MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Wednesday, August 23rd

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MLB schedule today has 15 games

A doubleheader in Anaheim gives us 15 games on the betting board for today, as things get started bright and early with a 12:35 p.m. ET game in Pittsburgh and a few other day games on the docket. I’ll try to get to everything as quickly as I can to work in as many games as possible, but there is a lot of ground to cover on today’s card.

 

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Here are some thoughts on the August 23 card (odds from DraftKings):

San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies (-130, 9)

The Giants suffered a BSL – blown save loss – from Camilo Doval last night as the Phillies escaped with a 4-3 victory. The Giants just aren’t scoring enough runs to cover up any pitching or fielding mishaps and they are very fortunate that the Wild Card bubble in the NL is quite weak. They’ll send Alex Cobb out today in hopes of salvaging a game in this series.

Cobb has a 3.75 ERA with a 4.76 xERA and a 3.84 FIP in 127.1 innings of work. His K% is down to 20.6% and his .338 BABIP is something that really stands out alongside a 78.2% LOB%. He is an extreme ground ball guy at 56.7% and his high xERA is a byproduct of a 44.4% Hard Hit% coupled with that low strikeout rate. It hasn’t been pretty lately for Cobb, as he has allowed 18 runs over his last four starts and only has 13 strikeouts in 21.1 innings of work.

Michael Lorenzen allowed seven runs last time out over 3.1 innings. He had allowed five runs total over his previous six starts, but he struggled nine days after throwing a no-hitter against the Nationals in his second straight start against the same team. He only had one strikeout out of 19 batters faced and ran into some tough sequencing luck.

It is worth noting that Lorenzen has a 48% Hard Hit% over his last four starts, including three with the Phillies. He had a 45.5% HH% in his no-hitter with five strikeouts against four walks, so he got fortunate there. I don’t know if he’ll bounce back here or not, but there are some signs of his luck running out.

Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres (-135, 7.5)

The running theme this season has been struggling pitchers suddenly figuring it out on days I bet against them. That was the case yesterday for Jesus Luzardo, who looked awful in the lead-up to that road start against San Diego and then fired six outstanding innings. Justin Verlander did the same thing, along with a velo uptick against Boston. All I can do is analyze the data and interpret it in a way that makes sense and when I see trend lines forming, I try to capitalize on those. Luzardo very much bucked the trend, not only with his recent returns, but also with his road splits, much to my chagrin.

Sandy Alcantara gets the call today for Miami, as he brings a 4.11 ERA with a 4.21 xERA and a 3.96 FIP to the table over 164.1 innings of work. He’s not the same guy that he has been the past two seasons, but he has shown flashes here and there. He had a solid outing against the Dodgers last time out, though he did allow three homers for the second time in three starts. All of them were solo shots and he threw a quality start, his fourth in five outings.

He’s thrown two complete games since the All-Star Break and has found another gear in the strikeout department in the second half. His floor is usually pretty high and his ceiling remains quite high, but his game logs make it tough to figure out what you are actually going to get. 

Like Luzardo, there are some home/road splits in the profile. Alcantara has allowed 16 of his 20 homers on the road, where his SLG is 149 points higher than it is at home. His wOBA against is 63 points higher on the road. His ERA is nearly a run higher and his FIP is 1.56 runs higher. Petco Park does suppress offense, so maybe that’s something I should have thought about with Luzardo and something I am thinking more about with Alcantara.

Seth Lugo is right-handed, so that’s probably an upgrade from Blake Snell, given what the Marlins’ offensive splits look like this season. Lugo has a 3.92 ERA with a 4.15 xERA and a 3.82 FIP in 103.1 innings of work. Since the Break, he has a 4.76 ERA with a 4.58 FIP, but has allowed 13 of his 21 earned runs in two of his seven starts. He was battered by the Phillies in his first start of the second half and gave up eight runs to the Dodgers on August 7. He’s coming off of his best start in August with six shutout innings against Arizona.

Lugo has allowed a 45.4% Hard Hit% and an 11.1% Barrel% in the second half, so we’ll see if he can improve upon those numbers here against Miami in the rubber match of the series. I don’t have a bet here.

