Expected to contend for division titles, the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels are instead languishing about with sub-.500 records as the squads prepare to begin a 3-game series to bring the month of April to a close.
Game 1 at the Big A in Anaheim is set for a 10:05 PM (ET) first pitch from Tyler Skaggs. Cleveland counters with Justin Masterson on what should be a great night for baseball at Angels Stadium.
A quick check of SBR's live MLB odds reveals the Halos $1.25 favorites, down about a nickel from the official opener. Betting the scoreboard tally requires a decision on an 8 run total that favors the 'under.'
The Angels have a very slight all-time edge over the Indians (317-296), but Cleveland has won each of the last two season series. The Indians swept the Halos in Anaheim a year ago, all three of the contests staying below the total thanks in large part to Tribe hurlers limiting LA to four runs the entire set.
Tribe Broomed in
Frisco Over Weekend
Cleveland (11-14, -4.8 units) began this 2-city West Coast swing in San Francisco this past weekend, and the Giants swept the Indians out of town by a combined 14-4 score. It's the third time this campaign that Terry Francona's crew has endured a 3-game skid, and the Tribe reaches Anaheim in the cellar of the AL Central.
Part of Cleveland's early struggles can be traced to an offense that is averaging less than four runs per game and near the bottom of the AL in the HR column.
Offense has not been an issue for Los Angeles (11-13, -4.1 units). Mike Scioscia's squad leads the Junior Circuit in scoring (5.41 rpg) and homers (37) despite missing both Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun for the better part of the first month. The Angels are returning home from a 9-game road trip in which they went 4-5, and endured a long flight back to LA following Sunday night's setback in the finale of their series against the Yankees.
Skaggs Providing Nice
Return For Backers
Masterson has yet to decision in his five starts while the Tribe has alternated wins and losses since he led off their rotation on Opening Day. If that trend holds, Cleveland is due for a setback in Game 1, though that is tempered by the fact both of his road outings have gone into the Indians' win column. The former Aztec star has strung together back-to-back quality starts vs. Toronto and Kansas City, each one at home.
The big righthander made his MLB debut against the Angels in April 2008 when he was with the Red Sox, tossing six strong innings and allowing just one run before the Boston bullpen blew a chance at a win. Monday will be Masterson's 10th start against them, along with seven relief appearances (four of those in the '08 ALDS), and he has compiled a career 2.44 ERA in just over 66 innings.
Baseball bettors have done a little better than break even backing the Indians when Masterson is on the mound, and they've done a lot better than break even wagering on Skaggs. The Angels are 4-0 behind the young southpaw, the latest victory coming in the middle game of last week's series at the Nationals. He'll be getting his first taste of action against the Indians when he takes the mound for this start.
All signs point to clear skies the next few days in Anaheim where the thermometer is expected to climb into the 90s both Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday's first pitch should come in the upper-70s with a NE breeze (in from center).
There isn't really anything about this game that screams at me to wager one way or another. Still, that won't stop me from sending out my free MLB pick on the underdogs.
MLB Pick: Indians +115
Season: 25-26 (-1.9)