Series Preview: Cleveland Indians @ Pittsburgh Pirates

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Cleveland-Pittsburgh Rival on Full Display This Weekend

There have been several times this season where it’s looked like the Indians are ready to turn the corner. After sweeping four straight games from the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s beginning to appear that now may be the time for the Indians. This may be the start of their annual second half run to the top of the division.

Unlike the previous times this season when the Indians get on a winning streak, it didn’t feel as if there were a real sense of urgency. After several players spoke out last weekend about a perceived lack of heart and needing to play with a fire, the past four games have shown the Indians to be doing just that. An offensive explosion combined with complete domination from the pitching staff has the Indians finally playing like the World Series hopefuls everyone thought they could be.

Jul 2, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) and right fielder Gregory Polanco (25) celebrate after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Pittsburgh won 8-4. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

However, it remains to be seen whether the Indians have finally found their stride or if they simply caught the Rays during a bad week. The Tribe will get to see which it was this weekend as they head to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates. For those who haven’t paid attention, the Pirates look like a contender and at 45-33 they sit firmly in second place in the NL Central race. They’re heading to the playoffs, most likely as a wild card, but make no mistake, they’re a really good team. Add in the loss of the DH in the lineup and this becomes doubly difficult for the Tribe,

The Pirates are led by a fantastic starting pitching staff led by three pitchers who are all having great seasons – A.J. Burnett, who is on his career victory lap, Francisco Liriano, a one time ace that has found a home in Pittsburgh, and Garrett Cole, the young gun poised to be their ace for the next 10-plus years. Luckily for the Indians, they will only have to face one of the three this weekend, Cole, and will instead face off against the back half of the Pirates rotation, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke.

While the Pirates’ pitching has been fantastic, don’t sleep on their lineup. Led by super-star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Buccos sports a young athletic lineup that can give opposing pitchers hell. Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco are all studs with rising stocks. Throw in Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Francisco Cervelli and this is a potential offensive juggernaut if everything is clicking right.

If the Indians want to make it out of Pittsburgh with a seven game winning streak in tact, it’ll be up to Trevor Bauer, Cody Anderson, and Danny Salazar to limit the damage the Pirates lineup is able to inflict. Based on their most recent performances, it’s hard to imagine that happening. Bauer has been among the most consistent pitchers in baseball this season, Anderson has flirted with a perfect game in two spectacular outings to start his career, and Salazar is a strikeout machine. Let’s just hope the Indians can continue to put runs on the board and provide Terry Francona with the luxury of letting them bat to stay in games late.

If the Indians are able to get out of Pittsburgh with a three game sweep or winning two of three, they will be in a great position heading into next week. With a four game home set on the horizon with the Astros followed by a three-gamer with the struggling A’s, The Tribe could put together one hell of a run and put themselves in prime position to climb the AL Central standings following the All-Star break.

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