Two teams below .500, who also expected to be better than that, meet. The Indians are 6.5 back in their division, the Rays 4.5 back. A sweep in either direction could be quite devastating for either team.
The last time these two teams met, the Rays a one game playoff to claim the wild card. Tensions could be high.
Here is an interactive graph of batter-pitcher matchup projections for every game of the series. The matchup projections come from a tool I made with Jason Hanselman (Dock of the Rays) that incorporates Bojan Koprivica's research on regressing platoon splits and ZiPS projections. The grey line is at an average wOBA of .320.
Thanks to Jason's work, these projections are now park-adjusted. The overall and vs. average L/R pitchers displayed are park-neutral, and the matchup is paced in the park where it will be played.
Jake Odorizzi (4.37 FIP, 64 IP) vs. Corey Kluber (3.45 FIP, 259 IP), 7:10
So far, the young Cleveland righty, Kluber, has continued to pitch at the high level he established during his breakout 2013. There's not enough data yet to establish his split, so these projections assume him to be just a bit wider than average. The truth could be on either side of that.
Erik Bedard (3.78 FIP, 1248 IP) vs. Zach McAllister (3.90 FIP, 317 IP), 7:10
Pretty much every Indians batter who isn't a switch hitter is a lefty. That means relatively good things for Erik Bedard.
Chris Archer (3.74 FIP, 198 IP) vs. Josh Tomlin (4.57 FIP 350 IP), 1:40
Conversely, it should be troubling for Chris Archer. However, Archer should take solace in the fact that his opponent is decidedly below average in general. This is a game the Rays should win.
One final interesting note, the Indians have four switch hitters, and that's after cutting Elliot Johnson. The Rays have Ben Zobrist.