MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Tuesday, April 11th

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MLB schedule today has 15 games

We’ve got my favorite kind of day in Major League Baseball. All 30 teams are in action and every game is a night game. The players are starting to settle into the rhythm of the season and hopefully all of us bettors are doing so as well. Players are used to being back on the road with the boys and the familiar feelings of travel are back in full swing.

 

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Today is a pretty interesting day on the diamond with a lot of big favorites and some games that I’ll call “aces against faces”, where top-tier pitchers are going up against pretty regular dudes. I’ve talked about how I think aces will really have the upper hand with the rule changes and the run environment, so we’ll see if that theory gets tested today. (Tracking sheet)

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A new episode of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets comes your way this afternoon. If you get the chance and you like the show, do me a favor and throw it a 5* review. Hell, even if you don’t like me or the show, slap a 5* review on it anyway!

Here are some thoughts on the April 11 card (odds from DraftKings):

Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies (-145, 8)

Shout-out to the Marlins, who scored three runs yesterday to outscore their season average of 2.7 runs per contest. Oh, yeah, they also gave up 15 in a game started by Sandy Alcantara. Miami dropped to 4-7 on the season and got shut out over five innings by Matt Strahm, who now has two solid starts under his belt.

Will it get any better for the Marlins today against Aaron Nola? Probably not, but Nola hasn’t been all that sharp to this point, allowing eight runs on 11 hits in 9.2 innings of work with nine strikeouts and three walks. Nola was significantly better against the Yankees in his second start after blowing a 5-0 lead on Opening Day against the Rangers. He only gave up four hard-hit balls in 18 batted ball events against the Yankees, so his stat line certainly could have been better with three runs on seven hits over six innings. He also gets to face a weak Marlins lineup here.

Like Alcantara, Jesus Luzardo steps outside the friendly confines of Marlins Park for the first time. Luzardo has allowed one run on seven hits in 12.2 innings with 15 strikeouts against five walks, but four of those came in his first start against the Mets. He had a 10/1 K/BB ratio against the Twins in his second outing. Luzardo has also only allowed seven hard-hit balls in 28 batted ball events, so he has been truly spectacular through two starts.

Luzardo actually had reverse home/road splits last season. He had a 4.25 ERA in 42.1 innings at home with a .238/.302/.402 slash and a .309 wOBA against. He worked 58 innings on the road with a 2.64 ERA and a .152/.236/.279 slash and a .234 wOBA against. His home FIP of 3.09 was actually better than his road FIP of 3.15, but the ERA difference came in the form of a 16.3% increase in LOB% on the road and a BABIP that was over 100 points lower.

If I had any faith at all in the Marlins offense, I’d give Luzardo a look here. The ceiling has always been high and it seems like he may be reaching it after posting a 3.32 ERA with a 3.12 FIP last season in over 100 innings. It’s just that the Marlins can’t score. It’s also a tough under bet to make because these two teams are not high on my list defensively. But, I’m going to try to find spots to play on Luzardo if the prices aren’t too bad.

San Diego Padres at New York Mets (-140, 9)

A couple southpaws duel here with Ryan Weathers for the Padres and David Peterson for the Mets. Before I get to today’s game, I want to talk about Max Scherzer. The Mets won 5-0 yesterday, but Scherzer’s velo took a dump in the middle innings and the stuff just didn’t look super explosive. After getting knocked around in the sixth inning of his first two starts, I’m watching him very, very closely.

With Carlos Carrasco unable to maintain his velo in the middle innings, this is a huge start for David Peterson. The Mets rotation is taking on some water right now and Peterson hasn’t looked sharp himself. He walked five and gave up five runs on five hits last start against the Brewers. He’s allowed 13 hits and six runs over nine innings with a 10/6 K/BB ratio. He’s doing a good job of limiting hard contact with a 33.3% Hard Hit%, but he’s not locating super well. He ran a 10.6% BB% last season and guys with high walk rates are likely to be exposed more by the rule changes because of more hits, more baserunners, and the pitch clock that prevents pitchers from composing themselves.

