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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:57 PM

Thursday's Best Bet

Thursday MLB Betting Preview (8:15 p.m. ET)
Cleveland Indians vs Kansas City Royals
 
Thursday's a travel/off day for a bunch of teams in MLB, as August is quickly approaching and the playoff race really starts to heat up. Before then is the first ever hard trade deadline in MLB at the end of July, and while GM's are holding their cards close to the vest at the moment, it's only going to take one or two moves for the whole dam to break. Early next week will be an exciting time for player movement as organizations that may be on the fence about whether to buy, sell, or stay put at the deadline are likely giving their teams until the end of the weekend to show their desired direction with their play.
 
Which means we've got a handful of four-game sets (all in the AL) starting on Thursday, with four of the six being division matchups as well. The Yankees/Red Sox series at Fenway will get most of the publicity as it will be them on Sunday Night Baseball as well, but the AL Central race is much more intriguing to me, as we could see a changing of the guard atop the Central should all go right for Cleveland these next few days.
 
The Indians are going to have to make the most of another series with the lowly Royals, as they took two of three from them last weekend, and have won five of six meetings against KC in the month of July alone. This series is out on the road for Cleveland though – they did sweep KC in KC to start the month – but with Minnesota starting a four-game set on the road against the White Sox tonight as well, the two-game deficit Cleveland is currently sitting with could be gone by the weekend should they take care of business in Kansas City and get help from Chicago.
 
Obviously, teams can only control what they can control, and for Cleveland it's all about beating KC first. Will they be able to take the opener tonight?
 
MLB Odds: Clevleand (-138) vs Kansas City (+128); Total set at 10
 
The Indians have had quite the month of July as they've closed the gap to just two games with Minnesota with about two months left. With a schedule that softened up in July, Cleveland took full advantage of it, as they only series they've lost in the month was one with the Twins themselves (2-1) right out of the All-Star break. It's easy to say that that was a missed opportunity for this team, and it definitely was to a degree, but a 9-4 SU record since returning from that break is nothing for the Indians to be ashamed about. Considering Minnesota has gone 5-7 SU in the same span, Indians fans know their team is on the right track.
 
The Royals track is one that ends up with them selling off any valuable assets over the next few days that they deem they can part with, as this team is still far from being competitive in this league as they go through the early stages of a rebuild. Tghe Royals should have probably started this process sooner then they did after their World Series  appearances in 2014 and 2015, but it is what it is at this stage, and it's all about improving on a daily basis for them now. They did just sweep a two-game set in Atlanta against the 1st place Braves – both as big underdogs of +180 or greater – so it's not like they aren't coming into this game with confidence, and given the beatings they've suffered at the hands of Cleveland this month, slowing down the Indians chase to first place in the division would be a nice boost for this young Royals team as well.
 
However, the worst of those beatings from Cleveland last week came when tonight's Royals starter – Mike Montgomery – made his debut for the Royals. Montgomery was lost in the shuffle in the Cubs pitching rotation this year, wanted to be a starter, and the Cubs are in a playoff race themselves so Montgomery was easy to move. His case to be apart of a MLB starting rotation took a hit last weekend when he only lasted two innings against this Indians team in an eventual 10-5 Cleveland win. Montgomery was responsible for allowing five of those runs (on six hits) as it was just an ugly start from the get go.
 
Now he's got to turn around five days later and face that same lineup that teed off on him, and while typically this is a good spot to expect improvement, the level of improvement from Montgomery tonight is probably going to be negligible. He allowed 25 hits (17 ER) in just 27 IP as a reliever with the Cubs this season, as teams in the NL were largely teeing off on him as well. Those struggles were magnified in his first start with the Royals, and even with more prep time and the familiarity of facing the same lineup, I doubt we see Montgomery last more then four or five innings again tonight. Remember, that familiarity that could help Montgomery at times, does work both ways, and with the confidence the entire Cleveland team has right now, they likely won't mind seeing the lefty again.
 
While that may sound like a ringing endorsement for backing Cleveland tonight, that's not the angle I'm taking for this game. In terms of ML odds, it would have to be Cleveland or nothing in all likelihood, but with the Indians trotting out Adam Plutko for the start tonight, he's one where I believe his performance tonight could be quite different then what we saw from him against the Royals last weekend.
 
Plutko was great against KC a week ago, as he only allowed two hits in 7 IP in that start. Unfortunately, one of those two knocks left they yard, and with no help from his offense, Plutko and the Indians lost that game 1-0. You hate to see a quality start wasted like that from Plutko, especially since the Indians were 6-1 SU in his last nine starts going into that game.
 
But Plutko is also a guy that is a fill-in rotation guy for a reason in Cleveland, as he's not usually consistent enough to back up quality starts on top of one another, and it's happened multiple times this year. Plutko has only started eight games for the Indians this year, but he's allowed three hits or less in four of those outings. In the following start after the previous three occurrences (remember last start of two hits allowed was the fourth), Plutko's opponents have put up 12, 5, and 7 hits against him with nine of those 24 hits leaving the yard. Even for a guy that's allowed at least one HR in all eight starts this year, that's an absurd ratio given the situation, and it's the main reason why I'm holding off on a Cleveland ML play this evening.
 
However, going 'over' the total is a completely different case, as that HR ratio has to have your eyes light up if you're an 'over' bettor. Situationally you should expect the Royals bats to be much better against him with such a short turnaround, and when the numbers already suggest that Plutko struggles after a quality outing, things really start to look good for the Royals to put up runs this evening. KC is on a 5-1 O/U run at home against a righty as it is, and with a 3-1-1 O/U run going at home overall, seeing this four-game 'under' streak overall getting snapped for KC tonight is a distinct possibility.
 
And then you combine that with the highly confident Indians lineup going up against Montgomery, and backing the high side of this total becomes the clear way to go. Cleveland's on a 5-1-1 O/U run in series openers as it is, and 7-3 O/U in their last 10 on the road against a southpaw. Montgomery is highly likely to have a shorter outing again tonight, and while it might not be AS bad, it doesn't need to be to cash this 'over' if KC's bats get to Plutko as they should given his scenario.
 
To see the opener of 10.5 get bet down initially was a tad surprising, but that likely has to do with KC's 'under' run in their last four games, and Cleveland's bats failing to do much the past two nights against Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman – two guys that were pitching to film in the likelihood they get traded to a contender. That's not the case with Montgomery tonight, and I'll gladly take the flat '10' number just incase 10 runs is where the scoring stops.
 
Best Bet: Over 10 runs
 

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