Indians Beat Blue Jays 2-1 – Take 2-0 Series Lead

josh-tomlin-vs-blue-jaysThe Cleveland Indians had little trouble getting past the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. But few gave them a chance against a rising Toronto Blue Jays team after injuries hit their starting pitching staff. Nevertheless, Cleveland now finds themselves up 2-0 in the ALCS.

For the second straight day, Cleveland shut down Toronto’s hitters en route to a 2-1 victory in Game 2. Starter Josh Tomlin turned in an inspired effort, allowing just 1 run and three hits over 5-plus innings. Middle reliever Andrew Miller struck out five of the six batters he threw against, and closer Cody Allen finished the Blue Jays in the ninth.

For the second consecutive game, the Indians could only muster two runs. But again, it was enough to beat a struggling Toronto lineup.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor supplied the offense when he hit a two-out RBI single in the third inning. Lindor was also the hero of Game 1, hitting a two-run homer in the Indian’s 2-0 Game 1 victory.

Action switches back to Toronto tomorrow night, where the Blue Jays hope that Rogers Centre is more kind to them than Progressive Field. Before we continue discussing this ALCS series, let’s look at the GTBets line for Game 3:

Game 3 of ALCS: Oct 17 at 8:05pm
Cleveland  +1.5 (-120); moneyline +168
Toronto  -1.5 (+100); moneyline -188

Breaking the Curse

Cleveland has had some strong teams over the past two decades, but they’ve failed to win a World Series title since 1948. So normally, fans would fear the worst, even with their Indians only 2 wins away from a World Series trip.

However, there’s reason for optimism, thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers breaking the city’s title curse this year.

“Bringing that first championship to this city, we rallied around that,” said second baseman Jason Kipnis. “That’s going to be hard to beat, to break the curse. That being said – and it’s not just my opinion, it’s what I’ve gotten from people around Cleveland – the first Tribe or Browns championship has a little different ring to it.”

cleveland-toronto-blue-jaysAside from being fueled by the Cavs’ NBA championship, the Indians have provided reasons of their own to believe. Despite facing vaunted Boston and Toronto hitting lineups, Cleveland’s pitching has made them look silly in five postseason games.

The first result was a 3-0 sweep against Boston, and the Indians are currently on pace to sweep the Blue Jays.

A Review of Tomlin’s Performance

Game 2’s one-run pitching effort almost seems improbable.

Tomlin, who only started because Trevor Bauer sliced his pinkie open while fixing a drone, looked like a mere band-aid against Toronto. Topping out at only 89 mph with his fastball, Tomlin, as Kipnis put it, “had to work all 89 miles on that fastball.”

Rather than throwing a mediocre fastball into the teeth of the Blue Jays’ bats, Tomlin and catcher Roberto Perez came up with a plan to use curveballs over and over. This seemed like an effective strategy because the pitcher only threw 15 curveballs on 85 pitches the last time out against Toronto.

Tomlin used the strategy to perfection, keeping his curveballs low in the strike zone, leaving the Toronto batters reaching for many of them.

“The game kind of dictates what you do,” said Tomlin. “It’s going to be tough for me to sit there and throw 87, 88 all game long and be successful.”

Perez also called a good game, and Tomlin trusted him and drew motivation from his catcher’s words. One example was a big at-bat by Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion.

“Encarnacion is not going to beat us right here,” Perez told Tomlin during the game. “We’ve got to make pitches right now. Just follow me. Keep the ball down. And give me your best pitches.”

In 85 pitches, Tomlin produced 17 outs, with 10 coming on groundballs, six strikeouts, and one fly ball – an interesting ratio for a pitcher who has less than a 45% groundball rate. Tomlin was able to change his tendencies by throwing expert curveballs against a team that’s poor at hitting them.

Looking Ahead to Game 3

One of the best things for Cleveland is that they get an off-day for their overworked pitchers. Allen and Miller have pitched four times in the Indians’ five postseason games.

The results have been outstanding, with both combining to strike out 25 of the 38 batters they’ve faced. But both players also need a rest if they’re to keep up this strong pace.

“One of the things I’m most excited about tomorrow is Andrew Miller doesn’t have to throw any pitches,” said Kipnis. “Same with Cody Allen.”

Allen and Miller aren’t the only ones who could use the rest since there are other Cleveland heroes who’ve earned a break too. This includes Lindor, who, in addition to the offense, also saved a hit with a jump throw to first.

