Wrestler Ric Flair once said in order to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man and this holds true for the Minnesota Twins, who currently lead the American East and will look to extend that advantage at home on Thursday against the reigning division champion Cleveland Guardians.
Cleveland Guardians vs. Minnesota Twins (-135, 8)
The Guardians have been heavily reliant on their pitching this season, with their offense 29th out of 30 teams in runs per game at 3.5 and last in the league in home runs.
The bats will look to break through against Twins starter Pablo Lopez. He sports a 4.11 ERA, but the underlying numbers support progression moving forward for him with 11.1 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings and a career-best .224 opponent batting average.
Both teams back up their respective starters with good bullpens as the Guardians entered Wednesday second in the league in bullpen ERA while the Twins are ninth in this category. Both have been sharp recently, with the Guardians third in bullpen ERA over the past 30 days and the Twins seventh in that same time span.
Guardians starter Tanner Bibee will look to continue the stellar start he’s had to his career. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in five of his first six starts, posting a 2.88 ERA with just two home runs allowed across 34 1/3 innings.
Bibee faces a Twins lineup that is 17th among MLB teams in runs per game and just 24th in batting average with four runs or fewer in eight of their last 13 games entering Thursday.
With two of the best pitching staffs in the league facing a pair of lineups that have had issues all season, Thursday’s series opener will be controlled by the pitchers.
The Play: Guardians vs. Twins Under 8