MLB Odds and Predictions: Rangers at Indians Series Picks
by Alan Matthews - 5/3/2012
For the second week in a row, my Friday MLB series preview will involve division leaders. Last week it was the Nationals-Dodgers, and unfortunately I missed on the Nats taking that series in L.A., although Washington easily could have won the first two games – hopefully you did follow my advice and take the Dodgers and the ‘under’ in Game 1.
This week I will look at the AL West-leading Texas Rangers visiting the surprising first-place team in the AL Central, the Cleveland Indians. Actually, most experts figured the only team likely to remotely challenge Detroit in the Central was the Tribe, but by now it was presumed the Tigers would be at least five games up. Instead, they are at .500. This is the first meeting of the year between the Rangers and Tribe – they play one more series in Cleveland and one in Texas both well after the all-star break. Here’s guessing the Rangers are still a first-place club then and the Indians aren’t.
Rangers at Indians Betting Story Lines
Texas is running away with the AL West thanks to the Angels’ struggles, but the Rangers might be a bit angry headed into this series. They enter having lost back-to-back games in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday (the Rangers were off Thursday) for their first consecutive losses of the season and only their second series loss (Tampa Bay was the other).
But throw that Jays series out because the Rangers didn’t have early AL MVP leader Josh Hamilton for any of those games and had slugging third baseman Adrian Beltre for just one of the three. Hamilton hasn't started since coming out of Sunday's game against Tampa Bay with back stiffness. Texas Manager Ron Washington didn't want to take any chances with Hamilton or Beltre (hamstring) on the turf at Rogers Centre.
Hamilton was named AL Player of the Month for April with nine homers and 25 RBI with a .395 batting average in 22 games. Beltre (.317, 4 HRs, 13 RBI) played in the series opener with the Jays and had three hits, but he only pinch-hit in the second game and sat out completely Wednesday – he could have played but Washington held him out just as a precaution and with the off day on Thursday. The manager expects both in the lineup Friday.
That this is a home series for the Indians isn’t necessarily a good thing as the Tribe are just 4-7 at home compared to 8-3 on the road heading into Thursday night’s series finale at the White Sox. Cleveland has lost three of four series at home (including to wretched K.C.), with the lone win coming against those scuffling Halos.
With the Cleveland offense struggling and Grady Sizemore in his normal spot on the DL, the Tribe recently signed Johnny Damon and he made his debut on Wednesday. Damon hit leadoff and was 0-for-3 before leaving with cramps (he should be fine). Damon won’t play every day, but Manager Manny Acta said that he will hit leadoff when he does. Michael Brantley had been in that spot but is hitting just .235 with a .301 on-base percentage. Acta wouldn’t commit to Brantley returning to leadoff when Damon is on the bench. Entering Thursday, the Tribe had the fewest hits in the AL and second-fewest homers.
Rangers at Indians Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: Rangers RHP Colby Lewis (3-0, 1.93) vs. Indians RHP Jeanmar Gomez (1-1, 2.35) – Lewis arguably should have been AL Pitcher of the Month, but that went to a teammate (see Sunday’s game). Lewis' 1.93 ERA was the fourth lowest ever for a Texas pitcher who made at least five starts in the month of April, and opponents are 0-for-21 against him with 10 strikeouts with runners in scoring position. He is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA vs. the Tribe over last three years. Gomez has allowed just three runs in 11.1 innings in his past two starts with 10 strikeouts.
Saturday: Rangers LHP Derek Holland (2-2, 5.13) vs. Indians RHP Derek Lowe (4-1, 2.27) – Holland got a five-year, $28.5 million contract this spring but has been a disappointment so far. He has been blasted the past two times out, allowing a combined 12 runs and 18 hits in 13 innings, losing both games. The Braves essentially gave away Lowe in a trade with Cleveland this offseason, and Lowe has become the Tribe’s best pitcher. He is arguably the top ground-ball pitcher in baseball, which will suit him well at the homer-happy Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
Sunday: Rangers RHP Yu Darvish (4-0, 2.18) vs. Indians RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 5.02) – Darvish has been well worth the $100 million investment so far to lure him from Japan and was named the AL Pitcher of the Month for April. He hasn’t allowed more than one earned run since his first start and has struck out a combined 19 in his past two outings. Jimenez was rocked last time out, throwing just 54 of his 105 pitches for strikes in a 4 2/3-inning performance against the White Sox. He has more walks (20) than strikeouts (14) in 28 2/3 innings and has not been worth the high price Cleveland paid to get him from Colorado last year.
Rangers at Indians MLB Betting Odds and Trends
Texas will open around -155 on the series line with Cleveland at +125. For Game 1, the Rangers are -140 favorites with the total at 8.5. ‘Over/under’ records: TEX 8-15-2, CLE 10-12 (entering Thursday).
The Rangers are 6-1 in Lewis’ past seven starts to open a series. They are 5-0 in his past five starts on Friday. The Indians have won eight straight on Fridays dating to last season. They are 8-2 in Gomez’s past 10 home starts. The over is 4-1 in Texas’ past five openers of a series. The under is 4-0 in Cleveland’s past four home games. Texas has won 13 of the past 16 vs. the Tribe and is 4-0 in Lewis’ past four starts vs. Cleveland.
MLB Predictions: Rangers at Indians Betting Picks
I hate taking the favorite as it’s just not, I don’t know, fun. Predicting the underdog to win is more exciting. But I’m also not going to do it just to do it. Texas is better away than home this year, while as noted above Cleveland is the same. Thus, I can’t go against Texas here either in the series or Game 1 – the Rangers win the opener and the finale. But I would go with that under in Game 1, as Lewis has been razor-sharp and that Texas offense might struggle a bit against Gomez with Hamilton likely to be rusty.
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