New York Mets at Atlanta Braves (-198, 10)

The Braves eked out a 3-2 win over the Mets last night to improve to 26-8 against NL East foes on the season and also 39-18 against teams with a losing record. They’re in a big favorite role again today with Charlie Morton on the hill against Jose Quintana. Morton has a 3.54 ERA with a 4.79 xERA and a 4.00 FIP over 134.2 innings of work. I noted some big walk rate troubles for him in the second half prior to his last start and all he did was strike out 10 against one walk in six innings against the Yankees.

I’m basically the inverse of William H. Macy’s character in The Cooler. Every time I talk negatively about a guy, he shoves in the next start and fixes whatever problem he had. I’m taking requests for your favorite team and will pass along my Venmo if you are interested in using my services.

Morton had walked 22 guys against just 21 strikeouts in a five-start stretch from July 19 to August 11 over 24.2 innings. Then he has a 10/1 K/BB game. I’m telling you, maybe I should just moonlight as a slump buster.

For the season, Morton has a 146/66 K/BB ratio over his 24 starts. His 11.2% BB% is the highest he’s had since 2016. His 24.7% K% ties what he had during the COVID year in 2020, but is his lowest in a full season since 2015. 

Quintana will make his seventh start after his season began on July 20. He has not allowed more than three runs in a start and has only done that once in six tries. He’s allowed five runs on 13 hits in his last 18 innings, including a really strong effort against Atlanta on August 12. Quintana has found a walk problem of his own, as he has issued 14 free passes in his last five starts. He only has 25 strikeouts out of 148 batters faced, so he is very batted ball-dependent at this point and his .278 BABIP and one homer allowed come with a 31.2% Hard Hit% and a 3.7% Barrel%, so he’s done a masterful job with his contact management.

We’ll see if he can keep it up today, as the Braves are once again priced very high and the total is double digits with Atlanta’s offense and another warm night at Truist Park.

Seattle Mariners (-225, 9.5) at Chicago White Sox

The Mariners will look to run their winning streak to nine games on a steamy afternoon in Chicago with George Kirby on the hill against Michael Kopech. Temps in the mid-90s and a little bit of a breeze blowing out to LF should help the bats in the series finale, but it may only be one team’s bats that truly get a boost.

Kopech has a 5.12 ERA with a 5.88 xERA and a 6.59 FIP in his 116 innings of work. He’s struck out over a batter per inning, but the good things in his profile basically stop there. He just allowed nine runs over four innings against the Rockies at Coors Field and has allowed 28 home runs on the season to go along with 76 walks. He’s fortunate to only have a .243 BABIP, otherwise things would look even worse.

Kopech has allowed a 43% Hard Hit% and a 13.9% Barrel% on the season. He’s allowed a 47.4% Hard Hit% and a 13.4% Barrel% in seven starts since the Break with an 8.10 ERA and a 9.50 FIP. He spent a little bit of time on the IL resting prior to the Break and then got two outs against Atlanta in his first start of the second half with four walks, a hit batter, and a grand slam allowed.

Kirby has allowed a 3.23 ERA with a 3.79 xERA and a 3.24 FIP in 150.2 innings of work this season. He has a 22.4% K% with a 2.4% BB%, so you have to hit your way on base against him and that’s been tough with a .242 BA against and a .289 BABIP. Kirby has had the occasional rough outing, including last time out against the Royals with four runs allowed on eight hits. He also gave up five runs to the Twins on seven hits back on July 25 and gave up six runs to the Tigers on July 15.

He’s allowed four or more runs six times in his 24 stats, but has allowed two or fewer runs 10 times, so he’s been really good far more often than he’s been bad. There are some home/road splits in the profile for him, even though his two worst starts by runs allowed have both been at home. His wOBA is 50 points higher on the road and his SLG is 76 points higher. His  batting average against is 57 points higher on the road and his K% drops from 26.8% at home to 18.2% on the road.

With the extreme heat in Chicago today, I’m not sure I’d fully trust Kirby. The Over 9.5 might be the way to go, but there’s also the chance that Kirby does what he usually does and the Mariners offense has to do all the heavy lifting on a getaway day. At least Kopech makes that task a tad bit easier. No play from me, especially with the limited lead time, but that’s kind of my thought in this one.

