Can Phillies stay hot, sweep Indians?
To no one’s surprise, the Nationals and Mets are ruling the National League East one-eighth of the way into the MLB season. That third-place squad in the City of Brotherly Love, though, bears watching.
Philadelphia aims to continue its unlikely success in Sunday’s series finale vs. Cleveland, with a 2:35 p.m. ET first pitch at Citizens Bank Park. Oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI nonetheless aren’t bullish on Pete Mackanin’s crew to complete a three-game sweep. Currently, the over/under total rests at seven runs.
Powered by Odubel Herrera’s 11-game hitting streak, the Phils (14-10) finished with their best April record since 2011. While few harbor delusions of a division title this time around, Philly’s current winning spree has featured impressive offensive and stellar pitching in equal measure. In addition to Herrera, Ryan Howard’s power resurgence (five homers and 10 RBIs) gives the lineup a multitude of threats on a nightly basis.
The most pleasant surprise of all, however, can be found on the mound in several hours. Vince Velasquez (3-1, 1.78 ERA), who threw a shutout in his second career start, ranks among the top 10 hurlers in OBA (.174) and OBP (.232). The Phillies desperately needed a heretofore unheralded hurler to step up and lead the staff, and the 23-year-old more than fits the profile.
Terry Francona’s Tribe, on the hand, are still in the process of integrating Michael Brantley back into the mix. The All-Star outfielder missed the first three weeks of the campaign as he recovered from shoulder surgery. The Indians could use a return to form sooner rather than later, though, having lost four of five.
Will Danny Salazar (2-1, 2.35 ERA) keep up with Velasquez here? It’s a matchup of two righties with palpable swing-and-miss stuff that should satisfy the low-scoring crowd. Don’t look for much in the way of fireworks, save for a possible blast or two once the middle-inning corps get involved.
SUNDAY MLB FREE PICK: INDIANS/PHILLIES UNDER 7 RUNS