There is not a hotter team in baseball than the Cleveland Indians. They seem as though they cannot lose and they’re making a hard push for the best record in the AL. In Sunday’s series finale, the Baltimore Orioles will try and do something that—going into Thursday—no team has done in over two weeks: beat the Tribe.
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They haven’t notched 14 straight wins like the Indians, but the Orioles have been playing much better baseball in the last month or two.
Baltimore’s pitching has become less of an embarrassment, but the Orioles offense is what’s really stepped forward. No team has scored more runs in the AL than the O’s in the second half. The power is a big reason for that. The team has hit 93 second-half bombs.
The homer has long been Baltimore’s forte. The team has a couple 30-homer bats in Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado. They’ve got six players with at least 20 homers and two more—Welington Castillo and Tim Beckham—knocking on the door.
The Indians cannot compete with the O’s on pure power, but the team has much more well-rounded hitters than the Birds. While players like Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo provide power, they’ve given little in terms of average or OBP. They’ve also provided their share of swing and miss.
Cleveland has Jose Ramirez batting .311 and swinging a scorching stick. They’ve got six starters with a .358 OBP or better. They also only have a single hitter with triple digit strikeouts.
It’s not like the Indians cannot hit the homer either. Edwin Encarnacion is tied with Machado in homers as they lead their respective teams. Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez can all go yard, too.
Trevor Bauer gets the prime-time spotlight for the Indians. He’s not Corey Kluber of Carlos Carrasco, but right now, it doesn’t matter who the Indians send to the hill.
Bauer is tops on the team with his 15 wins and while his 4.39 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, it classifies him as a pretty solid No.3 starter.
The righty has some great stuff, it’s just the command and consistency that’s a little off from time to time.
He’s been dealing lately. Bauer has failed to deliver a quality start in just one of his last nine outings. He allowed two runs in 6.1 innings in his last start. He’s allowed no more than a single run in six of his last nine appearances, lowering his ERA well over a run in that span. He’s also won each of his last five starts.
The Orioles have yet to announce their starter, but with Ubaldo Jimenez pitching out of the pen on Tuesday, there’s a good chance the Orioles are back to a five-man rotation. If that’s the case, Dylan Bundy should line up for the start. Otherwise, Chris Tillman or Jimenez could get the nod.
At 13-9 with a 4.12 ERA, Bundy is clearly the better option compared to the 7.85 ERA of Tillman or 6.80 ERA of Jimenez. The 24-year old has already thrown 159.1 innings, way above his innings total from last year.
Fatigue is a concern. He did struggle through four frames against the Yankees on Monday, giving up five runs and two long balls. Despite that, he had five straight quality starts and allowed only eight runs in 38 innings during August.
If either Tillman or Jimenez get the start, it could be a long night for the O’s. It’s been quite a while since either delivered a strong performance. Tillman was the ace of the staff last year so, if he’s finally healthy he could click, but we’ve seen no signs of that. Jimenez throws a couple gems a year, but it’s way too hard to bank on that.
The bullpen comparison between these two teams is a fun one. Both pens have several options late in games, making the first six innings more important. Whoever leads after six gets the win.
The Indians lead baseball in bullpen ERA at 2.92, but the Orioles are fifth at 3.68 with that number a bit inflated by the carrousel of sixth and seventh arms. Baltimore’s core arms are nails. Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day all given different looks. Mychal Givens may have the best stuff of the bunch and Miguel Castro has been invaluable as a long man with a 2.65 ERA in 54.1 innings over just 33 games.
On top of that, Richard Bleier and Donnie Hart have been valuable lefty options. Buck Showalter is also a master of the pen and Dan Duquette has given him plenty of toys to play with here with the expanded rosters in September. From Gabriel Ynoa, Richard Rodriguez and Jimmy Yacabonis, Buck has already given them all some time since their promotions.
As for the Tribe, the Indians remain without Andrew Miller, but that hasn’t slowed them; just look in the win column. The lack of Miller does do away with a shutdown—and versatile arm—but the depth in his pen is unparalleled and it’s just gotten better since the start of September.
The Orioles may be able to match up with the Indians Miller-less pen, but the Tribe has the advantage in the other facets of the game.
Cleveland has a much more versatile offense while the Orioles are susceptible to good pitching. It’s homer or bust. They cannot manufacture runs. Bauer could be vulnerable to the homer if his control is off, but he’s been good more than he’s been bad lately.
Bundy matches up reasonably with Bauer, but he’s not a guarantee. Tillman and Jimenez are certain losses. It’s a bit closer with Bundy, but either way the O’s are 27-39 on the road.
MLB Odds: Indians 5, Orioles 2
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