Kansas City Royals (-148, 9) at Oakland Athletics

DraftKings Sportsbook is really making you pay a premium to bet on the Royals today, as their line is the highest in the market and by a decent margin in some cases. The Cole Ragans phenomenon is alive and well as he goes into his sixth start as a Royal. Ragans has a 2.51 ERA with a 2.26 FIP over those 28.2 innings with 36 strikeouts against 10 walks.

He’s only allowed one homer in that span, but has allowed a .378 BABIP with a 33.3% Hard Hit%, so there’s reason to believe that his numbers could get even stronger if some of that bad batted ball luck goes away. He’s faced the Rays, Mets, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Cubs, so a decent mix of teams and has allowed seven of his 10 runs in his last two starts. His track record doesn’t scream sustainability with this recent run, but you’ve gotta give him and the Royals a lot of credit for what they’ve been able to put together.

Oakland will open with Adrian Martinez, who has allowed eight runs on nine hits in three appearances since getting recalled from Triple-A. I’ve seen some people upset that the Grand Salami prop (Over/Under total runs across all games) has been wiped off the board most days by Oakland or somebody else switching starters. At least this is a day game, so they probably won’t do it to those bettors today.

It appears that the plan may be a piggyback of Martinez, who has a 5.85 ERA and a 4.44 FIP in 32.1 innings, and Kyle Muller. Muller has a 7.64 ERA with a 5.85 FIP in 55.1 innings of work. He’s given up 10 homers and has a 40/28 K/BB ratio.

I can see why the Royals are priced at a premium, but that’s a high price to pay on a team with a record like theirs, even if it is against Oakland.

Toronto Blue Jays (-135, 8) at Baltimore Orioles

While I’ve been playing that aforementioned role of the inverse William H. Macy from The Cooler, I’ve also had my moments of living up to the moniker. Take Kevin Gausman, for example. I was on the Blue Jays a week ago in Gausman’s start against the Phillies and he allowed seven runs for his once-a-month blow-up. Only five were earned (huzzah!), but he also only had four strikeouts out of 27 batters, as he turned in his worst start since June 11 against Minnesota according to FanGraphs Game Score. Gausman had allowed a total of 17 runs over his previous nine starts, but I picked the bad one.

I’m surprised Gausman hasn’t had more bad starts when you look at his contact management profile, which features a 44.8% Hard Hit% and a 10.4% Barrel%, but he’s had magnificent numbers at home and struck out nearly 32% of batters faced. Neither of those things were true in his last home start, so now he’s on the road against Baltimore looking for a bounce back effort.

Gausman has good numbers on the road as well, though they were a lot more impressive at home prior to that last start. He’s still held the opposition to a .296 wOBA and I have every belief he’ll bounce back today because I’m not betting on him.

Jack Flaherty was scratched by the O’s (note: DK still has him listed, even though he’s not starting – it was announced three hours ago, so that’ll tell you how much the books worry about baseball when it’s football season), so Dean Kremer gets the call for this one, as he comes in with a 4.50 ERA, 5.33 xERA, and a 4.87 FIP in 138 innings pitched. Kremer has had home run-itis with 25 dingers allowed after giving up 11 in his 125.1 innings last season. What’s weird is that Kremer has struggled more with the long ball at home, even though recent park alterations to Oriole Park at Camden Yards made it better for their pitchers. 

He has a 3.83 ERA with a 4.72 FIP in seven starts since the All-Star Break. Another game where I don’t really have strong convictions. Gausman should bounce back and Kremer is right-handed, so he has a good shot against a Toronto bunch that ranks 25th in wOBA against RHP this month, but no interest in an Under bet here.

Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros (-112, 8.5)

Ready for a name we haven’t heard in a while? Houston will send Jose Urquidy to the hill in hopes of securing a series win over the Red Sox in this four-game set. The Astros have scored 16 runs in the first two games, even though Yordan Alvarez missed yesterday’s game because he slammed his finger in a door. Can’t even catch a break when I catch a break.

Anyway, Urquidy has made three appearances since coming back from over three months on the IL. He allowed five runs in just 3.1 innings to the Yankees, but has allowed one run on five hits in seven innings since. His last appearance came in relief against Seattle with two innings of shutout work, but he’ll be back to starting here.

