Ever find yourself looking at the schedule and thinking you'd like to be in the stands to catch every game of a particular upcoming series? Well, that's how I feel about the 4-game set that gets underway Thursday in Boston between the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, a series I mentally circled in my mind way back in January when first studying this year's MLB schedule.
Terry Francona has enjoyed a reliable bullpen through the first two months as skipper of the Cleveland Indians. But relief failed Francona and the Tribe on Saturday when Boston rallied to take a 2-1 series lead.
The two squads bid each other adios for the regular season Sunday afternoon when the Red Sox are roughly -130 favorites to win their third straight game. MLB odds are showing a 10 run total that is split evenly Over/Under for the mound duel between Cleveland's Corey Kluber and Felix Doubront of the Red Sox.
Boston rallied from three separate deficits in Game 3, and used a little Fenway Park magic in their 4-run eighth inning for a 7-4 triumph. The last two of the runs scored in the decisive eighth came plateward on a wind-blown pop fly. Cleveland relievers entered the game with a 3.39 ERA, but saw that balloon by about a quarter of a run in the defeat, the fourth in the last five trips to the diamond.
Kluber started 2013 in the Indians 'pen, and is making his sixth start of the year Sunday. It will be his second career assignment vs. the Red Sox after working an inning of relief vs. Boston when the clubs met in Cleveland nearly six weeks ago. The Indians have lost three of his four May starts while pitching to a 6.75 ERA.
Likewise, the Red Sox are 1-3 in Doubront's four starts this month after beginning the season a perfect 4-0 in April with their lefty on the hill. One of those four triumphs came vs. the Tribe with Doubront lasting five innings and striking out seven with two runs charged to his ledger. He split his two starts against Cleveland last year, the win coming in a fine May performance in Boston.
Weather played a role in Game 3, and another damp, cool and windy day is in store for the fans at Fenway. There isn't supposed to be any rain following a wet night and morning, but there will be a 20-25 mph westerly wind (LF foul pole to RF foul pole).
Chris Guccione gets his first look at either the Sox or Tribe today when he completes the umpire rotation for this set. His last two games have gone OVER, bringing his record to 6-4 O/U this season and 46-26-3 since the start of the 2010 campaign.
Let's stick with Boston in the series finale with a moneyline play in the Sox. The Blue Jays and Orioles are also wrapping up their 4-game series Sunday in Toronto, and you'll want to see how our pick in that contest by reading our preview.
My pick: Red Sox -129 at Bet365
Saturday Game Three
By: Willie Bee
The bad news is I can't jet off to Beantown to see all four games, but the good news is the entire series did make my assignment list for SBR the next four days.
The Boston Red Sox weren't so kind to their former manager in the second of a 4-game series against the Cleveland Indians. One night after being a bit embarrassed by Terry Francona's troops, the Red Sox pulled even in the set and now have a big advantage on the mound for Saturday's clash.
MLB odds went out with Boston laying $2.00 behind Jon Lester, but overnight action on the Tribe cut that moneyline down in the -180 to -190 range. Cleveland counters with Scott Kazmir in this all-southpaw matchup, and baseball bettors are tasked with deciding which side of a 9 run total to wager.
John Lackey was once again solid for the BoSox, hurling seven innings of 2-hit baseball in Friday's 8-1 victory one start after a 6-inning, 1-hit effort. Mike Carp's 3-run blast in the second inning proved to be all of the offense that Boston needed against Justin Masterson who lost for the first time in five starts.
Kazmir appears to be auditioning for the lead role in the next reprisal of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, at times pitching very, very well and very, very bad at other times. He lasted only three frames at home vs. Seattle on Monday, allowing five runs before being pulled, but Cleveland hitters bailed him out with an eventual 10-8 win.
He last faced the Red Sox in Aug. 2010 here at Fenway, earning a no-decision in the Angels' 7-5 defeat, and is 8-8 with a 4.06 ERA lifetime vs. Boston.
Lester is coming off his first and only loss of the campaign, a 6-4 setback at the White Sox on Monday when the lefty allowed all six Chicago runs. Boston is 7-3 in his assignments, one of those wins a strong performance in Cleveland back in April (7 IP, 2 ER).
Rain delayed Friday's contest, and more wet stuff is in Boston forecast with a 70% chance throughout the day. The start of the match looks fine, though it's going to be chilly with temps in the mid-to-upper 40s and showers developing as the game progresses. Winds approaching 20 mph out of the NW are expected (in from left field).
Ron Kulpa brings a strong lean to the UNDER into his 10th plate assignment of the season. Seven of his nine games behind the dish have stayed below the total, and road underdogs are 4-3.
It's a coin flip as to which Kazmir we get today, and I'm going to count on Mr. Hyde showing up with a run line play on the Red Sox. This afternoon also finds the Orioles and Blue Jays playing Game 3 of their series in Toronto, and SBR has a preview and free pick for that game.
My pick: Red Sox -1.5 (+105) at Bet365
Friday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Terry Francona's return to Fenway Park was a success as the Cleveland Indians opened their 4-game set with a dubya against the Boston Red Sox. Now the Tribe will look to make it two in a row behind their best starting pitcher over the first two months of the schedule.
