While my favorite play in baseball is to find underdogs that can win games, sometimes you have to lay a little wood and just pick up the free money. That was the case yesterday when we backed the Oakland Athletics as small home field favorites against the Houston Astros. Franke Montas was the clear favorite on the mound over an untested Framber Valdez, and the A’s hit play yesterday, on a seven-game winning streak, the longest we have seen out of any team so far in 2020.
I felt that the -135 price to back the A’s was more than reasonable and expected Oakland to send the Astros to their fourth consecutive loss and extend their MLB best winning streak to eight games. And that is exactly what happened.
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) August 8, 2020
Franke Montas was great, as he pitched seven innings of shutout baseball, allowing just two hits and no walks. The A’s led the game off with a Marcus Semien home run home run to take an early lead and never looked back, eventually winning the game 3-1. Semien becomes the first player in MLB history to hit a game-winning walk-off and then follow it up with a leadoff home run the following day. After a slow start to the year, he is carrying this team right now.
With the win, the Athletics extend their lead in the American League West Division to a Major League-best, four and a half games, and have the most wins and the fewest losses in the AL. For Houston, the Astros are left reeling, having lost four straight games, and their eight losses on the year are more than teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays. That’s not exactly the company Houston expected to be in this season.
For today’s daily betting pick, we will take a look at a similar spot, where I think the favorite just might be undervalued, when we head to Chicago, where the White Sox host the Cleveland Indians.
Cleveland Indians (9-7) at Chicago White Sox (8-7)
The Cleveland Indians are in Chicago for the Sunday Night Baseball game of the week, looking for the series win over the White Sox. The White Sox shut out the Indians in game one of this series, to take the series lead, but saw the Indians come back last night and dominate in game two, to tie things up heading into game three tonight. The Indians have won four out of their last five games.
For Chicago, the White Sox have been the streakiest teams in the league so far in 2020. They started out the year by losing four out of their first five games, before ripping off a six-game winning streak. But they have fallen back on hard times here recently, as they have lost three out of their last four games. A win tonight at home would give the White Sox just their second series win of the season.
Starting tonight for the Indians is Shane Bieber (3-0 0.83 ERA), and for the White Sox, it is Lucas Giolito (1-1 5.17 ERA). The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. The Indians are -135 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:08 PM PST from Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
The Cleveland Indians can flat out pitch. Cleveland leads the Major Leagues in nearly every major pitching statistic, including ERA, WHIP, and batting average against. A quick scan of their pitching staff shows me eight guys that have ERA’s under two runs right now, and only Brad Hand has an ERA of over four runs. This isn’t just one guy dominating, this is the entire pitching staff killing it.
And while closer Brad Hand’s stats are a bit concerning, he really just had one awful outing where he gave up four runs while recording just one out and hasn’t pitched enough innings to even it out yet. Hands hasn’t allowed a run in three of his five appearances this year, and once he gets a little more work, I would expect his numbers to come back to normal.
Shane Bieber (3-0 0.83 ERA)
While it can be hard to stand out on a pitching staff that is loaded with studs like the Indians have, Shane Bieber is doing just that right now. Bieber broke the all-time record for most strikeouts by an Indians player in their first two starts of a season when he punched out 27 guys in 14 innings. He sat down eight more hitters in his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, and leads the Major Leagues with 35 Ks on the year.
Bieber exploded onto the scene for Cleveland last year when he won 15 games with a 3.28 ERA and 259 strikeouts. That was good enough to earn him his first All-Star bid, and he finished in fourth place in the AL Cy Young Award voting. At just 25 years old, the future is bright for this kid, and he has some of the best swing and miss stuff in the game.
Chicago White Sox
I keep changing my mind on this Chicago White Sox team. One minute they look like a team that could win the World Series, and the next, they look like a bunch of inexperienced kids that just aren’t ready for primetime. I think in the long run that we will find that they fall someplace in between, but they have to figure out how to give a consistent effort and quit with all of the high peaks and low valleys.
The White Sox are stuck in one of those valleys right now as they have lost three out of their last four games and have scored just six runs in their last four games. They were lucky to salvage one win this week when they shut out the Indians in game one of this series, but the sudden drop off in production at the plate is concerning for a team that was leading the league in batting average before hitting this slump.
Lucas Giolito (1-1 5.17 ERA)
Lucas Giolito is another guy that can stake his claim as one of the more promising young pitchers in the AL right now. Giolito won 14 games in 2019, with a 3.41 ERA and 228 strikeouts. He finished just behind Bieber in the AL CY Young Award voting in what was a breakout season for him at age 25. But unlike Bieber, Giolito had a couple of season’s worth of struggles under his belt before he broke out last season.
When you look at his career stats, last year sticks out as being the outlier, and you have to wonder which guy he will be this year for Chicago. The guy with a career ERA of over five runs, or the guy that nearly won the Cy Young?
So far in 2020, he has looked like both of those guys at times, as he got obliterated in his first start, giving up seven earned run in 3.2 innings against the Minnesota Twins. He followed that up with back to back starts where he pitched a combined 12 innings and gave up only two earned runs.
Who Do I Like?
Shane Bieber is an animal, and I just can’t pass up on getting to back him at such a reasonable price. If his name was Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom, he would be laying -220 in this game. Instead, he has mostly flown under the radar in his short MLB career, and despite pitching as well, or better, than both of those two guys I just mentioned, he still isn’t taxed yet like the ace that he is by the sportsbooks.
You can expect that to go away shortly as he is on another level right now, and I wouldn’t want to fade him at any price. The Indians bats have been light, and they probably aren’t going to be able to score many runs against Giolito, who shut them down earlier this year, to the tune of six shutout innings, but I think Cleveland will score just enough runs tonight to sneak out of Chicago with the series win.
The Indians have scored a total of eight runs of support for Shane Bieber in three games. But it just hasn’t mattered as he has gone deep into every game, and despite the lack of run support, finds ways to win games. And that is what I see happening tonight in Chicago. You can pencil in Bieber for seven or eight innings and double-digit strikeouts.
The game should be tightly contested, and we might just have to sweat it out some at the end, but I am taking Cleveland. Give me the Cleveland Indians, laying -135 tonight on the road in game three against the White Sox!