These are two teams who are on a tear – both after starting the season in an uneventful fashion.
After their 10-19 start, the Red Sox have been playing .700 ball. They’ve jumped Tampa Bay for third place in the AL East and are just a half-game back of Toronto for the top Wildcard spot.
Meanwhile, after a 15-5 start to June, the Guardians are in first place in the AL Central – or at least have the tiebreaker over Minnesota if the season ended today.
So, with two red-hot teams facing each other, which one has the edge?
Read on for the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for Game 1 of this three-game set.
Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Guardians Odds
The Guardians are predictable favorites for Saturday’s game with Shane Bieber on the mound. He’s the ace of the ball club and a perennial Cy Young candidate.
Meanwhile, Boston will throw youngster Josh Winckowski on the mound. He’s been limited in his MLB experience, but he is coming off a couple of high-quality starts. It might be worth looking Boston’s way as underdogs with a high-upside pitcher on the mound.
The total looks right at 8.5, although three of the last four games between these two have gone over.
Boston Red Sox Starting Lineup
CF J. Duran L
3B R. Devers L
DH J. Martinez R
SS X. Bogaerts R
LF A. Verdugo L
2B T. Story R
1B F. Cordero L
C C. Vazquez R
RF J. Bradley L
Boston Red Sox vs Shane Bieber
Bieber is a very good pitcher. He always puts up high strikeout numbers, has kept his walks very low this season, and his ERA is 3.00 on the dot.
Bieber’s BABIP is also very high, sitting at .322. But his HR/FB rate is well below his career average. In the end, it seems like it’ll be a wash.
His xERA is up at 3.86, which predicts plenty of negative regression. But he does give up a ton of hard contact when he’s not making batters whiff.
That could be a problem because the Red Sox hit the ball as hard as any team in baseball. They rank among the top-six teams in avg. exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate. The lineup started slow, but those batted-ball statistics have remained consistently high all season.
And now that the balls have started falling, the runs have come in bunches. Since May 1, the Red Sox have had the third-highest wRC+ (121) in baseball paired with the highest OPS (.788). It’s also worth noting the Red Sox have 30 more doubles than any team in baseball.
That’s because Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez all rank top-10 in hits this season.
Devers leads all of MLB in hits (90), doubles (24), and total bases (164). He’s now tied for second in fWAR (4.0) with Aaron Judge, and the two are only trailing Manny Machado. Devers is a top-five player in baseball and should earn MVP votes this season.
Cleveland Guardians Starting Lineup
LF S. Kwan L
SS A. Rosario R
3B J. Ramirez S
1B J. Naylor L
RF O. Gonzalez R
DH F. Reyes R
2B A. Gimenez L
C A. Hedges R
CF Myles Straw R
Cleveland Guardians vs Josh Winckowski
Over his last two starts, Winckowski has pitched 11 ⅔ innings of two-run baseball. He only struck out five through the two appearances, but he gave up only two walks and zero long balls.
Winckowski – the No. 13 prospect for the Red Sox – is starting to build the confidence that Chaim Bloom and co. hoped he would. He’s got a solid, mid-90s fastball with rise that he pairs with a wicked side-sweeping slider.
Unfortunately, his last two starts have come against Detroit and Oakland, otherwise known as the two worst offenses in baseball. How he’ll hold up against better lineups is to be determined.
The good news is the Guardians have just the 21st-ranked wRC+ and the 18th-ranked OPS over the last month. And on the season, the Guardians have the lowest hard-hit and barrel rate in the league.
Outside of Jose Ramirez and his whopping 1.086 OPS, this Guardians team does not hit the ball hard. That plays in Winckowski’s favor.
Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Guardians Pick & Prediction
My picks: Boston Red Sox ML (+145 at WynnBet Sportsbook)
Bieber is due for negative regression and this is a tough matchup for a hammering Red Sox lineup.
In the meanwhile, the Guardians’ lineup is overvalued from a batted ball perspective. And they’re slumping in the past few weeks. If the Red Sox prospect is to keep building momentum, this is a pretty good situation for him to do so.
The +145 price you’re getting with the Red Sox is great value for a situation like this. Go Sox.