A matchup of two perennial American League playoff contenders will commence Friday evening in The Land when the Indians and Yankees hook up in a three-game set for the first time this season.
Despite the very different win-loss records between the two franchises, both have actually had a similar journey up to this point, with each side having to adjust to key injuries since the onset of the campaign.
The difference is that the Yankees have been able to persevere, carrying a 2.5-game lead for first place in the AL East into Tuesday’s action. Even despite possessing a stacked injury list, the Bronx Bombers have still been managing to do it all. They’re tied for third in the league with 5.34 runs scored per game and the starting pitching staff ranks fourth with a 3.82 ERA.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Indians are third from the bottom in runs per game (3.97), and their always-reliable rotation is seventh in the AL with an uncharacteristic 4.34 ERA. It’s no wonder Cleveland is below the .500 mark and 11.5 games back of first in the Central.
All of it adds up to an intriguing meeting between two usual upper echelon teams going in opposite directions. Let’s see how the upcoming games measure up.
Domingo German vs. Jefry Rodriguez (Friday): Without question, one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season has been German, who is tied for the Major League lead in wins with nine. He’s also collectively held opposing hitters to a .215 batting average, ninth-lowest in the AL. At the same time, German is starting to show regression after surrendering at least three runs in each of his last three starts.
So, too, has the other hurler in this series opener, Rodriguez. The second-year right-hander got out to a good start in 2019 — so much so that the under cashed in each of his first six starts. Lately, though, lineups are starting to figure him out, as Rodriguez been touched up for four or more earned runs in three of his last four assignments. OVER
CC Sabathia vs. Zach Plesac (Saturday): There’s an extraordinary difference of 545 career starts between the two pitchers set to toe the rubber in this middle affair. Sabathia has 547 starts — 137 of those coming with the Indians from 2001-2008. Even in his old age, the 19-year veteran has continued to be an effective innings-eater, pitching the Yanks into the fifth inning or deeper in all nine of his turns in the rotation. He’s also allowed no more than four runs in any start.
For the Tribe, it’ll be Plesac, owner of two career starts under his belt. Still, the 24-year-old has fared rather well, limiting his two opponents to just a run apiece in each effort. He also allowed just 10 baserunners combined and recorded a 9-2 K/BB ratio. It remains to be seen, however, if the nephew of former Major Leaguer Dan Plesac can handle this test, especially as more film on him becomes available. OVER
Masahiro Tanaka vs. Shane Bieber (Sunday): If you’re not a believer in Bieber yet, perhaps you will be much sooner than later. The former fourth-round draft pick turned a lot of heads a couple of weeks ago when he tossed a complete game shutout to go with a career-high 15 strikeouts. Then, he followed that up with another double-digit punch-out performance.
Bieber has arguably been the club’s most valuable pitcher this year in helping keep Cleveland afloat. He’s also been valuable for those who like betting on low scores, providing an 8-2-1 record on under bets in his starts.
Tanaka has been solid as well, honing a cool 3.20 ERA through his first 12 assignments. Since he’s typically steady, it shouldn’t be that surprising. Although Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana are a combined 19-for-52 (.365) off the veteran right-hander, Tanaka figures to find a way anyhow like he normally does. UNDER
Last week: 1-2
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