Peterson has 18 plate appearances the first time through the order. Opposing hitters have seven hits with a double, triple and two homers, plus three walks. He’s had problems settling into games early on. I had a podcast listener question about 1st 3 Innings bets and whether or not there’s some value. I’ve never looked into them, but some pitchers do struggle to get settled into a game. Through two starts, Peterson’s been fighting it a bit.

This will only be the second start for Weathers, who hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since April 3. He allowed two runs on five hits over five innings against the Diamondbacks with a couple punchies and a walk. He only allowed four hard-hit balls in 17 batted ball events. Arizona loaded up righties against Weathers and he went heavy with the changeup, which had a pretty high whiff rate despite the lack of strikeouts.

I’ll take a shot with the Padres as a small dog here. The Padres haven’t used any of their primary relievers in the last two days, so their bullpen is in pretty good shape. Meanwhile, the Mets would be looking at David Robertson and Adam Ottavino on back-to-back days, plus Drew Smith and John Curtiss would be working B2B and 3-in-4. Peterson’s control woes make me wonder how deep he can actually get into this game.

Righties have 11 hits and four walks in 32 plate appearances against Peterson so far and the Padres should have six of them in the order this evening. As always, shop around. DraftKings has one of the lower market prices on the Padres. You can find a few cents better at other shops.

Pick: Padres +120

Cincinnati Reds at Atlanta Braves (-230, 9)

The Braves are in a big favorite role after yesterday’s walk-off dub in extras against the Reds. At least we got what we wanted with the 1st 5 Under, as it was 0-0 game through the fifth. Graham Ashcraft was really solid against a tough lineup before running out of gas a little in the late innings. I’ll be curious to see if Luis Cessa has any gas in the tank at all in this one.

Cessa owns a 4.12 ERA with a 4.66 FIP lifetime over 404.1 innings, but he hasn’t worked much as a starter. Over 30 career starts, he has a 4.67 ERA with a .255/.314/.457 slash against and a .331 wOBA. He’s given up 27 HR as a SP in 140.2 innings compared to 36 HR in 263.2 innings as a reliever. He gave up nine hard-hit balls in his first start in 19 batted ball events and he doesn’t have the stuff or the ability to miss bats that Ashcraft has. The way to neutralize the Braves is to generate a lot of swing and miss and hope their contact stays in the ballpark.

Cessa has a career K% under 20% and a career HR/FB% of 15.4%. Those are not ideal numbers in a matchup like this. Also, as I mentioned yesterday, you have to look at the Reds lineup differently on the road than at home with their contrasting numbers. Great American Ball Park is such a great hitter’s park that it has made the Reds offense look better than it is.

That brings me to Kyle Wright, who is making his 2023 debut. Wright had a 3.19 ERA with a 3.58 FIP during what looked to be his breakout season in 2022. He went six innings in a rehab start at Triple-A and allowed five runs on seven hits with six strikeouts. He threw 84 pitches with 53 strikes over his six innings, so I don’t think he’ll be limited too badly here.

I gave a lot of thought to the Braves run line, but laying a price with a home team on a run line when they’ll only hit eight times if they lead by one kept me away. Also, Wright may not be totally sharp after having a sore shoulder in camp. The Braves team total at 5.5 in a game lined 9 also looks like a fair number.

St. Louis Cardinals (-180, 12) at Colorado Rockies

If Kyle Freeland is part of a 1-0 game here at Coors Field, I’ll be pretty shocked. This total has ballooned to 12 with warmer weather, but a breeze blowing in from LF in Denver. The Cardinals against a lefty in Freeland will always be a popular betting angle in some capacity and it appears that the over and the Redbirds are both getting steamed up here. I can certainly understand the desire to fade Freeland, who has not allowed a run in 12.2 innings despite only six strikeouts.

When you consider that Freeland had a 6.00 ERA and a .375 wOBA against at Coors Field in 87 innings last season, it’s pretty easy to see why there’s so much Cardinals interest. For his career, Freeland’s home ERA is about a full run higher than his road ERA and his wOBA against is 28 points higher.

Even though this start comes at Coors, it has to be an easier matchup for Miles Mikolas, who has allowed 10 runs on 19 hits in 9.1 innings of work. He has 12 strikeouts against one walk and has only given up one home run, so he has a 2.86 FIP to go with his 9.64 ERA. He’s allowed five runs in each of his starts against the Blue Jays and Braves. The Rockies lineup is absolutely not on that level, however, he’s allowed 14 hard-hit balls in 35 batted ball events and five barrels. This isn’t bad luck. This is bad command. He’s also allowing a lot of line drive and fly ball contact.

