Jered Weaver gets the nod as the Angels battle the Indians.
Just in case you missed it with all of the useless chatter
about All-Star rosters on Sunday night, there is still some meaningful baseball
this week to be played before we get to that silly little midsummer exhibition
game. Included on the schedule of games
that do matter are a couple of second place clubs looking to get the Fourth of
July holiday week off on a winning note.
Howdy, boys and girls, it's your old pal Willie Bee here to
help you through the second half of the baseball season with updates, previews
and baseball picks. We're going to jump right
into the fray with a look at Monday's series opener in Cleveland between the Indians and Los Angeles
Angels, a crucial clash for both clubs who might share the distinction of being
second in their respective divisions, but are otherwise as different as night
Speaking of night and day, the overnight MLB odds for the
contest were all over the map with the Angels anywhere from -140 to -155
favorites behind Jered Weaver. The
moneyline still varies a bit Monday morning, and we'll call it a -145 consensus
on the Halos. In tonight's pitching matchup, Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez will oppose the
younger Weaver brother with the total sitting on eight runs.
The largest difference in Mike Scioscia's squad and Manny
Acta's troops can be found in the accounting department where expectations for
a given season are first formulated. The
nearly 2/1 ratio in payroll -- Angels $154 million, Indians $78 million --
initially calculated out to about an 8/1 difference in preseason futures odds
for the two franchises, with LA a +375 co-favorite to with the American League
pennant while the Tribe was listed at +3000 back in early April. The numbers have since moved to the Halos around
+500 with Cleveland
There is also a sizable gap in how the two teams have
performed the past 40 days or so. The
Angels have been among the best teams going since the latter third of May with
a 26-10 record that has lifted them to the third-best overall mark in the AL. Cleveland
is trending in the other direction, meanwhile, winning just 14 of its last 34
to sit between the overachieving Chicago White Sox and underachieving Detroit
Tigers in the AL Central division.
Weaver has been outstanding since returning from the
disabled list for a lower back strain. Scioscia eased his beanpole righty back into the mix by holding him to
under 80 pitches about two weeks ago against the Giants, then kept Weaver just
below 100 heaves last week in Baltimore. All told, he has allowed just one run on
eight hits in a combined 12.2 innings while extending his string of starts that
went into the win column for LA to five.
One of those wins was the May 28 home outing vs. the Yankees
in which Weaver had to leave three batters into the contest due to his back
stiffening up, and he'll be facing an Indians lineup that has been tough on
righthanders this season (32-22). However, it deserves a quick mention that the Indians are just below
.500 recently when battling righties, mirroring the team's overall struggles
the past six weeks.
Jimenez has run hot-&-cold all season, but is coming off
a more consistent month of June. He last
faced the Halos a little more than three years ago while he was still with the Rockies, and there aren't many hitters in their lineup
now who have much experience against the Dominican. Whether that works in Jimenez's favor or not
remains to be seen.
The Angels are not necessarily a patient group of hitters
drawing the second-fewest walks in the American League, but that doesn't mean
the lineup is a flawed collection of free swingers. Halos hitters are fifth in the AL in OPS and have been
on the upswing in the scoring column the past 11 games averaging nearly 7.1
runs per game, well above their 4.39 tally for the season.
Cleveland won two of the
three played at Anaheim
in late-April, with all three games staying UNDER the total. But those were two entirely different teams
on the field at the Big A compared to the squads we've seen since the middle of
May. With the way the Angels are
swinging the bats and Weaver is pitching, it's difficult not to back the club
for Monday's game.