Well, that’s one way to derail a steaming hot weekend. Last night, we hit the late game between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels on an absolute tear, having won close to 70% of our picks over the weekend.
I saw the A’s as small road favorites and felt that getting an opportunity to back the team with the best record in the Major Leagues, in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, was high value. Throw in the fact that they were playing an Angels team that had the worst record in the American League entering play last night, and I felt like I was stealing.
And when the A’s exploded for nine runs in the game’s first four innings, to take a commanding 9-4 lead, I was already counting my money and patting myself on the back for a job well done. But in the words of college football broadcasting icon Lee Corso, not so fast!
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 11, 2020
The Angels showed some heart, really for the first time this season, and battled back into the game. LA managed to tie the game up in the bottom of the sixth inning and took the lead for good on a Mike Trout game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth.
It was Trout’s second home run of the game and gave the Angels the improbable come from behind victory and spoiled our bet. What can you do, bad beats happen in baseball. We will shake off the run bad tonight as we head to Cleveland, where the Indians host the Cubs.
Chicago Cubs (10-3) at Cleveland Indians (10-7)
The Cleveland Indians host the Chicago Cubs tonight in game one of a quick two-game series. The Indians got a much-needed day off yesterday after needing extra innings to defeat the other Chicago team, the White Sox, on Sunday night, to finish off a series win over their division rivals. The Indians have now won five out of their last six games and have managed to close the gap on the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central Division to just one game.
For Chicago, the Cubs have had several days off, as their last series against the St. Louis Cardinals, was scrapped at the last minute due to Corona Virus concerns for the Cardinals. Chicago is hoping this five-day delay won’t kill their momentum, as they were playing some good baseball before the layoff, having won nine of their previous eleven games.
Starting tonight for the Cubs is Jon Lester (1-0 0.82 ERA), and for the Indians, it is Adam Plutko (1-0 2.57 ERA). The game total over/under is set at nine runs. The Indians are small home field favorites at -110. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Progressive Field in Cleveland.
The Chicago Cubs have ridden a weak schedule to the best winning percentage in the National League. Despite having not played in nearly a week, the Cub’s ten wins are still the second-most in the NL behind only the Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. We have talked a lot about strength of schedule this season, as they are not all going to be equal, and the Cubs have yet to play a single game against a team with a winning record.
But I am not going to let the weak competition distract me from the fact that this team is doing everything right. They have timely hitting, with plenty of pop, and the pitching staff has been very good, with the exception of closer Craig Kimbrel. The starting rotation has been stellar, with Alec Mills looking like a breakout candidate, Yu Darvish recapturing his old form, and veteran Jon Lester jumping out as an early Cy Young Award candidate.
Jon Lester (1-0 0.82 ERA)
Jon Lester has been strong in his first two starts of the season as he has pitched a combined eleven innings and has allowed just one earned run on only four hits. He actually had a no-no going through five innings of his first start, before the Cubs decided to play it safe and keep his pitch count down.
Lester didn’t have a great season last year, but in 2018, he was a Cy Young Award candidate, it will be very interesting to see if he is able to snap back and continue his hot start here in 2020 at age 36. Lester faces a Cleveland team tonight that has been one of the weakest hitting teams in the Major Leagues as they are last in both batting average and slugging percentage, and have scored three runs or fewer eight times in their seventeen games played this season.
The lack of offense hasn’t slowed down this Indians team as of yet, as they are still finding ways to win games, powered by their elite pitching staff. But after the news that broke last night of starting pitchers Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger both being quarantined from the team due to violating the team’s COVID-19 protocols, you have to wonder if Cleveland is still going to be able to win games with 40% of their rotation missing.
Mike Clevinger also violated team rules during this past road trip. A statement from the Indians: pic.twitter.com/RS64c4vBoA
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) August 10, 2020
The loss could prove to be a devastating one for Cleveland as both Clevinger and Plesac had been pitching their brains out this season, and the Indians really only have one way to win games so far in 2020, and that is to shut the other team down and eke out low scoring victories in tightly contested games.
We don’t know how long the quarantine will last for either guy, but we do know that they traveled with the team after violating the rules. If an outbreak does occur and several players test positive, it would really hurt the Indian’s chances of staying competitive in the crowded AL Central Division.
Adam Plutko (1-0 2.57 ERA)
With Clevinger forced to stay away from the team, the Indians will start Adam Plutko tonight in his place. And while Plutko has been a somewhat serviceable arm for Cleveland in the last couple of seasons, this is a major downgrade on the mound.
Plutko has a lifetime ERA in the five-run range and a career record of just 12-10 in four seasons of work. When you compare that to Clevinger’s four full seasons of work for Cleveland, where he posted a 42-22 record and an ERA of right around three runs, you know this change is going to hurt.
Plutko has been decent in two appearances so far this season, as he has pitched a combined seven innings and has allowed just two earned runs. He did allow two home runs against the Chicago White Sox in his lone start of the season, and historically home runs have always been a thorn in his side, as he has allowed 43 bombs in just 38 appearances the last two seasons combined.
Who Do I Like?
This is a weird line. The Cubs opened up as fairly large underdogs, and the early morning betting sharps hammered it and moved the lines nearly thirty points towards Chicago. We saw this identical trend in the Cubs last scheduled game against St. Louis, before the game was canceled, as Lester and the Cubs opened as big underdogs, and the sharps backed them heavily.
I guess at this point, we have to ask ourselves, who is getting this wrong? The sharps that love backing Lester and the Cubs, or the books who seem to be giving Chicago no respect right now?
I am joining the sharps on this one and backing the Cubs. I think the Indians just might implode after seeing their rotation get decimated by rules violations. If the culture in Cleveland is one of hiding and sneaking around, and players breaking the rules, you would almost have to expect that more fallout is coming from this incident.
A good culture is a very hard thing to define, but I don’t see the Indians as having one right now, and expect some more carnage as the team tries to get to the bottom of these issues and keep the team safe from an outbreak like we have seen with the Marlins and Cardinals.
I expect the Cubs to take advantage of this distraction in Cleveland and hit some bombs off Adam Plutko tonight. The worst thing about Plutko in this matchup tonight, is that his name isn’t Mike Clevinger. Give me the Chicago Cubs tonight as road underdogs in game one against Cleveland!