We ran our modest winning streak to five consecutive days when we picked up a win last night by backing the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Arizona, against the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers were small road favorites, and I felt that Robbie Ray’s name recognition for Arizona was keeping the line tighter than it should have been.
My opinion was that LA should have been much larger favorites, as I saw the Dodgers as the far superior team overall, and also felt that Ross Stripling, while not having the resume of Robbie Ray, was actually the better side of the starting pitching matchup. So, I backed the Boys in Blue, laying a little wood and expected an easy victory.
And that is just what we got. Robbie Ray against struggled badly with his command as he walked six batters and allowed five runs, all earned, in just 4.2 innings worked. Stripling held up his side of the bargain, as he held the DBacks scoreless through five innings and ended his day with a more than respectable line of 5.1 innings pitched, allowing three runs on four hits and picked up the win for his efforts.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 31, 2020
The Dodgers jumped out to a 4-0 lead early and coasted to the easy win, and we cashed a no sweat ticket. I mentioned in my pick yesterday that the Dodgers bullpen has been quite literally unhittable to start out the season, and they were again last night as they worked a collective 3.2 innings and gave up no runs on one hit. We are back in search of value today and will head to Minnesota for a blockbuster matchup in the American League Central between the Twins and the Indians.
Cleveland Indians (5-2) at Minnesota Twins (4-2)
The Cleveland Indians took the opening game of this four-game series last night against the Twins, on the road, and are looking to make it two straight tonight over their division rivals. The Indians are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres for the most wins in the Major Leagues and would love to put some space between themselves and Minnesota in what is sure to be a tight race for the AL Central Division title.
For Minnesota, the loss last night snapped a three-game winning streak, and the Twins have won both of their series so far in 2020. If the Twins can knock off the Indians tonight, they would be in sole possession of first place in the division.
The Cleveland Indians have gotten off to a hot start and are hoping to keep that going this weekend in a huge series with the Twins. The American League Central looks to be one of, if not the, most competitive division in all of baseball, and whichever team can win these early-season matchups is going to have a major head start for the postseason.
The Indians are having so much success because their entire pitching staff is on fire right now. Cleveland leads the Major Leagues in just about every major team pitching stat, including ERA, WHIP, and batting average against. Really, the only guy that is struggling is closer Brad Hand, as he has had back to back rough outings, but besides him, the rest of this Indians staff has been basically untouchable.
Mike Clevinger (0-0 2.57 ERA)
One of those Indians pitchers that has been pitching well, is tonight’s starting pitcher, Mike Clevinger. And that’s not remotely surprising for Indians fans, as Clevinger has been one of the best starters in the American League, when he has been healthy, in the last three seasons. While he has only had one full season where he didn’t miss significant time to injury, when he has been able to pitch, Clevinger has been stellar, as he owns a lifetime record of 41-21 with am ERA of just 3.21.
Last year, he was only able to make 21 starts, but he made the most of them as he won 13 games, had an ERA of 2.71, and struck out a borderline absurd 12.1 guys per nine innings. To put that into perspective, Jacob deGrom, the back to back Cy Young Award winner in the National League the last two seasons, has a career K/9 ratio of 10.2 and has never once hit above 11.3 in a single season. In his first start of the year, Clevinger pitched seven innings and allowed just two earned runs against the Kansas City Royals.
I really like this Minnesota Twins team. They have a ferocious lineup, and the pitching staff is retooled for 2020, and so far, has been good enough to not get in the way. As expected, the Twins are hitting the ball hard, remember, this team broke the all-time single-season team home run record last year when they smashed 307 bombs.
The seemingly ageless Nelson Cruz continues to punish baseballs as he has already clubbed three home runs and leads the majors in RBI, with 11. That being said, there are some reasons to be concerned about this lineup right now as several of their best player have gotten off to slow starts. Mitch Garver is hitting .154, Max Kepler is hitting .182, Eddie Rosario is hitting .182, and Josh Donaldson, the Twins, prized off-season addition, is hitting just .142.
Randy Dobnak (0-1 2.25 ERA)
If the Twins want a real shot at winning the World Series this year, they need Randy Dobnak to step up and be as good this year, as he looked last year, when he was a late-season call up for Minnesota. Dobnak made his MLB debut in 2019 and was light’s out, splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation, for Minnesota.
In 9 appearances last year, 5 of those coming as starts, Dobnak posted a 2-1 record with a 1.59 ERA. His ERA is a little better than his performances actually were, as he did allow 9 total runs in those games, but four of those runs were unearned, keeping his ERA low.
He was so good late in the year for the Twins that they turned to him to start game two of the ALDS against the New York Yankees. That turned out to be a mistake, though, as Dobnak got blasted for four earned runs in just two innings of work, and the Twins lost the game, and eventually the series.
In his first start this season, Dobnak was solid, as he tossed four innings against the Chicago White Sox and allowed one run on three hits and was charged with the loss. He did struggle with his control some in that game, as he walked two batters. Minnesota will hope to stretch him out some tonight at home against Cleveland as he threw just 73 pitches in his first start of the year.
Who Do I Like?
This is a blockbuster of a game. Both teams were expected to be very good in 2020, and neither team has disappointed, as they are both out to a hot start. The AL Central was expected to be a three-horse race between the Twins, Indians, and White Sox, and with Chicago stumbling out of the gate to a 2-4 record, whichever team can win this series, is going to have just a little bit of cushion in the division.
There isn’t a lot to separate these two teams right now, but I am going to lean on Cleveland tonight. The pitching staff has been too good not to back right now. They quite literally aren’t walking anyone, really, nobody. The team has just 8 walks on the year, the lowest total in the game, and their team WHIP of 0.78 is absurdly low. It is hard to get a runner on base against Cleveland right now, let alone a run across the plate.
Both of these starting pitchers will likely be decent, but the edge certainly goes to Mike Clevinger. And when you look at each team’s bullpen, the major edge goes to Cleveland. The Indians shutout the Twins last night, which was the first time that Minnesota has been shut out so far in 2020, and I can’t imagine the Twins are going to be able to score many runs tonight.
The Twins are hitting the ball hard when they do make contact, but they aren’t drawing many walks, and their batting average leaves a lot to be desired. The only way that I see them getting to Clevinger, or this nasty Cleveland bullpen tonight, is if they manage to hit a couple of home runs.
But Clevinger has been notoriously hard to square up in his career, so even with a historically hard-hitting lineup like the Twins have, I will expect the ball to stay in the park tonight. Give me the Cleveland Indians as small road favorites tonight at -120 in game two!