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Series Preview: Tampa Bay vs. Cleveland

MLB: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays salvaged the final game of a five game road trip to ensure they didn’t come back home winless.

The Rays have fallen to 4.5 games behind the red hot Boston Red Sox. They are 4.0 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, 5.5 games ahead of the New York Yankees, and 21.0 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles.

Matchups:

Monday 7:10 PM: Logan Allen vs Rich HIll
Tuesday 7:10 PM: JC Mejia vs Michael Wacha
Wednesday 12:10 PM: Sam Hentges vs TBA*

*Josh Fleming is eligible to return from the Injured List on Wednesday and is expected to be activated to pitch the bulk innings in that game. It is unknown whether he will pitch behind an opener or as a traditional starter.

The Cleveland starting rotation has had more than their fair share of injuries. Currently Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac are on the Injured List. Due to these injuries the Cleveland starting rotation hasn’t been the foundation to the team’s success with a 5.10 ERA/4.59 FIP/4.26 xFIP. Despite these hurdles they have a 42-39 record and sit in second place in the American League Central.

Logan Allen went to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Red Sox before being sent, along with current Ray Manuel Margot, to the San Diego Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel. In 2019 he went to Cleveland in a three team trade with San Diego and Cincinnati that included Trevor Bauer and Yasiel Puig. Allen’s 2021 hasn’t gone as planned. In six starts he’s completed 19.1 innings while posting a 8.38 ERA/8.69 FIP/5.41 xFIP. His strikeout rate is a very low 16.7% and his walk rate is quite high at 10.0%. This combined with a 3.72 HR/9 has lead to a disaster of a line. Allen’s primary pitch is a 92.5 mph four-seam fastball that he throws nearly 50% of the time. His secondary pitch of choice is a 81.4 mph slider. Against right handed batters he adds a 81.9 mph changeup and 76.7 mph curveball. The slider has been his most effective pitch.

JD Mejia has been better than Allen but not significantly so. He has a 6.18 ERA/4.20 FIP/3.86 xFIP over 27.2 innings. He has a 22.1% strikeout rate and 8.0% walk rate that are average. His 1.30 HR/9 rate is where his results have lagged but it’s not extremely high. The right handed pitcher throws five pitches. His primary pitch is a 92.8 mph sinker that he throws around 45% of the time. Against right handers he will throw a 83.6 mph slider and a 93.4 mph four-seam fastball. Against left handed batters he will throw a 87.8 mph changeup and 81.7 mph curveball. The slider has been his most effective pitch.

Sam Hentges was Cleveland’s fourth round pick in the 2014 draft. Over 38.1 innings he has put up a 8.22 ERA/5.11 FIP/4.91 xFIP. He has a 21.8% strikeout rate and 11.7% walk rate. The walk rate has been his demise. He throws a 94.8 mph four-seam fastball just over 40% of the time making it his most used pitch. His go to secondary pitch is a 80.6 mph curveball he throws nearly 30% of the time and pairs it with a 86.3 mph slider he throws just over 20% of the time. The remaining 10% is made up of 93.2 mph sinkers. He has thrown four changeups (0.5%). The slider has been his most effective pitch.

Cleveland’s bullpen has done the heavy lifting. They have put up a 3.33 ERA/3.78 FIP/3.80 xFIP. Emmanuel Clase (1.01 ERA/2.01 FIP/2.75 xFIP) and James Karinchak (2.48 ERA/3.07 FIP/2.91 xFIP) make up one of the most dominant backend bullpen duos in the game.

The Cleveland offense has lacked punch.

The Cleveland offense has put up a .227/.296/.393 line and 86 wRC+. The 86 wRC+ comes in third worst in the majors ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates (81 wRC+) and Colorado Rockies (79 wRC+). They hit homers but lack on base skills.

Jose Ramirez has hit .265/.345/.537 and put up a 132 wRC+. He’s hit 18 homers and stolen 6 bases. He’s by far their best position player after the trade of Francisco Lindor.

Franmil Reyes (131 wRC+) has been the big power threat with limited on base skills. He has 11 homers in 167 plate appearances.

That’s pretty much where the good of Cleveland’s offensive production ends.

Cesar Hernandez (93 wRC+), Amed Rosario (89 wRC+), and Eddie Rosario (85 wRC+) have been below average hitters, but the best of the bunch.

Cleveland has been looking through AAA/AAAA options trying to find the answer for what ails their offense.

Cleveland does possess a good defense putting up a +11 DRS and +5.0 UZR.

Stay safe.

Tropical Storm is taking aim for Cuba as it looks to head to the Tampa Bay area in the next few days. It isn’t expected to bring a lot of wind, but will bring plenty of rain to the area. If you have tickets to the Tuesday or Wednesday game, keep an eye out for announcements about cancellations or changed start times.