Series Preview - Red Sox (39-31) @ Guardians (36-29)
Two of the hottest teams in baseball with also two of the dumbest names in baseball square off for a 3-game set in Cleveland.
Friday, June 24th 7:10 PM - Nick Pivetta (7-5 3.31 ERA) vs Cal Quantrill (4-4 3.77 ERA)
Saturday, June 25th 6:10 PM - Josh Winckowski (2-1 3.68 ERA) vs Shane Bieber (3-3 3.00 ERA)
Sunday, June 26nd 1:40 PM - Rich Hill (2-4 4.42 ERA) vs Aaron Civale (2-3 7.84 ERA)
Alright team, I got a lot riding on this. I have a friend (coworker, I don't have real friends) that was unfortunately born in Ohio and thus has to be miserable for the rest of his life, rooting for some of the worst franchises in professional sports. He hasn't seen the sun since Lebron left (again), he is probably hungover because his only solace is at the bottom of a bottle, and worst of all he has to talk to me every day. I decided to give him a glimmer of hope for something to root for by making a little mayor's bet with him. The terms are simple: if the Sox win, THE Ohio State grad has to wear a Michigan jersey to the next all-company meeting. If the Guardians somehow manage to pull out a series win, I have to wear a Yankees jersey. This is my promise to the American people - I will die before that happens, so this series is pretty much life or death for me. And I couldn't feel more comfortable.
The Guardians are headlined by Jose Ramirez. Our third baseman is better, but Ramirez is still dangerous. 16 home runs on the season, 21 doubles, 4 triples, all good for a 1.014 OPS. He's legit and he's signed to a 7 year, $141 million contract. That is going to look like highway robbery compared to what Raffy eventually ends up getting. Must be nice to have your cornerstone third baseman locked up long term. Hm. Beyond him, Andres Gimenez, Josh Naylor, and Franmil Reyes (who just got back from injury) will be the guys to look out for. However, the real reason this team is winning games is their pitching. Obviously, they have the 2020 Cy Young winner in Shane Bieber, but Cal Quantrill is no slouch. They also have an outstanding bullpen. According to the aforementioned coworker "This is a team that will win games 4-3" That gives me downright PTSD from the beginning of the season, since we had a tendency to lose every 1-run game. But that's in the past. Here is what's ahead:
Tonight, we have the distinct pleasure of watching Nick Pivetta take the bump. He's coming off of a 7 inning, 1 run appearance that brought his June ERA down to an even 2.00. 27 Innings pitched over 4 starts, allowing 1 run in each of those, and totaling 31 Ks. Somebody get this man in the All-Star Game because he fucking deserves it. I think it's notable that Austin Hedges is 2 for 6 with both of those hits being home runs. Last time a batter's only hits against Pivetta were home runs, it was Stephen Vogt and I called it a fluke because he was batting .145, and he decided to launch another ball into orbit so I will not be making that same mistake again. However, it is worth pointing out that Hedges is batting .165 with an OPS of .506, just throwing that out there for no reason, definitely not calling it a fluke.
The Guardians are sending Cal Quantrill out tonight. He is like a lot of the pitchers we have been facing recently and having success against, where he won't strike guys out or walk a ton of people. He has a K% in the 8th percentile, and Whiff% in the 2nd percentile. We'll get some good looks at him, and hopefully our power hitters can size him up the second time around the lineup. He's a sinker/cutter pitcher, throwing them a combined 86% of the time, so it is an overwhelming majority of his pitches. It's such a deadly combo that is becoming more and more popular, since they look very similar out of the hand until they move in opposite directions. The sinker breaks in on righties, while the cutter breaks away. Trevor Story has seen him the most, going 4 for 12 with a double and a home run. It's looking like we may hit another hot streak with Story, and there is no time like today for that to start. Dugie is 3 for 7, JD is 3 for 6, and basically the rest of our lineup has at least one hit off of him.
Moving on to Saturday, we have Winckowski v Bieber. Winck is coming off of his longest outing the majors, going 6.2 and allowing 2 runs. It was against an anemic Tigers lineup that was still able to pick up 7 hits, so I don't expect that result to be replicated. I expect there to be a lot of bullpen activity with a quick hook, since we will be going up against Bieber. He is one of the most reliable starters in baseball, with a 3.00 ERA so far on the season. His best pitch is his slider, being thrown 41% of the time this season, and it is backed up with a fastball 37% of the time. The key to beating Bieber is not letting him get ahead in the count. It's way easier said than done, but our lineup's best chances will be against his fastball. The xBA for his pitches go from .342 on the fastball to .234 on his slider, and fall to below .200 against the curveball and changeup that he also has in his arsenal. Fend off the junk, take advantage of the fastball. Historically, he's struggled against the Sox lineup a bit. 39 ABs, 13 hits, one being a double and 4 being home runs. Raffy has 2 of those, X has one, JBJ has the fourth. JD has struggled, going 1 for 10 while Vazquez is 4 for 5. It's going to be a fucking war on Saturday, no doubt about that.
In the Sunday Matinee game, we get Hill v Civale. I think I say it every time Hill is on the mound, but we know what to expect from him. We're going to get 5-6 innings of probably 3 run ball. I think this outing may be on the shorter end, because we can use Houck a little bit extra this series since his unvaxed ass won't be in Toronto (along with Duran). Historically, the Guardians bat .320 with a .500 slug against him. 50 ABs, 16 hits, 3 doubles, 2 HRs. Shockingly though, he does have 17 Ks, 8 of which are against Austin Hedges with another 5 against Franmil Reyes. One home run is from Hedges, the other is from Jose Ramirez, who is 4 for 8 with an added double. Houck on the other had has pitched in 14 ABs against this lineup, only allowing 1 hit. However, that one hit was a home run off the bat of... you guessed it... fucking Jose Ramirez.
Civale is coming off of an injury, making one start since his return. That was against the Twins, going 5 and only allowing 2 earned. Prior to his injury, he sucked, and will carry a 7.84 ERA into this one. His percentile rankings are colder than the other side of the pillow:
You'll notice his best stats are his spin rates, both in the 95th percentiles. I love that, because it shows that the spin rate nerds don't know shit about fuck. Guess what pal, spin rates mean nothing when you can't fucking locate. Here is what his heatmap looks like:
I actually want to show Cal Quantril's in comparison to this:
That is what the sinker/cutter is supposed to look like. Focused, not a spray chart. Civale's curveball may be a motherfucker, but it's down at 76 MPH so batters can pick up on it right out of the hand. It ain't fooling anyone. In summation, Civale is still trying to figure it out, and I think he will eventually, but it won't be tonight. He is going to get shelled by the Sox. Take the over on Sunday as a bailout bet for your other shitty bets.
As opposed to picking individual games, I'm just going to go Sox take the series 2 games to 1, with the Over being very in play on Sunday. Let's keep this fuckin' train rolling people, I'll be watching from L Street Tavern tonight as I dive headfirst back onto the wagon after few weeks off.