The Cleveland Indians have their hands full in Friday’s meeting with the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers. Cleveland is coming into this matchup after falling short in back-to-back series losses to the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Meanwhile, the Brewers took care of business in a 2-1 series win over the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s a one-team show in the NL Central right now, and Milwaukee is at the top of the heap.
Brewers show grit
It would have been easy for the Brewers to fold after the Philadelphia Phillies opened up their previous series with a 12-0 victory. They’re already well ahead of the rest of the pack in the NL Central division, and it would have been easier to just settle into cruise control after a loss like that.
But this Milwaukee team is different.
They fought back and turned the series on its head by ultimately coming away as the victor. That’s the sort of grit that wins championships. It’s the kind that could prove to be a big problems for the Tribe.
This will be the first time the Brewers and Indians have met this season. It’s essentially a battle between the top-two teams in the NL Central division. Cleveland already struggles enough offensively, which puts them in the danger zone of a deep and talented Brewers pitching rotation that’s ranked third in the league in ERA (3.42).
Adrian Houser is also starting on the mound for this game. The 28-year-old righty went the distance in a shutout victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in his last outing. So you can rest assured he’ll be oozing with confidence going head-to-head with an Indians team averaging only 5.33 hits in their last three outings. It should be noted that he did take a beating against the Minnesota Twins prior to that gem of a performance, but he’s still throwing a 3.41 ERA on the season.
The Brewers have the bats to go with the pitching for a well-rounded attack. Granted, they have slightly slipped out of the top-10 in run-scoring offense with an average of 4.60 runs per game.
Can the Tribe make some noise?
The Tribe finally get a crack at the Brewers at Progressive Field on Friday night. Their defense has been up and down throughout the season, but they have to be really excited for an opportunity to test themselves against the No. 1-ranked team in the division.
Opposing teams are only averaging 3.67 runs per game in Cleveland’s last three outings. That’s the sort of effort Eli Morgan and company will have to carry over into their series clash with the Brewers. The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher is throwing a 5.48 ERA on top of a 2-6 record. However, he impressed at Fenway Park by holding the Red Sox scoreless over the course of 5.2 innings.
He doesn’t need to be perfect, but he does need to hang tough against these Brewers team. It’s going to be so hard for the Indians to score runs on offense against one of the top run-scoring defenses in baseball. So there won’t be much room for error in this meeting for the Tribe. Are they built to play a good enough game to stun the Brewers in the opener?
If they’re going to do it, this might be the best time considering both the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies beat the Brewers in their previous two series openers.
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Full-Game Side Bet
The Indians survived a dreaded four-game sweep, but that still doesn’t change the fact that their offense can’t be trusted. They were held to only one run in their series opener against the Minnesota Twins before getting shut out in back-to-back games.
That’s the same Twins team that ranks among the worst defensive teams in the league. If they faced an uphill climb against Minnesota’s pitching rotation, they’re about to face a mountain against these Brewers. Milwaukee ranks third behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in ERA (3.42).
They also boast a reliable bullpen to pile onto the problems for opponents.
The inability to get runners across home plate will continue to haunt the Tribe on Friday against a Brewers team that will take advantage of their chances to make plays against Cleveland’s defense. They don’t have to pile on the scoreboard with the Tribe’s offense seemingly stuck in quicksand. All it takes is a few runs to sing them their lullaby.
I’m rolling with the Brewers in the opener.
Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers (-144)
Full-Game Total Pick
If you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear a pin drop when the Indians come up to bat in Friday night’s game at Progressive Field. It was shocking enough to see them get held scoreless in back-to-back losses to the Minnesota Twins in their previous series. That doesn’t bode well with them hosting one of the best defensive teams in the league that’s holding opponents to a .218/.299/.355 slash line. There aren’t going to be a lot of opportunities for the Tribe’s sluggish bats to make plays in this game. Opposing teams are only averaging 3.31 runs per game against the Brewers when they’re the road team. Give me the under in this one.
Prediction: Under (9.5)