7:10 PM EST – Line: Red Sox -115, Over/Under: 8.5
Playoff hopefuls traveling in polar opposite directions clash as the red-hot Cleveland Indians play host to the slumping Boston Red Sox in the second leg of a three-game series from Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. With the Trade Deadline come and gone, it’s become readily apparent that the Red Sox (62-58, 3rd in AL East) should have made a significant move (or three), for ever since that July 31st deadline, they’ve found themselves in a downward spiral. Boston emerged from the All-Star Break winners of ten out of sixteen, thanks in large part to some seriously insane run production, but have since lost eleven of their last fourteen, including 3-5 since the Deadline. Indeed, Alex Cora’s charges are fading fast, now trailing division rival, Tampa Bay, by a whopping 7.5 games in the race for the American League’s final Wild Card. The Pitching Staff in particular has been absolutely dreadful during this stretch, registering an embarrassing ERA of 6.00 in which they’ve relinquished Eighty-Five Runs on 130 Hits, including Twenty-Four Home Runs, with a diminishing Strikeout/Walk Ratio of 2.23. Then again, pitching has been this team’s primary problem throughout the campaign, with the club posting a middling ERA of 4.81 (8th in AL), while relinquishing 632 Runs (12th in AL), and 425 Walks (14th in AL), though no team in the American League has totaled more Strikeouts (1,207). Furthermore, the Bullpen has been a mess, accounting for just Twenty-Three Saves (12th in AL). Taking the mound tonight for the Red Sox will be Chris Sale (6-11, 4.41 ERA, 24 GS, 140.2 IP, 118 H, 69 ER, 22 HR, 35 BB, 206 K, 1.088 WHIP), who as we’ve detailed on a number occasions is not enjoying one of his better seasons. The flame-throwing Lefthander was largely dominant throughout his first two season with the club, posting a stellar 2.56 ERA and 0.924 WHIP from 2017 to 2018, while playing a large role in the franchise’s ninth World Series Championship last year. However, he like the rest of Boston’s Rotation, has suffered from a number of factors this season, though in his case, it’s a bit more difficult to narrow down. The seven-time All-Star has thus seen his ERA balloon to a career-worst 4.41, nearly double that of the previous campaign (2.21), having already relinquished twice as many Home Runs (22) as he did in 2018 to boot. Chalk it up to a stunning loss of consistency in terms of control for the 30-Year Old, who continues to rack up the Strikeouts, averaging a league-high 13.2 per Nine Innings, but is also averaging 2.2 Walks per Nine Innings, which is the highest figure that he’s logged since 2012 when he was throwing for the Chicago White Sox. When we last saw him, Sale earned his first victory after back-to-back losses, shutting out the Los Angeles Angels in a masterful performance; it was a reminder of just how filthy this guy can be when he’s really on his game, striking out Thirteen Angels over a scoreless Eight Innings of labor. Needless to say, this is Chris Sale that Cora & Co. need in order for the team to return to the Playoffs. As a former denizen of the AL Central, he’s faced the Indians on a number of occasions throughout his career, though the success has been fleeting; Sale has gone 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA and 1.352 WHIP in Thirty Career Appearances, Nineteen of which have been Starts.
Meanwhile, with their 6-5 victory over the Red Sox in the series opener, the Indians (72-47, 1st in AL Central) have now climbed into lone possession of First Place in the American League Central. Indeed, Cleveland has been an absolute force since the beginning of June where they entered the month 28-29. Since that point, Terry Francona’s charges have gone a blistering 43-18, including a staggering 21-9 since the All-Star Break. Furthermore, whereas their opponent tonight has done nothing but fade since the July 31st Trade Deadline, the Tribe have thrived, winning eight out of eleven games, and that came after trading away their No. One Starter for much of the season, Trevor Bauer (9-8, 3.79 ERA, 24 GS, 156.2 IP, 127 H, 66 ER, 22 HR, 63 BB, 185 K, 1.213 WHIP), in a three-team deal involving the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. In return, they received some sorely-needed help at the plate, with Yasiel Puig (.263 BA, 111 G, 109 H, 56 R, 19 2B, 23 HR, 67 RBI, 16 SB, 26 BB, 99 K) arriving from Cincinnati, batting .357 with Fifteen Hits, Four Doubles, a Home Run, and Six RBIs in eleven games with his new club. It’s a solid addition for a team that has ranked in the middle or worse in the American League in most offensive categories, including Hits (984, 12th in AL), Runs (548, 10th in AL), Home Runs (157, 11th in AL), Walks (408, 7th in AL), and Batting Average (.250, 8th in AL). The loss of Bauer though doesn’t appear to be a big deal at all, for a club who with the eventual healthy return of former Cy Young Corey Kluber (2-3, 5.80 ERA, 7 GS, 35.2 IP, 44 H, 23 ER, 4 HR, 15 BB, 38 K, 1.654 WHIP) from a forearm fracture, coupled with the emergence of young ace, Shane Bieber (12-4, 3.28 ERA, 24 GS, 156.1 IP, 124 H, 57 ER, 21 HR, 32 BB, 193 K, 0.998 WHIP), ultimately made the veteran Righthander expendable. Taking the mound tonight for the Indians will be another of member of their stellar Rotation, Mike Clevinger (7-2, 3.02 ERA, 11 GS, 62.2 IP, 43 H, 21 ER, 6 HR< 20 BB, 89 K, 1.005 WHIP), who is searching for his fifth consecutive victory in as many Starts. After missing nearly the full three months of the season rehabbing from a major muscle strain in his upper back. In Six Starts since the All-Star Break, the young Righthander has been stellar, recording a 2.11 ERA with an unbeaten 5-0 record, racking up Forty-Nine Strikeouts in comparison issuing just Ten Walks in 38.1 Innings of labor, parlaying to a filthy 4.90 Strikeout/Walk Ratio. When we last saw him, Clevinger continued his remarkable run, dominating AL Central rival, Minnesota, in a 7-5 victory at Target Field. Against one of the most prolific Lineups in the Majors, the 28-Year Old was undaunted, permitting just Two Earned Runs on Three Hits over Seven Innings, totaling Nine Strikeouts opposed to yielding only One Walk. It was his seventh consecutive Start in which he relinquished three or fewer Earned Runs and the fourth in which he’s fanned eight or more batters.