The Cleveland Guardians and the Minnesota Twins continue their weekend series on Saturday in Minnesota. The two teams are battling for the early lead in the AL Central Division. The pitching matchup for Saturday's encounter will feature right-hander Shane Bieber (1-2, 4.13) vs. left-hander Devin Smeltzer of the Twins. Game time is scheduled for 7:10pm EST.
Be On Guard for ClevelandNew name, new outlook for Cleveland in 2022. The newly named Guardians have been one of the early surprise teams in the American League this season and find themselves in the thick of the AL Central Division race nearly a quarter of the way through the season. Cleveland came into the season expecting to compete with its starting pitching. What they didn't expect was the team's ability to hit with a lineup that features very few new faces from last season's poor hitting unit. Newly resigned Jose Ramirez is not surprisingly leading the charge as he's put together an MVP-level performance to start the season. On Friday night, a 2-2 game in the 5th got away from the Guardians as they allowed 9 Minnesota runs to score to seal the deal. Starter Aaron Civale went 4.2 innings and allowed 7 hits and 6 runs to take the loss. Cleveland is now 3 games out of first place.
Cleveland's offense has surprised much of baseball thus far this season and have the rankings to prove it. The Guardians are 3rd in baseball in batting average, 8th in runs scored, 8th in total bases and 5th in on based percentage. It has been a solid start with nearly a quarter of the season gone and the Guardians' bats have yet to slow down. One thing that all the prognosticators agreed upon before the season started was the quality stuff of Saturday's starter, Shane Bieber. Bieber is tied for the team lead in quality starts with 3 and is second in innings pitched and second in strikeouts. In addition, Bieber is 5-1 in his career vs. Minnesota.
Twins Love to StreakThe Minnesota Twins will look to begin another win streak in a year of streaks for the Twins. They sit in first place as the series got underway on the heels of three different win streaks this year of 7, 4 and then 3 games. The Twins have dealt with injuries to a number of key players and have still found ways to win. They are currently without 1B Miguel Sano for an extended period of time due to a knee injury and SS Carlos Correa, who is on the IL with a finger issue. Correa is eligible to return on May 20th. On Friday night, the Twins bashed four home runs by the fifth inning as they powered past the Guardians for a big win. Minnesota ended a 3-game losing streak with the win.
Missing Sano and Correa and enduring extended slumps from both players when they were healthy, the Twins have turned to their pitching to stay atop the AL Central so far this season. The Twins are 7th in ERA, 6th in strikeouts and 10th in WHIP. On Saturday night, the Twins will send lefty Devin Smeltzer to the hill. Smeltzer was just recalled from the minors and is making his first start.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Bieber has + stuff and should be able to stifle the Twins lineup on Saturday night. Smeltzer is making his first start and it will be no easy task going up against the hard-hitting Guardians. Look for them to make it six out of seven on Saturday as Bieber keeps the Twins at bay and the Guardians' surprising lineup puts up some crooked number innings against Smeltzer.
Take Cleveland with the money line.
Full-Game Total Pick
Bieber, who returned from arm issues that cost him the second half of last season, has gotten stronger with each start this season. I fully expect him to keep the Twins under 3 runs in this contest and push to 7 innings of work in this one. Smeltzer is making his first start and he will have his hands full. Cleveland will do the majority of the scoring, but the run total will stay under the line, thanks to Bieber.
Take the under.