After winning just one of three in Chicago, the Boston Red Sox (28-19, second place, 0.5 games behind in the AL East) return home to face Terry Francona‘s Cleveland Indians (26-19, first place in the AL Central, 0.5 games ahead). The Red Sox are 6-4 in their last 10 games and won their last game, while the Indians are also 6-4 in their last 10 games but lost their last two games. This series marks the return of Terry Francona to Fenway Park for the first time as a manager since his firing in 2011.
STARTING PITCHERS: Zach McAllister, Justin Masterson, Scott Kazmir and Corey Kluber
Zach McAllister (versus Ryan Dempster in the opener) seems to have improved from 2012 but has he? If you just look at ERA you’ll think so, as his ERA has dropped from 4.24 in 2013 to 2.65 so far in 2013. McAllister is walking fewer batters than last year (2.73/9 vs. 2.47/9) but is also striking out fewer batters (7.90/9 to 6.00/9). He’s also allowing fewer homers per fly ball (12.1% in 2012, 9.1% in 2013). However the biggest difference for McAllister is in batting average against and BABIP. In 2012 McAllister had a .265 batting average against and a .304 BABIP, but in 2013 his batting average against is 2.35 and his BABIP is .256. Is McAllister one of those superstar pitchers that can maintain an absurdly low BABIP? His history says no, but you never know.
Justin Masterson (facing John Lackey) is having the best season of his career. Masterson’s pitching line in 2013 is a stellar 2.83 ERA/2.93 FIP/3.57 xFIP. He’s striking out a career-high 9.18 batters per nine innings and has surrendered only 3 homers in 70 innings pitched (good for a 5.1% HR/FB rate). Masterson’s BABIP is a touch low at .278 but not absurdly so considering that his batting average against is .209. Masterson’s walks per nine innings is a bit high at 3.34 but he’s stranding 78% of baserunners. This is an ace, folks.
Scott Kazmir (matched up against Jon Lester) could be pitching better but for one thing – he’s been very hittable. Kazmir’s fastball is back in the 91-92 mph range, which is a good sign. His strikeout-per-walk ratio is at an even 3.00, which is right where you want it. However, his batting average against is an ugly .308, his BABIP is a terrible .363, and his homer-to-fly ball ratio is an ugly 19.6% (7 homers in 28.1 innings). If Kazmir could start missing some bats, he could be dangerous.
Corey Kluber (against Felix Doubront in the finale) has a very similar line to Kazmir. Kluber’s K/BB ratio is a fantastic 5.50. However, Kluber has also been too hittable: his batting average is .298, his BABIP is .359, and his homer-to-fly ball ratio is 14.3%. This has led to a pitching line of 5.19 ERA/3.61 FIP/3.18 xFIP. The peripherals are there; now it’s time to miss some bats.
1. Michael Bourn, CF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
4. Nick Swisher, 1B
5. Jason Giambi, DH
6. Carlos Santana, C
7. Mark Reynolds, 3B
8. Michael Brantley, LF
9. Drew Stubbs, RF
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
In the last two weeks, Nick Swisher (.318/.423/.636, .443 wOBA, 185 wRC), Jason Kipnis (.302/.377/.623, .420 wOBA, 170 wRC), Asdrubal Cabrera (.314/.364/.490, .369 wOBA, 135 wRC) and Mike Aviles (.292/.320/.542, .368 wOBA, 135 wRC) hit well, with honorable mention going to Yan Gomes (.458/.458/.917, .585 wOBA, 281 wRC, 3 homers), who hit well in limited action. On the flip side, Drew Stubbs (.211/.268/.342, .270 wOBA, 69 wRC), Ryan Raburn (.158/.238/.316, .252 wOBA, 56 wRC) and Jason Giambi (.043/.200/.043, .144 wOBA, -16 wRC) were ice cold.
In the Indians’ bullpen, Cody Allen (1.29 ERA/0.32 FIP/0.73 xFIP, .167 BABIP), Bryan Shaw (2.08 ERA/2.34 FIP/4.16 xFIP, .269 BABIP) and Matt Albers (2.84 ERA/2.88 FIP/3.33 xFIP, .400 BABIP) pitched well (watch out for those walks, Matt), while Joe Smith (2.08 ERA/7.19 FIP/6.51 xFIP, .182 BABIP) was incredibly lucky. Closer Chris Perez (6.75 ERA/11.78 FIP/3.83 xFIP, .200 BABIP), on the other hand, was horrible.
AND NOW FOR A MUSICAL INTERLUDE
RHP Frank Herrmann (recovery from March 2013 Tommy John surgery, placed on the 15-day DL on March 31, transferred to the 60-day DL on April 3), C Lou Marson (right shoulder inflammation, placed on the 15-day DL on April 28, retroactive to April 25), RHP Brett Myers (right elbow tendonitis, mild UCL sprain, placed on the 15-day DL on April 21, retroactive to April 20), RHP Josh Tomlin (recovery from August 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on the 60-day DL on February 15) and RHP Blake Wood (recovery from May 2012 Tommy John surgery, placed on the 60-day DL on March 11)
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
Dustin Pedroia (.385/.458/.538, .434 wOBA, 171 wRC), David Ortiz (.313/.377/.500, .377 wOBA, 133 wRC) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.300/.382/.467, .372 wOBA, 130 wRC) continued their hot hitting in the past two weeks, while Jacoby Ellsbury (.184/.298/.224, .250 wOBA, 47 wRC), Jonny Gomes (.138/.297/.172, .238 wOBA, 39 wRC), Pedro Ciriaco (.091/.091/.364, .188 wOBA, 5 wRC) and Mike Carp (.000/.100/.000, .069 wOBA, -75 wRC) were the cold hitters in the Red Sox lineup in the last two weeks.
In the bullpen, Koji Uehara (0.00 ERA/-0.17 FIP/0.69 xFIP, .429 BABIP) and Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/3.33 FIP/4.62 xFIP, .143 BABIP) won the Blutarsky ERA Award. Alex Wilson (2.08 ERA/2.34 FIP/4.00 xFIP, .250 BABIP) and Junichi Tazawa (2.25 ERA/3.28 FIP/1.11 xFIP, .500 BABIP) also pitched well in the last two weeks. Clayton Mortensen (3.38 ERA/7.35 FIP/6.79 xFIP, .167 BABIP) had terrible peripherals but a decent ERA, while Andrew Miller (5.79 ERA/3.46 FIP/1.29 xFIP, .333 BABIP) was just the opposite.
Welcome back, Terry.