Baltimore Orioles vs. Cleveland Indians
Dates: Friday, September 8, 2017 – Sunday, September 10, 2017
Location: Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH
A series loss to the Yankees this week was a huge blow to an Orioles team looking to make a run against the AL’s leading Wild Card team. The Bird couldn’t advance and remain a couple games back of a postseason spot and just two games over-.500. For the Orioles, it’s now or never. The Birds cannot afford to get swept and—really—need a series win. They’ve got all the motivation in the world, but they’re just not a consistent team. They’ve especially struggled on the road. To get a couple wins, the O’s need to play counter to all trends and will need big pitching performances from a collection of weak starters.
It’s easy to focus on the recent 14-game winning streak for the Indians, but Cleveland has been playing great ball for a while now. They’re 20-games over .500 since the All-Star break. Breaking up the season, they’re doing amazing in blowouts, going 33-11, but are also above-.500 in one-run affairs. They’re only real weak point has been interleague play and that’s not an issue with the O’s. Cleveland took three of four from Baltimore at Camden Yards where this team is better so a three-game set at home should yield plenty of success.
Game 1 Probable Pitchers – Friday, September 8, 2017, 7:10 p.m. ET ( Local TV )
Wade Miley ( Orioles ) vs. Mike Clevinger ( Indians )
Despite a 4.91 ERA and 8-11 record, Wade Miley is likely the Orioles’ No. 3 starter. That’s more of a statement on the rotation than the quality of Miley’s appearances. He’s leading the league in walks with 81 and has allowed 5.1 walks per nine innings. A patient team can really exploit his weakness and drive up his pitch count. The Indians will take their walks. They have a .339 team OBP, one of the best in the sport.
In a rotation with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, it’s very easy to overlook Mike Clevinger. The right-hander even made a few appearances out of the pen, but he’s been underrated this year. He’s 8-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 21 games. Clevinger is on a great run right now. He’s held the opposition scoreless in his last two games, spanning 12 innings. He’s allowed seven hits and three walks in those innings while striking out 15. Clevinger’s one weakness is southpaws. He’s holding righties to a .585 OPS, but has given up a .836 OPS to lefties. That could mean big things for Chris Davis and Seth Smith.
Game 2 Probable Pitchers – Saturday, September 9, 2017, 1:05 p.m. ET ( FOX )
Gabriel Ynoa ( Orioles ) vs. Josh Tomlin ( Indians )
Despite a collection of—albeit terrible—starters, Gabriel Ynoa gets the surprise nod to start on Saturday. This will be the right-hander’s first start of the year and fourth of his career. He’s had just five games in 2017, totaling 14.2 innings and giving up six runs. Ynoa has done reasonably well in his brief relief appearances, but his Triple-A numbers in the rotation have not been good. He went 6-9 with a 5.25 ERA in 21 starts. He’s allowed way too many base runners with a 1.439 WHIP and has only struck out six per nine innings. Those aren’t encouraging numbers when you pitch in the International League with half of your games in pitcher friendly Norfolk.
Josh Tomlin made a name for himself in last year’s postseason, but with a 6.17 ERA in July, he quickly fell into oblivion. Tomlin missed all of August, but got back on the field on September 3 and held the Tigers to one run on six innings in 5.2 innings. He was held to only 74 pitches, but will be given a longer leash on Saturday. Even before the injury, Tomlin was turning his season around. He has gone five games in a row allowing three runs or less. When he’s on and locating, he can be masterful. He doesn’t have good enough stuff to survive when he cannot locate, but he's one that can go on a month long stretch of good pitching if he has the right feel.
Game 3 Probable Pitchers – Sunday, September 10, 2017, 8:08 p.m. ET ( ESPN )
Jeremy Hellickson ( Orioles ) vs. Trevor Bauer ( Indians )
Jeremy Hellickson has not been good since coming to Baltimore, particularly in the last five games. He won’t strike out many. He’s struck out only 5.6 per nine innings this year, down a bit from his career average. He depends on weak contact, but hasn’t had the command to get that lately. Over his career, however, he’s 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 24 career innings—and four starts—against the Indians.
At 15-8 with a 4.39 ERA, Trevor Bauer’s numbers are solid, but not spectacular. He, however, has really turned it on in the second half. Bauer has always had great stuff, but he’s struggled converting that to consistent success. Has he turned the corner? He’s 8-1 with a 3.05 ERA in the second half, but his WHIP is only slightly better and his strikeout rate is in line with what he did in the first half. Has he thrown better or has he been luckier? Either way, the big thing to watch is the lefties against him, they’re OPSing .824 in his career and the splits this year are especially pronounced.