Cleveland’s prospects for yet another championship in 2016 might not be as far out of reach as some may think, even with relatively weak form since the All-Star break. The Indians are clicking on both sides of the ball right now, and this balanced attack has resulted in a record that puts them 15 games over .500. Key acquisitions like Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli have added much-needed run support, while pitchers like Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer have provided depth to the rotation. All of this success has been achieved without the help of Michael Brantley, who was Cleveland’s best player last year, and Marlon Byrd, who has been suspended since June 1st due to performance-enhancing drug use.
Things have been trending in the opposite direction for the Oakland A’s, who suddenly find themselves out of contention for the first time in a long while. This disappointing season can largely be attributed to the mediocre play of their best guys, including outfielder Josh Reddick, catcher Stephen Vogt, and pitcher Sonny Gray. Though Reddick is hitting .300, he has just seven homers and 27 RBI’s at this point in the season. He will likely fall way short of his 20-homer, 77-RBI year in 2015. Vogt, who has only eight dingers and 30 RBIs, will no doubt miss the mark of 18 homers and 71 RBIs that he set in 2015. Gray, who was once largely regarded as one of the top young pitchers in MLB and an up-and-coming star, has absolutely imploded this year. His 5.43 ERA and 5-9 record are a far cry from the 2.73 ERA and 14-7 record he had in the previous season. Just about the only thing the Indians have going for them right now is their hot streak. Post-All-Star-Break, Oakland’s record is 9-4, one of the best in the league.
Corey Kluber, the AL Cy Young winner last year, has asserted his dominance on the league yet again this season. He currently holds a solid 3.44 ERA, a respectable 9-8 record, and a whopping 138 strikeouts. Even though he lost three of his last four starts, they were all on the road against playoff-bound teams. Kluber’s ERA improves to 3.32 in Cleveland, and down to 1.93 after the All-Star break. He hasn’t faced the A’s yet this season, but he’s won his last three home starts and hasn’t lost to a team under .500 at home since May 14.
Rich Hill has stepped in for Sonny Gray as the A’s new ace this season, compiling a 2.25 ERA and a 9-3 record. However, he was forced to exit his last start after just five pitches when a blister on his pitching hand popped. That said, Hill said his blister was healing on Wednesday, so he fully expects to start on Sunday. He’s won all seven of his road starts this season, and has an incredible 1.41 ERA away from home.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Even with Hill’s dominance on the road and the A’s hot streak, you can’t bet against Kluber and his Indians at home. You should take Cleveland to win 3-1.