It is on to Game 2 between the Indians and Athletics and the early betting odds for sportsbooks are suggesting Cleveland again might be the right side for MLB picks this evening.
This could quite possibly be true, but as baseball handicappers it is not best to take numbers at face value and instead investigate them to see what the real answers are and determine if the MLB odds are indeed accurate.
The last place Indians are not throwing in the towel, but moving their prized off-season acquisition Brandon Moss is a signal they understand the fight will be an arduous journey. Moss was traded to St. Louis after being a bust in a Cleveland uniform coming over from Oakland with a .217 batting average.
The Tribe will instead focus on continuing to play well on the road, where they are 27-22 (+4.2 units). Manager Terry Francona will rely on the reliable bats of Jason Kipnes (.322 BA, .407 OBP) and Michael Brantley (.300 BA, 56 RBI's) and hope some of the other underachieving players on his team finish the year strong.
When you identify Cleveland's position, being six games behind Minnesota for the last playoff spot is not insurmountable, seeing they have 10 more games with the Twins. The larger issue is there seven teams between them and Minnesota.
With last night's 3-1 setback, the Oakland offense mostly likely has their fans nodding off at home or in the stands. The Athletics have lost six of seven and averaged a puny 2.7 runs per game in the process. Among those not doing their jobs is Billy Butler, who is batting .148 over his last nine games, however, is hitting .500 in 14 at bats against the Indians Salazar.
Billy Burns (.303 BA), Josh Reddick (.292 BA) and Brett Lawrie (.278 BA) all have good batting averages, yet are not overly productive as each has an on-base percentage below .345, showing their lack of patience or disciple at the plate. To win tonight, one or more of these hitter's needs to step up.
Salazar vs. Graveman
Danny Salazar (8-6, 3.72 ERA) is a fine young pitcher but he will be hard pressed to top what Carlos Carrasco did last night in his complete game victory. Salazar features a sometimes over-powering fastball with very good life that he keeps in the 93-96 MPH range. He also uses a quick-biting slider and splitter-type pitch he uses as changeup to compliment his fastball. He generates a lot of swings and misses with the heater and change, which is why he has 132 K's in 111 1/3 innings this season. The 25-year old nearly had a complete game (8 2/3 innings) victory over Oakland exactly three weeks ago (5-1 win) in his lone appearance against the A's.
After a series of fine starts, Kendall Graveman (6-7, 4.13) has hit the proverbial wall for Oakland. After registering seven consecutive quality starts, the 24-year old right-hander has been battered like a birthday pinata with a 10.22 ERA in his last three outings. He has a good sinker-slider arsenal, but has been grooving too many of his pitches and been tagged four times for home runs in this rugged stretch. Graveman was the losing pitcher to Salazar in his only showing against Cleveland.
Betting Odds and Outcome
The overnight MLB odds had Cleveland as -130 favorites and they have settled around -125 this morning (Heritagesports was at -122). Salazar has the kind of stuff to baffle A's batters and if they remain impatient, he could end up an impressive strikeout total.
Graveman is better than he's thrown of late and Cleveland's offense is hardly imposing. Nonetheless, being a systems guru, I uncovered AL home teams like Oakland, scoring 4.2 or fewer RPG, against a team with a good bullpen (ERA of 3.75 or less), with a cold starting pitcher who's WHIP is 2.00 or higher over his last three starts, are 11-37 since 2011. For MLB picks, the Tribe is the choice as I seek to improve to 9-1 in these choices.
MLB Pick - Cleveland -125