MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, September 1st

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MLB schedule today has 16 games

Even though the Atlanta Braves jumped out to a huge lead early, the likely NLCS preview did not disappoint last night. It was a really light night of games, but at least that one provided some punch and will probably do the same throughout the weekend.

 

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We go from four games to 16 on Friday, as all 30 teams will take the field and the 22 that enjoyed a travel day or some R&R at home on Thursday will tie up the cleats and get back after it to kick off the month of September. The Cubs and Reds will play two at Great American Ball Park to make up for a rainout way back on April 5.

Rosters expand to 28 players, so we’ll see a few call-ups here and there and some reinforcements for teams that may be running a little light or some newcomers to get an extended look on teams that aren’t really going anywhere.

As has been the case throughout this week, I’ll be focusing on games that have reasonable lines or games that I like. In the interest of time, I’ll be skipping over some big favorites that just aren’t appealing enough to discuss.

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Here are some thoughts on the September 1 card (odds from DraftKings):

Chicago Cubs (-120, 9.5) at Cincinnati Reds Game 1

Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds Game 2

This is another enormous series for the Reds, as they just got done with a road trip that featured the Diamondbacks and Giants. Now they play another team in the NL Wild Card hunt against the rival Cubs. These are two big games to set the tone for this four-game set.

Game 1

Graham Ashcraft gets the call for the Reds and Jordan Wicks will go for the Cubs. You can see the lack of respect for the Reds in the market right now, as cluster injuries have definitely taken a toll and the team just hasn’t played that well for a while. Ashcraft has been a bright spot with a 2.39 ERA over his last 11 starts covering 71.2 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of those appearances.

However, he also has a 4.69 FIP with a .244 BABIP and a 92.8% LOB%. He only has 53 strikeouts in that span and has given up 10 homers, but he’s been able to limit the multi-run homers. Still, there are a lot of regression signs in the profile and I think that’s also reflective in this line.

Wicks has made one MLB start and allowed one run on two hits with nine strikeouts over five innings against the Pirates five days ago. Wicks started the season in Double-A and moved up to Triple-A where he had a 3.82 ERA with a 4.23 FIP in 33 innings of work. We still don’t really know much about him, but Cincinnati’s struggles have this line where it is.

The Reds did just claim Hunter Renfroe and Harrison Bader off of waivers, so we’ll see if those guys are in the lineup for one or both of the games.

Game 2

No starters are officially listed for Game 2. Ben Lively threw 66 pitches on Saturday, so he’s the most likely candidate to start here. He has a 5.17 ERA with a 5.13 xERA and a 5.38 FIP over 76.2 innings.

It looked like Shane Greene may start – or at least bulk – for the Cubs in this one. He’s worked 16.2 innings at Triple-A and has allowed four earned runs on 12 hits with a 20/9 K/BB ratio. Hayden Wesneski and Anthony Kay also enter Friday well-rested, so they could be part of the equation.

Greene hasn’t started an MLB game since 2016, so we’ll see what the Cubs opt to do here.

Philadelphia Phillies (-115, 7.5) at Milwaukee Brewers

Skipping over Eury Perez and the Marlins as a big favorite against Jake Irvin since I’m not laying it and would have no interest in Irvin as a dog, we move ahead to the Phillies and Brewers. This could be a playoff preview if the Phillies somehow fell to the No. 6 seed, but that seems unlikely as of now. It will be Zack Wheeler and Freddy Peralta in this one.

Wheeler comes in with a 3.59 ERA, 3.16 xERA, and a 3.01 FIP in 158 innings of work. Peralta has a 3.95 ERA with a 3.33 xERA and a 3.86 FIP. This is a really good pitching matchup and the recent form for both guys has been solid.

Wheeler has a 2.68 ERA with a 3.38 FIP in eight starts over 53.2 innings since the All-Star Break with an outstanding 56/8 K/BB ratio. Peralta has a 2.49 ERA with a 2.41 FIP in eight starts covering 47 innings since the Break. He allowed six runs in his second start against Atlanta, but has allowed a total of seven runs in his other seven starts. He’s also struck out 70 batters against just 15 walks.

The baseline for both guys should be quite solid here and both bullpens are rested from Thursday off days. At first glance, I thought about the Brewers here, but I don’t really have the numbers to support it. The Brewers are just 26th in wOBA against righties in the second half and that’s only because they have a 10.2% BB%. The Phillies are seventh in wOBA, so their offense has been way stronger.

