quintana is to the Sox as Kluber is to the Indians. He basically came out of nowhere (though I’m not quite as convinced Quintana is a robot) and has become their second best pitcher. Kluber might not be that anymore, but at their best both these guys are great. Quintana is the other lefty in the Sox rotation and he’s been very good this year, putting the clamps on the Rockies for seven innings his last time out. Two earned runs in Coors Field? That’s impressive. He packs a pretty conventional repertoire and in his four starts against Cleveland last year he racked up a 3.52 ERA in 23 innings, though he did walk seven. He gets himself in to trouble sometimes but it looks as if Don Cooper has done his work and fixed him, for the most part anyway. That Cooper is amazing, just look at this rotation, all scraps and found money turned into pretty good pitching. He’s probably as important to the Sox plans for the year and the rest of the decade as Sale is, so get used to him.