Friday, 7:10 PM EST – RHP Shane Bieber vs. RHP Austin Pruitt
Shane Bieber has thrown seven quality starts in a row, but only has a 3-3 record to show for it. A lack of run support has plagued the blossoming ace of late. During this span that dates back to July 24, Bieber is striking out 30.1% of hitters while walking just 4.1%.
If his offense is going to finally come through for him, they have the right matchup in which to do it. Austin Pruitt has been used sporadically in what’s primarily been a bulk relief role this season, with mixed results.
His most recent outing was a 5.2-inning bullpen appearance in which he gave up six earned runs and three homers. Pruitt induces ground balls at a 52.1% clip with a middling strikeout rate of 20%. The Tribe must capitalize with their best pitcher on the mound against the inconsistent righty.
Saturday, 6:10 PM EST – RHP Zach Plesac vs. TBD
As is often the case with the Rays, their pitching plan for any given series is fluid. The team that pioneered the “opener” movement is not as traditionally easy to scout as most clubs.
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We’ll have to wait for further clarification on their starter for Saturday, but it’s worth noting that Ryan Yarbrough just logged six innings on Wednesday. He’s a quality pitcher for Tampa and the Indians are likely avoiding him this weekend.
Whoever takes the mound for the Rays on Saturday, his counterpart will be Zach Plesac. Plesac will be coming off extended rest, as he hasn’t pitched since last Friday against Kansas City.
Plesac’s profile is pretty well-known at this point. He doesn’t strike many hitters out, walks a few more than you’d want, and gets by on inducing weak contact and ground balls.
The Rays are a relatively difficult team to strike out, but they rank in the upper half of the league in ground ball percentage against right-handed pitching since the All-Star break. Plesac will look to use that to his advantage.
Sunday, 1:10 PM EST – RHP Adam Plutko vs. RHP Charlie Morton
Adam Plutko is coming off a season-high nine-strikeout performance against the Tigers earlier this week. Things won’t be that easy against a feisty Rays lineup, but Plutko should be commended for his admirable efforts of late.
He was one out short of his third straight quality start on Tuesday, and despite the fact that his batted-ball and (normal) strikeout numbers are the stuff of nightmares for any helpless onlooker, he continues to get the job done in Cleveland’s rotation.
Charlie Morton will oppose him on Sunday. Morton was a borderline Cy Young candidate heading into the All-Star break, but his second half hasn’t been as electric. Since July 13, the flame-throwing righty has a 4.82 ERA. He is striking out fewer hitters per nine and inducing nearly 10% fewer ground balls than he was in the first half.
He’s still a force to be reckoned with on the mound, so the Indians would be well-served to take the first two games of this series in case he’s at his best on Sunday.
Position Players to Watch
Shortstop Willy Adames is likely to hit at the bottom of Tampa Bay’s lineup, but he’s not to be taken lightly. A right-handed hitter, Adames is strangely more effective against right-handed pitching than he is against southpaws by a long shot.
He leads all Rays hitters in wRC+ against righties since the All-Star break. Naturally, he’ll face three of them against the Indians this weekend.
Lefty Austin Meadows got off to an electrifying start to 2019, then cooled off a great deal in June. Well, he’s back again in the form of an .886 OPS in the second half, with a season-high eight home runs in August.
Meadows is a fixture in the top-third of the Rays lineup, and owns a 142 wRC+ against righties. Expect the Indians to see scrappy plate appearances much like the ones they dealt with earlier this month, as opposed to the relatively stress-free efforts from the Royals and Tigers in the last week.