Major League Baseball is starting to get back to normal today after a tense weekend, where several games were canceled due to illness-related concerns, and the season was put in doubt. Today, only the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers was pulled off of the slate, and that was just to help limit travel, as they have decided to play that entire series in Detroit, rather than going back and forth for the four-game series. For today’s daily betting pick, we will head to Cincinnati, where the Reds host the Cleveland Indians.
Cleveland Indians (5-5) at Cincinnati Reds (4-5)
After a slow start to the season that saw the Cincinnati Reds get decimated by injuries and lose both of their first two series, the Reds have turned things around here recently, as they have won three out of their last four games, and swept a double-header yesterday against the Detroit Tigers, to give them their first series win of the year. Cincinnati will look to make it three straight wins tonight in game one of a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians.
For Cleveland, the Indians had the best record in baseball heading into last weekend, at 5-2, but lost the final three games of their last series, against the Minnesota Twins, to bring their record down to 5-5. The bats have gone icy cold for the Tribe as they managed just four total runs in the four games against the Twins.
Starting tonight for the Indians is Zach Plesac (0-0 0.00 ERA) and for the Reds, it is Sonny Gray (2-0 0.71 ERA). The game total over/under is set at eight runs. The Reds are -136 home field favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 3:40 PM PST from Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
The Cleveland Indians were expected to have a heavy-hitting lineup this season, but that has yet to come to fruition as their bats are near the bottom of nearly every offensive category in the American League. While their recent struggles at the plate over the weekend against Minnesota were headline news, the Indian’s poor hitting has been evident all season long.
Cleveland has scored two runs or fewer in seven of their ten games this season. Their elite pitching staff has allowed them to still stay competitive and even win a couple of those low scoring games, but the struggles are very concerning. Established sluggers like Franmil Reyes, Carlos Santana, and Francisco Lindor are all hitting well below their career averages and have just three home runs combined between them.
Zach Plesac (0-0 0.00 ERA)
One of those elite pitchers we mentioned early that have helped Cleveland survive the lack of run support, is Zach Plesac. Plesac was a highly rated prospect when he got his first taste of big-league action last year in his age twenty-four season. He had his fair share of ups and downs as a rookie, as most guys do.
The high point is when he tossed a complete-game shutout against the Los Angeles Angels in September. The low point came in June when he got blasted by the epically bad Baltimore Orioles for seven runs, all earned, in just 3.2 innings pitched. Plesac made one of the best starts of his young career in his 2020 season debut, as he pitched eight shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox while allowing three hits, no walks, and striking out elven. The 11 K’s were a career high.
The Reds have been forced to play shorthanded as injuries have slowed them quite a bit in the early goings this year. But they still have one of the best starting pitching rotations in the National League, and they have shown it so far this season.
The Reds top two starters, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray, are a combined 4-0, with 40 strikeouts, and both have ERA’s below a run. And while fellow ace, Luis Castillo, hasn’t been as good as Bauer and Gray, he too has been sitting guys down at a high rate as he has 17 punchouts in 12 innings of work.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 3, 2020
The Reds have a soft spot coming up in their schedule, and they need to find a way to keep gutting out wins until they get their injured players back on the field. Guys like Mike Moustakas, Joey Votto, and Wade Miley are all out, and Cincinnati needs to be able to at least tread water against bad teams without them.
After this series with the Indians, the Reds play series against Milwaukee, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City again, before things get difficult in September. If they can survive this rough patch and get their weapons back in time for the stretch run, they are going to be right in the playoff mix in the National League.
Sonny Gray (2-0 0.71 ERA)
Sonny Gray very quietly was one of the best pitchers in the National League last year. The Reds were out of contention for much of the season, and Gray was still trying to shake off his horrific stint in New York, where he had a season and a half of getting hammered in the Bronx, so most people didn’t take notice, but he was great in 2019. Gray finished in the top ten of the National League Cy Young Award voting last year when he posted a sub-three run ERA and struck out more than 200 batters for the first time in his career.
And if you think that was impressive, wait until you see what he has done so far in 2020! In two starts this year, Gray has been quite literally been unhittable, as he has pitched 12.2 innings, allowed just four hits, and one earned run. His combined 20 strikeouts are the third-most in baseball, trailing only Shane Bieber and Max Scherzer.
Who Do I Like?
This is going to be a low scoring and competitive game tonight in Cincinnati. Both of these starters are sharp right now, and neither of these teams are hitting the baseball very well. Sonny Gray seems to be the much more reliable starter long term, but he doesn’t have a huge edge over a very competent Zach Plesac.
But one thing about this matchup makes me lean towards the Reds. Plesac has had one major Achilles heel in his MLB career. Walks. Last year, he allowed 40 walks in just 115.2 innings of work. He walked at least one hitter in all of his 21 starts in 2019. He walked multiple guys in 13 of those 21 starts. Handing out free passes is never a good thing against any team, but when you take a quick look at how this Reds team has been scoring their runs this year, it has been by getting on base with walks.
Despite having one of the worst team batting averages in the National League, at just .226, the Reds are getting on base at a very high rate. Cincinnati has a .344 on-base percentage, good for third in all of baseball. The 42 walks they have drawn are more than every other team in baseball, except the Houston Astros, of teams that have played the same number of games as the Reds.
I can’t bet against Sonny Gray right now. He has just been too good to not like as a small home favorite, especially against a team that just can’t hit the ball, like the Cleveland Indians. He has yet to throw 100 pitches in a game this year, and I can see them stretching him out some tonight and looking to get him into the 7th inning or later.
I don’t expect Plesac to be bad, but if he starts walking guys and letting the Reds get on base, something they have been really good at so far in 2020, he is going to get into jams and eventually the Reds are going to score some runs. With Gray on the mound, they won’t need many runs to win, and I think they will do just enough to get the job done tonight at home. This feels like a 3-1 final, if you ask me, with the Reds picking up their third consecutive victory.