I still can’t figure out how the Brewers keep winning all these games with their offensive numbers, but they do and it has me trying to believe in them, without the statistical evidence to get excited.

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals (-112, 8.5)

Mitch Keller and Dakota Hudson are the listed hurlers for this one. Keller is actually second in fWAR among today’s starting pitchers, even though he’s had some hiccups throughout the middle months of the season. Recently, though, it seems like the Pirates have made some useful adjustments.

Keller allowed eight runs to the Brewers on August 3. Since then, he’s allowed six earned runs over his last four starts with a 29/5 K/BB ratio. For the season, Keller only has a 34.1% Hard Hit% against and a reasonable 8.5% Barrel%. Over his last three starts, he’s gotten back to keeping the ball on the ground and also has 25 strikeouts in 20 innings, so he’s been locked into a nice, little groove.

Hudson just allowed five runs on six hits to the Phillies and walked five guys. He had allowed a total of 10 earned runs over his previous four starts, but every start is an adventure with him. He doesn’t have a high strikeout rate with a 15.6% K% and has a 9% BB%. He’s allowed a 43.9% Hard Hit% on the year, but he’s a sinkerball guy, so he’s been able to keep the ball on the ground and work out of some issues. That said, he has a 4.41 ERA with a 5.18 FIP, so there are some regression signs in the profile.

To me, the Pirates are still battling. They just swept a series against the Royals and went 14-15 in August. St. Louis was 11-16 in August, but only scored 98 runs in the 27 games and finished the month -49 in run differential. I don’t think they’re super motivated or engaged at this point. They won a couple games in walk-off fashion against the Padres to finish up the last series, but they had lost 10 of 12 prior to that.

I like the Pirates here. It’s a short number, but I see Keller with a much higher ceiling than Hudson and Pittsburgh has a chance to finish ahead of St. Louis for the first time since 1999. I’m not sure if they know that, care, or can use it as any sort of motivation, but it’s a lost season for the Cardinals and a veteran bunch while dudes for Pittsburgh are fighting for playing time next season.

Author’s note: This line moved basically right after I posted (and I posted earlier than usual, so the market was likely settling in). I’ve adjusted the price to reflect -118 on Pittsburgh (was -108 at time of posting), which is what DraftKings has now. I still like it up to -125, so I’ve simply corrected the listed price. As always, shop around.

Pick: Pirates -118

San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres (-135, 8.5)

Have the Padres given up on the season? They’ve lost six of seven after last night’s 7-2 loss and the two walk-off losses against the Cardinals seemed like the final death blow. I’m not sure this team, which had enormous expectations and has a lot of inflated salaries, has it in them to bounce back the rest of the way.

Today, the Giants will once again MacGyver together a pitching staff. With Jakob Junis and Sean Manaea used yesterday, Tristan Beck and Alex Wood will be the people in the spotlight. Beck threw 70 pitches last Sunday and Wood hasn’t worked since last Friday. We’ll see if the Giants opt to use a reliever to start this one. Scott Alexander threw seven pitches in a quick inning of relief last night, so I’d look at him potentially opening.

Beck has a 3.52 ERA with a 3.33 xERA and a 3.68 FIP in 71.2 innings this season and Wood has a 4.52 ERA with a 4.93 xERA and a 4.84 FIP. Beck has been listed as the starter, so we’ll see Wood or some combination of relievers in relief, depending how far Beck can go into the game.

The Padres will go with Michael Wacha, who allowed four runs on four hits last time out with five walks and five strikeouts. It was his third start since missing six weeks and he’s allowed five runs on 12 hits in 15.2 innings in that span. He threw the ball well in his first two starts, but struggled last time out.

I did my prep work on this game last night and actually wrote that I wish the Giants had named a starter so I could take them. Well, by the morning, they had, and I will take them here. Shop around, as DK has the worst price in the market at +114, but I don’t think the Padres are super invested at this point, Wacha is a regression candidate, and I think Beck is a really solid pitcher with a Giants bullpen in pretty good shape behind him.

Pick: Giants +114

Atlanta Braves (-130, 8.5) at Los Angeles Dodgers

What a thriller last night wound up being. The Braves jumped out very early to a 6-1 lead after the top of the second, as they battered Lance Lynn in that inning. But, then Lynn settled down and gave his offense a chance to get back into it. Ultimately, the Dodgers fell a run short in an 8-7 loss after getting two on with one out in the ninth inning.

