MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Wednesday, July 5th

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MLB schedule today has 15 games

After a deluge of day games on the July 4 holiday, we only have one getaway day game on Wednesday and the rest are night games. It has been very hot around the country, so I’m sure the players will be happy to stay out of the daytime sun and have some night-game action.

 

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I will preface this by saying that I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but we all know that the baseball has changed basically every season and has played differently on an annual basis. We had the juiced ball in 2019, the dead ball to start 2021 followed by the springy ball for the last four months of the season, and the 2022 and 2023 seasons have been similar, yet different from the previous ones.

Recently, we’ve had a lot of pitchers getting blisters. It’s happened to Jon Gray, Marcus Stroman, Shohei Ohtani, MacKenzie Gore, and Bryce Miller to name a few. It may just be a usage thing, but with how MLB has fundamentally changed the playing object every season, it got me wondering if maybe the seams are different, higher, or altered in some other way.

Offense is up lately, likely just a byproduct of the heat. Fly ball distance is up two feet (317 ft) from June 1 through July 4 compared to the first two months of the season (315 ft), so that’s likely just weather-related. The league-wide HR/FB% is up to 12.9% over the last 14 days, pushing the season average up to 12.3%. Again, probably just weather-related, but it is frustrating to have to wonder if more hijinks are afoot because that’s the pattern that MLB has created.

Blisters here and there are one thing, but having them grouped together over the last 2-3 weeks seems odd. I wouldn’t put it past Rob Manfred to attempt to capitalize on the recent bumps in attendance by bringing back a ball with a little more juice. Guess we’ll see.

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Here are some thoughts on the July 5 card (odds from DraftKings):

St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins (-115, 9)

It would appear that Matthew Liberatore will start today for the Cardinals against the Marlins, as Bryan Hoeing is a lock to go for the Fish. I guess we could see Steven Matz in a piggyback, since he hasn’t pitched since Thursday and Liberatore is on three days rest. The Cardinals also recently recalled Dakota Hudson, so he may factor into the equation as well.

Liberatore pitched on July 1 and allowed three runs on seven hits over 4.1 innings against the Yankees with only one strikeout. He’s got a 5.68 ERA with a 4.62 FIP and just a 22/15 K/BB ratio in 31.2 innings pitched. He only threw 56 pitches three days ago, so I guess he could work multiple innings here, but the Marlins hit lefties really well.

Matz has worked 3.1 innings in back-to-back appearances and has done well as a reliever since losing his starting job as of May 24. As a starter, Matz posted a 5.72 ERA with a 4.83 FIP over 50.1 innings. He allowed at least four runs on five separate occasions, including six in the start that got him sent to the bullpen.

Hudson pitched around a ton of regression signs in 2019 and then spent most of 2021 hurt. He had 139.2 innings last season with a 4.45 ERA, 5.01 xERA, and a 4.34 FIP. He has a 6.00 ERA in the minors with a 4.56 FIP over 11 starts. Any way you slice it, the Cardinals look to be using a lot of poor pitchers early in this game.

Hoeing saw a big correction in his numbers last time out with a 3.72 ERA, 4.39 xERA and a 4.67 FIP for the season over 38.2 innings pitched. He went into his last start with a 2.31 ERA and a 3.58 FIP before giving up seven runs on six hits, including three homers, to the Braves over 3.2 innings. It was his third start in a row and easily the worst of the bunch. 

In 20.2 innings at home, the 26-year-old righty has held the opposition to a .248 wOBA and has a 0.87 ERA. He’s only allowed two runs on 14 hits in the friendly confines with a 19/7 K/BB ratio. He’s allowed all five homers on the road. Maybe it was a sign of things to come for Hoeing, but the Braves offense is also just on another level.

The Marlins have the highest batting average at .302 against lefties and also rank fourth in wOBA at .343 with a 117 wRC+. Jazz Chisholm Jr. has an 11 wRC+ and a .183 wOBA in 38 PA against lefties, so his absence means nothing here, as he wasn’t productive in that split anyway.

This is one of those games I talked about on Monday, where I’m torn between two bets. I like fading the St. Louis southpaws with the Marlins, who have tremendous success against lefties. However, the Cardinals also have a top-10 offense against righties and rank sixth in wOBA against RHP since June 1. Hoeing’s ERA estimators are still on the high side and he had a velocity drop with a command decrease in his last start.

I’ll take the Marlins here laying the short price since offense can sometimes be tough to come by at Marlins Park.