He’s got a 5.21 ERA with a 4.98 FIP for the season. In four minor league starts, he allowed nine runs on 15 hits in 14 innings with an 11/3 K/BB ratio. Like so many other guys on the card, and so many other guys returning from a recent injury, it is tough to pinpoint what we’re going to get from him today. Boston has decided not to hit in this series and that could benefit Urquidy, who had a 3.94 ERA last season, but a 4.56 xERA and a 4.60 FIP. He’s not a big strikeout guy and will give up homers, so the advanced metrics aren’t usually a fan of him.

The Astros have pummeled lefties in the second half and did a number on James Paxton on Monday night, so let’s see what they do with Sale tonight. Houston has a .419 wOBA and a 173 wRC+ against southpaws over 267 PA in the month of August. Only the Yankees are better in both categories, but they only have 102 PA in that split. For the second half as a whole, Houston is eight points higher than anybody else in wOBA against lefties and five points better by wRC+.

This will be Sale’s third start since returning from over two months on the IL. He’s allowed five runs on three hits in nine innings, but his velocity fell from 94.5 in his first start back to 91.8 mph in his start against Washington. The slider was still really good and generated a lot of swings and misses, but his fastball velo was down significantly and that’s never a good sign. His spin rates were down a tad, but the slider was still quite effective.

Despite their struggles against Verlander, who had more swing and miss upside than we’ve seen in a while, this Boston offense has hit righties well in the second half and actually has a higher wRC+ on the road than at home against righties, though the park factor at Fenway plays a big role there. I think the Red Sox can get to Urquidy and the Astros have hit lefties hard of late, with Sale not as sharp as we’ve seen him before and that concerning velo drop in play.

I’m trying to shy away from totals, but I do like Over 8.5 here and there aren’t a lot of sides I like on today’s card. There aren’t many 8.5s, so shop around and find one. DK has one.

Pick: Over 8.5 (-120)

Chicago Cubs at Detroit Tigers (-122, 8)

This game has already started, but a few thoughts…

Tarik Skubal and Jameson Taillon do battle in another series that has been high-scoring. We’ve seen 13 and 14 runs in the first two games here, as the Tigers offense has really come alive in recent weeks and the Cubs have been swinging good sticks throughout the second half.

Skubal has five good starts and three bad starts since returning from the IL on July 4. He’s allowed five, four, and seven runs, while allowing exactly one earned run in his other five starts. He has a 3.76 ERA with a 1.99 FIP in 38.1 innings of work and a 43/7 K/BB ratio, so there is a ton to like about what he’s done. He’s only allowed one home run as well.

Taillon has come around rather nicely as the year goes along. He still has a 5.56 ERA with a 5.26 xERA and a 4.67 FIP in 110 innings of work, but he has a 3.69 ERA and a 4.00 FIP over his last eight starts. That even includes an eight-run blow-up against the Blue Jays two starts ago. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any other start and has only done that once. He was a positive regression guy based on his contact management numbers and that hasn’t changed as the good results have finally taken hold with a 39.7% Hard Hit% and a 6.4% Barrel%.

I guess it’s a lesson to look at the smaller sample sizes over the larger ones. What happened in April and May has very little bearing on the present, as pitchers make adjustments, battle injuries, get healthy, get hurt again, etc. It’s a really long season and current form supersedes the full-season marks.

Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers (-142, 8)

The Brewers just keep winning games. Add that to the list of things I haven’t figured out this season. Manager Rocco Baldelli pulled Bailey Ober after five innings and 78 pitches and reliever Dylan Floro came in and promptly gave up five runs to turn a 3-2 lead into a 7-2 deficit and the Brewers bullpen shut the door the rest of the way.

Milwaukee looks for the mini two-game sweep today with Corbin Burnes on the bump against Kenta Maeda. These two guys have been very good in the second half. Burnes has a 3.43 ERA with a 3.30 xERA and a 3.82 FIP for the season over 152 innings, but a 2.22 ERA with a 2.75 FIP in his seven starts in the second half. He has 53 strikeouts in 44.2 innings and has only allowed two home runs. All of his peripherals look really good, including his contact management metrics, so I have no reason to believe he has issues today.