We get two lefties here in Max Fried and Julio Urias as this phenomenal series rolls onward. It hasn’t been the season that either of these guys hoped for, as Fried has been limited to 10 starts and 53.2 innings and Urias has worked 112.1 innings. Fried does have the numbers you would expect, though, as he has a 2.85 ERA with a 2.69 xERA and a 3.17 FIP. 

Since his August 4 return, he’s allowed 11 runs on 32 hits in 27.2 innings with a 28/5 K/BB ratio. He has only allowed a 33.7% Hard Hit% and a 4.8% Barrel% in those 83 batted balls. This is a tough assignment against the Dodgers, who went into Thursday’s game sixth in wOBA at .360 with a 129 wRC+.

But, the Braves came into Thursday with a .375 wOBA and a 135 wRC+ and they’ll get one here in Urias, who has a 4.41 ERA with a 3.96 xERA and a 4.43 FIP. He has a 4.42 ERA with a 3.60 FIP in 57 innings over 10 starts since coming off the IL. He’s had three big blow-ups in that span, as he allowed five runs to the Royals in his July 1 outing, eight runs to the Orioles on July 19, and then six runs last time out against Boston. He had allowed four homers in nine starts since his return, but then allowed three homers in that outing at Fenway Park.

Fried definitely seems more trustworthy than Urias with the numbers between the two guys, but there’s just something about this series and the Dodgers that makes it hard to really love a side. I’ll just be on the sidelines and hope for another thriller.

Tampa Bay Rays (-180, 8) at Cleveland Guardians

I just wanted to drop in here and talk about what the Guardians did yesterday and what they’ll do today. Let’s start with yesterday, as they won their claims Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Matt Moore. Rosters expand to 28 today, so they can just add those extra relievers and Giolito technically takes Noah Syndergaard’s spot. In some respects, today’s starter, Cal Quantrill, does as well, but I would like to see Giolito replace Xzavion Curry.

Anyway, the Guardians opted to be more of a seller at the Trade Deadline, though I don’t think capitalizing on Aaron Civale’s stretch of good health and trading Amed Rosario was waving the white flag. It certainly wasn’t popular in the clubhouse, but the claims from the Angels shout very loudly that the front office still believes in this team. I can’t say that I do, but time will tell. They’re five games back with a huge series against Minnesota coming Monday-Wednesday and the Twins have a pathetic schedule from September 14 to October 1.

Quantrill’s return does not inspire any confidence for me, as he has a 6.45 ERA with a 6.07 FIP in 67 innings this season. He’s either spent this season getting whiplash from watching line drives fly all over the ballpark or been on the shelf with a shoulder injury. The Guardians inexplicably hurried him back in June and had allowed 11 runs on 19 hits before hitting the IL again. 

This time around, he made four rehab starts and allowed 15 runs over 17.2 innings, so I’m not entirely sure what their thought process is, but I guess we’ll see it in action on Friday.

Tyler Glasnow has a 3.12 ERA with a 3.10 FIP and I’d be rather surprised if Cleveland hits him in this one. He did get shelled two starts ago by the Angels to the tune of seven runs on eight hits, but he had allowed a total of 11 earned runs over his previous eight starts. He misses a lot of bats and has exceptional stuff.

My concern here is that this total is just 8, which speaks to Cleveland’s really low offensive projection. While I could see Quantrill getting curbstomped, we’ve got the dreaded double minus here at -1.5 and -105 and a total of 8, which makes it more difficult to win by two or more given the compressed run environment. It could still happen and I’ll be upset when Quantrill gets obliterated, but I don’t think it’s a great bet.

Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers (-155, 8)

The Rangers are slumping right now. It was a bipolar month of August for the Rangers, as they started the month with eight straight wins and victories in 10 of 11 and then 12 of 14 before the bottom fell out. They lost eight in a row after that, but did win three of five to round out the month.

Max Scherzer and Joe Ryan are the listed starters here and the Rangers are rightly favored behind Mad Max. In five starts with the Rangers, he’s allowed nine runs on 18 hits with 40 strikeouts against 10 walks in 30.2 innings of work. He’s got a 2.64 ERA with a 2.58 FIP and a 35.3% Hard Hit% with a 4.4% Barrel%. He’s been everything that the Rangers could have wanted and then some.

