The Cleveland Indians blanked the K.C. Royals last night to put some more room between them and the rest of the American League Central. There is still time for somebody to close the gap and come back, but the picture is becoming much clearer in the AL Central now. The wildcard? That’s a gong show that won’t be decided until the last day of the regular season. Take your pick on who is going to get the final seed. There are now six teams within two games of the wildcard. The Yankees have had a stranglehold on the first wildcard for a while now, but behind them things get murky.
It’s another big game for the Indian and Royals this afternoon in Kansas City. Every game is so critical, especially for the Royals at this point. Two or three months ago the Royals looked like they were going to be too far behind, but fast forward and they’re knocking on the doors. The Tribe are looking for the sweep on Sunday, while the Royals can salvage the series with a win. The Royals need a win a lot more than the Indians do. Their offense must get going in motion, after scoring only 1 run in this series thus far.
It might be tough to find runs against the pitcher they have on the docket on Sunday. Danny Salazar who has been one of the hottest pitchers over the last month will look to keep it going against the Royals. He was on the shelf for almost two months and he’s coming back with a flamethrower attached to his shoulder. His ERA doesn’t look great, but all of his negative starts came before he went on the DL. The possibility that he was playing injured is real. The skies appear to be clear for him now, and he’s been making the most of his opportunity. Jason Hammel will counter for the Royals. Get our free Sunday MLB betting pick below.
Cleveland Indians vs. K.C. Royals Pick
Danny Salazar (5-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (5-9, 4.74 ERA)
Salazar has quietly been playing a sort of MVP role for the Indians in the second-half of the season. He’s been mowing hitters down and is going to be a dangerous weapon for the Indians in the postseason. Salazar is the extra boost they needed when the team was stuck in flux. Since his return, he’s posted an ERA of 1.39 in five outings. That includes 46 strikeouts in just 32.1 innings. He’s allowed 1 run in each of his last three starts, so it’s been a very consistent stretch for Salazar. In 264 at-bats, the Royals have a .250 batting average against him. I don’t think they’ve ever seen him this hot.
If Salazar is pitching at that elite level again today, Hammel must find a way to keep up. Considering how dead the Royals’ offense has been, he may have to pitch a gem. Hammel has seen some success against the current Indian lineup in his career with an opposing batting average of .235. He must stay away from Encarnacion, who has taken him for 4 long balls in 24 at-bats. Nevertheless, I think the total in this game is a little too high for my liking. Salazar and the Indian bullpen will do their thing, and Hammel is more than capable of pitching well to keep this UNDER 9 runs.
PICK: UNDER 9 (-105)