Maeda returned from the IL on June 23 and has a 2.68 ERA with a 3.57 FIP in 53.2 innings of work over 10 starts. He has a 68/15 K/BB ratio and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his starts in that span. His contact management numbers aren’t as sharp as the ones that Burnes has, as he has a 39.4% Hard Hit% and a 10.2% Barrel%. I can’t help but wonder if regression is heading Maeda’s way, but he did have four straight starts with a HH% of 33.3% or lower before facing the Tigers for the second straight time in his last outing.

Nothing here with the early start, but I’m keeping a close eye on Maeda moving forward.

Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Angels (-166, 8.5) Game 1

Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Angels (-185, 9) Game 2

The Reds and Angels will play two after Monday’s game was postponed and we’ve got two really interesting matchups here with the Reds in big underdog roles against an Angels team that has not performed well this month.

Game 1

This one will be Andrew Abbott against Shohei Ohtani. Abbott has been brilliant this season with a 2.99 ERA, 3.74 xERA, and a 3.86 FIP in 81.1 innings of work. He has a 26.9% K% against an 8.3% BB% and has held the opposition to a .264 BABIP with an 84.7% LOB%. He has allowed a 41.5% Hard Hit% and a 9.0% Barrel%, so the BABIP is an area that I’ve been looking for some regression, but he’s largely been an effective starter.

The Angels are 15th in wOBA at .306 and have a 92 wRC+ here in the second half. They’ve also struck out 28.3% of the time against a 6.3% BB%, so they’ve been riding a .301 BABIP to the offensive success that they have had. 

This will be the first start in two weeks for Ohtani. He had not allowed an earned run over 19 innings, but the Angels felt the need to scale him back a little bit, as a myriad of ailments had either taken him out of a start early (August 3) or required some extra rest. I’m curious to see how he’ll do on an extended layoff. With 10 days off between starts for the All-Star Break, he allowed five runs on five hits in five innings to the Astros on July 14, but he also wasn’t pitching very well at that point in time. 

I do think this price is a little bit high on Cincinnati. It’s entirely possible that Ohtani goes out there and shoves, but Abbott is more than capable of keeping pace. The Angels did get Mike Trout back yesterday, though, so they’re closer to full strength. The Reds pen is in good shape if they are able to get a lead. I might regret passing on this one, but Ohtani’s baseline is really good and doesn’t leave much margin for error.

Game 2

Lyon Richardson will pitch in some capacity in the nightcap. He was recalled as the 27th man, so he’ll either start or maybe be a bulk reliever depending on how Game 1 goes. The 23-year-old Richardson has made one other MLB start and allowed four runs on four hits over three innings, but he’s only allowed 15 earned runs in 56 innings across Double-A and Triple-A.

Reid Detmers goes for the Angels in G2 with a 4.93 ERA, 4.45 xERA, and a 4.26 FIP in 115 innings pitched. Detmers had allowed seven runs in each of his previous two starts before seven innings of one-hit ball against the Rangers last time out. Not sure what we’ll get from him here, as he starts on six days rest.

Colorado Rockies at Tampa Bay Rays (-278, 8)

Austin Gomber and Aaron Civale are the listed hurlers for this one down at the Trop. Tampa Bay turned last night’s game into a laugher with a 12-4 win that was competitive early, but really got away from Colorado in the late innings.

Gomber’s recent good run hit a wall last time out, as he allowed six runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings to the Diamondbacks. He had allowed a total of 16 runs in his previous nine starts, but the Regression Monster latched on in that start against Arizona. Gomber only has 32 strikeouts out of his last 239 batters faced, so one of those starts was likely at some point. The question here is whether or not he can bounce back against a Rays lineup that ranks 16th in wOBA against lefties in the second half at .303 and has gotten it going in that split recently.

It seems like the Rays have stabilized Civale, who struggled a bit in his first start with the team against Detroit, but has allowed two runs on 12 hits over his last 11 innings. Civale is having a fine season with a 2.44 ERA and a 3.32 FIP. He’s taken on a much larger role in this rotation with the injury to Shane McClanahan and his six shutout frames last time out were an exciting development for the Rays.