On the Twins side, Ryan had hit the skids a bit, but then threw five innings of one-run ball against Texas on August 26. It was his first start back off the IL and he must have needed the IL stint because he allowed 23 runs over his five starts before going on the shelf. I wouldn’t say that he’s fixed off of one data point, but it was encouraging to see him strike out seven of the 20 batters that he faced. Still, he has allowed 18 home runs in his last 37.1 innings. Now, the IL stint may have been what he needed and a solo homer was his only real blemish last start, but he is running it back against the same team again.

Nothing from me, but I think it’s a really interesting game.

Detroit Tigers (-135, 8.5) at Chicago White Sox

It is easy to bypass James Paxton against Jordan Lyles for obvious reasons and move to the AL Central showdown between the Tigers and White Sox. Detroit was a road favorite exactly once last season, but this will be the sixth time this season that Eduardo Rodriguez has been laying a road number, let alone the other instances. The Tigers have won four of the previous five games in that role, so we’ll see if they can make it five of six here.

Rodriguez has a 3.21 ERA with a 3.66 xERA and a 3.38 FIP in 117.2 innings of work. Since returning on July 5, though, he has a 4.68 ERA with a 3.69 FIP. He’s fallen on the wrong side of variance with a .315 BABIP and a 68.9% LOB%. There are some positive regression signs in the profile for sure, but he definitely hasn’t been as sharp as he was, and especially not lately. He’s allowed eight barrels in his last three starts and a 51.9% Hard Hit%. He did get hit hard by Boston and Houston while shutting down Cleveland in that span and the White Sox are clearly closer to Cleveland on the offensive spectrum.

We’ve gotten The Full Touki from Toussaint lately, as he has a 4.85 ERA with a 5.26 xERA and a 5.49 FIP for the year over 59.1 innings. He has a 6.94 ERA with a 6.95 FIP in his last five starts, though, as he’s allowed six homers and 21 walks with 29 strikeouts in 23.1 innings of work. It’s like a bad version of Robbie Ray. He had allowed 18 runs in four starts before throwing five shutout innings to get the win against the A’s last time out.

I mostly wanted to mention this game because the White Sox named Chris Getz as the new GM and said that Pedro Grifol would stay as the manager. Getz, who just retired back in 2014, was the White Sox director of player development from 2017-20, so he’s familiar with a lot of the struggling once-prospects on this team. Now that the front office is taking shape for next season, guys are auditioning for jobs with changes likely to come. Maybe that keeps the White Sox more engaged.

New York Yankees at Houston Astros (-185, 8.5)

Just because of the name value of these two teams and these starters, I’ll briefly mention this game. I mostly want to point out that Carlos Rodon gets the start for New York and the Astros are far and away the best offense in baseball against lefties in the second half with a .393 wOBA and a 154 wRC+. 

Rodon has only allowed three runs on 10 hits in 10.2 innings since coming back from his latest injury. He actually struck out seven of the 21 batters he faced against the Rays last time out, but I’m still not really buying the profile as it currently stands. He definitely looks better than he did before going back on the IL, including five runs allowed over 2.2 innings to the Astros on August 6, but there’s a reason why this line sits where it does.

Justin Verlander goes for Houston and the Yankees have been a bottom-five offense against righties for a while now.

Los Angeles Angels (-148, 8) at Oakland Athletics

A couple southpaws are on the board here between Patrick Sandoval and JP Sears. The Angels are in a really weird place, as they were still playing Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk in the series against the Phillies while they were on waivers, but they are gone now, as the Reds claimed Renfroe and nobody wanted Grichuk.

Those are two right-handed bats that probably would have been useful against Sears, who has a 4.80 ERA with a 4.79 xERA and a 5.30 FIP in his 140.2 innings of work. It hasn’t been pretty lately for Sears, as he has allowed 13 runs on 18 hits in his last 10 innings with five homers allowed. He’s allowed a 45.1% Hard Hit% and a 12.8% Barrel% in the second half over eight starts. That hard contact has resulted in a 6.80 ERA with a 6.34 FIP.

