The Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox are set to close out their three-game series on Sunday with plenty on the line, as they're battling for playoff leverage in the AL Central.
Under new MLB rules this year, the postseason has expanded to 16 teams. While the Twins are still leading the division, these two clubs and Detroit are vying for second place, which would net a No. 4 playoff seed if the season ended today.
Check out abe Insights' betting preview for more on this Indians-Sox divisional clash in the Windy City, which provides the best odds available at publication, a breakdown of how wagers should trend and advanced stats to help you make more informed bets.
Date: Sunday, August 9
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Indians 56%; White Sox 45%
Spread: CLE -1.5 (+130); CHW +1.5 (-140)
Moneyline: CLE -128; CHW +122
The White Sox are hosting prime-time Sunday Night Baseball at an inopportune moment, if the rest of this season has been any indication. This is because Indians starting pitcher Shane Bieber has been historically spectacular, and he'll be on the mound tonight.
Bieber is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in 2020, with a ridiculous 35 strikeouts in 21.2 innings pitched. That's right — he's averaging almost 12 Ks per game. He'll go up against Lucas Giolito, who actually pitched six scoreless innings versus Cleveland in a 4-0 win on July 29.
12.2 vs 7.1: The Indians draw the second-highest walk percentage in baseball, and the White Sox have MLB's fourth-lowest rate. One drawback to Giolito is he's already logged eight walks in three appearances.
.329 vs. .250: Where Chicago does have a big edge — provided its lineup can even make contact against K master Bieber — is batting average on balls in play, which leads the league. Cleveland is far worse in this area, ranking 25th among 30 teams.
.266 vs. .196: To put it even more simply than the above stat matchup, these are the batting averages for both teams. No one hits worse than the Indians do, and only the Rockies have a higher team batting average than the Sox.
Let's take a second to acknowledge Bieber one more time through numbers: Per ESPN Stats & Info, he's racked up the third-most strikeouts in three starts to begin a season in MLB history, trailing only Gerrit Cole from two years ago and...Nolan Ryan. Now that's elite company.
Unfortunately for the Indians, outside of Bieber's starts, where they've delivered enough run support to give him winning decisions, they've squandered excellent pitching with poor hitting. Their 9-7 record could be so much better with even marginal production at the plate.
Chicago has been much the opposite en route to an 8-7 mark, except the offense has hit a snag of late, scoring just five runs in the past four games, three of which ended in defeat. It's a discouraging sign, especially since Cleveland's batters erupted during Saturday's 7-1 win at Guaranteed Rate Field.
If Bieber isn't quite on his with his stuff, these young ChiSox are as dangerous as any lineup in the game, thanks largely to the spark provided by precocious outfielder Luis Robert. The 23-year-old leads the club with a .322 average, and as FanGraphs shows, his superb speed makes him a menace on the basepaths and a rangy fielder.
Whoever wins this contest will get a big morale boost and bragging rights before the teams meet again in late September for their penultimate regular-season series.
The run total is rather low considering the White Sox offense, but it's reflective of the starting pitching more than anything else. Bettors are bound to skew toward the Over simply because the total is reachable, even if Chicago needs Bieber to exit to hold up its end of the bargain.
When it comes to the run line and outright winner, either side of it is a rather rewarding bet, but Bieber's hot streak is likely to push action toward the Indians' spread and moneyline. Also worth noting to back this notion up is the Sox are only 2-5 at home.
Note: Odds current as of 10:05 a.m. ET on Sunday, August 9.
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