The Rockies +2.5 are only -150 here. I would have given some thought to that play at -130 or better, since Gomber has been pitching well, Tropicana Field suppresses offense, and we have a total of 8. However, the price doesn’t really line up for me and it’s not a bet that I can take in this one.

Washington Nationals at New York Yankees (-148, 8.5)

I almost bet against the Yankees last night on principle. They’ve lost nine in a row now and didn’t really deserve the big favorite role that they had. Today’s game is presenting me with the same challenges. Luis Severino has no business being in the -140s against anybody with the way he’s pitching. He has a 7.98 ERA with a 6.77 xERA and a 6.82 FIP. He has an 11.08 ERA with a 7.97 FIP in 31.2 innings since the start of July. He did work in one oddly good start against the Angels after the All-Star Break, but most of his outings have been bad.

He’s allowed 14 runs in his last 10 innings, 19 runs in his last 13.1 innings, and 22 runs in his last 19 innings, so it’s all been quite ugly. He’s given up 12 homers in that span and 58 hits in just 31.2 innings pitched. How could he possibly be this big of a favorite?

MacKenzie Gore has a 4.38 ERA with a 5.02 xERA and a 4.49 FIP in 123.1 innings of work. He’s a guy that I felt like was struggling and had hit a bit of a wall, but then he went 6.1 one-hit, shutout innings against the Red Sox last time out. He had allowed six runs on seven hits, including three homers, in his August 9 start against the Phillies. The Nationals are stretching all of their starters out on some extra rest at this point, so he’s going a week between starts.

He’s allowed a 44.2% Hard Hit% and an 11.9% Barrel% on the season, so Yankee Stadium doesn’t strike me as a great place to go. The Yankees are tops in August against lefties in wOBA and wRC+, but as I mentioned above, they don’t have a big sample size in that split. They only have slightly over 100 plate appearances, so that isn’t very big at all.

This might be an obvious play staring me in the face to fade Severino, but I can’t do it. Not only am I not big on Gore, but the Nationals have sent out Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey four of the last six days, plus Mason Thompson has worked two of three days since coming off of the IL. This isn’t a very deep bullpen to begin with and the primary guys have worked a lot lately. Credit to the Nationals, who are playing extremely well right now, but I’d worry about their late-game usage if they have a lead to protect.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-225, 8.5) at Cleveland Guardians

Clayton Kershaw and Xzavion Curry are the listed starters here after the Guardians hammered the Dodgers on Tuesday, just as we all expected. Kershaw has allowed two runs on six hits over 10 innings since coming off the IL on August 10 and has a good chance to have another fine outing against a Cleveland team that has been the worst in baseball against lefties this season. Kershaw does only have six strikeouts in 37 batters faced since returning, so it would be nice to see some more explosiveness in his arsenal, but he’s easing back into action.

Curry had his best start of the season last time out against the Tigers with six innings of one-run ball and six strikeouts. Today’s task is a bit tougher with the Dodgers, especially since Curry has a lot of negative regression signs with a 3.24 ERA, 4.89 xERA, 4.15 FIP, and a 5.20 xFIP. He has a .265 BABIP against and he’s carrying a 77.4% LOB% with a 16.9% K%. He’s allowed a 45.3% Hard Hit%, so I don’t see a lot of sustainability to most of his numbers.

Kershaw built up from 67 to 72 pitches, so I would think he’s in the realm of 80 or so tonight. Cleveland has a .213 wOBA and a 28 wRC+ against lefties in the month of August in 266 plate appearances. I didn’t want to lay the double minus yesterday with -1.5 and -125ish with Bobby Miller and Noah Syndergaard, but I think it’s a better option tonight because of Cleveland’s woes with lefties and because I think Curry is a good fade candidate.

I think it was also a tricky spot last night for the Dodgers with two days off and everything happening back home. Their travel plans were altered a bit with Tropical Storm Hilary. I think they’ll simply be more comfortable tonight.

Pick: Dodgers Run Line -1.5 (-130)

TL;DR Recap

BOS/HOU Over 8.5 (-120)
Dodgers -1.5 (-130)