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The top two teams in AL Central begin a three-game series Friday night as the Cleveland Indians visit the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Chicago will have to bounce back after dropping three of four to the Kansas City Royals including a 5-0 loss in Thursday’s final as a -176 favorite, but it still leads the division at 60-43. Cleveland runs with eight games at 50-49 after splitting two against St. Louis Cardinals, settled for a 7-2 victory Wednesday to hit +100 odds.
Despite the difference in the overall record, the Indians lead the season series 6-5 so far after taking two of three from the White Sox in late May.
Cleveland continues to tread water with division toward St. Louis
The Indians need to get started now if they have a realistic shot at running late towards a place after the season, but are at least back over 0.500 after slowing down the red-hot Kwang Hyun Kim and the Cardinals on Wednesday. Franmil Reyes got the scoring started at the bottom of the second with a mammoth solo shot, and was part of a three-homer block in the third with Hernandez and Jose Ramirez also attending the party.
Zach Plesac showed an effective five innings to grab the win, allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk while hitting four. Reyes finished 3-3 with the two home races and one trip, while Hernandez ran in three races in his final game as a member of the Indians.
While Cleveland has not yet made any further offers, it appears to be selling after the move of Hernandez with the possibility of a few shippers being traded that look likely.
The Indians are only slightly better against the spread of 52-46 and are within a win after being on the money line for the season. Overs are 51-43-4 for Cleveland after Wednesday’s over snapped a run of three straight unders.
While the offense has improved recently, it still has poor numbers for the season with an average of 4.28 runs per game. Match and a 0.694 OPS, sixth worst in baseball. Cleveland pitching has dropped to below average levels with a 4.46 ERA due to injuries in rotation, but the bullpen has remained stellar with a rating of 3.54.
JC Mejia will take the mound on Friday and look to turn around a shaky rookie season that has seen him go 1-6 with a 7.52-ERA in 12 appearances. The 24-year-old took the loss last Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays with five runs allowed on seven hits and twice over six innings while hitting six. Reyes has been a big power risk in the middle of the Cleveland lineup with a 0.918 OPS, 19 homers and 47 RBIs across 58 games after missing some time with a strained slant.
The Indians are without their top two starters as reigning winner of the AL Cy Young Award Shane Bieber is at 60-day IL with a strained shoulder while Aaron Civale is not ready to return from a strained finger. Cleveland is also shorthanded in the field, with Jordan Luplow (ankle-free foot), Eddie Rosairo (strained stomach) and Josh Naylor (ankle surgery) all out.
White Sox shutout as offense stuck in a downturn
While Chicago’s lead in AL Central is still not seriously threatened, it has now lost six of its last eight games, handing out just 17 total runs during this stretch after being stripped of Kansas City on Thursday. The White Sox managed six base runners for the game, of which only three came into scoring position, and Kansas City was constantly in control after building a 4-0 lead through the end of three innings.
Starter Carlos Rodon, who has struggled too late after standing out as a Cy Young challenger, lasted just four innings and allowed eight hits while hitting four out to take the loss. Adam Engel was the only Chicago player to reach base twice with a double and a walk.
There was some excitement for Chicago on Thursday as it traded with Cleveland for second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who will address a needs area. Reliever Ryan Tepera is also on his way to the White Sox from crosstown rival Chicago Cubs.
The White Sox are solid against the spread at 54-49, but are just narrowly up on the money line for the season with the recent slide. Overs are 47-51-5 for the White Sox, and none of their last eight games have gone over the overall effort as the offense has struggled.
Despite this decline, Chicago has excellent numbers on the season with an average of 4.84 runs per game. Match and a 0.747 OPS. White Sox pitching staff have been fantastic with a 3.59 combined ERA while knocking out 10.29 opposing hits per nine innings, the best mark in baseball.
Lance Lynn gets the ball rolling to open the series that wants to advance his case for Cy Young as he is 10-3 with a 1.91 ERA and 115 strikes in 103.2 innings. The 34-year-old won the win over Milwaukee Brewers last Sunday by six innings on a run, yielding six hits and no walks while hitting six. Yoan Moncada is Chicago’s top position player with 3.0 WAR, including a .268 / .386 / .408 line at the plate.
Young slugger Eloy Jimenez made his season debut on Monday, and co-star Luis Robert should not be far behind as he approaches a return from a torn hip flexion. Second baseman Nick Madrigal underwent season-ending hoarding surgery last month, prompting the move to Hernandez. Catcher Yasmani Grandal hopes to return from a torn knees at some point in August. Pitching staff have been far healthier all season, with only relievers Jimmy Cordero (Tommy John surgery) and Evan Marshall (strained flexor) at IL.
Trends via Covers.com. Chicago is:
- 47-17 in the last 64 matches as home favorite.
- 15-7 in the last 22 matches against a right-handed starter.
- 3-8 in the last 11 road games.
- 5-14 in the last 19 matches against a team with a winning record.