It seems like Toronto, who dispatched the Texas Rangers in three games, are due for a win now that they’re heading home. But with the way that Cleveland is playing, it’s tough to say whether home-field advantage will be enough for the Blue Jays.

David Ortiz Assesses Red Sox’s Desperate 0-2 ALDS Deficit

david-ortiz-vs-indiansThe final week of the regular season was cause for celebration for the Boston Red Sox. As we discussed before, the Red Sox won an improbable AL East title after finishing last place the year before.

But now that the postseason is here, Boston has no reason to celebrate since they’re down 0-2 to the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.

The last outing was especially disparaging because Boston failed to score a single run in a 6-0 drubbing.

After a 93-win season and a division title, the Red Sox’s impressive season can be erased with one more loss. This also means the end of David Ortiz’s career, who, at age 40, turned back the clock to have a great season.

But like the rest of Boston’s lineup, Ortiz didn’t do anything on Friday night, going 0-4 with three runners left on base in his at-bats.

Now 1-for-8 in the playoffs, Ortiz got angry when a reporter asked about his visible frustration on the field.

“Should I be happy? We’re getting our asses beat. It’s nothing to celebrate.” said Ortiz.

He was also asked if the 5-4 and 6-0 losses that Boston has suffered has surprised him.

“Why should I be?” Ortiz told reporters. “They’re playing better than what we are.”

The numbers back up Ortiz’s words because Boston has went just 13-for-65 (.200) at the plate with 22 strikeouts. Their pitching hasn’t been much better, with starters Rick Procello and David Price combining for 10 runs in only 7 2/3 innings (13.0 ERA).

The Indians, on the other hand, have little to fear after blowing Boston out in Game 2 and getting clutch plays to win in Game 1.

david-ortizCorey Kluber was the hero in Game 2, pitching seven innings and only allowing three hits and three walks. He got more than enough offense too, with Lonnie Chisenhall’s 3-run homer and three other players producing run-scoring singles.

So what can Boston do to turn their performance around and win three straight games?

“Gotta do better and pitch better,” said Ortiz while doing an excellent job of hiding his emotions.

“We’ve got no choice,” he added. “Gotta go home now and play better. It’s part of the game, man. But I know we’re better than that. Just gotta come and play better.”

The Red Sox and Indians meet tomorrow, Oct. 9, at 4:08pm EST. The action moves to Fenway Park, where Boston hopes that homefield advantage will work in their favor.

Cleveland pitcher Josh Tomlin (4.40 ERA) will face off against Boston’s Clay Buchholz (4.78 ERA). Below you can see our line on the game:

Cleveland  +1.5 (-170), moneyline +127
Boston  -1.5 (+150), moneyline -137

Red Sox Clinch Unlikely AL East Title

boston-red-sox-clinch-divisionThe Boston Red Sox were not heavy favorites to win the AL East when the season began. Nevertheless, they’ve clinched their third AL East title in the last decade.

Boston didn’t clinch because of their own victory – they lost to the New York Yankees 5-3 on Mark Teixeira’s walk-off grand slam. Instead, they clinched after the Baltimore Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2.

The Red Sox now sit at 97-63, while the Orioles (88-73) and BlueJays (87-73) don’t have enough games left to close the gap. Both Baltimore and Toronto at least control their own destiny with regard to Wild Card slots, though.

The Red Sox will now hope to do what they did in 2013, bouncing back from finishing last the previous season to winning the World Series.

It’s not unfathomable to think that Boston could win, given that they lead the league in runs, have an athletic outfield, and boast a solid pitching staff.

Even still, nobody could’ve truly predicted another AL East title for the Red Sox just a few months ago. So how did they improve upon being in the division cellar last year?

For one, David Ortiz has defied age by turning in one of the best seasons of his career. The 40-year-old hit for a .317 average, 38 homers, and 127 RBIs. With Big Papi set to retire at the end of this year, few would’ve thought that he’d put up MVP-caliber numbers.

Another change is that the pitching is better in 2016. The $217 million man David Price hasn’t been as good as advertised, with only a 4.04 ERA.

But Rick Porcello has been a huge surprise, with 22 wins and a solid 3.11 ERA in 217 innings. He won’t win the Cy Young on ERA, but his 22 wins can’t be overlooked when it comes to discussing this year’s best pitcher.