Mikolas allowed 42 barrels and had a 35.7% Hard Hit% in 607 batted ball events last season, so these first two starts are outliers, but after pitching for Team USA in the WBC, maybe he just wasn’t ready for the season. I guess we’ll see here. No plays from me with the line moves seemingly extracting any value that was there.

Milwaukee Brewers (-125, 8.5) at Arizona Diamondbacks

The first-place Arizona Diamondbacks has a nice ring to it, especially when you consider they’ve played the Dodgers, Padres and Brewers to open the season. Those that were high on this team coming into the season have to be thrilled with what they’ve seen so far. I thought yesterday’s game was really interesting with basically a frozen line despite the market’s annual perceptions of Zac Gallen and Wade Miley. Gallen was dominant with 11 strikeouts and the D-Backs won 3-0.

Arizona is actually taking a little bit of money today with Merrill Kelly on the bump against Corbin Burnes. That surprises me, but bettors seem a little bit out on Burnes to this point. I guess I get it, given that he’s allowed 10 runs on 11 hits in 9.1 innings of work with just six strikeouts against five walks, but he is a bona fide ace and he’ll figure it out, unless there’s an underlying injury. His velocity is down, but the spin rates look just fine.

Burnes attributed some of his struggles to guys swinging early in the count, but his Swing% of 42.8% is down from 46.1% last season and easily the lowest of his career. He’s just not commanding the ball well with a low Zone% and a total lack of swing and miss in the zone. A good indicator of the quality of a pitcher’s stuff is a stat called “Z-Contact%”, which is percentage of pitches in the strike zone hitters make contact with. Generating swings and misses outside the zone is one thing, but getting whiffs in the zone is another. Burnes has not really done either thus far.

Let’s see what Kelly does now that he’s not facing the dreaded Dodgers. I talked about it going into both of his outings against LAD, but they’re his kryptonite and he’s had to face them twice already. He allowed four runs in his second start, but the bigger issue is that he had four walks in both starts. He gave up a ton of hard contact in both outings as well. Mentally, he has to be excited to see a different team.

Kelly has allowed a 46.2% Hard Hit% in two starts with a 93.3 mph average exit velocity and has also struggled with his control. It has been interesting to follow how the WBC has affected some guys more than others. Maybe this was just about the matchup with the Dodgers. I guess we’ll find out today.

This is one of the more competitively-lined games, but I don’t have a play on it.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-155, 8.5) at San Francisco Giants

We wrap up the NL slate with the NL West showdown between the Dodgers and Giants. The Dodgers cruised to an easy win for us yesterday, as the Giants were stymied by Julio Urias and the bullpen. Dustin May has allowed 18 home runs in 156.2 innings, so that’s the most important part of this handicap because the Giants seem pretty dependent on the long ball to score at this point. Their lone run off of Urias was a solo dinger.

The Giants have pummeled right-handed pitching this season, including their big showings off of guys like Michael Kopech and Lance Lynn. We’ll see how May fares here after facing Arizona in each of his first two starts. He’s allowed just one run on five hits in 13 innings with nine strikeouts against three walks. He’s given up a little bit of hard contact, but it hasn’t been hurtful. His velocity looks good, the stuff looks pretty explosive, and he’s getting some chases outside the zone. He isn’t getting a lot of swings and misses, but that’s probably a byproduct of the opponent.

Per FanGraphs, the Diamondbacks are fifth in SwStr%. The Giants are 30th. This does seem like a decent chance for May to get a few more strikeouts. It will come down to whether or not he keeps the ball in the yard. Also, we’ve seen a lot of fastballs from him with fewer cutters and curveballs. That would generate more swing and miss as well.

Alex Wood only worked three innings in his 2023 debut with three runs allowed on six hits against the White Sox. Only one run was earned and he struck out three with a couple walks. He needed 71 pitches to get through 3+ innings and left with two on and nobody out. To be honest, the Dodgers are probably the side again, but the left-handed-heavy Giants lineup has hit righties quite well this season.

