MLB Picks: Indians vs. Royals Series Coverage

Willie Bee

Monday, September 16, 2013 11:58 AM GMT

Monday, Sep. 16, 2013 11:58 AM GMT

SBR has free MLB picks and previews as playoff hopefuls meet in Kansas City where the Royals entertain the Cleveland Indians to begin the next-to-last week of the season.

 

18 Sept
Wednesday's Game Three

By: Willie Bee

 

For a while Tuesday, it appeared we would be rewarded for backing Yordano Ventura in his big league debut for the Kansas City Royals.  But the Cleveland Indians finally broke through against the KC bullpen for a 5-3 victory, leveling the series to set the stage for Wednesday's rubber game.

It's a must-win for the Royals who fell 3.5-games back in the AL Wild Card race with Tuesday's loss.  They'll send veteran Bruce Chen to the mound opposite rookie Danny Salazar for the Indians who can take over one of the wild card slots with a victory.

MLB odds vary from shop to shop for this one, some outlets making the contest a pick 'em while others have one side or the other as the slight favorite.  The books are in agreement with the total, however, 7.5 runs and priced to the OVER.

Perseverance, Thy Name Is Bruce Kastulo Chen

Two months ago marked the 20th anniversary of Chen's first pro contract with the Atlanta Braves, and after roaming around 10 different organizations from 1998-2007, he finally found a home in Kansas City in 2009.  Though the wins aren't there to dazzle anyone, Chen is having arguably his best overall season bouncing between relief and the rotation.

The 36-year-old Panamanian has seen the Indians in both roles, and yet to allow an earned run in 12.1 innings.  The lone start among four appearances was a good one, six shutout innings of 1-hit baseball inCleveland a little more than two months ago, his first assignment after moving into the Royals rotation on a full-time basis.

Salazar is still just getting his feet wet with Wednesday's mission just his ninth big league game.  The 23-year-old Dominican has a world of potential in the bigs, just as Chen did 20 years ago, but only once he learns to pitch as well as throw.  Justifiably, the Tribe's treating him with kid gloves right now, and five innings -- or more likely, 80 pitches in the 4th -- will see Terry Francona make a call to the 'pen.  Salazar didn't even make it through the fourth last Friday in Chicago vs. the White Sox, but his 78-pitch count included 9 K's among the 11 outs he recorded.

Behind The Plate, Mother Nature & A Pick

If my calculations are correct, Adrian Johnson will have the plate for his 900th game as a big league ump.  The 38-year-old Houston native has a slight 13-17 lean to the low side of totals, an UNDER last Saturday in St. Louis stopping a 4-game OVER run. 

The first two games survived without any of the rain in the KC area interrupting matters, and now we have clear skies for the finale Wednesday night, which should give those in attendance a great look at the harvest moon.  It's still going to be on the warm side in the mid-80s at first pitch, along with a 15-18 mph southerly wind (out to left).

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I'm going to ride the momentum Cleveland has following Tuesday's rally, and make my MLB pick on the Indians.

My pick: Indians -101 at Bet365

 

17 Sept
Tuesday's Game Two

By: Willie Bee

 

The Kansas City Royals relied on veteran James Shields to win Monday's series opener with the Cleveland Indians. Tuesday, they'll turn to a rookie making his major league debut.

Shields and three relievers combined to strike out 17 Indians in Kansas City's 7-1 victory in Game 1. The result tightened up an already crowded American League Wild Card race, leaving the Royals tied with the New York Yankees just 2.5-games behind Texas.

Cleveland, still just a half-game back of the Rangers, looks to even the series with Corey Kluber climbing the hill at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals originally had Danny Duffy in line for the start, but a flexor strain in his left arm changed those plans. Instead, KC turns to Yordano Ventura for his first big league game, smack-dab in the middle of a playoff race.

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Kluber Looks To Extend Modest 2-Start Win Streak

The pitching change delayed MLB odds overnight, and the updated numbers have Ventura a slight favorite in his debut with an 8 run total (O-115). 

A sprained middle finger on his pitching hand kept Kluber sidelined most of August and a week into September, but he has returned to pick up victories in each of his two starts since being activated from the DL. He upped his pitch count to 87 last Thursday in Chicago to beat the White Sox following a 64-pitch effort five days earlier vs. the Mets, each time lasting five innings. The Tribe has won all three of Kluber's assignments against the Royals this year, two of those in KC. Overall vs. Kansas City, he has held Royals hitters to a .189 average while striking out 17 in 20 frames with a 2.70 ERA. 

Ventura was originally signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic back in 2008, and brings a high-90s fastball plus a 12-to-6 curve for Cleveland hitters to deal with. Pitching at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels this season, Ventura posted a 3.14 ERA with 155 K's in less than 135 innings.

