MLB Rubber Game Picks: Indians vs. Mariners

Doug Upstone

Sunday, June 29, 2014 1:42 PM UTC

Sunday, Jun. 29, 2014 1:42 PM UTC

It is the final contest of this American League series; it will be to see who wins the series as each team has won a game. The home team is a decided favorite and has already drawn a lot if support. Here is a breakdown of each club in detail and our opinion on who the winner will be.

Cleveland Need to Play Better in Traveling Grey’s
The Indians had a 24-game improvement in reaching 92 wins last season, and were on every baseball bettor’s list for MLB picks, being up +24.2 units. That was last year, and each season brings new and different challenges. For manager Terry Francona’s team, it has been winning on the road. The Indians are 16-26 away from Ohio, losing 9.2 units to the sportsbooks. Typically in this situation, the offense ends up being a little worse along with the pitching. This has not been the case for the Tribe.  

The offense, lead by Michael Brantley, is averaging 4.5 runs a game both home and away, compared to last year’s figure of 4.6. The real difference is the pitching. In 2013, the Indians only allowed 4.2 RPG in road games; this year they have allowed 4.7, an almost 12 percent increase. The starting staff lost Scott Kazmir and Danny Salazar from last season, and Justin Masterson has been completely ineffective. Collectively, they are catching too much of plate, which is why they are 13th in OPB and OPS allowed. And this translates into fewer innings pitched, with Cleveland an unlucky 13th in the American League in this area.

No Longer Sleepy in Seattle
In the early part of spring training, there was talk of resurgence around the Seattle franchise. Robinson Cano choose the Northwest to continue his baseball career, and the Mariners had talent which should have been coming to its own with their experience, and a number of good arms were in place. 

A couple pitchers had arm and shoulders issues, which tempered the enthusiasm as the younger veteran players began the year as underachievers, yet again, giving credence to the belief they might be overrated. But since the end of May, when Seattle went 8-1, (which was followed by 0-5) and their most recent outbreak that has them winning nine of 13, the M’s offense has some bite besides Cano, and while it is too early to talk playoffs, Seattle is presently in the discussion.  

The professional hitting approach of Cano has rubbed off on third baseman Kyle Seager, who leads the team in home runs and runs batted in. Now if Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak would play up to their contracts, Seattle fans will have more to talk about the next few months besides waiting for the Seahawks to return to action.    

Pitching Matchup for Sunday
T.J. House (0-1, 4.88 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) will make another spot start for Cleveland with Masterson battling an ailing knee. The 24-year left-hander has been an easy target, with opposing batters hitting .315 against him at the big league level this season. His location of his low 90’s fastball and slider has not been good.  

With an improved team, Felix Hernandez (2.24 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) has been beating the betting odds with tremendous regularity this season, sporting a 9-2 record and Seattle 11-6 when he starts. While King Felix does not throw consistently in the mid-90’s anymore, he’s developed a devastating changeup and he’s averaging better than strikeout per inning, something he did not do when he was younger and threw harder. Seattle has not lost when Hernandez has pitched a day game this season (4-0).  

Bullpen View
It would seem each team better score earlier since this matchup features two of the better bullpens in the American League. Baseball handicappers study this material, and realize Cleveland is fourth in ERA (3.32), and second in punch-outs in the AL. Seattle is first in ERA, and second in OBP, and OPS, signifying how stingy they are.

John Axeford, the Indians former closer, ran into some trouble and Cody Allen has taken over the job, and is supported well by Bryan Shaw, and strong cast of other reliable relievers. Much traveled Fernando Rodney has been the bell-cow for Seattle, with all but one of their 23 saves. Yoervis Medina and Joe Beimel have been lights-out for manager Lloyd McClendon.  

Head to Head Combat and Betting Odds
Seattle is 7-4 at home against Cleveland the past three years and the 'under' is 8-3.    

The MLB odds opened with Seattle as -180 money line favorites with a total under 7.5 runs. However, by this morning, the Mariners were up to -205, and the total had shrunk to 6.5. 

The Indians are 2-13 in road encounters after allowing three runs, or less in three straight games since 2012.   

The Winner Is….
You cannot ignore the starting pitching disparity, and we find favorites like the Mariners of -150 or higher, with a .265 or lower batting average, versus an AL starting pitcher whose ERA is in the 4.70 to 5.70 range, playing on Sunday, are 56-9, 86.2 percent the past 17 seasons. This is impossible to ignore.

MLB Free Picks: Seattle wins

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