I would’ve thought about the over as a play, but we have an 8.5 at Oracle Park with two pitchers that have pretty good career numbers. I think that’s just the new run environment we’re looking at.

New York Yankees (-165, 8) at Cleveland Guardians

The first thing I want to mention is that it’s a bit warmer in Cleveland today than it has been, so the ball has a chance at carrying a little bit more today and definitely tomorrow with a 74-degree day game. The weather has a huge impact on offense in this ballpark and it has to be the starting point for any April game in my estimation.

We’ve got Gerrit Cole on the bump for the Yankees here and Hunter Gaddis for the Guardians. My first thought was to either lay the price on Cole or take a run line here. Cole has looked spectacular with 19 strikeouts against five walks in two starts, where he has only allowed one run on six hits over 12.1 innings of work. The big issue with Cole is the long ball. Yankees fans won’t really let it go that he allowed 33 HR in 200.2 innings last season. I happen to think he got a bit unlucky with the Goldilocks ball that was in use at Yankee Stadium late in the year.

The thing about this start for Cole is that the Guardians simply don’t hit home runs. Cleveland has played 11 games and hit five home runs. Bryan Reynolds and Pete Alonso have hit five home runs on their own. The Guardians are still among the league’s best at strikeout avoidance, but they’ve also helped their offensive profile with a 12.3% BB%. That’s not really going to be sustainable I don’t think and probably not against Cole, whose highest BB% in the last four seasons has been last year’s 6.3%. He has had a few walks early this season, but that’s been the only blemish to his profile thus far.

Gaddis had his best start as a big leaguer last time out with six shutout frames against the Athletics with just one hit allowed and a couple of walks. It was a much sharper effort than what he had in his first start against the Mariners with four runs allowed on five hits and way better than his two terrible starts last season. I’ll give him credit – he’s only allowed six hard-hit balls and one barrel in two starts covering 27 batted ball events. He’s an extreme fly ball guy and that has been good in Seattle and Oakland.

That may not be as good in Cleveland this evening as it would have been a couple of nights ago. He pitched in two really good pitcher’s parks and, while Cleveland can be one, it’ll be a little warmer with a helping breeze.

I also think that the Yankees will have a chance to add on if they have a lead after Gaddis exits. I’m not saying Terry Francona will wave the white flag at all, but Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak each picked up another appearance yesterday. There are 17 pitchers tied for fourth with six appearances. Four of them are Guardians. If Cleveland is trailing, we’re far more likely to see a Xzavion Curry or somebody than a premier reliever. I would expect they’d ship out Curry for Konnor Pilkington, who would be on his regular turn to throw tomorrow. They need to make a move for an arm in support of Peyton Battenfield, who is currently expected to start on Wednesday.

It could also be Tanner Bibee on regular rest, which would make me downright giddy. In any event, Cleveland is in a bit of a precarious spot and it would be hard to waste an arm in lower leverage if trailing. I think a Yankees run line play makes sense today. This looks like a matchup that plays into New York’s power potential and Cleveland doesn’t have that against Cole.

Pick: Yankees Run Line (-1.5) (+100)

Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles (-195, 8.5)

This is a hefty number for Grayson Rodriguez in his second career MLB start. G-Rod went five innings in his MLB debut against the Rangers with two runs allowed on four hits. He struck out five, walked one, and limited hard contact with just four hard-hit balls against. The stuff looked good and he looked ready to compete at the big league level. He’s on an extra day of rest here, which is important given that Baltimore is trying to closely monitor his workload after missing some time last season.

Kyle Muller was really impressive in two home starts, but now we’ll see how he does on the road. Muller has allowed three runs on eight hits in 10.2 innings of work with eight strikeouts against four walks. He has allowed 14 hard-hit balls in 32 batted ball events, which does concern me heading out to ballparks where the ball carries better than it does in Oakland. I’d feel a bit better if Muller’s K% from the minor leagues could follow him to MLB, but we’ll have to see as time goes by if that’s the case. Oakland starters generally don’t rack up big K% numbers because they’re instructed to pitch to the park at home and that leaves limited strikeout upside on the road.