Behind The Plate, Mother Nature & A Pick

Fieldin Culbreth (11-16-3 O/U/P) is slated to work the dish Tuesday with a 4-game UNDER streak in tow. His first plate assignment of 2013 was in Kansas City on April 8, a contest that fell well short of the 9-run total, and Culbreth also worked a start by Kluber in Cleveland on May 31 that sailed OVER an 8.5-run mark. 

An 80% chance of rain exists in Kansas City during the day before tapering off to a 30% shot this evening. First pitch should find the thermometer on 78º with a 10-12 mph SSE wind (1B to LF corner). 

First-game jitters are to be expected from Ventura, but I'm going to take a shot with the youngster with a free pick on the Royals. 

My pick: Royals -115

 

16 Sept
Monday's Series Opener

By: Willie Bee

 

It has been rare to hear the words playoff contender coupled with the Kansas City Royals for more than 20 years. A 35/1 long shot to win the American League when the 2013 campaign began, the odds are still very much against Kansas City as the final 14 days of the MLB betting schedule get underway, but the Royals still have life.

The Cleveland Indians were even bigger underdogs to take home the AL pennant back on April 1 when they were listed at 45/1. Their chances of making the postseason are a little better than the Royals, making for an unlikely scene in KC to begin the week as the two afterthoughts for 2013 battle it out in a huge series. 

A couple of veteran pitchers will do their best to continue the trek towards October baseball in Monday night's opener at Kauffman Stadium. Cleveland's Scott Kazmir is matched up with Kansas City's James Shields in Game 1, and the MLB odds are clearly in the Royals' favor at -155 to -160. An 8 run total is taxed heavily on the UNDER, and we could see that number fall to 7.5 by game time.

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For the Royals, the wild card had not been invented the last time they were serious postseason contenders in 1989. Their 92-win season was impressive enough, but even then the Royals would finish seven games behind the Oakland A's in the AL West. That was the heyday of Tony La Russa's juggernaut in Oakland, one of three successive AL flags and the only World Series winner in the Bash Brothers era. Kansas City still hasn't even guaranteed itself a winning season, which would be the first since 2003, and realistically needs to broom the Tribe to have a shot at the playoffs. 

Cleveland had to wait out a rain delay of nearly 4½ hours Sunday to get their game in with the White Sox in Chicago, but the Indians endured to pick up win No. 81 of 2013. One more and they'll celebrate their first winning record since 2007. Sunday's victory finished off a sweep of the ChiSox to give the Tribe four straight wins and lift Cleveland to within a half-game of Texas and Tampa Bay in the AL wild card race. Kansas City is 3.5 behind the Rangers and Rays. 

Kazmir, Shields Meet In Quick Rematch From Last Week

Both teams are very familiar with the opposing pitchers tonight as Kazmir and Shields are each making their fifth starts of '13 against the Royals and Indians, respectively. It's also the second time in five days the two hurlers have faced off, Shields getting the better of Kazmir and the Tribe in Cleveland last Tuesday, 6-2. Shields was strong for eight frames, striking out seven and putting up zeroes after a 2-run Cleveland first. Kazmir was chased by the Royals two batters into the fifth and responsible for four of KC's runs.

That was pretty much par for the course for both the Indians and Kazmir who have just one victory to show in his four assignments vs. Kansas City. The lefty's two appearances at Kauffman Stadium have both ended in 1-run defeats for the Indians, Kazmir working five innings each time and allowing five runs combined. 

The Royals, meanwhile are 3-1 when Shields takes on the Tribe, three of those outings taking place in Cleveland. Shields was knocked around in his lone start vs. the Indians in KC (5.1 IP, 5 ER, 9 Hits), picking up a no-decision in an eventual Royals triumph. 

Tribe Owns Slight Edge In Season Series

The Indians have the 9-7 advantage in the previous matchups of 2013, with the Royals up 4-3 in the seven played on this diamond where totals have run 4-1-1 O/U/P. Kansas City won 2012 honors with a 10-8 record, and needs to sweep this set to earn season honors for a second consecutive season, the last time that happened in 2002-03.

Less than ideal weather conditions are in Monday's forecast with a 40% chance of thunderstorms and showers in the afternoon, and the rain threat increasing in the evening hours. The Royals and Indians do not have any common off days the next couple of weeks, and the weatherman is calling for a 50% shot of rain on Tuesday, so we can expect the umpires to do everything possible to get this game in.

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I don't like the weather one bit, and Kazmir doesn't thrill me too much either. Still, I like the way the Indians are playing, so I'll take a chance on the underdogs for my free pick in Game 1.

My pick: Indians +142 at Bet365

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