The Cleveland Indians are in Tampa Bay for game four of a four game series with the Rays. The Indians are up two games to one in the series after dropping game one Thursday 4-1 and then winning games two and three both by shutout, 5-0 and 3-0 respectfully, over the weekend. The Indians look to their ace, former Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber (10-3 2.65 ERA), to close out the series on a high note for the American League Central Division leading squad. Kluber will square off against the Ray’s Austin Pruitt (6-3 5.14 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 10:10 AM PST from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Tampa Bay Rays have forgotten how to score runs recently. The Rays have been shut out five times over their last eight games and have only scored six runs total over that span. Yes, they ran into the buzzsaw known as Chris Sale and also faced off against the stingy Jimmy Nelson, but they also got shutout by the likes of Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies, Carlos Carrasco, and Mike Clevinger. Not exactly a murders row of pitching prowess.
The Rays completely blew the trade deadline. They made a decent acquisition in Lucas Duda and picked up former Mariner’s closer Steve Cishek, but neither move seems to be the type of impact move that the Rays needed to get over the hump in the American League East. Especially when you factor in the fact that the rest of the teams competing in that division all got better. The Yankees look like they were big trade deadline winners as they picked up Todd Frazier and Sonny Gray and the Red Sox may have finally found an answer at the hot corner with the addition of Eduardo Nunez.
If the Rays were going to be true contenders, they needed to make a big splash, and they failed to do so. Struggling since the deadline the Rays have now fallen behind Minnesota, Seattle, and Los Angeles in the race for the American League wild card race, the end would appear to be near once again in Tampa.
The Cleveland Indians on the other hand, are finally starting to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack in the once crowded American League Central race. Cleveland is now 4.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins and 5 games ahead of the suddenly struggling Kansas City Royals. Many had thought Cleveland would have run away with the is division by now, and maybe they finally are.
This morning’s starter Corey Kluber is really good. The multi time All-Star and former Cy Young award winner has had a stellar career so far in Cleveland, and this year might be his best work yet. Kluber is sporting a barely their ERA of just 2.65 and is striking out hitters at a borderline absurd rate of 12.4 K/9. If Chris Sale weren’t having a legendary season in Beantown, Kluber would be the odds-on favorite to win his second Cy Young this year.
Kluber has been especially hot recently. In his last two starts, he pitched two complete games, giving up only one run in each start, and striking out twenty-two. And that was against two playoff bound and good offensive teams in the New York Yankees and Colorado Rockies. Can you imagine what he is going to do against these Rays and their wet noodle bats? Kluber has double digit strikeouts in ten of his last eleven starts and has been as dominant as any pitcher in the league over the last six weeks.
File this game under the free money tab. There is no way that the Rays are going to light up Corey Kluber tomorrow, it just isn’t going to happen. The Ray’s pitching staff has been more than serviceable over the last several games, but it is hard to win games when you never score. I see Kluber plowing through this beleaguered Rays lineup to the tune of at least seven innings and ten or more strike outs. It wouldn’t shock me if the Rays kept it fairly close early, but by games end I see the Indians taking this one easily. I am never a huge fan of taking run line bets but a situation like today’s just screams for it. Give me the Indians on the run line at -120.