MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Sunday October 8th

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MLB schedule today has 2 games

Only the four American League teams will be in action today, as the NL teams get a breather to separate the games for TV purposes. We’ll start with Rangers/Orioles at 4:07 p.m. ET and then move into Twins/Astros at 8:03 p.m. ET.

 

With a little bit of a late start after kind of catching up on some sleep after two busy weeks here in town entertaining friends and family, let’s get right to the games.

I will do the podcast every day during the playoffs, but only write articles for series previews and on days with games.

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Here are some thoughts on the October 8 card (odds from DraftKings):

(odds as of 9:20 a.m. PT)

Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles (-115, 7.5)

Road teams – a.k.a., Wild Card winners that didn’t have a bye – went 3-1 on Saturday to take 1-0 series leads. I mentioned my concerns about teams that hadn’t played in six days and was curious about how ready they would be. The Astros scored six runs, but the losers combined to score four total runs. The depressed run environment in the playoffs is part of that whole equation, but it’s also hard to face teammates and take BP for a week and then suddenly face dudes throwing max effort.

We’ve got Jordan Montgomery and Grayson Rodriguez here, as the Orioles look to even up the series following yesterday’s 3-2 loss. Montgomery was simply tremendous last time out against the Rays with seven innings of shutout ball in his Game 1 effort. He finished the regular season with a 3.20 ERA and a 3.56 FIP over 32 starts and allowed just two runs on 19 hits in his final 27 innings while getting ready for the playoffs.

We saw the Rangers start Andrew Heaney yesterday and then follow with Dane Dunning because they felt like a lefty was the right move against Baltimore, who is a little lefty-heavy in the lineup and some of the switch hitters do fare a lot better against righties. This was also a play to the park, as Oriole Park at Camden Yards suppresses offense from right-handed bats with the new left field dimensions.

So, Montgomery could have a similar, and even greater, edge than Heaney by virtue of being a better pitcher, but also by being another southpaw.

This will be the first postseason start for Rodriguez, whose 4.35 ERA, 4.18 xERA, and 3.93 FIP do not properly encapsulate his first season at the MLB level. In his first 10 starts, he posted a 7.35 ERA with a 5.90 FIP. His 3.93 xFIP was suggestive of better days ahead, but he showed very little command after breaking camp with the team to open the season.

Rodriguez returned following the All-Star Break and made 13 starts with a 2.58 ERA, 2.76 FIP, and a 3.70 xFIP. He didn’t have as high of a strikeout rate as he did in his first 10 starts, but he did a much better job of limiting hard contact and only allowed three home runs over 76.2 innings of work. He allowed four earned runs in his first start back and did not allow more than three earned runs over his next 12 starts.

Rodriguez hasn’t pitched since September 27, though, and that concerns me a lot. A week and a half between outings makes it extremely difficult to stay sharp. It is a really tough spot for the rookie as well, especially with Baltimore down 1-0 in the series. The stuff is really, really good and there was nothing fluky about his numbers after he was sent to the minors to get things figured out.

I like the Rangers 1st 5 today. I’m a big Montgomery guy, as you know. I think Rodriguez has a remarkably bright future, but I really don’t like the extended layoff. I’m finding the bye to be more of a detriment for teams. Sure, they don’t have to try and fight through a Wild Card Round, but there’s not really a huge benefit to going six days without playing a game and sending out starters that haven’t pitched in over a week.

I don’t want the Rangers for the full game, though their bullpen has looked the part in three postseason games. I still think the O’s have an edge there, but I will back Montgomery with the 1st 5 and only pay a few cents more than the full-game price.

Pick: Rangers 1st 5 (-110)

Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros (-135, 8)

We’ve got Pablo Lopez and Framber Valdez in the nightcap of the AL slate today, as the Astros were the only home team to win in Game 1. The Twins scored all four of their runs off of relief Hector Neris, which illustrated my point about relievers, but Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly shut it down for the win. The Twins struck out 13 times in the game and scored all four of their runs on a couple of homers. That’s just how it’s going to be for them.

But, Game 1 was expected to be a bit of a tough one for the Twins, who had to decide between Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Ober didn’t locate well and Kenta Maeda gave up a couple more runs working in relief. The plus side is that Minnesota had chances, going 1-for-12 with RISP, but they’ve struggled with RISP through three games and you have to get some of those timely hits if you want to pull upsets.

This strikes me as a really winnable game. Lopez allowed one run over 5.2 innings against the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Round with three strikeouts and two walks. He finished the regular season with a 3.66 ERA, 3.00 xERA, and a 3.33 FIP. Lopez only allowed a .205/.254/.342 slash and a .260 wOBA to righties in 394 plate appearances, so that’s a really good building block going into this start.

Of course, he’ll have to avoid Yordan Alvarez, one of two primary lefties in the Astros lineup, who hit two homers in yesterday’s game. Lopez does have more swing and miss stuff and upside than yesterday’s collection of pitchers, but the Astros only struck out seven times yesterday and Minnesota struck out 13 times. In the playoff run environment, putting balls in play matters so much.

Valdez will make his 13th career playoff start in this one. He owns a 3.41 ERA with a 4.13 FIP in 68.2 innings during the postseason. He finished the regular season with a 3.45 ERA, 4.33 xERA, and a 3.50 FIP in 198 innings of work, but he was not the same guy in the second half that he was in the first half. Valdez threw a no-hitter and had another start with seven no-hit innings, but still posted a 4.66 ERA and allowed 12 HR in 87 innings after posting a 2.51 ERA with seven homers allowed in 111 innings in the first half.

He allowed 10 runs in his final 9.1 innings and, like Rodriguez in the first game, hasn’t pitched since September 27. So, Valdez wasn’t exactly riding a high coming into the playoffs. But, neither was Lopez, who allowed 11 runs in his final 15.1 innings to the White Sox, Angels, and A’s.

One positive for the Twins is that Emilio Pagan shook off some rust and the team was able to avoid the guys that pitched in the Wild Card Round, so Minnesota’s bullpen is locked and loaded. Meanwhile, the Astros used all three primary relievers on their end, including that rough outing from Neris.

I think the Twins are worth a shot today. Over the final two months of the regular season, they posted a .364 wOBA with a 135 wRC+ against lefties. Their K% in that split was 23.6%, compared to the 26% that they had against righties. They are a bit better about making contact in this split and Valdez could be a little rusty. He also saw his K% drop from 26.2% to 23% in the second half and his BB% spike from 5.9% to 8.5%. He did battle some injuries, including a sprained ankle around the Break, so maybe the downtime is better for him, but I think this is a pretty decent matchup for the Twins and Lopez is a guy who can really be dominant.

Shop around and try to find a little higher of a price here if you can.

Pick: Twins +114