We started out the second half of the year just how we wrapped up the first half of the year, by picking up yet another underdog winner! Last night we backed the Atlanta Braves as they were somehow inexplicably underdogs against the San Diego Padres. The line made absolutely no sense as the Braves were starting former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Kuechel and the Padres had Dinelson Lamet making just his second start in a year as he makes his return from Tommy John surgery.
Don’t look now but Dallas Kuechel seems to have quickly regained his elite form in the National League as the guy is 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA in three July starts. He has pitched at least seven innings in each of those starts and has allowed just five earned runs. In my pick yesterday I said you could pencil him in for six-plus strong innings and he did not disappoint as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball.
The Braves smashed Lamet for three runs in the first and coasted to a 5-3 victory. When you get a spot like last night where you can back the much better overall team, and get the best of the starting pitching matchup, all the while getting dog money, you need to take full advantage of it and hammer that number. That is what we did last night, and that is what we will try and do again tonight as we take a look at the game between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians.
The Minnesota Twins are in Cleveland Saturday looking to take game two of a three games series with the Indians. The Twins finished baseball’s first half in first place and have a six and a half game lead over the Indians in the AL Central Division race. The Twins took game one of this series last night in come from behind fashion 5-3. In that one, the Indians jumped out to a 3-0 only to see the bullpen blow the lead in the seventh and allowed the Twins to take the series lead.
For the Indians, they were sad to see the All-Star break come as they had won six straight games before hitting the mid-summer classic. Cleveland used that big push to put themselves into the second wild card spot in the AL, with a slight half of a game lead over the Oakland Athletics for the final playoff spot in the league.
Starting tonight for the Twin is Jake Odorizzi (10-4 3.15 ERA), and for the Indians, it is Trevor Bauer (8-6 3.61 ERA). The game total over-under is set at nine runs. The Indians are -144 home underdogs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Progressive Field in Cleveland.
The Minnesota Twins were the feel-good story of baseball’ first half. They are using mostly a bunch of no-name castoffs yet have been able to be one of the best teams in the American League all season long. The Twins are hitting the ball out of the park at a historic pace and are top two in the majors in homers, runs scored, slugging percentage, and batting average. It would not at all be an overstatement to say that this band of misfits have the best offense in the game.
And the pitching hasn’t been half bad either. As a staff, the Twins are top ten in basically every pitching category, with their ERA coming in at sixth in the majors. A big reason why they are having success has been the pitching of tonight’s starter, Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi has ten wins, good for fourth in the league, and his 3.15 ERA is top five as well. He had a stretch earlier this season where he allowed runs in just one, of seven consecutive starts.
He did seem like he was tiring a bit in late June and July, and despite being named to his first ever All-Star game, missed the game with a blister on his throwing hand. But he has now had eleven full days off and has pitched just three innings since June 26th. He has had plenty of time to rest up and cure his blister that was causing some inconsistent results.
Trevor Bauer’s 2018 campaign is starting to look a lot like a fluke. Last season Bauer was unbelievably good as he posted a 2.21 ERA and nearly six wins above replacement in twenty-seven starts. Bauer has always been decent, but last year was the first time he posted an ERA under 4.18 in any of his previous six seasons as a starter. So, while many are wondering where those results went this year, I am thinking it is more of a regression towards the mean. This is just who this guy is.
The guy was never as good as he looked last season, and his 3.61 ERA this year is actually better than his career ERA of nearly four runs. That isn’t to say he doesn’t have great stuff, he does. We saw that in his last start before the break as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball against the Cincinnati Reds. But Bauer has also been very inconsistent. He has allowed five earned runs or more five times since the start of May.
I think Bauer is probably the better side of this starting pitching matchup, but it is much closer than I think the average fan would think, and that creates value. Odorizzi was pitching on an elite level before developing blisters, and those should be dealt with now. And when you look at the career stats for both guys, they are very similar. Odorizzi is 57-52 with a 3.88 ERA in 175 career starts. While Bauer is 67-53 with a 3.90 ERA in 170 career starts.
When Odorizzi last pitched against the Indians in late March, he allowed just one hit and struck out a season-high eleven. Bauer’s last starts against the Twins? He got hammered for five runs, all earned, including three home runs and the Indians lost.
And when you look at the overall strength of these two teams, the Twins are much better. Minnesota has occupied first place essentially all season long, and even though Cleveland is heating up, the Twins are still six and a half games better on the year. To me, this is a coin flip game at worst for the Twins. Minnesota has the best road record in the majors this season, at eleven games over .500, and they aren’t afraid of the Indians as they are 4-3 against them this season.
This game could go either way. And if you are an avid reader of my daily picks you know what I always do in spots like this one in an evenly matched game, I jump on the value side getting all the juice. If you are going to lay me odds on a coin flip, I am going to take it every time. And in this particular spot, I get to pick up some fairly significant juice, so I am loving it! Give me the Minnesota Twins at +134 tonight in game two from Cleveland!