8:05 PM EST – Line: Indians -121, Over/Under: 9.5
A pair of teams vying for the American League Wild Card clash tonight at Globe Life Park, as the Texas Rangers play hot to the Cleveland Indians, from Arlington, Texas. Struggling to maintain consistency this season, the Indians (36-33, 2nd in AL Central) are looking to make their fourth consecutive appearance in the Postseason, which would mark only the second time in Franchise History that they’ve managed to achieve that feat, and the first time since the teams from the late 1990s enjoyed their run of success. However, while Terry Francona’s men have traditionally gotten better as the season has progressed, it appears that the 2019 incarnation is going to have to settle for a Wild Card, given the absolutely torrid form of the Minnesota Twins, who are currently ahead of them by Eleven Games in the American League Central. As we’ll get into a little later, injuries have rocked this group, particularly the Starting Rotation, with the veteran Manager using everyone at his disposal just to stay in the thick of things; after Monday’s 8-0 thumping of the struggling Detroit Tigers, Cleveland remains 1.5 Games out of the final Wild Card in the American League. Offensively, this team has been far from intimidating, ranking near the bottom of the league in a number of areas, including Fourteenth in both Hits (518) and Batting Average (.229), Twelfth in Home Runs (82), and Dead-Last in Doubles (102). However, they’ve become adept at manufacturing their Offense, with Francona really coaching up his charges; the Indians have exhibited excellent discipline at the Plate, ranking Sixth in Walks (258), while recording the Fifth-fewest Strikeouts (587), and collecting the Fourth-most Stolen Bases (47) in the American League. After spending a year in Philadelphia, Carlos Santana (.289 BA, 70 H, 45 R, 13 2B, 14 HR, 42 RBI, 49 BB, 47 SO) has returned to literally carry the Lineup, looking better than he did at any point in his previous stint with the club. The 33-Year Old First Baseman is posting career-highs in Batting Average (.289), On-Base Percentage (.411), and Slugging Percentage (.525), while on pace to set personal bests in Home Runs and RBIs. Now if only Francona could coax the rest of the Batting Order to chip in… Finally making his return to the mound tonight is Mike Clevinger (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 22 K, 4 BB, 0.500 WHIP), who after a 60-day stint on the Disabled List due to a muscle strain in his upper back, looks to get back on track after last year’s breakthrough campaign. In 2018, the young Righthander authored his most impressive season as a Starter, logging career-highs in a slew of categories, including Wins (13), ERA (3.02), Innings Pitched (200.0), Strikeouts (207), and WHIP (1.155). To the dismay of the Franchise, the injury struck after the 28-year old had gotten off to a promising start to the current term, tossing a dozen scoreless innings with a ridiculous Twenty-Two Strikeouts in comparison to issuing just Four Walks in his first and only Two Starts. Francona has been rather cautious with Clevinger, but with injuries decimating the Rotation, the time is now for the ace to make his return; Cleveland has recently seen maladies strike a number of their arms, with the likes of Carlos Carrasco (Illness), Jefry Rodriguez (Shoulder), and former Cy Young-winner Corey Kluber (Forearm), each landing on the 10-Day Disabled List. In five career appearances against the Rangers, Clevinger been solid, owning a 0-1 record with a 2.42 ERA, permitting Six Earned Runs on Thirteen Hits over the course of 22.1 Innings of labor, totaling Twenty-Six Strikeouts opposed to Eight Walks.
Meanwhile, the Rangers (38-32, 2nd in AL West) too are facing a sizeable deficit in their Division, realizing that the route to their potential return to the Playoffs lies in the Wild Card after trailing the Houston Astros by Ten Games in the American League West. At the moment, Texas currently occupies the last Wild Card in the American League, though the competition appears to be fierce. In his first season on the Bench, Chris Woodward has acclimated himself well to the role of Manager, though it took a while to settle into the role get a handle on his charges. After an inconsistent start to the campaign, the Rangers have begun to heat up, winning Twenty-One of their last Thirty-Two contests, including Thirteen of their previous Twenty before Monday’s 3-11 pounding at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds. Whereas their opponent tonight has largely struggled from the Plate, Texas enjoyed quite the season in terms of offensive firepower, ranking towards the top of the American League in numerous categories, including Second in Runs Scored (397), Doubles (148), and Stolen Bases (58), Fourth in Triples (13), and Sixth in Batting Average (.256), On-Base Percentage (.344), and Slugging Percentage (.444). Elvis Andrus (.303 BA, 76 H, 39 R, 16 2B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 14 SB, 12 BB, 43 K) and Asdrubal Cabrera (.251 BA, 55 H, 33 R, 10 2B, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 27 BB, 52 K) comprise as productive a Left-Infield as you’ll find, with Joey Gallo (.276 BA, 47 H, 41 R, 11 2B, 17 HR, 41 RBI, 42 BB, 76 K), Shin-Soo Choo (.280 BA, 69 H, 48 R, 17 2B, 11 HR, 29 RBI, 31 BB, 74 K), and Hunter Pence (.292 BA, 56 H, 43 R, 14 2B, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 17 BB, 46 K) providing plenty of power in the heart of the Order. Unfortunately, Gallo, who is fresh off of back-to-back 40-Home Run campaigns and currently leading the Majors in both Slugging Percentage (.673) and OPS (1.074), is expected to miss the entirety of this four-game set with the Indians due to suffering a strained Left Oblique Muscle, though should return by the weekend, according to Woodward. This has very much been a breakthrough season for the 25-Year Old, whom has improved vastly from the Plate as a more all-around hitter. Despite the lofty power numbers, Gallo came into this term as a career .203 Batter, while racking up a whopping 403 Strikeouts over the past two years alone. However, in 2019, he’s batted a career-best .275, which could result in his first All-Star appearance. While they certainly have enough firepower to keep their collective heads above water without him, there isn’t much that Gallo can do about the Starting Rotation, which aside from Mike Minor (6-4, 2.63 ERA, 95.2 IP, 81 H, 28 ER, 11 HR, 32 BB, 99 K, 1.181 WHIP), who developed in their No. One, has left a good deal to be desired. This group is short on depth, with Woodward continuing the search for a consistent fifth Pitcher to further flesh things out. As a result, Lance Lynn (7-4, 4.4 ERA, 86.0 IP, 90 H, 42 ER, 7 HR, 24 BB, 93 K, 1.326 WHIP) has ascended to the second spot, a place where he hasn’t been since his days with the St. Louis Cardinals. Heading to the mound tonight, the veteran Righthander, who is now on his fourth team in three years, has become something of a journeyman. Formerly an important cog in the Cardinals’ Rotation, enjoying a 71-46 run from 2012 to 2017 in which he recorded a stellar 3.39 ERA, Lynn has struggled to enjoy that same success since transitioning to the American League where he’s plied his trade for the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, and currently the Rangers. Over the past two seasons, he has gone just 17-14 with an ERA of 4.64, proving once again that moving from the National League to the American League can be a jarring one for Starting Pitchers. When we last saw him, Lynn posted his second straight Quality Start even though he was left without a decision one again; over the past two Starts, the 32-Year Old has relinquished just Five Earned Runs on Twelve Hits, with Sixteen Strikeouts in comparison to Two Walks over the course of 12.0 Innings of work.