There’s also first baseman Hanley Ramirez, who didn’t offer much last season with a .249 average and 19 homers. But this season, he’s revived his career with a .287 average, 29 home runs, and 110 RBIs.

More players who were key to this division title include Mookie Betts (.321 avg, 31 homers) and Jackie Bradley (.268 avg, 26 homers). Betts is a fringe MVP candidate after breaking out in 2016, while he and Bradley earned their first All-Star nods this season.

Based on the fact that Boston has a number of young contributors on the roster, including Betts, Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Chris Young and Andrew Benintendi, this team could be really good for years to come.

Of course, with 97 wins and a division title, the Red Sox aren’t thinking much beyond October.

They will face the Cleveland Indians in the AL Divisional Series. Boston had a 4-2 record against the Indians in the playoffs, which should give them some confidence heading into this series.

Of course, the postseason is a different beast than the regular season. However, if Boston should win, they’ll face the winner of the Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles/Toronto Blue Jays series.

Baltimore and Toronto haven’t clinched playoff berths yet, but that’s how things stand right now.

Given the current playoff landscape, the Red Sox will be among the favored teams to make it through the American League and into the World Series.

Miami Marlins Betting: August Trade Improves Bullpen

hunter-cervenka-miami-marlins-tradeThe Miami Marlins are currently fighting for an AL Wild Card spot, so they made a trade this weekend to upgrade their bullpen.

Miami acquired left-handed reliever Hunter Cervenka from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor-league infielder Anfernee Seymour and left-handed pitcher Michael Mader.

The Marlins failed to upgrade their pitching before the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline. But this month still allows teams to trade for players who’ve cleared waivers.

This isn’t a blockbuster deal by any means, but Miami needs any kind of quality pitching it can get to make the postseason. Cervenka is exactly this, given that he has a 3.18 ERA in 34 innings with Atlanta.

The 26-year-old had a hot start to the season, pitching 15 consecutive scoreless innings. That streak is long gone, but other stats indicate that Cervenka is for real, striking out a better per inning and holding left-handed hitters to a .145/.264/.242 line.

The one knock on Cervenka is that he gives up a lot of walks, allowing 6.1 BB per nine innings. But given his tremendous success against left-handers, he could be an excellent situational pitcher for this team.

Miami is going to see a lot of Bryce Harper (Nationals), Daniel Murphy (Nationals), and now Jay Bruce (Mets) over the last two months. Having another strong pitcher like Cervenka gives the Marlins one more weapon to use while trying to minimize the bats of NL East opponents.

hunter-cervenka-miami-tradeMiami is currently second in the East with a 58-52 record, which puts them seven games behind Washington (65-45). Catching the Nationals at this point would be tough, but it’s not hard to see this team making the playoffs through a wild card spot.

At 61-49, the LA Dodgers currently hold one of the spots, while Miami is tied with the St. Louis Cardinals (also 58-52) for the other wild card slot. The Mets (56-54), Pittsburgh Pirates (55-53), and Colorado Rockies (55-55) are also in the hunt.

The wild card race is always tight, so any improvement could be the difference between making the playoffs, or missing out by one or two games. Cervenka is definitely an upgrade on a team that needs pitching more than most contending ball clubs.

As for waiver trades, which Miami used to their advantage, these dealers are longer and more complicated than those made before the August 1 deadline. Any deal for a player like Cervenka must clear trade waivers before they’re added to a team’s 40-man roster.

The club that releases the player also has the option to pull them back after they’re claimed, or let them go without any compensation. In the case of Cervenka, Atlanta at least got back some minor league prospects for the reliever.

You won’t see any big-time players involved in August waiver trades. But it’s still fun to see some of the upgrades that teams make during this period.

If you’re interested in betting on Miami over the last two months of the season, keep in mind that GTBets offers MLB lines every night.

Jonathan Lucroy Rejects Indians Trade – See Why Here

jonathan-lucroy-brewersMilwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has been one of the most-shopped players as we move towards the Aug. 1st MLB trade deadline. In fact, we named him as our #3 most-likely player to be moved before the deadline.

We also discussed how the Cleveland Indians were one of the teams looking to trade for Lucroy, which they did this week. The Indians offered four prospects to the rebuilding Brewers in exchange for Lucroy. The only problem is that the 30-year-old catcher rejected Cleveland’s trade, exercising the no-trade clause in his contract.

