There is no other play today. In a game that is once again sure to have a playoff-like atmosphere, our play of the day is a battle for AL Central supremacy. Both of these teams have been on fire this season and are featured in the top five of my most recent power rankings. The Minnesota Twins have held steady atop the division for the majority of the season. With that in mind, the visiting Cleveland Indians made a big enough splash to leapfrog the home team in the aforementioned power rankings. With a win tonight, they will pull dead even with a team that seemed all but uncatchable just three weeks ago.
Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins
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In a battle for the AL Central, Cleveland is set to go another round with Minnesota for first place. The Indians have been red hot since the All-Star break, winning 16 of their last 24 games. They’re now just one game out of first place while leading the AL wild-card hunt. They continue to boost their scoring behind a resurgent Jose Ramirez and pre-deadline acquisitions Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig. Yet much of their success is thanks to a pitching staff that holds the third-lowest team ERA in the majors. The Indians are a dominant 38-24 at home and have won six of their last seven games overall.
On pace to smash the single-season home run record, Minnesota continues its historic season. The Twins are second in MLB behind the New York Yankees with a truly remarkable 5.79 runs per game and sport the fourth-highest run differential. One of the best road teams in the game, they’re 35-21 away from Target Field. Minnesota has won 14 of its 26 games since the All-Star break. However, including the opening game of this series, it has dropped its last three games. Due to recent form, Cleveland holds a slight edge in the team arena.
Cleveland will send ace Shane Bieber to the mound, and Minnesota will counter with rookie hurler Devin Smeltzer. Bieber has been impressive this season, pairing his 3.31 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 182 strikeouts in just 149.1 innings. Lights out since in the second half, the righty has a 2.92 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in five starts. He went the distance in two of them. Bieber has pitched better on the road this season, holding a 2.79 ERA and 0.76 WHIP away from Progressive Field. The 24-year-old has allowed two runs or fewer in 14 of his 22 starts and has a solid 3.52 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over three outings (one in relief) against Minnesota this season. Cleveland has won six of his last seven starts.
Smelzter has performed well through five MLB appearances. He allowed one or no runs in every outing except for one against these Indians. Knocked out of the rotation after his last start at Cleveland, Smeltzer will look to change his fortune at home. The 23-year-old southpaw has allowed just two runs in 21.1 innings at Target Field, but Cleveland still holds the edge on the mound.
Edge: Cleveland Indians
There are some intriguing trends for this contest. Cleveland has won 12 of its last 14 road games and its last four Game 2s of a series. The Indians have won five of their last six road games against teams with winning home records. They hold the same mark in their last six overall against teams above .500. Cleveland has triumphed in 21 of its last 28 games against left-handed starting pitchers. It has won six of its last eight Friday games. The Indians have won 112 of their last 165 games against the AL Central. Finally, they’ve emerged victorious in 38 of their last 53 games overall.
The Twins have won 11 of their last 15 Game 2s of a series. They have won 37 of their past 52 against the AL Central and 50 of their last 74 home contests against right-handed starting pitchers. On the other side of things, they have lost five of their last six home games against teams with winning records. Finally, they sit at the same mark over their most recent six overall against teams with winning records.
Cleveland is on a roll in Bieber’s recent starts. It has won his last four Friday starts as well as his last four games on four days of rest. The Indians have won five of his last six Game 2 starts of a series. They have won four of his last five turns against the AL Central and 16 of his past 21 road starts. Finally, they have persevered in six of his last eight road starts against teams with a winning record.
Unfortunately, Smeltzer does not have enough experience to qualify for any notable trends. He has been solid through his home appearances, but his lone blemish this season came against Cleveland. The Indians thus holds the edge in the trends department.
Edge: Cleveland Indians
The line for this contest has already started to move. The Twins opened at +116 and currently sit at +125, and +121 at PointsBet. A line of -140 on a surging Indians team with the superior starting pitcher seems like a great value. Cleveland is in better form and is going up against a rookie pitcher it pounded for five runs — four home runs — earlier this season. The Indians also have the support of trends and claimed the opening game of this series. Cleveland has won four of Bieber’s last five starts against the Twins, so look for them to prevail behind their streaking lineup and cruising ace.
Pick: Cleveland Indians (-140)