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Young Indians Lineup Might Be Hitting Stride

Despite suffering a host of injuries, the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff has more than held up its bargain during a disappointing season. The issue for Terry Francona’s club has been on the offensive end and, outside of Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes, there just hasn’t been the kind of power needed to consistently generate runs.

However, that tide might be turning. Ramirez and Reyes keep hitting home runs and producing, but now guys like Amed Rosario and Bobby Bradley are starting to get hot. Both Rosario and Bradley figure to be key members of Cleveland’s lineup going forward yet, until now, they haven’t been able to get in a groove at the same time. When those guys are getting on base and hitting for power, the top of the Indians’ batting order is a lot more formidable.

minnesota twins cleveland indians sep 06 2021
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images/AFP

The Indians host the disappointing Minnesota Twins this week, and first pitch for the opener is set for 6:10 p.m. ET on Monday night. Current MLB lines have the Twins as moneyline favorites (-125) while they are +120 as favorites on the runline. The BetUS Sportsbook has set the over/under at 9½ runs.

Cleveland Finishing Strong

Rosario Looks Like Potential Lineup Cog

MLB teams almost never get equal value when they trade away a franchise cornerstone, especially when such a trade is motivated by financial reasons instead of competitive reasons. So, when the Indians traded impending free agent Francisco Lindor to the Mets in January, it was going to be almost impossible to receive talent that could potentially match up to that of Lindor’s. Amed Rosario was one of the headliners of that deal and, despite the lack of plate awareness and general offensive inconsistency he struggled with as a Met, is only a few years removed from being one of baseball’s top-five best prospects.

Rosario didn’t hit much early in his first season with Cleveland, even as the Indians got off to a good start, but he might be turning a corner. He leads the American League in triples and has seen his average climb to .287 following a scorching hot August in which he slashed .372/.397/.584. His issues with plate discipline have kept his walk totals down and his strikeouts high, but if he’s going to make reliable hard contact, it won’t really matter how he gets on base.

Cleveland needs Rosario — and the other pieces it got back in the Lindor trade — to develop into everyday players if the Indians’ rebuild is going to be successful, and it’s starting to look like at least he will. His active bat and plus speed at the top of the lineup give Ramirez and Reyes more run-production opportunities.

Indians Have Pitching Edge

Logan Allen will take the mound for Cleveland against Minnesota’s Bailey Ober in a battle of unproven arms. The overall season numbers are ugly for the southpaw because of his first five starts in which he posted an ugly 9.19 ERA. After that stretch, Allen was sent to Triple-A and, soon after, felt soreness in his left elbow so he was shut down for around two months. Now, back in the big-league rotation, Allen has been dealing. In his two starts since being recalled, he has given up just 3 earned runs in almost 13 innings of work.

The former top-100 prospect, who went to Cleveland from the San Diego Padres in the 2019 Trevor Bauer trade, will go up against Ober, a rookie who has been a rare bright spot for a beleaguered Twins rotation. He has a 2.45 ERA in his last seven starts and is coming off a 6-inning, 2-run performance against the Detroit Tigers. So, both Allen and Ober are pitching well which means this could be a low-scoring affair.

The slight advantage probably goes to Allen, though, because the Twins have struggled against left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a sub-standard .713 OPS. Minnesota’s offense has cratered since the All-Star break, right around when Nelson Cruz was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, and it’s clear the Twins miss having his lefty-mashing bat in the lineup. It’s interesting the MLB odds have Minnesota as a favorite on the road against Allen.

Bullpens Favor Cleveland

Neither Allen nor Ober tend to pitch particularly deep into games as starters, so both teams’ bullpens will likely play a significant role in how this one is decided. The Indians have a clear advantage in terms of relief, as their bullpen is above-average in terms of OPS+ (which is based on how MLB pitching staffs in general perform) and has allowed opponents to slash a meager .231/.319/.382.

On the other hand, Minnesota’s bullpen is well below-average in OPS+ (around 11% higher than the league-average). The Twins are also without one of their more effective relievers, Taylor Rogers, who is currently on the injured list while Cleveland is at relatively full strength in the ‘pen. If you’re betting online, you’d be smart to take the juice with Cleveland’s moneyline. For more MLB picks, the game under is also a good idea but there’s more risk to that because of the limited track records of both teams’ starters.

Pick: Cleveland Indians ML (+109)

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