Boston is favored to even the series with the Friday morning baseball betting board listing the Red Sox as -115 chalk. The initial mound battle will pit Justin Masterson for the visitors against John Lackey, and MLB odds for the contest include a 9 run total that leans to the high side.
Cleveland's 12-3 victory on Thursday snapped a 4-game losing skid vs. Boston and helped the Indians maintain a half-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central. Every starter in Cleveland's lineup collected at least one hit, and all but Jason Kipnis came across the pay station for the Tribe.
Adding injury to insult in the defeat, Boston had to replace 3B Will Middlebrooks midway through the contest due to back pain. He's questionable for Friday, as is OF Shane Victorino who is dealing with a hamstring issue.
Masterson is working on a 19-inning string of scoreless baseball, and the Indians have won his last four assignments, 10-2 dating back to the end of 2012. The former SD State star got knocked around pretty good a month ago in Cleveland (5 IP, 11 H, 4 ER) by the Sox, and is 2-1 against his former teammates at Fenway in three career starts, sporting a 5.29 ERA.
Lackey was lights out at Minnesota five days ago, giving up just a hit and an unearned run in six innings. He'll be facing the Tribe for the first time since Aug. 2011, an ill-fated outing in Boston, and hasn't beaten them since he was with the Angels in '09. Two starts vs. Cleveland in aBoston uniform have yielded two losses and 8.25 ERA (12 IP).
Check out our Friday Morning MLB Odds & Betting Lines Report
Another wet forecast is in the offing for Boston where the thermometer will be in the low-60s at game time. The chance of rain decreases to 50% this evening with a N-NW wind around 15 mph blowing in from the Green Monster.
Veteran Tom Hallion has the plate in Game 2, his first look at either the Indians or Red Sox this year. Six of Hallion's 10 previous plate assignments have gone OVER the mark.
As well as Masterson is pitching, and with Lackey's performance in two starts at Fenway this season (1.38 ERA), I'm going to make my play on the UNDER. Another weekend series we're previewing with free MLB picks is in Toronto where the Blue Jays host the Baltimore Orioles.
My pick: Indians-Red Sox Under 9 (-105) at Bet 365
Thursday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
This would have been an intriguing matchup just because of it being Cleveland manager Terry Francona's first appearance at Fenway Park since being canned by the Red Sox following the 2011 campaign. He should get a warm reception from Red Sox Nation, as well as from many of the Boston players who played for him.
But it's even more intriguing now with the Tribe playing well enough to hold the lead in the AL Central, all while the BoSox are chasing their hated rivals from New York in the AL East. Cranking things up in Game 1 will be a mound duel between Cleveland's Zach McAllister and Boston's Ryan Dempster.
A quick check of live MLB odds on SBR shows the Red Sox in the -140 to -150 range on the moneyline, with totals running from 9 to 9.5 runs depending upon the outlet.
Check out our Thursday Morning MLB Odds & Betting Lines Report
Half-Game Leads On Line in AL East & Central Divisions
We could see two of the American League's three divisions sport new leaders on Friday morning, depending upon tonight's outcome in Boston. The Red Sox avoided being broomed in Chicago to end their road trip on Wednesday, and as a result moved to within a half-game of the Yankees in the AL East.
Cleveland, meanwhile, wrapped up a homestand by dropping its second straight contest to Detroit. The Indians hit the road with a half-game advantage over the Tigers in the AL Central.
McAllister faced the Red Sox a little more than a month ago and took the loss in a 6-3 Boston win. Cleveland and McAllister were both 1-3 in his first four starts of the season, but the Indians are a perfect 4-0 his last four times out with the righthander posting quality efforts each time (28 IP, 6 ER).
Dempster missed the Indians in Cleveland last month, but did see the Indians twice last year after being dealt from the Cubs to the Rangers. Texas won both of those games while Dempster worked a combined 13 innings with only two earned runs scoring.
Indians Set Sights On Revenge Boston Sweep In April
Francona's first reunion with his former club came mid-April in Cleveland where the Red Sox swept the Indians. That series was in the middle of a season-high 7-game win streak for Boston, and all three games ended with nine total runs crossing the plate, each topping an 8-run mark.
Thursday's meeting will be the 1,999th between the two old AL rivals, and 1,001st played in Boston. The Red Sox took three of four from the Tribe at Fenway last year, OVER bettors also cashing three times in that series.
That is, this should be the 1,999th time the two teams square off, though Mother Nature might prevent that with a 70% chance of showers in the Beantown forecast this evening. In addition to the precipitation, a south wind gusting as high as 20 mph will assist fly balls headed out towards the Green Monster.
Dempster has been pretty bad his last two starts, with control problems a huge issue for him last Saturday in Minnesota. But I expect him to snap out of that this evening with a small play on the Red Sox. One more 4-game series getting underway on Thursday that we're following with previews and free picks finds the Orioles beginning a road trip in Toronto against the Blue Jays.My pick: Red Sox -141 at Bet365