Sunday night baseball brings us a possible playoff preview as the Houston Astros hostthe Cleveland Indians. The two teams split the first two games of the series, making Sunday’s game the rubber match. The Houston Astros are -140 over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
The Indians have the unusual distinction of being atop their division but not being above .500. Cleveland begins Sunday at 22-22 after going just 7-10 during the month of May. However, that record is still good enough to lead what is easily the most mediocre division baseball has seen in recent years.
The Astros, meanwhile, are also on top of their division, but they’ve had to work a lot harder to get there. Houston is 29-18, although both the Mariners and Angels are within three games of first place in the AL West. With eight wins in their last 11 games, only the Red Sox have more wins than the Astros at this point in the season.
Going the Distance
In an era in which so few pitchers go deep into games, Sunday’s starter Carlos Carrasco already has two complete games this season. That’s important to note because Cleveland’s bullpen that has been so dominant in recent years has been anything but in 2018. The Indians have the highest bullpen ERA in the American League, and so they’ll need Carrasco to go deep in the game against Houston’s potent lineup.
On the season, Carrasco is 5-2 with a 3.66 ERA over nine starts. However, he’s not had much success against many of Houston’s hitters. Astros players are a combined 22 for 67 (.328) in their careers against Carrasco. Josh Reddick has been particularly dangerous, going 6 for 9 with a home run. Houston’s lineup has not been quite as potent as it was a year ago. But they are still one of the highest-scoring teams in the American League and have few holes in the batting order.
A Second Chance
Starting for the Astros will be Lance McCullers Jr., who enters Sunday’s game 5-2 with a 3.63 ERA, almost identical numbers to Carrasco. McCullers faced the Indians early in the 2017 season and got knocked around for five runs in five innings of work. As a result, Cleveland’s roster has a combined .423 average against him.
However, McCullers has come a long way since that start, and now he can dominate any lineup in baseball if he has his best stuff. That being said, the Indians have some heavy hitters in their lineup. Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Michael Brantley are all hitting over .300. The Indians are also leading the majors in home runs, as Lindor, Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion all have 10 or more long balls on the year, while Yonder Alonso has gone yard nine times.
This is a tough game to call after these two teams split the first couple games in this series. Both starting pitchers are more than capable of delivering a quality start, although both lineups are capable of putting runs on the board. In the end, the Astros being at home and Cleveland’s suspect bullpen are enough to sway things in Houston’s favor. When you bet this game, take the Houston Astros -140 over the Cleveland Indians.