The Cleveland Indians  


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08/01/2019 2:11 am  
CLEVELAND — , who are in full-blown postseason preparation mode, will host the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Progressive Field, the first game of Cleveland’s final homestand of the regular season.The Indians’ magic number for clinching their third consecutive American League Central title is three. With that in mind, Indians manager Terry Francona and his staff are implementing some lineup adjustments in preparation for the postseason.The most obvious is the addition of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who was acquired in a trade with Toronto. He made his debut with the Indians on Tuesday in Tampa Bay, batting fifth and going 0-for-4.Article continues below ...Donaldson is expected to be in the lineup Friday at third base. His addition has moved third baseman Jose Ramirez to second base, bumping second baseman Jason Kipnis to center field.For Ramirez, the position switch comes at a time when he’s trying to hit his way out of his first slump of the season. After a spectacular first half of the season that landed him a start at third base for the American League all-star team, Ramirez has been in an extended slump.From opening day through the end of July, Ramirez was hitting .298, with a 1.038 OPS. Since Aug. 1, he is hitting .228 with a .763 OPS.In Cleveland’s 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Ramirez, who is third in the American League with 38 home runs, snapped an 86-at bat homerless streak with a homer off Rays ace Nate Snell.Francona says he isn’t worried about his MVP candidate’s slump.“We’ve all seen what he can do. We know it’s in there, and we know he’s going to get hot,” Francona said. “He’s an extremely intelligent hitter when it comes to knowing how teams are pitching him, and what they’re trying to do. He’s had a little lull here , but he can hit any pitch. He’s going to be fine.”Cleveland’s starting pitcher Friday night also reflects the team’s priority of getting the rotation lined up for the start of the postseason. Because of that, Josh Tomlin (1-5, 6.63 ERA) will get a spot start.Tomlin, who won 23 games as a member of the rotation the last two years, made six disastrous starts to begin the 2018 season and was quickly moved to the bullpen. In three starts, Tomlin was 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA. In 22 relief appearances, he is 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA.Friday will be Tomlin’s first start since May 15, when he took the loss as Cleveland fell 9-8 to Detroit. In that game, Tomlin gave up four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts and no walks.In four appearances (two starts) against Detroit this year, Tomlin has no record and a 2.92 ERA. In 20 career appearances (14 starts) against the Tigers, he is 7-6 with a 4.87 ERA.Left-hander Matt Boyd will start for Detroit. Boyd (9-12, 4.11) made his last start on Sept. 8, when he got no decision in a 4-3 Detroit loss to St. Louis. In that start Boyd was outstanding, working seven innings and allowing one run and two hits, with 11 strikeouts and one walk.In two starts against Cleveland this year, Boyd is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA. In his career, he has made seven appearances (six starts) against the Indians and is 1-3 with a 3.05 ERA.The Tigers Derek Holland Jersey , who come into Friday’s game on a four-game losing streak, are 4-12 vs. the Indians this year. Top 5 CandidatesMookie Betts, RF, Boston Red Sox: 1-4Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels: 9-1J.D. Martinez, DH, Boston Red Sox: 14-1Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros: 75-1Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B,Cleveland Indians: 75-1Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts already has one runner-up finish in AL MVP voting on his resume, as he finished a close second to Mike Trout in the voting in 2016.There's a good chance he'll avoid a second.Betts, 25, led the AL in batting average (.346) and slugging percentage (.640) as he posted a 186 OPS+ with 32 home runs, 80 RBI, 129 runs scored and 30 steals. His 10.9 WAR led the majors, and he did it while playing for a 108-win Red Sox team that was the class of baseball.Skeptics might fear a split vote with teammate J.D. Martinez Buster Posey Jersey , who led the AL with 130 RBI while slugging 43 home runs and hitting .330/.402/.629.However, the added value Betts provides defensively (20 DRS, 21.0 UZR/150) should be enough to make him the clear choice among Red Sox candidates.The real threat, once again, is Trout.The two-time winner keeps finding ways to get better.He led the AL in walks (122), on-base percentage (.460), OPS (1.088) and OPS+ (199), and hit a career-high 39 home runs to go along with 101 runs scored and 24 steals.Trouble is, he did it for an 80-82 Los Angeles Angels team that finished fourth in the AL West.Playing for a winning team still carries significant weight in the MVP balloting, and it figures to be a big enough strike against Trout this time around to keep him from adding a third trophy to his mantle.Prediction:Betts wins AL MVPNL MVPChristian YelichJeff Roberson/Associated PressTop 5 CandidatesChristian Yelich, LF, Milwaukee Brewers: 1-4Javier Baez, 2B, Chicago Cubs: 6-1Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: 25-1Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves: 75-1Matt Carpenter , 1B/3B, St. Louis Cardinals: 75-1No offseason pickup was more impactful than Christian Yelich.Acquired from the Miami Marlins for a package of four prospects, Yelich took his game to another level while leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a surprise NL Central and an eventual trip to the NLCS.The 26-year-old finished two home runs and one RBI away from winning the NL Triple Crown, as he batted .326/.402/.598 with 34 doubles, 36 home runs, 110 RBI, 118 runs scored, 22 steals and 7.6 WAR.A move away from cavernous Marlins Park helped him unlock his full power potential, as he soared past his previous career-high of 21 home runs.A ridiculous .370/.508/.804 line with 10 home runs and 34 RBI in the month of September helped the Brewers seize the division title and likely clinched the award.Dynamic Chicago Cubs star Javier Baez is his closest competition.With Anthony Rizzo slumping to start the season and Kris Bryant battling injuries, Baez took over as the offensive catalyst for the Cubs.The 25-year-old led the NL with 111 RBI, hitting .290/.326/.554 with 40 doubles, 34 home runs and 21 stolen bases en route to 6.3 WAR.His aggressive base-running style and slick glove further added to his value.Still, the award is Yelich's to lose.Prediction:Yelich wins NL MVP All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. Odds are the author's own.


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