Two teams grasping at dwindling playoff hopes square off in the series finale to a three-game series as the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Cleveland Indians Sunday night. It could be a big night for the city of Cleveland, with the Browns hosting Sunday Night Football as well, but the Indians are focused on the task in front of them.
The two teams have split the first two games of this series, with the Phillies winning Saturday night, 9-4. The loss kept Cleveland four games behind Minnesota in the race for the American League Central title. Even worse, the Indians fell a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. Philadelphia would love to be in Cleveland’s position, though, as it sits five games behind the red-hot Brewers in the race for the second Wild Card spot in the National League, with the Cubs and Mets above them in the standings as well.
The moneyline for this contest has the Philadelphia Phillies +120 and the Cleveland Indians -130. The over/under has been set at 10.5.
The Phillies need as many wins as they can get at this point of the season, and they’ll send Vince Velasquez to the mound for the start in this one. The right-hander is 7-7 on the season with a 4.89 ERA, but he’s also won his last three decisions. He was solid in his last start, getting the win after going five innings at Atlanta and allowing just five hits and two earned runs while striking out eight. One problem for Velasquez has been home runs, as he’s allowed 24 in just 108 2/3 innings of work this season.
Bryce Harper had a three-run home run to help the Phillies to the win on Saturday, but he needs to do even more if possible. The high-priced free-agent acquisition this past offseason was counted on to lead the team with his bat and his leadership, but both have been a little lacking this season. Harper is hitting .300 over the last week with two home runs and six RBI, but for the season, he’s hitting just .256 and has struck out a career-high 170 times. To be fair, he does have a career-high 108 RBI as well, but he must carry this team if they’re going to miraculously make the postseason.
Still In It
Cleveland is still in both the division and Wild Card races as we enter the final week of the regular season, though this will be their final home game of the regular season before they finish at Chicago against the White Sox and at Washington. Adam Plutko will take the mound for his 19th start of the season on Sunday. Plutko is 7-4 with a 4.34 ERA and has won three of his last four decisions. The right-hander is coming off a six-inning start against Detroit in which he allowed just four hits and two earned runs to pick up the victory.
The Indians had their five-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, but they must start another one in a hurry. That means the bats need to start producing again. Carlos Santana leads the Indians with 34 home runs and 93 RBI, and he’s batting .318 over the last week with five RBI. Francisco Lindor, the team’s leader with a .291 batting average, has been getting on base and scoring runs, with three walks and three runs scored so far in this series.
Cleveland Wins Home Finale
Cleveland is going to be abuzz tonight between the NFL game and this contest both taking place. The Indians know how important this game is to their playoff chances and want to end their home schedule with a win. I’m taking the Indians -130 to get the victory.