Washington Nationals (+125) at Cleveland Indians (-147, 8 o/u)
An interleague epic is on tap tonight as two division leaders, the Washington Nationals (58-41, 27-21 Away) and Cleveland Indians (56-41, 26-16 Home), meet at Progressive Field in Cleveland (7:10 PM Eastern).
Cleveland leads the AL Central, currently holding a 5.5-game cushion over second-place Detroit. However, they are coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. The team managed just six runs over the three games, even though they were playing in the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards.
That’s not a huge surprise. Pitching has been the Indians’ strength all season, and they’ll send their de facto ace Danny Salazar to the bump tonight. Salazar is 11-3 this season in 18 starts with a 2.75 ERA. He’s won seven of his last nine starts and hasn’t lost since May 22 to the Red Sox. His last outing was a decent 6.2-inning, three-run effort that wound up in a 7-3 victory over the Royals.
Salazar will go head to head with lefty Gio Gonzalez, who also comes in hot, winning three of his last four, including two straight over playoff contenders (LA Dodgers and NY Mets). He limited the Dodgers to just one run on three hits over six innings in his last start as the Nats romped to an 8-1 rout.
The Nationals have lost three of four overall, including two of three against the struggling Padres. But the offense could get a boost tonight with the return of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman has been out since July 7 with a left rib cage strain.
“I feel good. It was good to go down there and get some at bats,” Zimmerman told MLB.com. “I’ll be ready to come back, help this team in the second half and get going.” The 12-year vet is only batting .221 on the year, but has 12 home runs and adds another element to the Washington lineup.
Facing Salazar this season hasn’t been easy on anyone, of course, let alone guys who have been off for almost a month. Add in that the Nationals are just 4-8 SU in their last 12 road games and 2-4 SU in their last six in Cleveland, and I’ll take the Indians to bump their slump tonight.
Pick: Indians (-147).
(Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III (Flickr) CC BY 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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