The problem with taking Oakland in any capacity is that the offense has such a low projection that their starting pitchers have zero margin for error. That’s the case here. I really thought about Oakland at a big dog price with expectations that are a little high on Rodriguez, but the A’s will struggle to score a lot. They were 0-for-11 with RISP in yesterday’s loss to the O’s.

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays (-180, 7.5)

For the first time this season, the Rays played a real team and didn’t cover the run line. They still won to improve to 10-0 and have a great chance to go to 11-0 with one of their aces on the mound in Shane McClanahan. The Red Sox will counter with an arm I like a lot in Garrett Whitlock, but he’s just been activated off of the IL.

Whitlock had a 3.45 ERA with a 3.29 FIP last season in 78.1 innings with nine starts and 22 relief outings. He wasn’t as sharp as a starter as he was as a reliever with a 4.15 ERA and a .315 wOBA against in 39 innings, but I think the quality of stuff is absolutely there to start. Also, seven of his nine starts were pretty good. He got knocked around a bit by the Mariners and Angels, but the rest of his outings were pretty decent.

Whitlock’s final rehab start at Double-A was a strong one. He took a no-hitter into the fifth and struck out eight over six innings. He allowed one run on six hits and struck out six in four innings in his first one, which came at Triple-A. He threw 75 pitches in his first one and 81 pitches in his second one, so he shouldn’t have too many limitations tonight.

McClanahan has allowed two runs on nine hits in 12 innings with 12 strikeouts against five walks, but that was against the Tigers and Nationals, though I do think Washington will fare well against lefties this season. The Nats did draw four walks in that one. McClanahan had a 2.54 ERA with a 3.00 FIP last season and was also terrific in 2021, so it’s hard to expect anything less this season, so long as he stays healthy.

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the Red Sox win this game, but I don’t have much besides intuition and my high view of Whitlock to take me in that direction. Selfishly, since I’m not betting it, I’m okay with Whitlock struggling to maybe create a little value going forward.

Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays (-275, 9)

This will be the first home game at Rogers Centre with the new ballpark dimensions. They are going to really help the Blue Jays against inferior offenses (which covers most teams, especially this opponent).

Here are the changes per Jays beat writer Keegan Matheson:

The most notable change is to right center field, which is important because no team in baseball has right-handed batters that drive the ball better to right field than the Blue Jays. Using Statcast data, these dimensions would have meant 19 more homers at Rogers Centre last season.

The total here has been bet up from 8.5 to 9, but it does appear that the presence of the Tigers is keeping this one down a little bit. I actually like Matt Manning a little bit and there are a lot of people that were low on Alek Manoah coming into the season. Manoah’s first start was ugly, but his second start against the Royals was quite good.

I don’t want to take a full-on, wait-and-see approach with Rogers Centre because it could absolutely mean some lost line equity, but the Tigers offense is putrid, so it’s hard to really do anything with the information here.

Manning allowed two runs on six hits in 5.2 innings against the Astros in his 2023 debut. He’s a guy I’m hoping to find some dog spots to play. Today is not one of them, though.

Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins (-155, 8)

Pablo Lopez is getting a ton of buzz already for the way his new sweeper looks and his velo uptick. Through two starts, he has allowed one run on five hits with 16 strikeouts against four walks. I’m not giving him the Cy Young Award yet because he’s faced the Royals and the Marlins, but he’ll get a bit stiffer of a test here against the White Sox, who aren’t as right-handed-heavy as they used to be.

That said, they could be without Tim Anderson, who was banged up in Monday’s game and they’re already without Eloy Jimenez, who is hurt yet again. Lopez is on track for the highest Whiff% of his career and is getting tons of swings outside the zone. The White Sox are typically a pretty free-swinging bunch, so this probably isn’t the best matchup for them. The line certainly seems to agree and the bettors that drove Minnesota up to this high of a price also agree.

White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz said that Lance Lynn had a cold when he allowed eight runs on nine hits, including three homers, against the Giants in 4.1 innings of work last time out. He simply hasn’t been sharp and he’s another guy that pitched for Team USA (like Mikolas and Kelly) who has not looked the part thus far. Lynn has allowed 10 runs on 12 hits in 10 innings with seven walks and 11 strikeouts. The walks, the homers, and the anemic ground ball rate are all worries for me.

