Baseball will get a playoff preview of sort over the weekend as the Cleveland Indians host the Boston Red Sox in three straight games from Progressive Field. The series may lack the usual buildup, however, as both teams have clinched and will likely be looking to rest up players in anticipation for the postseason grind.
The Indians (85-67) claimed a pair of wins in three tries against the Chicago White Sox in their second-to-last series against their young fourth place rival on the year. The team needed a walk-off grand slam in the second game of the series to claim a series win as they lost in extra innings on Thursday night. The Indians and Red Sox last met in the third week of August and each team won a pair of games, with Cleveland claiming the first two close contests before Boston earned 10-4 and 7-0 victories in the final games.
The Red Sox (104-49) clinched a playoff berth before the Tribe, but finally locked up the American League East on Thursday night with an 11-6 win over the New York Yankees (after dropping the first two games of their series in the Bronx). It has been a historic season for the Sox, who are just one win short of matching their most wins in a season (105 in 1912). Their .680 winning percentage is also second best in franchise history at present. The team has won more than 100 games four times in their history (including this year), winning the World Series in two of those seasons and losing it in the other.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Sale is still working his way back into form after missing a month on the disabled list with mild left shoulder inflammation, the second time this season he landed on the DL with the injury. He made his first start back on September 11, working a scoreless inning against Toronto with a pair of strikeouts, then extended himself to three innings on September 16 in a three-inning outing against the New York Mets. If the 29-year-old southpaw has hopes of pitching deeper into the contest, he will need to overcome career-long woes against the Tribe. He allowed 14 runs in eight innings against them last season in a pair of starts and owns a 5-8 record in 29 games (18 starts) with a 4.78 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP.
Bauer will make his first appearance on a big league mound since August 11, when he suffered a stress fracture in his right fibula after being struck by a line drive by Chicago’s Jose Abreu. The team will use him as an “opener”, pitching him for a couple of innings at most before turning to rookie right-hander Shane Bieber. Bauer has not faced the Red Sox this season after knocking them off in both starts against them last season.
Porcello, the 29-year-old ten-year vet and 2016 Cy Young winner, has been a five-and-fly kind of guy for the last month, failing to complete the sixth inning in each of his last five starts. His last start longer than five and two-thirds innings came in his lone action this season against the Indians, when he pitched seven innings but allowed five runs on six hits with three homers in taking his sixth loss of the season at the time. Saturday will mark his 24th career start against the Indians – he is 10-5 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP lifetime against them.
Clevinger will set his eyes on tallying four strikeouts, which would make him the fourth different Tribe pitcher to reach the 200-strikeout mark this season (joining Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber). The 27-year-old has been on a roll over the last month, posting a 3-1 record in his last four starts with a 1.46 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP with 33 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings of work. It will be his first start of the year against the Red Sox as he looks to improve some rough numbers against Boston in his career. In a pair of outings last year in his first work against them, he allowed nine runs on eleven hits in seven and one-third innings.
Sunday, September 23, 7:05 PM ET – TBD vs. RHP Adam Plutko (4-5, 5.27)
The Red Sox had not formally announced a starter for the series finale on Sunday in a nationally televised game.
The 26-year-old Plutko last appeared in relief work on September 16 against Detroit, giving up two hits but no runs in an inning on the rubber. He had previously made five straight starts for the injured Bauer, but went 0-3 in that stretch against Baltimore, Boston, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Toronto. Plutko faced the Red Sox for the first time on August 23 at Fenway Park, lasting just four and one-third innings while allowing five runs on five hits with five walks and four strikeouts.
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (9/21, 9/22); NESN (9/21, 9/22); ESPN 2 (9/21); MLB Network (out-of-market, 9/22); ESPN (9/23)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (CLE); WEEI 93.7, WCCM 1490 AM/103.7 FM (BOS)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery; on rehab assignment
Trevor Bauer (SP) – activated from 10-day disabled list (9/21)
Lonnie Chisenhall (OF) – 60-day disabled list (7/3) – strained left calf
Nick Goody (RP) – 60-day disabled list (5/3) – right elbow surgery
James Hoyt (RP) – 60-day disabled list (9/4) – right knee inflammation
Leonys Martin (OF) – 60-day disabled list (8/9) – non-baseball related issue
Tyler Naquin (OF) – 60-day disabled list (7/26) – right hip surgery
Danny Salazar (P) – out for season (3/26) – recovery from right shoulder exploratory surgery
Marco Hernandez (3B) – 60-day disabled list (3/29) – recovery from July 2018 left shoulder surgery
Austin Maddox (P) – 60-day disabled list (3/29) – recovery from September 2018 right shoulder surgery
Eduardo Nunez (UTL) – day-to-day (9/21) – right leg discomfort; expected to miss series
Dustin Pedroia (2B) – 60-day disabled list (5/30) – left knee inflammation
Carson Smith (RP) – 60-day disabled list (5/15) – recovery from June 2018 right shoulder surgery
RED SOX NEWS AND NOTES
The Red Sox have combined to hit .308 against Tribe pitching this season.
The biggest offensive weapon for the Sox in their previous series against the Indians was Xander Bogaerts, who used four extra base hits (two doubles, two homers) to help him drive in eight runs. He has been a steady force in the lineup for the Red Sox, hitting .284. He is second on the club with 43 doubles and 95 RBI and is third with 21 homers.
Mookie Betts and his MVP case was not built against the Indians. He hit well against them, batting .278 in the four games, but was held to just a double and no RBI in the set. While his production has slowed since his trip to the All-Star Game, he has still be a significant threat in the Red Sox lineup, slashing .308/.408/.527 with 19 doubles, two triples, seven homers, and 26 RBI in that span.
J.D. Martinez was kept in the yard by the Indians in August, but he was not kept off of the bases. He hit .375 in the four games and was tied for the team lead with six hits. Five of those hits were singles and he drove in three. An MVP candidate himself all year, he has hit the ball with a better average in the second half, putting up a .337 average with 13 doubles, 12 homers, and 44 RBI since the break. His 41 homers on the year lead the team.
Jackie Bradley Jr. handled Indians pitching well in the four-game set, tied for the team lead in hits with six. He hit a pair of doubles in the series, but struck out five times in his 15 plate appearances.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
Melky Cabrera, who has had a big impact on the Tribe’s offense since rejoining the club mid-year, performed well in Boston in August, hitting .500 with a double and a pair of solo home runs. For the year, he is hitting .271 with 14 doubles, six homers, and 36 RBI in 69 games.
Edwin Encarnacion returned from the disabled list the last time the two clubs met and came back with a bang, hitting two homers and driving in four while hitting .429. He needs just one RBI to reach 100 on the season.
Yan Gomes, who has rediscovered much of his former Silver Slugger success at the plate, hit .417 in three games against the Red Sox with five total hits, tied for the team lead. He homered in the set and drove in a pair. The All-Star backstop has hit .261 on the year with 23 doubles, 14 homers, and 44 RBI.
Jose Ramirez was just 2-for-14 (.143) against Boston with a double, two walks, and a stolen base. His MVP candidacy has taken a plunge with a tough second half, as he now is hitting .277 with a .392 on-base percentage and a .566 slugging mark. He is second on the team in doubles with 36 and leads the squad with 38 homers, 101 RBI, and 98 walks.
HOME STRETCH ON THE ROAD
The Indians will spend the final week of the regular season on the road, hitting Chicago for three final games against the White Sox before moving on to Kansas City for the final three games of the regular season next weekend against the Royals.
The Red Sox will close out the schedule with three games against the Baltimore Orioles and three more with the Yankees from Fenway Park.
Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images