MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians

Date/Time: July 23, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Jeff Samardzija (6-5, 4.08) vs. Trevor Bauer (8-6, 4.03)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Cleveland -135

Total: 7.5

Every game is big for the underachieving Cleveland Indians as they look to get back into the American League playoff hunt. That’s especially true of Thursday night’s game as they open up a seven-game homestand with a matchup against the Chicago White Sox. Jeff Samardzija is slated to get the ball for the White Sox, though his name should include an asterisk as he is firmly on the trade block. The Indians will counter with Trevor Bauer.

One look at the rosters of both of these teams and it would be impossible to concoct a scenario in which they were separated by mere games in the standings. The Indians have underperformed offensively most of the season and were among the worst defensive teams in the league over the first two months. The White Sox remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league and have been the worst offensive team in the AL by a rather wide margin. By their Pythagorean Win-Loss record, the White Sox should be the worst team in the AL by quite a bit. They are just 16-28 against the AL Central so far this season, though the Indians haven’t fared much better at 14-22.

For Jeff Samardzija, who grew up in Merrillville, Indiana, a small town in the northwest corner of the state considered to be part of the metro Chicago area, uncertainty at the trade deadline is nothing new. It’s part of the business, but leaving another Chicago team would have to be a bit of a disappointment. Samardzija was excited to be acquired by the White Sox prior to this season and now faces the likelihood of getting shipped to a contender for the stretch run.

More often than not, Samardzija has deserved a better fate this season. He continues to exhibit very good control, even though his command has been a tad spotty at times. The biggest issue for Samardzija has been a big drop in strikeout rate. After striking out at least 22.9 percent of batters faced in each of the last four seasons, Samardzija’s strikeout rate is around average at 19.1 percent. The key to pitching well for the White Sox is to keep hitters from putting balls in play whenever possible because they are terrible defensively. Samardzija’s 4.08 ERA is part bad defense, bad marginal command, but his 3.60 FIP and 3.81 xFIP suggest that he has pitched a bit better than his traditional metrics suggest.

Trevor Bauer continues to be a mixed bag for the Indians. He was one of four Tribe hurlers to have at least 100 strikeouts by the All-Star Break, making the Indians the first team in MLB history to accomplish that feat. On the other hand, Bauer has missed up in the zone with some of his pitches and has allowed 14 gopher balls in 109.1 innings. Bauer’s belief is that fly balls, and the occasional home run, are better than ground balls, which go for hits more often.

Frankly, it’s Bauer’s 9.8 percent walk rate that is more concerning than the home run rate. Only seven of Bauer’s 14 home runs allowed have been of the solo variety, even though he has held opposing batters to a .223 batting average against. Two of those home runs have been grand slams and the other five have been two-run shots. Bauer has been dominant in two starts against the White Sox this season with one run allowed over 14.1 innings with 14 strikeouts and five walks.

MLB Prediction: Chicago White Sox

It’s hard to know what to expect from Trevor Bauer and even harder to know what the Indians offense will give you. Jeff Samardzija doesn’t issue many walks, which is a big component of the Indians offense this season. Both teams have solid bullpens, so this game seems to be a bit more of a toss-up than the -135 line would indicate. The White Sox are the value side because of it.