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Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians square off for the 2016 Ohio Cup

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Last year, the Indians took the cup, 5 games to 1. The overall record favors Cleveland, 50-45.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Game Times and Probable Starters

Progressive Field
Monday, May 16, 2016 @ 6:10pm:
LHP John Lamb vs. RHP Cody Anderson
Tuesday, May 17, 2016 @ 6:10pm: RHP Alfredo Simon vs. RHP Danny Salazar

Cody Anderson's 2016 hasn't gotten off to the most optimal start. Through his first five starts, he's racked up three losses and an ERA of 7.31. He was bothered by cramps in his leg during the last start that limited him to only 3.1 innings pitched. That resulted in the Indians pushing back his next start, but had to go with him anyway last Wednesday when the Tribe's clash with the Astros went into extras. He gave up the winning runs in the bottom of the 16th. There's talent here, so maybe the leg is a bigger issue than is being let on. It was just earlier this spring that the 25 year old was opening eyes at Indians camp.

Danny Salazar, though, has been as good as advertised this season. He's blowing people away, striking out nearly 12 per nine. His ERA sits at 1.90, and he's limiting a league low 4.6 hits per nine. He's struggling with walks a bit more than usual this season, but even so, he's managed to leave them on base 85% of the time. It's been 42.2 innings and he's already accrued 2 WAR, according to Baseballl Reference.

This is your reminder that the brain trust here at Red Reporter traded Todd Frazier for a package including Danny Salazar in the off season simulation. Because we're geniuses.

Great American Ballpark
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 @ 7:10pm: RHP Josh Tomlin vs. LHP Brandon Finnegan
Thursday, May 19, 2016 @ 7:10pm: RHP Corey Kluber vs. RHP Tim Adleman

Tomlin has been Steady Eddie for the Tribe, getting the winning decision in all five of his starts, and going five innings, usually more, in each. He's not been overpowering with the stuff, striking out less than 6 per nine innings pitched, but he's walking nobody. Seriously, almost literally nobody: he's only given up two free passes on the year. He boasts a solid 117 ERA+, though he's given up four earned in two of his last four starts.

Corey Kluber will very likey club the Reds offense into the ground. Because he's amazing. He was shelled two starts ago, only managing 2.2 innings pitched, getting lifted after giving up five earned runs, and wasn't particularly sharp in his last outing versus the Twins.. Just before that, though, Kluber devoured the Detroit Tigers batters like the former Cy Young award winner that he is: a nine inning, complete game shutout.

Lineup

(Based off of playing time, probable lineup from Baseball Reference)

C Yan Gomes
1B Mike Napoli
2B Jason Kipnis
SS Francisco Lindor
3B Juan Uribe
LF Jose Ramirez
CF Tyler Naquin
RF Marlon Byrd
DH Carlos Santana

There's been a bit of shuffling of deck chairs for the Indians lineup. Michael Brantley is on the 15 day DL dealing with his surgically repaired shoulder that has started barking over the last week or so. He hopes to come back at the beginning of June. 34 year old Mike Napoli has manned 1B all season and has slugged his way to a 103 OPS+, though he slumped through the Tribe's series with the Twins, getting only 1 hit in 11 at bats. Jason Kipnis is the engine behind the offense on a day in and day out basis. The 29 year old second baseman leads everyday players with a 110 OPS+. Outfielders Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin have filled in admirably as the only other bats above league average. Francisco Lindor is still a wizard defensively and is batting nearly .300 and getting on base more than .350, but the second year SS has yet to replicate the slugging from his breakout rookie campaign. Through the weekend, his .381 slugging percentage is over 100 points less than 2015's.

Absent from this list, Lonnie Chisenhall is currently on the bereavement list following the death of his sister. He's expected to rejoin the team on Tuesday.

Bullpen

Cody Allen
Bryan Shaw
Zach McAllister
Joba Chamberlain
Jeff Manship
Dan Otero
Tommy Hunter
Kyle Crockett

Joba Chamberlain has come out of the gates blitzing batters in what it looking to be a resurgent 2016 season. Through 12.2 frames, the big fella has a 0.71 ERA (good for a 626 ERA+) with 13 strikeouts and only 3 walks, despite looking like the saddest person on Baseball Reference. It doesn't seem like all that long ago, but it's been nearly 10 years sense Young Joba was slicing eyeballs as the next great Yankees reliever. Oh how time flies.

Zach McAllister deserves a nod, here, too. He's allowed only 3 ER over 13 innings, good for a 214 ERA+. 31 year old Dan Otero has allowed only 2 ER in 12 innings of work, but unfortunately the things that aren't working in the Indians bullpen are really not working. Closer Cody Allen is struggling this season, with a 5.17 ERA through 15+ innings pitched. Set-up man Bryan Shaw's been even worse with a 6.46 ERA. Between them, they've pitched 31 innings, walked 17 batters and allowed 7 home runs. Not what you're looking for out of the back of your bullpen.

But, I guess I don't need to tell you that, Mr. or Ms. Reds Fan.

Outlook

The Tribe seemed to be competitors for the AL Central crown coming into this one, but so far they've scuffled to a .500 record as the Chicago White Sox have scored out to a 24-14 record. It's still early, of course, and they're being helped by the fact that the defending champion Royals are scuffling at bit themselves why the Tigers and Twins don't look like they have what it takes.

Then again, they did just lose two of three to those hapless Twins. It's still going to be a few weeks before Carlos Carrasco returns from his hamstring strain, and as mentioned above, Corey Kluber hasn't looked quite a dominant as usual, while Michael Brantley is being severely limited by the shoulder he had scoped in the off season.

They have what it takes to make a run. The bit pieces in the rotation have played plenty well enough to keep them afloat. Trevor Bauer has stepped in for the injured Carrasco and has played well (112 ERA+) and, as mentioned above, Tomlin has been steady as she goes. The parts of the bullpen that have worked have worked very well, but manager Terry Francona may need to do some shuffling at the back end.

Getting four with the Reds, who just lost 2 of 3 to a surprisingly formidable Phillies team, may be just what the doctor ordered for the Indians, of course. It'll all depend on which Reds team shows up for the Ohio Cup; the one who has 14 hits and 9 runs in their last game? Or the one that had 5 runs combined through the two before that?