Sandoval is becoming some sort of light at the end of a dismal tunnel for the Angels. He and Reid Detmers are basically the reasons to still be invested in the series. Sandoval has a 3.95 ERA with a 4.39 xERA and a 4.09 FIP over 123 innings of work. My guess is that a lot of teams will be calling about Sandoval this winter as he enters his second arbitration season. 

He’s allowed 21 runs in 42.1 innings since July 5, but eight of the runs are unearned. He has made his own problems, though, as he’s walked 27 guys. He’s fortunate to only have a .236 BABIP with a 69.4% LOB%, as he’s issued a lot of walks, but has 44 strikeouts. I don’t see a reason to bet either side here, but I do wonder how invested the Angels are for this weekend set in an empty ballpark with substandard facilities.

Seattle Mariners (-115, 7.5) at New York Mets

Mets ace Kodai Senga is getting a lot of respect here with this line as Logan Gilbert and the Mariners come to town. Senga deserves it, though. He’s easily the bright spot of the season and has absolutely lived up to his billing coming over from Japan. He has a 3.17 ERA with a 3.66 xERA and a 3.52 FIP in his 136.1 innings of work. His walk rate hasn’t really come down all that quickly, but it has been significantly better over the last three months of the season and he hasn’t sacrificed strikeouts in the process.

Since June 28, Senga has a 2.72 ERA with a 2.75 FIP and a 71/20 K/BB ratio over 59.2 innings of work. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start and has only done that twice over those 10 starts. He’s allowed just a 32.4% Hard Hit% and a 4.7% Barrel%. For the most part, he’s still been able to maintain his velocity and will hopefully end his first season stateside on a high note.

Gilbert comes in with a 3.66 ERA, 3.68 xERA, and a 3.72 FIP in his 155 innings of work. Since the start of July, he has a 2.87 ERA with a 3.90 FIP over 10 starts. In that span, he has a 60/9 K/BB ratio and has allowed just 20 runs on 55 hits. He’s given up 10 homers, but the low walk rate has relegated most of those to solo dingers. However, he has a 47.2% Hard Hit% in that span, so I’m not totally sure about his .268 BABIP and 88.2% LOB%.

If I had more faith in the Mets offense, I would look at them for the 1st 5 here. I think Seattle will really struggle with Senga. They haven’t seen him and he continues to go out there and pitch extremely well. Senga has worked at least six innings in each of his last four starts and five of the last six. He was one out away from it on August 2. I think a Senga outs prop is a pretty good way to look here. It’s at 17.5 (-140) at DK, but shop around and try to get lower vig somewhere.

Baltimore Orioles (-115, 9.5) at Arizona Diamondbacks

The Blue Jays are a big favorite at Coors Field and that doesn’t really deserve a lot of attention, but this game does out in the desert. It will be the Orioles and the Diamondbacks with Cole Irvin for Baltimore and Zach Davies for Arizona.

These two guys both have poor numbers, as Irvin has a 4.78 ERA with a 5.84 xERA and a 4.30 FIP over his 64 innings of work. He’s been better in the second half, though, as he has a 3.76 ERA with a 4.02 FIP in 26.1 innings. He’s made three starts in a row and allowed five runs on 12 hits in 16 innings with 14 strikeouts against three walks. He did just allow four runs over six inning to the Rockies, but only allowed a 26.3% Hard Hit%. He gave up two barrels that were a double and a dinger and those were the hurtful ones.

Davies has a 6.93 ERA with a 5.06 xERA and a 4.69 FIP in 62.1 innings of work. He comes into this start with a really ugly K/BB ratio with an 18.2% K% and a 10.4% BB%. He just returned from over a month on the IL and allowed one run on five hits to the Reds. He had allowed nine runs in his last start against Atlanta before hitting the shelf. He had allowed 13 runs over 13.1 innings in his three rehab starts, but came up and shut down the Reds.

Both bullpens are in good shape here and both teams are playing well. Arizona was just swept by the Dodgers, but had won 12 of 15 prior to that. The Dodgers went nuclear in August, so there’s not much you can really do about that and only the Braves are really on that level.

Baltimore has won six of eight again, though they’ve faced Oakland, Colorado, and the White Sox as three of their last four opponents. So, I can’t make a bet here, but this is a really intriguing series and one that should be watched closely.

My right-hand man Zachary Cohen will pinch hit for me on Saturday, so give him some love and check out tomorrow’s article.

TL;DR Recap

Pirates -108
Giants +114