The Cleveland Indians will host the Philadelphia Phillies for the second game of a three-game series on Saturday night with both teams desperately trying to hold on to their postseason aspirations. It’ll be an uphill climb for both teams to make it to October, however. With each game becoming a near must-win there will be a lot riding on this weekend showdown.
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- Date and Time: Saturday, September 21, 2019, at 7:10 p.m. ET
- Location: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
- 2019 MLB Betting Odds at Betcris: (Check Back Later)
- Phillies vs. Indians 2019 MLB TV Coverage: FS1
The pitching matchup hasn’t been formally announced, but it’s lining up to feature Shane Bieber, the de facto ace of the Tribe, against the veteran southpaw Jason Vargas for the Phillies.
It’s been quite a sophomore campaign for Bieber who was named the All-Star Game MVP earlier this MLB season and has established himself as a top of the rotation arm.
In 32 games, 24-year old right-hander is 14-7 with a 3.26 ERA and 1.033 WHIP spread over 201.1 innings of work. He’s got a 3.39 FIP thanks to an impressive 6.28 K:BB ratio. He’s a strikeout machine with 245 on the year, but more impressively, he’s walked just 39 batters.
The one downside to Bieber’s game has been the longball. He’s allowed 30 bombs this season, including three in his last start.
Despite giving up three homers, Bieber battled his way through 5.2 innings against the Twins last time out, keeping the Indians in the game. Cleveland eventually won that game. The Tribe is 20-12 in the 32 games he’s appeared.
Bieber’s last start snapped a quality game streak. Prior to allowing four runs in 5.2 innings, he had 10 straight quality starts. He allowed two runs or fewer in all but one of those 10 starts.
On the other side of this matchup, Vargas is the anti-Bieber. He’s a veteran southpaw. He has more walks allowed and fewer strikeouts but manages to induce weak contact and serve as a viable back-of-the-rotation arm.
The 36-year old lefty has had an up-and-down career. He was an 18-win pitcher and an All-Star a couple of years ago but pitched to a 5.77 ERA last year. This season he was 6-5 with a 4.01 ERA in 19 games with the Mets before being traded to Philadelphia. Since joining the Phillies, he’s yet to record a win, going 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA and 1.489 WHIP. Interestingly, his FIP before the trade was 4.70 and is 4.73 since the deal, meaning most of the difference in the numbers between teams boils down to luck.
Regardless of if he’s a 4.01 ERA pitcher, a 5.48 ERA pitcher, or something in between, it’s clear Vargas doesn’t have the stuff to outpitch Bieber. Instead, he’ll just be asked to keep the Phillies in the game.
Even that’s been a tough ask for him in his nine starts with the Phillies. He’s tossed just six combined innings in his last two starts, going three frames each, and allowing a combined nine runs on nine hits.
Two of his nine starts with the Phillies were quality outings, the last one coming on August 13. Since that time, he’s thrown 27 innings with 19 earned runs.
Bullpen ERAs across the league are up with the pens being asked to throw more and more innings, but Cleveland’s pen has been the best of the best this season with a 3.58 ERA, leading all Major League Baseball.
The Phillies, meanwhile, find themselves ranked in the middle of the pack with an ERA nearly a full run higher than the Tribe’s.
For Cleveland, Brad Hand has been the stabilizer in the ninth inning. He’s got a 3.36 ERA and 34 saves. He’s a strong strikeout pitcher that limits walks and strikes confidence. Ahead of him, Nick Goody, Tyler Clippard, and Nick Wittgren have been fantastic, each with a sub-3 ERA.
The pen for the Tribe isn’t filled with big name relievers, but Terry Francona has put his hurlers in a position to win.
The Phillies don’t have quite the same depth in the pen as Cleveland though they’ll likely need it more in this game with Vargas starting.
Hector Neris has been a good closer for the Phillies this year. Jose Alvarez has been a reliable set up option, but with others like Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, and David Robertson on the IL, the rest of the pen is lacking. Ranger Suarez has been a nice find, but some others that were expected to be nice finds like Blake Parker, Jared Hughes, and Edubray Ramos haven’t pitched up to expectations.
The Phillies have outscored the Indians on the season, but its close. Cleveland has been the better offensive team in the second half.
The additions of Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig helped to lengthen a shallow lineup at the deadline, but injuries have really hurt the Indians’ offensively of late. Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis are now out for the season.
Oscar Mercado was a huge piece midseason, but he’s slowed at the dish. Jordan Luplow has been a nice piece and so has Mike Freeman. Those two help fill the gaps a bit, but this offense still very much falls to Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor. As they go, so go the Indians.
Of course, the Phillies have had their share of injuries as well, particularly in the outfield. The latest such injury is Corey Dickerson who has been a big part of the offense since being acquired from the Pirates. In 34 games with the Phillies, he had a 120 OPS+ and 34 RBI.
Without Dickerson, Jay Bruce, Adam Haseley, and Jose Pirela see more at bats. The Phillies do have a few other players with a 120 OPS+ or better including Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper. These are the two that lead the team offensively, but both have failed to fully live up to expectations this season. They’ve combined for 60 homers and 185 RBI which is solid, but they’re each hitting .239 and .255 respectively.
As for the rest of the order, Jean Segura is a solid option at short. Scott Kingery has had a nice year offensively, though he’s slowed of late.
The Indians climbed back atop the AL Central standings in mid-August, but the stay was short lived as the Tribe proceeded to go 2-7 immediately after grabbing the top spot, falling several games back were they’ve stayed.
Despite the hiccup towards the middle of August, the Indians are 19-9 in their last 28 games and playing good baseball even with injuries taking their toll. Cleveland is in a three-way battle for the two AL Wild Card spots and is neck-and-neck with the Athletics and Rays in the standings.
Cleveland is a better team at home than on the road, but their splits are rather even. The Tribe is 45-31 at home.
The Phillies, on the other hand, are below-.500 on the road. Of course, they’re just a few games over-.500 overall and have a negative run differential.
Despite the worse overall records, the Phillies are still in the NL Wild Card picture, though their chances are fading by the day as they sit four games back.
The Phillies are just 5-7 in their last 12 games and seem to be floundering as they fade out of the October picture.
The is probably more of a must-win for Philadelphia than Cleveland, but by the team this game arrives, the postseason may be too far out of reach for the Phillies which could impact the outcome with the Tribe having more to pay for.
Even assuming both teams are still relevant in the playoff picture on Saturday, this game should favor the Indians.
Look for a strong performance by Bieber. He’s thrown a ton of innings this year and could start showing some fatigue, but he’s pitched brilliantly all year and should be able to produce another quality start, his 11th in his last 12 games.
Behind Bieber, the Indians have a good bullpen to help close out the win and a great manager to pull the right strings.
The Indians’ offense has questions, but there should be enough here to score a few runs on Vargas and add on as the game goes on. Look for a big hit from Lindor or Santana to be the difference.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cleveland Indians Pick: Take the Tribe at home with one of their best pitchers on the mound.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cleveland Indians Score Prediction: Indians 5, Phillies 3