Aug. 5 MLB Preview — Texas Rangers (57-54) at Cleveland Indians (66-45)

(Francisco Lindor photo courtesy Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Monday, Aug. 5, Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio, 7:10 p.m. EDT.

Aaron Civale faces a high-pressure situation for his second major-league start Monday night when the Cleveland Indians begin a three-game series with the Texas Rangers critical to both their American League wild-card hopes.

Minor trying to end lackluster stretch after ugly win

Mike Minor (9-6, 3.21 ERA) has seen his ERA go up nearly three-quarters of a run since the All-Star break after yielding 17 earned runs in 23 innings while opponents are hitting .315 in that span.

Minor, though, did labor to a victory Tuesday against Seattle, winning despite yielding five runs and seven hits in five innings of a 9-7 Rangers victory. It ended a five-start winless streak for the left-hander, who is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in four starts against AL Central teams this season.

“Yeah, I mean, I can’t remember the last time I got a win so it was great,” Minor told the team’s official website while also sounding relieved the trade deadline came and went without him being dealt. “The bullpen came in and helped me out, and all the guys were crushing it. I didn’t do anything tonight to help get us the win, but everybody else kind of picked me up.”

One of Minor’s three wins over AL Central teams came against Cleveland on June 20 when he limited the Indians to one run and three hits in eight innings of a 4-2 home victory. It was the first start for the southpaw against Cleveland after 8 1-3 scoreless innings of relief in six appearances.

The Rangers (57-54) have won four straight after completing a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 9-4 victory Sunday as Danny Santana belted a three-run homer and Shin-soo Choo went 3 for 3 with three runs scored. Choo, who played with the Indians from 2006-12, is hitting just .200 against his old team.

Civale looks to deliver in spot start for Tribe

The 24-year-old Civale (1-0, 0.00) was last seen with Cleveland in late June, when he scattered two hits and three walks in six innings of a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. He is getting the start after Danny Salazar was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained groin.

“That will give Plesac an extra day and it gives Civale an extra day,” manager Terry Francona told Cleveland.com Saturday. “It’s not where one guy is getting two and one guy is going on regular (rest).”

Since his major league debut, Civale has been menacing the International League and posted a 1.71 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 31 2-3 innings over six starts for Triple-A Indianapolis. The right-hander went 2-1 in that span but had a no-decision Tuesday after holding Colorado Springs to a solo homer and two runs over seven innings.

Civale is 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA in eight starts with 46 strikeouts in 42 1-3 innings over eight starts in Indianapolis, futhering a rapid rise after starting the season in Double-A Akron. He went 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts with the RubberDucks before being promoted.

Cleveland (66-45) remained three games behind Minnesota for the AL Central lead after sweeping the Los Angeles Angels following Sunday’s 6-2 victory. Jason Kipnis went 2 for 3 with a homer as the Indians have won 16 of their last 21 games.

The Indians currently hold the top wild-card spot in the American League by two games over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Notable Trends

The Indians are:

  • No trends of note.

The Rangers are:

  • 8-2 in their last 10 games vs. AL Central teams.
  • 5-1 in Minor’s last six starts vs. AL Central teams.
  • 5-2 in Minor’s last seven road starts vs. above-.500 teams.

*****5-Star Pick*****

UNDER 9.5 runs (-110)

The number landed on the high end of the expected range, which makes the under an attractive play. Civale’s impressive strikeout rate means he should be able to navigate his way through Texas’ lineup fairly well the first time before finding out if he can be had.

The under has trended for the Rangers against AL Central teams of late, going 13-6-1 in the last 20 such meetings. The under is also 8-3 in their last 11 road games. On Cleveland’s side, the under is 7-2 in its last nine games vs. above-.500 teams and 16-7-1 in the last 24 versus AL West foes.

The under is 6-0 in Minor’s last six starts pitching on normal rest and 4-0-1 in his last five against AL Central opponents.

****4-Star Pick****

UNDER 5.5 runs first 5 innings (-115)

The hook makes the under the play, with the belief Minor will pitch well and Civale will get through his first turn of the order relatively unscathed. Indians pitchers have held opponents to two or fewer runs in the first five innings in 13 of their last 16 games, and the under has gone 7-3 in Minor’s last 10 road starts.

The left-hander also blanked the Indians through the first five innings of his June victory. Civale did deliver the under in his lone start with Cleveland, conceding only a pair of singles in his first five major league innings.

***3-Star Picks***

Rangers (+146)

This is the kind of game where one gets the sense veteran savvy is going to greatly matter in this contest, and Minor has plenty of it. Also, the sense the left-hander is going to be mentally relaxed after not being dealt at the trade deadline. Minor’s track record against the Indians is another factor, along with the Rangers being a slightly tougher opponent for Civale than the Detroit Tigers.

Indians UNDER 5 runs (-105)

This is a confidence pick in Minor, especially given the Indians were proficient offensively in sweeping the Angels with six or more runs in all three games. The Rangers held the Indians to two runs in two games in a split of their four-game set earlier this year behind their top two pitchers in Minor and Lance Lynn.

Texas has also held opponents to five or fewer runs in eight of its last 11 road games and in 10 of Minor’s 11 road starts.

Indians -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-121)

Though the Rangers are the pick with the expectation Minor will be able to grind out a win, they also have failed to score any runs in the first five innings in four of his last six road starts. Texas has also struggled in the first half of games on the road of late with a 3-11-1 in its last 15 contests.

The Indians are also 9-4-2 after five innings in their last 15 at Progressive Field.

Indians UNDER 1.5 runs first 3 innings (-131)

Another confidence pick in Minor, though this one likely will be one to sweat out. The lefty has yielded one or no runs in eight of his 11 starts on the road over the first three innings, and if he can keep the ball in the park, he has a good chance of making good on this pick. Minor has served up 11 homers in the first three innings of his starts, which has accounted for 12 of the 19 runs he has given up in those 22 outings.

Cleveland belted seven home runs in sweeping Los Angeles, and two of them came in solo shots in the first three innings Sunday. So there is some risk, but with the hook offering a chance to let Minor get away with one mistake, it is worth a flyer.

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