Cleveland Indians at Tampa Bay Rays MLB Pick – August 31st

What a weird game it was last night for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Boys in Blue jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and they hit the sixth inning with that three-run lead still intact. Rookie starter Tony Gonsolin was cruising for the Dodgers as he hadn’t allowed a run through five innings of work and had given up just one hit. The DBacks finally got to Gonsolin in the bottom of the sixth by way of a two-run Eduardo Escobar home run, to cut the Dodger lead to 3-2.

And then this is where things get a little weird. The Dodgers added an extra run in the seventh, only to see Arizona answer right back and tie the game up with two runs of their own, this time on a Josh Rojas two-run bomb. The game hit the bottom of the eighth all tied up at four runs apiece when DBacks pinch hitter Tim Locastro led off the inning by striking out.

Good for the Dodgers, right? Wrong. Locastro managed to reach base on a passed ball and then quickly stole second to get into scoring position. He then advanced to third on an Adam Jones single and the DBacks had the go-ahead run just ninety feet away. Then, Dodgers reliever Yimi Garcia balked, and that sent the go-ahead run across the plate.

It wasn’t quite a balk-off, but close, as the DBacks took the lead in the bottom of the frame and Archie Bradley closed out in the ninth to give the DBacks their second straight win over LA. I have found lots of creative ways to lose bets over the years, but to blow a late lead and then get balked-off to lose the game is particularly painful. What can you do, kudos to the DBacks for finding a way to win a game they likely should have lost. For today’s bet, we will head to Tampa Bay where the Rays host the Indians.

The Cleveland Indians are in Tampa Bay Saturday for game two of a three-game set with the Rays. The Rays busted out the bats last night in game one to take the series lead and would love to make it two straight wins over an Indians team they are fighting against to make the playoffs. Both of these teams are very much in the wild card mix in the American League, and one of them could very easily be on the outside looking in come playoff time, which makes this series that much more important.

For Cleveland, they came into this series smoking hot as they had won five out of their previous six games and they must find a way to get back on track tonight in Tampa Bay. After briefly taking over first place in the AL Central Division race, the Indians have now slid to four and a half games back of the Minnesota Twins for the division title. Cleveland holds a scant half a game lead over the Oakland Athletics for the first wild card spot in the AL.

For Tampa Bay, they are a game behind Oakland, and if the season were to end today, they would be the odd man out. After starting out the month on fire, winning nine out of their first eleven games, the Rays have come back to earth as of late, as they had lost four out of their previous five games before picking up the win last night in the series opener.

Starting tonight for Tampa Bay is opener Diego Castillo (2-8 3.76 ERA) who is expected to pitch an inning or two and then turn things over to Jalen Beeks (5-3 4.55 ERA), and for the Indians it is Zach Plesac (7-4 3.40 ERA). The game total over-under is set at eight and a half runs. The Rays are -124 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 3:10 PM PST from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

As the Tampa Bay Rays use their opener strategy quite a bit, it can sometimes be difficult to handicap who is exactly will be pitching. They will open with Diego Castillo, who has spent much of the season pitching late in games and sometimes even closing games out. He has pitched three times in the last two weeks and has gotten hammered in all three appearances, to the tune of six runs in just four innings pitched.

I would expect to see Castillo for one, maybe two innings at the most, and don’t be shocked if the Indians find a way to score on him before he leaves the game. After Castillo opens, the Rays are expected to turn things over to Jalen Beeks. Beeks has really struggled recently as his ERA is nearly eight runs in the last two months. In his last three appearances, he has faced three of the worst hitting teams in the game, the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and San Diego Padres, and he has been dreadfully bad.

In those three games, he tossed five innings in each appearance and got pounded for sixteen runs! If you look back even further, Beeks has faced pretty much all weak teams with poor results. He gave up runs to the Miami Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. The last time he faced a team with a legit lineup, the Boston Red Sox, in late July, he gave up eight runs in just three and two-thirds of an inning pitched. The Rays have not surprisingly struggled when Beeks pitches recently, as they have lost six out of his last eight games.

Zach Plesac has been a pleasantly surprising addition to this Indians rotation this year.  After injuries to Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland was forced to bring the rookie up, and he has pitched quite well. His 3.40 ERA is more than respectable for an American League pitcher and puts him amongst the top rookie starters in the league. And the Indians just seem to win when he pitches as they have won eight out of his last nine starts, and on the year, they are 12-4 when Plesac starts.

I am quite surprised to see the Rays favored in this one. The Indians are a very good road team, they are eleven games over .500 away from Cleveland this season. And while the Rays are a winning team at home (35-31) they do most of their winning away from Tropicana Field as their road record is (43-27). And when you look at the pitching matchup, Zach Plesac isn’t quite a household name just yet, but the guy has been very good.

And whether it is Castillo or Beeks getting the most innings tonight for Tampa Bay, neither of those guys have been very good recently, and I see the Indians as having the better side of the pitching matchup today. As far as the overall strength of the teams, I think you can call that a wash. Only a game and a half separate these two teams, so I am not ready to say that either one of them has a major edge. So, this is another one of those games that is basically a coin flip.

They both want and need the win and will be playing hard tonight. But in a scenario that we have a true coin flip game, you are always going to want to be on the value side, getting the juice, not laying it. And that is just what we will do in this one. Give me the Cleveland Indians as road underdogs tonight in game two at +114!

The Bet: Cleveland Indians +114

My Pick
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL