Ending a homestand by losing three straight games and a divisional series is not ideal, as the Red Sox struggled to get runs on the board against the Rays. After yesterday’s loss, Boston now finds themselves in Cleveland to start a three-game set with the Guardians, and we’ll preview the first game before going over why I’m targeting the total for my play in this one.
While the Red Sox were playing yesterday, the Guardians enjoyed an off day at home following two wins to split their series with the Twins. Cleveland won a pitcher’s duel to salvage their divisional matchup on Sunday, as they secured a 2-1 victory in Triston McKenzie’s return to the mound. In his first start of the season, the young right-hander struck out ten over five innings while allowing just one hit. Josh Naylor and Andres Gimenez’s RBIs were all Cleveland needed on the offensive end.
In their first game back at Progressive Field following seven road games, the Guardians will send Shane Bieber to the hill for his 13th start. In 75 innings up to this point, Bieber has pitched to a 3.72 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 21 walks. It’s been an up-and-down season for the right-hander, and his last outing was on the down side, as he went four innings while allowing seven earned runs on eight hits.
Bieber will face a Red Sox lineup that got eaten up a bit by the Rays' pitching staff. After scoring eight runs in the first game of the series, Boston scored two or fewer runs in the next three games, including their 4-1 loss yesterday. The Red Sox recorded six hits for the game, but aside from a Justin Turner solo home run, they did not put up much of a fight against Shane McClanahan and the Tampa Bay bullpen.
As they look to put yesterday's game and the Rays' series behind them, Boston will call upon James Paxton to take the mound tonight. The veteran lefty has made four starts since his return to the Majors, and in 19 innings, he has a 4.26 ERA with 27 strikeouts and seven walks.
The total for this game is currently set at 7.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play. Cleveland’s lack of offensive consistency has been talked about nonstop in the baseball world, and those struggles are made clear when you see that the under is 20-4-2 in the Guardians' last 26 home games. Additionally, the under is 8-2 in Boston’s last ten road games, but aside from trends, both offenses have struggled in the exact spot they're in tonight over the past month.
When facing a right-handed pitcher on the road since May 6th, the Red Sox rank 28th in wRC+, wOBA, and OPS. Boston has struggled in matchups like tonight, and Bieber has been his best at home with a 2.49 ERA in 25.1 innings. Not only are the Red Sox struggles on the road good for Bieber, but their good for a Guardians bullpen that is second in the league in ERA.
The Guardians pitchers shouldn’t be the only ones happy with their matchup tonight, as Boston faces a Guardians lineup that is 26th in wRC+, 25th in wOBA, and 24th in OPS against lefties at home. Paxton has been solid in his return except in one start against an Angels team that thrives against lefties. Not only is Paxton in the 61st percentile in expected batting average, but he’ll hand the ball to a Red Sox bullpen that is 10th in ERA.