Jun 3, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes (5) scores beside Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes (10) in the sixth inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Series preview: Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have lost their last two series and were swept in the series before against the Cleveland Indians. Obviously, the team will be doing everything it can to attempt to right he ship and correct this recent losing skid, and what better team to start a hot streak against than the one which started this current cold streak?

The Indians have had a tough time following up an excellent 2013 season which saw them take the first Wild Card spot in a dramatic late-season surge. In mid-June, the Indians sit at 33-33 and that has largely been due to the team’s shoddy pitching staff. While the Tribe’s offense has been excellent, ranking 5th in baseball in runs scored, the pitching hasn’t been quite so good, with the team ERA coming in at 20th overall. However, the pitching may not be a huge problem for the Indians as they face only the 23rd best offense in baseball in the Red Sox.

In Game One of the series, we’ll see Josh Tomlin (4-2, 3.12 ERA) face Red Sox ace Jon Lester (6-7, 3.52 ERA) in what could be a great pitching matchup. Tomlin is revitalizing his career in 2014 after a couple of lost seasons, as he is striking out batters at by far the highest rate of his career (7.8 K/9 compared to a 5.2 career rate, while posting a walk rate that would tie for the lowest of his career at 1.1 BB/9. Of course, we know by now that Lester is a known quantity when on and, as long as Lester can pitch fairly well against the Indians, this game will come down to how well the Red Sox can work at bats against a control artist in Tomlin. It’s close, but I give Lester and the Red Sox the edge in this matchup.

Game Two of the series is another that could be a solid pitching matchup. While Justin Masterson (4-4, 4.61 ERA) is having a rough year, he has had success against Boston in the past (4-3, 3.66 ERA in his career) and is pitching better lately, with a 1.72 ERA in his last three starts. However, Masterson will have a difficult task going against John Lackey (7-4, 3.18 ERA), who has been the Red Sox’ best starting pitcher this season. This could be the closest game of the series, but I would give the Red Sox another win here.

Game Three of this series will feature an interesting matchup with 24-year old rookie T.J. House (0-1, 5.24 ERA) going against 33-year old veteran Jake Peavy (1-4, 4.76). House pitched against the Red Sox in the previous series between these two teams and performed fairly well, allowing just 2 earned runs while striking out 4 in 5.2 innings pitched. Peavy, on the other hand, was rocked in the last series between these two teams as he pitched 6.1 innings and allowing 5 runs on 8 hits in 6.1 innings. Obviously, we’re taking small sample sizes into account here, but Peavy has shown me nothing to believe he can right the ship in his second start against Cleveland so I give the Indians a win here.

Game Four is likely to be the least close game of this series, and not in the good way. The Indians will send Corey Kluber (6-4, 3.35 ERA), who has quietly blossomed into one of the best starters in the American League this year, to the mound to face Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.86 ERA). Workman was great in his last start against the Baltimore Orioles, tossing 6.2 shutout innings to earn the win. However, Kluber has been excellent all season and has been nearly unstoppable recently as he is coming off of a May in which he posted a 2.09 ERA and 7.5 K/BB ratio. I predict that the Indians earn the win here and tie the series at two games apiece.

Three to Watch on offense:

The Indians don’t have a star-studded offense. However, they’ve gotten the job done with a number of solid players and breakout performances in 2014. Let’s take a look at a few players to watch for in this series.

  • Michael Brantley has been a solid-but-unspectacular player for a few years now, but in 2014 he has made the jump to solid-and-spectacular. Brantley posted 10 home runs, a career-high mark, last season and already has 10 this year to go with a .310/.379/.500 slash line which has placed him among the best-hitting outfielders in the American League. He also has stolen 8 bases in 8 tries and has an intriguing power-speed combination which could present itself in this series.
  • Lonnie Chisenhall recently drew headlines for a historic 3 home runs, 10 RBI night against the Texas Rangers. However, he hasn’t just been a one-game wonder; he has been raking all season long. Chisenhall has an incredible .393/.438/.619 slash line this season and while that reeks of small sample size, Chisenhall has had 189 plate appearances this season and nearly qualifies for the batting title. He is also one of the hottest hitters in baseball, as he is slashing .474/.488/.842 in 10 games in June. Certainly watch out for Chisenhall in this series.
  • Yan Gomes hasn’t been great by any means, but he is having a season which is cementing him among the top catchers in the American League. He isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done on defense and offense and there’s nothing to complain about in his .261/.312/.417 slash line. Gomes likely won’t wow you in this series, but he’s the type of player that could become very good in a few years’ time.

So, there you go. Have fun watching the series and let’s hope that the Red Sox can begin to string some wins together starting now!

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Tags: Boston Red Sox

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