Starting after the All-Star break, Burning River Baseball will no longer be doing previews for every single series, describing every pitching match up. Instead, there will be a single preview article posted each week on Sunday night that covers the most important topics of the upcoming week. This first edition will come out on a Thursday and cover from July 18th through the 27th due to the All-Star break.
The Indians will take on three different Central Division teams on the road for 11 games across the next ten days. Up first will be Detroit in a series that will go far to determine the mood of the Central during the second half. The Indians are coming into the series back 7.5 games and in third place, but a series win would move the Tribe to just 5.5 behind. On the other hand, a Detroit sweep would put Cleveland 11.5 games back, almost enough to knock them from the divisional race entirely.
The Indians will use the break to redeploy their rotation, pushing Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber to the front. Bauer pitched the final game before the break and will pitch the first after, in order to keep him on his normal days rest. Saturday will bring about a double header with Kluber in the first game and the return of either T.J. House or Danny Salazar. The rest of the order is yet to be determined, but will feature Zach McAllister, Josh Tomlin along with either House or Salazar, most likely the one who does not pitch on Saturday.
The Indians will play the Twins after the Tigers, but possibly the biggest series of the three will be the four gamer with the Royals to end next week. Kansas City has struggled of late, losing three of the last four and six of the last nine and now sit just one game ahead of the Indians. While the Indians could get knocked out (or at least back) in the Central race with a poor series in Detroit, both the Royals and Indians are within 3.5 games of the Wild Card lead. There are still five legitimate contenders for the second Wild Card (the Angels have a strong hold on the first Wild Card) with another two teams right on the outside of contention. These seven teams include every Central Division team, meaning in order for the Indians to win the Wild Card for a second year in a row, they will have to beat their divisional foes. If the Indians want to return to the play-offs, they will have to begin that winning this week.
Who’s Hot – Who’s Not
Trevor Bauer will start the first game after the break and at least two during the upcoming week, an inversion of the past week where he threw the final game of the half and is the only Indians starter to throw two games in the last week. In those two starts, Bauer has allowed just two earned runs, striking out 16 in 13.2 innings for a 1.32 ERA. What has been most impressive about these starts has been Bauer’s ability to pitch deep into games with large pitch counts and to actually improve upon his early performance as the game progresses.
Going from red hot, to completely cool in no time at all, Yan Gomes has went just 3/20 in five games across the last week. Players who have struggled all season (Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis) were able to hit over .300 over the same span as the offense has continued to be completely unpredictable, scoring nine against the Yankees on day, then two against the White Sox a few days later. It is possible that Gomes has been overworked of late and he could benefit from the All-Star break as much as any player this year.