White Sox at Indians MLB Pick for September 20
The Cleveland Indians essentially have nothing left to play for. The Tribe wrapped up the American League Central division last weekend, and at this point they would appear to be on a collision course with the Houston Astros in the ALDS. With the Boston Red Sox seemingly locked into the No. 1 overall seed in the American League, Boston will draw the Wild Card Game winner, leaving the Astros and Indians to duke it out in the other series.
So, the Tribe is just playing out the string. They’ve gotten a couple of outstanding starts in the first 2 games of their midweek series with the Chicago White Sox. Corey Kluber fanned 11 over the course of 8 dominant innings in a 5-3 win on Tuesday before Carlos Carrasco struck out 11 of his own last night. Tonight, Josh Tomlin will look to follow suit as he squares off against James Shields in the series finale.
This will only be Tomlin’s second start for Cleveland since the middle of May. He has been working largely out of the bullpen since then. In a start against the Tigers a few days ago, the right-hander gave up a couple of runs on 5 hits in 4 innings of work. He only threw 62 pitches, so it’s safe to say he isn’t fully stretched out at this point. Terry Francona would presumably love to get 5 innings out of him tonight, but you never know.
Tomlin was demoted to the bullpen because he’s struggled just about all season long. His 4.98 SIERA is quite a bit better than his bloated 6.49 ERA, but neither is a number to write home about. Tomlin also has a strikeout rate of just 13.5 percent this season, which is one of the lowest marks in the majors. Walks haven’t given him major issues, but he has also yielded a hard contact rate nearing 40 percent and he is an extreme fly ball pitcher.
Hard-hit fly balls turn into home runs. Tomlin knows this well. The 33-year-old has already conceded 23 home runs on the year in just 29 total outings, including 11 starts. The White Sox offense on the other side of the game tonight is one of the worst in the league, but Chicago does have a little bit of power. Tomlin doesn’t have a wide platoon split, as he has been plenty hittable against hitters of either handedness. Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Daniel Palka and Yoan Moncada are some of the better hitters in the Chicago lineup, and all of them are capable of taking a trip around the bases in this matchup.
As for Shields, he has been wobbly as ever. He has enjoyed his fair share of solid outings this season despite the fact that his underlying numbers suggest he should be one of the worst regular starters in baseball. The right-hander has maintained a somewhat respectable 4.53 ERA on the year, but his 4.87 SIERA paints a more accurate picture. Shields has a low 18 percent K-rate on the season, and his walk rate is up near 9 percent.
The veteran has also surrendered 31 homers in 32 games to this point, which isn’t a surprise. Shields has been one of the more homer-prone pitchers in the league for years now. His matchup tonight is also a brutal one against the Indians, who have one of the more powerful lineups in the major leagues. Shields has interestingly flashed reverse splits this season, as he’s held lefties to a wOBA of just .294. I’m inclined to believe that’s mostly noise, however, as he has struggled to contain left-handed hitters for quite some time now. Lefties have also still taken him deep 13 times in 2018.
Given the homer-friendly nature of Progressive Field and the Indians’ powerful lineup, it’s safe to assume Shields is going to give up a home run or two in this spot tonight. Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley and Yonder Alonso are all legitimate power threats. The top of the Cleveland lineup is just nasty, and this isn’t a great spot in general for a guy with Shields’ skillset.
It’s tough to peg the over on a game that involves the underwhelming White Sox offense, but I would expect runs to be scored in this one. We have a couple of vulnerable starters on the mound in one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly environments. 10 is a big total, but I think you should hit the over in this one.
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