Why Did Lucroy Reject the Indians Trade?

Lucroy is earning $4 million this season, and the team has a $5.2 million option on next season. According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, Lucroy wanted Cleveland to tear up the contract so that the $5.2m team option was gone.

Here’s a look at Lucroy’s full statement on rejecting the trade:

“I know you guys want [details], but I’m not going to [give them]. Some circumstances came up and made me void it, obviously. I think when it comes out, everyone will understand why. That’s it. I’m not going to comment on any specifics, nothing like that, as much as I’d like to. i’m respecting their process and what the Brewers are trying to do in terms of the trade. If that’s going to happen or not, i don’t know. As of right now, I’m still a Brewer and I’m going to be until somebody tells me different.”

Where Else Could Lucroy End Up?

Tomorrow is the final day of the trade deadline, and the Texas Rangers and New York Mets might pursue Lucroy more aggressively now that Cleveland is out of the picture.

Texas and New York were two of the biggest suitors for Lucroy since they’re both struggling in the catching department. The Rangers lead the American League with a 61-44 record, and could bolster their chances of winning the AL pennant.

The Mets are in a different position, sitting at 53-50 and 7.5 games behind the Washington Nationals in the AL East. But they’re also battling with the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins (both 56-48) for the final AL Wild Card spot.

Cleveland Loses Out on a Chance to Improve a Problem Area

The Indians still have a good grip on the AL Central, sitting at 59-42, which is 4.5 games ahead of the second-place Detroit Tigers. But their biggest Achilles’ heel has been catching, and they missed out on an opportunity to upgrade this area.

Cleveland has struggled to find a catcher who’s both good on defense and has a bat. They’ve used Chris Gimenez (.202 avg), Yan Gomes (.165 avg), and Roberto Perez (.043 avg) – none of whom have given the Indians much hitting.

Jonathan Lucroy would’ve instantly solved this problem since he’s hitting .303 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs so far. The 6-year veteran is one of the top-hitting catchers in the league and could have bolstered Cleveland’s biggest weakness.

As it is, The Tribe will continue trying to close out the AL Central without an elite catcher.

Washington Nationals Trade for Mark Melancon

With the 2016 MLB Trade Deadline almost upon us, the Washington Nationals are one team that was looking to make a significant upgrade. And they did just this by acquiring Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon for prospects.

At 61-43, the Nationals have the second-best record in the National League and currently lead the NL East by 4.5 games. But their biggest weakness has been late-inning pitching, with incumbent closer Jonathan Papelbon struggling to finish games.

Melancon should help in this department since he’s put up some impressive numbers on a mediocre Pirates team. In 41.2 innings, he has 30 saves, 38 strikeouts, a 1.51 ERA, and has only blown 3 saves.

Papelbon hasn’t been quite this consistent. In 32.2 innings, he’s recorded 19 saves, 30 strikeouts, a 4.41 ERA, and a 2-4 record. Acquired before last year’s trade deadline, Papelbon was supposed to be the team’s late-inning answer, but that hasn’t come to fruition.

The 34-year-old will be demoted to earlier bullpen work, a strange spot for a player who’s ninth on the MLB’s all-time saves list, and third among active players with 368. But as the Washington Post reports, Papelbon understands the change that needs to be made.

jonathan-papelbon-nationals“We’re fighting for a championship, this is what it takes to achieve it,” he said. “I think everyone being on the same page and playing for a common goal is what it takes.”

Papelbon added, “I think anybody losing their job is a hard thing to accept, period. That’s human nature. If you lose your job, would that be a tough thing to accept? Right, exactly. I think that’s just a hard pill to swallow, no matter who you are and what job you’re in.”

Whether it was Melancon or somebody else, it’s clear that Washington was working hard to get a more-dependable closer. Reports pegged the Nationals as chasing after former Yankees closer Ardolis Chapman, who went to the Chicago Cubs. With Chapman out of the picture, Washington got a nice consolation prize in Melancon.

After an upgrade by the Cubs, who lead the NL with a 62-41 record, it was almost a given that Washington needed to upgrade to keep pace. They did so by adding one of the best available closers in Melancon.

The last time that we offered World Series futures, Washington had +700 odds on winning the World Series. Due to the upgrade at closer, it’s likely that they have an even better chance at winning the franchise’s first World Series.

But they’ll have to go through some other tough teams to do it, especially Chicago since they have one of their best teams in years.