New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians Pick
New York Yankees (39-22) vs. Cleveland Indians (31-31)
When: 4 p.m., Saturday, June 8, 2019
Where: Progressive Field, Cleveland
Line: NYY -131/CLE +126 (5Dimes)
Runline: Yankees -1.5/Tribe +1.5
Starting Pitchers: CC Sabathia (3-2, 3.61 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) vs. Adam Plutko (1-1, 6.35 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)
Mistake on the Lake
This isn’t how things were supposed to go for Cleveland this year. The Indians have been notoriously slow starters, but 10 games back of Minnesota and treading water in the AL Central in a year that might be their last shot for a while at breaking their 71-year championship drought is not what they had in mind.
Injuries have hurt the Tribe, and one of the casualties was Plutko, who will make just his third start of the season. So far, the results have been mixed. Against Baltimore, Plutko was in fine form, holding the Orioles to just one solo home run in a 4-1 victory. Against Tampa Bay, Plutko got tattooed for 12 hits and seven earned runs, as the Rays won 7-2. So the question is, what kind of performance will Plutko give the Indians?
It’s uncertain. Plutko has never faced New York before, and it’d be unfair to judge him on just two starts. He has the talent to produce a strong start, but as the Tampa Bay game showed, things could easily go the wrong way.
The HH stands for Homer Happy. CC Sabathia is still pitching effectively at age 38, but he’s proven susceptible to the deep ball this season. In his past seven starts, the Yankee left-hander has allowed 13 home runs while never going past the sixth inning. Sometimes, he’s been able to overcome the big blasts and escape, but against Boston, two home runs did him in, and the Red Sox came away with an 8-5 win in the Bronx.
That’s a concern against Cleveland, and it’s not because the Indians are a natural power-hitting team. In fact, the Tribe rank 24th in the majors in home runs this year with 70. So why should the Yankees worry here?
Because Cleveland is deadly against left-handed pitchers. Of the Indians’ 70 homers, 48 of them have come against lefties. The Indians also boast the best OPS in baseball against southpaws, meaning that not only do they hit lefties well, but they don’t chase bad pitches against them. Most lefties do well when they can get hitters to get themselves out, but that’s not possible against the Indians. There’s also a warning sign in Sabathia’s performance against Tampa Bay on the road. The Rays are the only team with a better batting average against lefties than the Indians, and Sabathia gave up three runs in five innings while walking four, taking a 7-2 loss.
Back in the Saddle
The Yankees got a major boost on Friday night when Didi Gregorius returned to the lineup and collected two hits in four at-bats. Getting Gregorius back healthy will be a big help to an already potent lineup as the Yankees look to hold off Tampa Bay in the AL East. By now, it’s become clear that the Rays will be there with the Yankees all year and the Red Sox will not go down quietly, so the Yankees can’t afford to have any off days.
The Indians were flying high in 2017 when they won 102 games, but since running into the Yankees in the ALDS that year, they haven’t been the same. The Bronx Bombers bested the Tribe in five games that year as the Indians blew a 2-0 lead, and Cleveland hasn’t won a playoff game since Game 2 of that series. Nor have the Indians been able to figure out the Yankees, as New York has won eight of the past 11 games against Cleveland since that contest.
- The Yankees are 5-1 in their past six road games against teams with a winning home record.
- The Yankees are 7-2 in their past nine against the AL Central.
- The Indians have lost their last four Game 2s that Plutko has started.
- The Indians are 4-1 in their past five games against a left-handed starter.
- The over is 4-1 in Sabathia’s past five road starts.
- The over is 4-0 in the Indians’ past four Saturday games.
The temperature is expected to be 76 degrees at first pitch on Saturday afternoon in Cleveland.
It seems crazy to pick against New York here, given that the Indians have struggled and the Yankees have played as well as they have and have Gregorius back in the lineup. But here’s the thing: this matchup plays right into Cleveland’s hands. The one thing the Indians do better than anyone in baseball is mash left-handed pitching, and the Yankees are sending Sabathia to the mound in the face of this reality.
These opportunities to go with a home underdog in a situation that’s tailor-made for it to win don’t come around very often. Plutko does make me nervous, but I’m going to trust the Tribe’s strength and go with the Indians to give him enough runs to get by.
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