Aug. 20 MLB Preview — Cleveland Indians (74-51) at New York Mets (64-60)

(Shane Bieber photo courtesy Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Tuesday, Aug. 20, Citi Field, Queens, N.Y., 7:10 p.m. EDT.

Shane Bieber looks to extend his run of quality outings and win a fifth consecutive road start Tuesday night when the Cleveland Indians begin a three-game series against the New York Mets in a clash of interleague wild-card hopefuls.

Bieber looks to keep Tribe in thick of AL Central race while leading wild-card chase

The Indians (74-51) began play this week 2 1/2 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central but also atop the AL wild-card race, 2 1/2 games better than the third-place Oakland Athletics.

Terry Francona’s team is on the back end of its New York road trip after splitting a four-game series with the Yankees. Cleveland salvaged the split with an 8-4 victory Sunday when Mike Freeman‘s three-run homer powered a four-run second to send the Indians on their way.

Bieber (12-5, 3,27 ERA) will try to keep the good times going in a different borough as he takes the ball for this series opener. The right-hander has posted a 1.89 ERA over his last five starts, winning three of them, but a lack of run support cost him chances to win the other two.

He took the loss Wednesday against Boston as a pair of solo homers in seven innings were enough to consign him to a 5-1 defeat that spoiled the accomplishment of reaching 200 strikeouts for the season. The long ball has been Bieber’s lone issue during his quality run, with six of the eight runs over 38 innings scoring on solo homers.

“He woke up feeling sick. He was nauseous the entire game and he gave us six,” Francona told the Indians’ official website. “I mean, there was a chance after the second inning that he was gonna come out of that game and he stayed out there for six innings and gave us a chance to win. That was impressive.”

Bieber, who is facing the Mets for the first time has been a dominant road pitcher since breaking into the major last year and is 15-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 22 starts outside Cleveland. The righty has a 1.13 ERA during his current four-start winning streak on the road, conceding four runs while striking out 40 in 32 innings and holding opponents to a .138 batting average.

Matz looking to stay unbeaten at home as Mets open make-or-break homestand

If Bieber is the irresistible force on the road, then it can be argued Steven Matz (7-7, 4.33) is the immovable object at home for the Mets (64-60), whose playoff hopes will likely be determined during this nine-game homestand that also includes series against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs.

The Mets began play Monday two games behind the Cubs for the second wild-card spot and 3 1/2 games back of the Washington Nationals for the first.

Matz is 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA in nine starts at Citi Field this season, striking out 58 in 53 2-3 innings and giving up more than two runs just twice. The left-hander, though, is 0-4 with a 6.56 ERA in his last seven starts versus AL opponents since tossing seven three-hit innings in a 6-0 win at Cleveland in 2016.

He had nothing to show for a solid outing Wednesday at Atlanta, holding the Braves to one run in six innings and was surprisingly lifted by manager Mickey Callaway after retiring the final 14 batters he faced and throwing 79 pitches.

The Mets put him in a position by rallying for two runs in the seventh, but the bullpen promptly gave up five runs in the bottom half of the inning of a 6-4 defeat. Matz refused to get drawn into a debate about his manager’s decision, telling the club’s official website, ““I felt pretty good, but ultimately, (Seth) Lugo’s been really good all year. That was the manager’s call.”

New York capped split its six-game road swing through Atlanta and Kansas City after taking the final two games of a three-game set versus the Royals. The top four hitters in the lineup — Amed Rosario, Joe Panik, Pete Alonso, and Michael Conforto — were a combined 11 for 18 with nine RBIs to power the Mets to an 11-6 victory Sunday.

Alonso cracked his 40th homer, an NL rookie record for homers that also moved him one shy of the franchise record established by Todd Hundley in 1996 and equaled by Carlos Beltran in 2006. The rookie, who also has set the club rookie record for RBIs (95), is just the fourth player in franchise history to reach the 40-homer mark, also done by Mike Piazza in 1999.

Notable Trends

The Mets are:

  • 1-4 in Matz’s last five interleague starts.
  • 5-12 in Matz’s last 17 home starts vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 1-5 in Matz’s last six starts vs. above-.500 teams.

The Indians are:

  • 7-2 in Bieber’s last nine road starts vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 20-8 in their last 28 games vs. left-handed starters.
  • 7-1 in their last eight interleague road games.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Indians -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-115)

Bieber’s overall and road trends are too good to ignore here — the Indians are 7-2-2 at the midway point in his 11 road starts and 7-2-1 in his last 10 overall. Cleveland is also 10-5 after five innings in its last 15 outside Progressive Field.

The Mets have been more spotty in the early going with a 2-3-4 mark in their last nine after five innings. New York is also 5-4 at home versus American League teams, which includes splits against the Yankees and Central-leading Minnesota Twins.

****4-Star Pick****

Indians -1.5 runs (+115)

This is a confidence pick in Bieber and the Indians, who got the bonus benefit of a full day off Monday since they remained in the metropolitan New York City area with the quirk in the schedule. But it is more about Bieber, who has pitched more like a grizzled veteran on the road than 24-year-old trying to deal with a much larger workload in his second season.

He is on pace to reach 200 innings, which would make him the youngest Indians pitcher to hit that milestone since CC Sabathia in 2001, and Sabathia’s career turned out fairly well.

Cleveland is also 17-5 over Bieber’s brief career on the road, and their recent success versus NL southpaws on the road, going 5-2 in their last seven games, also bodes well in this matchup.

UNDER 4.5 runs first 5 innings (-115)

A convergence in Bieber’s road form and the Mets against AL teams make the five-inning under a solid play. Let’s start with Bieber, who has helped the under go 10-3-1 in his last 14 starts and an 8-3 mark in his road starts.

The under has also gone 9-1 in New York’s last 10 interleague matchups and 4-1-1 in Matz’s six starts since the All-Star break.

***3-Star Picks***

UNDER 8.5 runs (-115)

Getting the hook on the high side makes this a firmer pick, but it comes down to trusting Bieber to extend his mastery on the road since the pick is the Indians and the run line. The under is 9-1-1 in his last 11 road starts and 9-0-3 in his last 12 when pitching on five days of rest.

The under is 8-3 in Cleveland’s last 11 games coming off a victory and 24-9-4 in their last 37 on the road against National League left-handers. For the Mets, the under also trends strongly with Matz on an extra day of rest, going 14-3-2 in his last 19 starts with five days between them and is 5-1-2 in his last eight at home against above-.500 teams.

The under is 5-1 in both the Mets last six interleague games overall and against AL Central teams.

Indians ML/UNDER 8.5 runs double (+146)

The individual team run totals look too on the mark to feel confident in either direction, but in keeping with riding on Bieber’s road form, taking the double of the Indians on the money line and the under is the play.

That combination has successfully delivered in six of his 11 road starts and five of his last nine overall.

Mets UNDER 2 runs first 5 innings (-136)

Another case of trusting Biber’s form and the expectation for him to extend a trend for the Mets. The right-hander has limited opponents to two or fewer runs in the first five innings of his last 12 starts, while the Mets have played two or fewer runs in eight of their last 10 against American League opponents.

The five-inning play is slightly better considering Bieber has given up first-inning runs in both of his interleague starts.


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