Indians at Athletics MLB Pick June 29
Friday brings a matchup between a pair of American League playoff hopefuls. The Cleveland Indians didn’t get off to a blazing start this season, but they’re still easily the best team in a watered-down AL Central. The Tribe enter Friday’s game at 44-35 on the year, which is 8 games better than the second place Minnesota Twins. The Twins are 7 games south of the .500 mark if that gives you any indication of how dreadful the rest of the division is. At this point, the Indians look like a postseason lock.
The Oakland A’s, on the other hand, have their work cut out for them. Oakland has a 44-38 record, but that still puts them 10.5 games back of the Houston Astros in the division. The Seattle Mariners are 7 games up on Oakland, and that looks to be the Athletics’ chief competition as far as a playoff spot goes. Catching the Mariners won’t be impossible, but the A’s will need some help.
Trevor Bauer will take the mound for the Indians. While Corey Kluber is the pitcher on the Cleveland staff with the most accolades, it’s not unfair to suggest that Bauer has out-pitched the former Cy Young winner so far in 2018. Bauer has a 31.8 percent strikeout rate on the year, which is electrifying. The walks and hard contact are a little too high, but those numbers haven’t come back to haunt him quite yet.
Some regression could be on the way (2.44 ERA, 3.04 SIERA), but all the numbers say the right-hander has been stellar on the year. A matchup with a powerful Oakland lineup is suboptimal, but the A’s do strike out at a decent clip. Bauer is also effective in terms of keeping the ball on the ground. He has allowed just 5 home runs in 16 starts this season after allowing at least 20 dingers in each of the last 3 campaigns.
He’ll be opposed by another right-hander in Paul Blackburn. While Bauer has been racking up the strikeouts this season, Blackburn has been doing the opposite. He has a below-average strikeout rate of about 14 percent on the year. While he doesn’t miss many bats, he has been effective in terms of generating soft contact and ground balls.
Blackburn has yielded a hard-hit rate of just 24.6 percent on the year alongside a ground ball rate north of 53 percent. Those numbers will certainly play, especially given how many teams are dependent on the long ball to generate offense.
Still, Blackburn faces a stiff test in this one going up against a red-hot Indians lineup. The Tribe are sixth in the league in wOBA and eighth in wRC+ this season against right-handed pitching. Blackburn has allowed a .372 wOBA to lefties and a .371 mark to right-handed hitters. While he has rarely gotten blown up to this point, this is a matchup that doesn’t necessarily match up with the pitcher’s skill set.
The Indians get a pretty substantial park downgrade going from Progressive Field to o.Co Coliseum today in terms of hitting, but this is one of those offenses capable of putting up runs in any setting.
Given the discrepancy in the quality of the starting pitchers in this game, I think this could turn into a laugher in Cleveland’s favor. Bauer should be able to keep the A’s hitters in check, while the Indians should enjoy some success against a mediocre righty in Blackburn. As such, I think the Tribe on the runline is the play. Give me the Indians -1 1/2 tonight.
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