Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays (76-83) vs. Cleveland Indians (83-76)

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Sep 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar (31) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Probable Pitchers

Chris Archer (10-8, 3.42 ERA, 3.79 SIERA) vs. Corey Kluber (17-9, 2.53 ERA, 2.63 SIERA)

Archer continues to excel in Tampa, and I think he’ll be one of those “one that got away” types for Indians fans for a while. He’s had a strong season and led the Rays in innings pitched, almost becoming their default ace with Price leaving and Matt Moore on the shelf. Archer had his best season to date probably at least in part because he threw more strikes – his walk rate dropped to 8.8% from 10.7 a year ago. That also might have had something to do with his line drive rate jumping four points to 22.1%. Pound the zone, batters have a better chance to square up. Happens to Kluber sometimes. Expect a lot of two-seamers and sliders from Archer with some straight fastballs and perhaps a change, though he’s still working on it. The Rays demand it.

This is it for Kluber, his chance to seal up the Cy Young award over Felix Hernandez. They’re neck and neck and Felix has the name recognition and momentum behind him. It’d take a big game, some kind of double digit strikeout Maddux type of thing to get it done. Luckily he’s facing a moribund offensive team who are playing out the string and have a habit of letting pitchers eat them alive from time to time. It’ll be fun to watch him dominate the Rays. Appointment viewing, everyone.

Alex Colome (Minors: 7-7, 3.53 ERA over two levels) vs. Carlos Carrasco (8-6, 2.64 ERA, 2.59 SIERA)

Colome has thrown 17.1 innings in the majors this season and has put up some solid if unspectacular numbers in his four appearances (two starts), but he doesn’t get the strikeouts with only seven so far. He was listed as the Rays’ second best prospect behind Jake Odorizzi by Fangraphs, and if he can make one of his three secondary pitches stand out as he develops, he could be a solid major league starter. He throws hard, mid-90’s usually, and if he can match that with the typical Rays changeup he could be money. He got the K’s in the minors, at least.

Carrasco was as good as he could have been in his last start, against the Royals. Sometimes you just don’t get support though. Such is life. He’s certainly shaken most of the naysayers, though we’ll have to see how he deals with a full year’s workload. Still, he looks pretty electric, and has 126 innings already, he should be set for at least 170 next year. Plus playoffs of course. Hopefully those words he had for the defense don’t come back to bite him. Especially since it was the offense that let him down.

Alex Cobb (10-8, 2.75 ERA, 3.29 SIERA) vs. Danny Salazar (6-8, 4.25 ERA, 3.32 SIERA)

Is Chris Archer the de facto ace? Is Alex Cobb? Because he was brilliant himself for 160 innings this year. He struck out 22% of batters while walking only 7.5%, both better rates than Archer. So I rescind my previous statement. He’s another in a strong stable of young solid pitchers and if even one makes that leap to acedom they have themselves another playoff contender in a year or two. Cobb relies on command and control more than Archer, but his changeup is in full effect and it makes everything else better.

It’d have been nice if Danny Salazar had pitched better against KC. But whatever. He throws hard, and is a marvel. He’ll put it together, he’s a smart kid. And the Rays are a good team to finish your season out against this year. They can give Danny the high note he needs to springboard into a wicked effective offseason so he can come into 2015 dominating. He just needs to avoid nibbling, trust his stuff and the defense, even if he has struck out 73 in 69.2 innings in the second half. He’s been solid this year, I have big hopes for 2015.

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