I can’t fault anybody for laying the Twins, but this one has jumped 20 cents already. I still think Lynn will be a good arm long-term. I also think we’re reaching top-of-the-market pricing on Lopez very early on.

Kansas City Royals at Texas Rangers (-275, 8)

The roof will be open at Globe Life Park tonight for Jordan Lyles against Jacob deGrom. I don’t think Lyles really needed anything to make his life more difficult. He’s allowed seven runs on 13 hits in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts against two walks. He actually pitched rather well against the Blue Jays in his second start, even with a really high rate of fastballs. I’m still not excited about his long-term prospects, especially as the weather warms up and balls start to carry more. I do think it is interesting that he’s throwing so many heaters with a velocity decrease.

deGrom looked human on Opening Day against the Phillies, but made some adjustments and held the Orioles to one earned run in six innings with 11 strikeouts. Suffice it to say that I think he’s fine.

I just wanted to drop in that note about Lyles with heavy FB usage and a velo decrease. Whatever success he has is likely short-lived.

Houston Astros (-170, 8) at Pittsburgh Pirates

Well, my gamble on the Pirates didn’t work out yesterday, as they were completely uncompetitive in the 8-2 loss to the Astros. The Astros had been striking out a lot and overly aggressive, but that changed against Roansy Contreras, who was off all night and walked four in 3.1 innings to go along with seven runs on nine hits.

Mitch Keller has allowed five runs on 10 hits in 11.2 innings with 15 strikeouts against six walks. He’s actually done an outstanding job of limiting hard contact this season and he’s found some increased swing-and-miss upside with a cutter that has a 32% Whiff% this season. What I didn’t like about Keller was his 55.4% fastball usage last season between sinkers and four-seamers. However, the cutter seems to be a really useful weapon and a pitch to try and neutralize lefties.

Keller was a guy I wanted to fade coming into the season, but if he’s going to mix his pitches more effectively and have something to neutralize lefties in the post-shift world, I have to evaluate him differently. We’ll see how long the cutter keeps working, but he’s thrown six different pitches that all have at least three batted balls in play, so he’s keeping hitters off-balance in the early going.

This was a theme I talked about on yesterday’s episode of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets. If you have thoughts coming into the season, they can either be confirmed or debunked. It’s up to you to be adaptable. I went from wanting to fade Keller to being more intrigued by his arsenal, just by adding a new pitch. This will be a good test after facing the Reds and Red Sox.

Not much needs to be said about Cristian Javier, who had a 2.54 ERA and a 3.16 FIP last season over 148.2 innings. He was also a big playoff contributor for the Astros. Through two starts this season, he’s allowed four runs on 13 hits in 11 innings, but I’d expect the hits to go down as he starts inducing more fly balls. He’s struck out 11 and walked one. It’s hard to see him having issues with this Pirates lineup tonight.

I gave a lot of thought to the under here, but this is a good litmus test for Keller, his new pitch, and his new pitch mix.

Seattle Mariners at Chicago Cubs (-120, 10.5)

I teased it in the article and on the podcast yesterday and my mind has not been changed. The Cubs are a play today. I said I’d take them up to -130 after seeing an opening line from DraftKings at -115 and they’re up a few cents to -120. That is the high mark in the market, so shop around for a better number here on Chicago and take advantage.

I’ll try to be quick, but let’s run through this handicap. First, Chris Flexen is a guy that I simply don’t think highly of and especially don’t like on the road. Flexen has allowed three runs on six hits in nine innings this season with five strikeouts and five walks. He only allowed two runs on two hits against the Angels in his first start, but that start was at home. Last season, Flexen actually pitched better on the road than at home, but he probably shouldn’t have. He had a 4.67 FIP on the road, but ran a .259 BABIP against and an 80% LOB%, so his performance was hardly sustainable over a larger sample size.

Back in 2021, Flexen had a 3.23 ERA at home and a 4.06 ERA on the road with a wOBA that was 46 points higher on the road and a SLG that was 79 points higher on the road. His 4.06 ERA was accompanied by a 4.52 FIP, where his fortunate LOB% was again a factor.

Another reason I want to fade the Mariners is the state of their bullpen. I mentioned Cleveland’s pen and all the close games that the Guardians have played. Well, Seattle has played Cleveland seven