By: Nate McMullen
There’s no doubt about it: baseball season heats up in September. It’s not a universal boost—while interest in contenders ratchets up, even the most loyal fans start to check out on eliminated teams eventually. Tonight’s matchup gets a little of both, as the Cleveland Indians come to Angels Stadium looking to put themselves back into the playoff conversation. The Angels are in prime position to play spoiler. Let’s see what happens.
Moneyline: CLE -137, LAA +127
Runline: CLE -1.5 (+110), LAA +1.5 (-120)
O/U: 9.5 (O -110, U +100)
First Pitch: 10:07 PM EDT, Angel Stadium, Anaheim, CA
Cleveland Indians: The Indians are in a tough spot. Entering Monday’s game 5.5 games behind the Twins in the Central and 1.5 games out in the Wild Card, they need a big boost in Anaheim to keep up. They did just take two of three from Minnesota, but that win followed an ugly series loss to the White Sox. Cleveland certainly misses injured Jose Ramirez, but Roberto Perez, Francisco Lindor, and Yasiel Puig have kept up the pace. They need a big push in the final three weeks to overcome either the A’s or the Rays, and against weak Angels pitching is a great place to start.
Rookie Zach Plesac (7-6, 3.98 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise in Cleveland, winning seven and striking out 74 in 97.1 innings. Not great numbers, but he’s another reliable arm for a team pushing hard for October. The Angels hit righties pretty well (.256 average, .441 slugging), so we’ll see how he looks in a major mid-September moment.
Los Angeles Angels: Please let Trout come back soon, please let Trout come back soon, please let Trout… wait, the Angels still play when Trout’s not in the lineup? Weird. Anyway, while the Indians are scrambling for a precious playoff slot, the Angels are blissfully out of contention. For them, September is a time for development and crushing contenders’ dreams. The latter is easier said than done, though, because L.A. is in that position for a reason: they’re not that good. At 67-77 with a -49 run differential, they’re still far from contention. However, spoiling others’ playoff dreams is almost as fun, so the Angels will come out firing tonight.
Rookie Jose Suarez (2-5, 6.45 ERA) has enjoyed a rude welcome to the majors, getting lit up in August to the tune of an 8.72 ERA. He’s allowed two or more runs in every single start and has yet to see the light of the 7th inning. Things get no easier against a Cleveland lineup that reaches base at a .327 clip against lefties.
Analysis and Prediction: I said it above: the Indians are fighting for a playoff berth, and the Angels aren’t. Not to say the Angels won’t play hard, but undoubtedly there’s a different mentality when you’ve got skin in the game. In a battle of two rookie starters, Plesac has the clear advantage. He’s played more games, collected more wins, and has a (much) smaller ERA than his Angels counterpart. Pair that with Trout’s day-to-day status with right toe discomfort, and things don’t look great for the Halos. Take the Indians to win and keep their playoff hopes viable.