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May 16, 2015 (Posted at 11:00 AM ET)

Take Cleveland Indians (-132) on the Money Line against Texas Rangers risking 3% of bankroll.
(Salazar and Lewis must start for wager to have action)

The Tribe bats came alive when they punished the Rangers staff last night coming away with 8 runs scored on 12 hits in an 8-3 victory! It was an offensive beauty as Brett Hayes hit a home run, Jason Kipnis had four hits in 5 at bats, and Michael Brantley and Nick Swisher had three hits and combined for 5 RBIs as the Indians scored eight runs on 12 total hits. Cleveland has proven to have power in their bats and we expect some of last night’s offensive momentum to carry over into tonight’s contest. 

Danny Salazar will take the mound tonight for Cleveland. Salazar made his debut a couple of seasons ago, but struggles last year left him without a place in the starting rotation at the start of the season. He was called up last minute to pitch against Minnesota on Aril 18th and he made the most of his opportunity as he threw one of the most impressive pitching outings of the season up until that point. From seemingly out of nowhere, Salazar came in cold and went 6 strong innings while striking out 10! Since then he has continued to impress. He is 4-1 on the season with a 3.27 ERA and WHIP of 0.88. He's given up just 24 hits and 12 earned runs over the course of 33 innings. What has been most impressive however has been his strikeout rate. Salazar has averaged 107 pitches per game this season with a strikeout rate of 13.1 per 9 innings pitched so far this season. He has 43 total strikeouts in 33 innings, which is more than 1 per inning.  He has shown his ability to baffle opposing hitters and we expect that will be the case tonight. It's worth mentioning that the Prince Fielder, one of the big power bats of the Rangers has a lifetime batting average of just .167 against Salazar. 

The Rangers will send Colby Lewis to the mound to pitch opposite of Salazar. Lewis is a veteran pitcher and is having himself a fairly good season to this point. He is 3-2 with a very respectable 2.40 ERA on the year. The problem with Lewis this season however has been the fact that his control simply has not been there consistently as he has already walked 11 batters this season. Lewis has been somewhat fortunate that teams have not yet made him pay for giving a batter a free pass on base. This will not likely continue and we should see his ERA rise should he continue to struggle with his control. With the Cleveland bats already warmed up, tonight may be the night where Lewis pays for his mistakes.  

Even though Lewis currently has the lower ERA of the two pitchers, he is playing a bit over his head and is due to regress. We feel that Salazar is the one with more upside and the pitcher that can make the biggest impact in this contest. This game has shifted quite a bit from the opening odds and we believe that's for good reason. Despite Lewis being the statistically better pitcher on paper, true sharps realize the value of getting a strike-out machine like Salazar at such a discounted price. There is a reason he and a basement team like Indians are considerable road favorites over the veteran Lewis and Rangers today.

Momentum is key in baseball and when it is rolling, things all seem to click at the same time. The Indians are a team that has yet to be able to capitalize on the momentum they have generated however that is not something that we expect to continue. The Indians have shown flashes of brilliance this season and proved last night that great things can happen when everything comes together. Terry Francona is a great coach and will likely motivate his team to continue what they started last night. Baseball is an incredibly long season with a lot of fluctuation along the way. Early season trends and statistics are unlikely to stay the same or continue on how they have been. Cleveland will eventually find their momentum and be able to capitalize off of victories. Today is a chance for them to take the first step and come away with a rare two game winning streak. 

The Tribe have had their way with the Rangers in recent years. Cleveland is 12-1 in their last 13 meetings with Texas including going 6-2 in Arlington over the last 3 seasons. Normally this would be a situation where complacency with an opponent could come into play; however Cleveland is not in a place where they can afford to take anything for granted. They are in last place in the AL Central and have one of the worst records in the American League at this point in the season. They are a team that should welcome any chance they get to grab a victory. The fact that they have had so much success against the Rangers in the past, we see as a positive in this situation. 

If both starting pitchers have respectable outings and this game comes down to the pitching of each bullpen, we believe the Indians will have the advantage there as well. Even though Francona was forced to go to his bullpen early in yesterday's contest, he made the right move by using multiple pitchers for short durations. Despite having their relievers go a combined 6.2 innings yesterday, they performed near perfect as they gave up just 2 total hits, no earned runs and managed to strike out 8. Meanwhile the Rangers bullpen didn’t fare quite as well. Despite being used for just under 4 innings, they managed to give up 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks and recorded just a single strikeout! The Rangers bullpen has been their Achilles Heel all season long as they have a combined 4.69 ERA and have given up a total of 69 runs, 18 of which have been home runs! If this game comes down to a battle of the bullpens, Cleveland should have a decided advantage. 

Texas is just 18-37 in their last 55 Game 2's of a series and 4-13 in their last 17 games played on a Saturday. When you add up all the advantages that Cleveland should have coming into this contest, we feel that this is a play this has good value despite the shift in odds. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Texas is just 5-12 at home this season!
  • Cleveland is 6-1 against the AL West this season.
  • Texas is 3-14 when playing a team with a losing record.
  • Cleveland is 5-0 in Danny Salazar's last 5 starts against a team with a losing record. 

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