If the Cleveland Indians are going to hang around in either the AL Central or the Wild Card race, they’ll need more games like Saturday and fewer games like Friday. Another close game came down to the wire yesterday, as the Tribe was able to hold on to the lead in the ninth inning and close out a 3-2 victory. That made up for Friday night’s devastating 5-4 defeat.

The Oakland A’s are going to need to win more of those late toss-ups if they want to keep pace with the Houston Astros, but Houston’s 10-1 blowout loss meant no damage in the standings.

The A’s and Indians play the rubber match today at the Coliseum and Oakland is a hefty favorite in the -165 range with a total of 8.5 at BetUS Sportsbook in the battle between Zach Plesac and Chris Bassitt.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians lost on Friday and won on Saturday, so they failed to gain any ground on the White Sox and still trail by eight games in the AL Central. The undermanned offense is still a detriment day in and day out, but the cobbled together pitching staff in light of the injuries to Aaron Civale, Shane Bieber, and Zach Plesac has performed admirably all season long.

Friday’s setback was another in a long list of them for Emmanuel Clase, who pitched a good eighth inning on Saturday before James Karinchak had a dicey appearance for the save. Nothing comes easy for the Tribe, as they’ve been trying mightily to be positioned for meaningful games in August and September.

The offense really is quite poor. Cleveland ranks 23rd in wOBA, which is a step up from where the team was throughout most of the season. The team’s SLG is knocking on the door of .400 and it’s fair to wonder how much higher the baseline would be without a .271 BABIP, which is one of the lowest in the league.

This will be the second start for Plesac in his return from the IL. The right-hander has a 4.31 ERA and a 4.74 FIP in his 62.2 innings this season. Plesac broke his thumb taking off a shirt, which is a weird sentence to type, but the God’s honest truth. He allowed three runs on five hits in four innings last time out on July 8. With the extended layoff due to the All-Star Break, expect another pitch count for Plesac after making 55 tosses in that first start back.

That means another day with some expectations on the bullpen. Bryan Shaw, Emmanuel Clase, and James Karinchak have all pitched the last two days, so the Indians may need to rely on somebody else for some outs tonight.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s are another team plagued by a low BABIP, as their .275 mark has led to a .233 batting average. Oakland has a .313 wOBA to rank 14th in baseball and has a wRC+ of 102, a park-adjusted metric that accounts for the tough hitting environment of the Coliseum. Oakland walks more than Cleveland and hits for more power than Cleveland.

The A’s have a .307 wOBA at home, so we can definitely see the impact that the marine air and the big, spacious outfield and foul territory in Oakland has had on their full-season numbers. The A’s have tried to adopt a similar approach to the Tampa Bay Rays, who also play in a pitcher’s park. Oakland has a 10.4% BB% at home. On the road, they are much more aggressive swinging the bats.

Away from home, Oakland ranks sixth in wOBA and only has a 7.5% BB%. This game is at home, so we don’t have to concern ourselves with that road split, but it is definitely something to keep in mind as you handicap their games going forward.

Fortunately for the A’s, they aren’t likely to need a whole lot of run support today with Chris Bassitt on the bump. Bassitt has a 3.28 ERA with a 3.40 FIP in his 118 innings of work. The All-Star right-hander was supposed to pitch on Friday, but he got a couple of extra days of rest after being in Denver for the festivities. He also pitched an inning in the game.

Bassitt has struck out exactly one batter per inning to go with his elite command, showcasing a .269 BABIP and a 9.2% HR/FB%. He has a 32.8% Hard Hit%, which marks a nice return in that department after allowing a bit more hard contact than he would have liked last season, even though he posted a 2.29 ERA.

Indians vs. A’s Free Pick

Both games in this series have been very competitive, but today’s game looks to be a much more difficult matchup for the Indians. Bassitt is one of the best starters in baseball and Plesac is still trying to work his way back to form during what has been a trying and frustrating season for the kid. Cleveland’s bullpen usage in the first two games after the Break has them in a bit of a bind today. It will be the A’s in this one.

Indians vs. A’s Pick: Oakland A’s