The Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox are vying for playoff positioning in the American League. The Indians overtook the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central with a win over Boston on Monday night, while the Red Sox’s postseason hopes took yet another blow. Boston isn’t a good bet to make the playoffs at this point, but they still have enough time to make up the necessary ground before the end of the season. The Tribe seems fairly locked into a playoff spot regardless of whether they manage to hang on in the division, while Boston has fallen to 8 ½ games behind the Rays for the No. 2 Wild Card spot.
So, every game is crucial to the Red Sox at this point in the season. Several teams in recent years have endured something of a hangover the year after winning the World Series, but it is still strange to see a team that won 108 games a season ago struggling so consistently throughout an entire season. The Indians got off to a similarly unremarkable start, but they have rebounded to become arguably the hottest team in baseball over the last month of play.
We have a couple of All-Star caliber pitchers taking the mound on Tuesday night at Progressive Field. Mike Clevinger will toe the rubber for the Indians opposite Chris Sale for the Red Sox.
2019 ATR Home
2019 ATR Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
Sale’s individual struggles have effectively mirrored the Red Sox’ inconsistency this season. The lefty is just 6-11 through 24 starts with a 4.41 ERA, which would be the worst ERA of his career by a wide margin if the season were to end today. However, he has a SIERA of 3.02 and an xFIP of 2.98, which shows that his bloated ERA is the result of a few particularly bad outings.
His 35.3% strikeout rate ranks among the league leaders again this season, and walks have never been a problem for him. He’s allowing 35.8% hard contact, which is up quite a bit from 26.5% a season ago, but that’s one of the only notable differences in his underlying numbers from last season. The ground ball and fly ball rates are about even. He’s given up 22 home runs after giving up 11 a season ago, but everyone is giving up more dingers in 2019.
Sale has allowed 21 of the home runs to right-handed hitters, which is no surprise considering he’s always been nearly impossible for lefties to hit. The Indians’ projected lineup doesn’t swing-and-miss much against lefties (just 18.2%), but they also have a low team ISO of just .169 vs. LHPs. Franmil Reyes, Francisco Lindor, and Jose Ramirez are threatening power bats, but Lindor and Ramirez in particular tend to fare better against right-handed pitching.
The Red Sox have dropped each of their last three games overall, and a playoff appearance is looking less likely with each passing day. Still, it’s hard not to like them in this spot with their ace taking the mound on Tuesday night.
Corey Kluber has gotten most of the headlines for the Indians in recent years, while Shane Bieber has justifiably stolen the spotlight so far this season. However, it’s fair to say that Mike Clevinger is the team’s second-best starting pitcher at this point. He’s been limited to just 11 starts all year due to injury but, when healthy, the right-hander has been outstanding.
Clevinger has a career-best 36.6% strikeout rate thus far, and he’s cut down on his walks considerably. An 8.2% walk rate is still a little high, but not nearly as disastrous as his 12% walk rate from 2017. Clevinger has kept the ball on the ground at a 44.6% clip on the year, and his 3.11 SIERA shows that his 3.02 ERA isn’t a fluke.
The Red Sox still rank among the league leaders in runs scored on the season despite their struggles. Most of their most potent hitters swing the bat from the right side, however, and Clevinger has held RHBs to a .232 wOBA in 2019. Still, the projected Boston lineup has a .204 ISO with a .361 wOBA against righties on the year, so they haven’t struggled much at all in terms of being able to hit right-handed pitching.
You won’t often find the Red Sox as betting underdogs with Chris Sale on the mound, but that’s the case tonight. Boston is listed at -105 to win the game outright on the moneyline, while the red-hot Tribe are at -115. I’d certainly pick Cleveland to beat Boston in a playoff series if they were to play one right now, but it’s always extremely difficult to pick against a pitcher of Sale’s caliber. The results haven’t always been there this season, but the numbers show that he’s still the same dominant force he’s been for the last handful of years.
I like the value that comes with Boston tonight. I’ll back Sale and the Sox on the moneyline.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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