Aaron Civale, who allowed more hits than anyone else in the American League last season, enters 2021 with a revamped delivery in hopes of delivering plenty of success to the Cleveland Indians (0-2). His first opportunity to do that comes on Sunday in the final matchup of a three-game series with the AL Central rival Detroit Tigers (2-0). After the Tigers took a 3-2 victory in a snowy season opener, they won 5-2 on Saturday against the Indians.
Free Picks: Detroit Tigers vs Cleveland Indians
Eyes are on Tigers pitching prospect Tarik Skubal
In Detroit, Michigan, it seems that Mother Nature operates on a different timeline than the Baseball Gods. You see, Thursday was opening day across MLB, and yet the Tigers and Indians were forced to play through some rather wintery conditions. Fortunately, there’s no snow on the horizon for Sunday’s series finale between the two AL Central foes, and perhaps the seasonal change to spring is here to stay.
Tigers pitcher Tarik Skubal is hoping to begin this new season with some changes as well after pitching to a bloated 5.63 ERA in 32 innings last season. He’s still considered a rookie this year, and a rather excellent one at that, having been ranked a top-25 prospect in both MLB.com and Baseball America’s annual rankings.
On Sunday, he and the Tigers stare down a +110 underdog status (888sport), as listed on the latest MLB odds against the Cleveland Indians. Don’t let the early returns of 2021 fool you — the Indians have throttled the Tigers in recent memory, winning 25 of their past 30 meetings (dating back to 2019).
Then again, it’s fair to say these teams aren’t quite going in the same direction. The Indians traded away four-time all-star shortstop Francisco Lindor, the latest in their series of noteworthy transactions to trim payroll. Four-fifths of their starting rotation from 2018 — as well as three-fifths from the 2019 outfit — now play elsewhere.
On the other side you have the Tigers, featuring a bevvy of young position players and pitchers — like Skubal — who hope to make this team good sometime soon. Is that time now, though? Likely not.
Speaking in the literal now of Sunday’s game, however, it could be true. Detroit is starting its season 2-0 for the first time since 2016, and now they’ll go for the sweep. The Indians don’t have the same power they once possessed, back when they used to beat up on the Tigers with ease.
Something to watch for ahead of Sunday’s first pitch is the status of Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, whose “whole body” was reportedly cramping late in Saturday’s game. Cabrera, who homered in the season opener, added an RBI single and a walk in three at-bats on Saturday.
We can’t know yet if the Tigers will give Cabrera a day off Sunday. But we know this: Jeimer Candelario and Omar Mazara combined for six hits on Saturday, which means there might be enough offense available to complete the sweep with or without Cabrera. We don’t think the Tigers are playoff bound or anything crazy like that, but for now we like them to complete the sweep in this BetPicks prediction.
- Detroit is 4-6 on the money line in its past 10
- The UNDER has cashed in five of the Tigers’ past five games
- Cleveland is 5-5 on the money line in its past 10
- The UNDER has cashed in five of the Indians’ past 10 games
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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).