Pick: Marlins -115

Cincinnati Reds (-120, 9.5) at Washington Nationals

The Reds set off their fireworks early on Tuesday by knocking around Patrick Corbin in an easy 8-4 win to take over sole possession of first place in the NL Central. They’ll likely need to provide some more offensive punch today with Graham Ashcraft on the bump against Josiah Gray. Ashcraft has a 6.66 ERA with a 5.62 xERA and a 5.44 FIP, but we might have seen signs of life from him in his last start. 

Ashcraft threw 6.2 innings of one-run ball against the Padres with seven strikeouts. That tied a season-high in Ks and was the first time he allowed just one run in a start since May 2. Coincidently, that was against the Pirates as well. This most recent outing was Ashcraft’s second one back from a quick 16-day IL stint. Maybe he’s healthy now and ready to make that leap that I expected to see from him. Or he might turn back into a pumpkin. I don’t know, but the Nationals offense has struggled against righties most of the season, but Ashcraft has allowed six or more runs five times and not all of them have been against good offenses.

Gray’s run estimators are kind of ugly, as he has a 3.30 ERA, but a 4.22 xERA, 4.57 FIP, 4.66 xFIP, and a 4.79 SIERA. His 83.8% LOB% is doing a lot of heavy lifting, but this is an example of how the run estimators can sometimes fail to account for other things that a pitcher is doing well. I can understand why a 10.5% BB% doesn’t look good within those formulas, but Gray has held the opposition to a 35.4% Hard Hit% and a 7.6% Barrel%.

Recently, he’s found some more strikeouts as well, as he has 31 in his last 28 innings pitched. It isn’t the easiest profile to buy into with those regression signs and concerns, but he’s been really effective and there are more reasons behind it than good luck or positive variance.

Tricky handicap here, so I’m passing, but let’s see if that was a flash in the pan for Ashcraft or maybe the start of something.

Chicago Cubs (-150, 8.5) at Milwaukee Brewers

Justin Steele and Adrian Houser are the listed starters for this NL Central matchup between the Cubs and Brewers. Chicago got one back yesterday with a 7-6 decision after an epic meltdown on Monday. The Cubs remain the only team in the NL Central with a positive run differential, but they are now back to seven games off the pace. 

Steele has been one of the top hurlers in the NL this season. He has a 2.43 ERA with a 3.01 xERA and a 2.81 FIP in 85.1 innings pitched. He’s a ground ball machine with a 51.3% GB%m but his biggest asset is avoiding the long ball. He has a 3.8% HR/FB% this season with just three homers allowed over 15 starts. He’s also allowed just a 30.7% Hard Hit% on the season with a 22.3% K% and a 5.6% BB%. 

There is a lot to like about this profile, especially against a Milwaukee team that has had problems with lefties all season long and has graded as a bottom-five offense throughout the year. The Brewers have shown some signs of life since June 1, posting a .319 wOBA that ranks 11th. They’re still striking out a lot, but it’s better than where they were for the first two months of the season.

Houser heads in with a 3.88 ERA, 4.16 xERA, and a 4.31 FIP in 46.1 innings of work. He’s an extreme pitch-to-contact guy with a 50% GB% of his own. He’s only struck out 14.8% of opposing batters, but after posting double-digit BB% in 2021 and 2022, his BB% this season is down to 6.9% and he’s found more success as a result.

After getting temporarily bumped from the rotation, this will be his second straight start. He allowed two runs on seven hits last time out against the Mets in a nice bounce back effort after a couple of rocky outings against the D-Backs in relief and the A’s in his start on June 9.

I don’t think I can trust either team here, even if the pitchers seem to have a decent chance at success. Both bullpens are shaky and both offenses seem rather hit or miss. Chicago’s has hit more throughout the course of the season, but they’re just not a team I’m comfortable laying big prices with.

New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks (-115, 9.5)

My apologies if you got locked into this bet yesterday, but it is very important to always select the Listed Pitchers option when making an MLB wager. Of course, the Mets won anyway with Max Scherzer in place of Kodai Senga, but the Listed Pitchers option is important because it locks in the bet with the guys that you handicapped, not some random switch.

Senga now goes today and he’ll line up against Tommy Henry. The Mets are a short underdog here in this one going up against Henry, who has a 4.08 ERA with a 4.07 xERA and a 5.33 FIP in his 68.1 innings of work. He’s an extreme pitch-to-contact guy who does a tremendous job of limiting hard contact. He’s allowed a 30.5% Hard Hit% on the season with a 7.5% Barrel%.

He’s even been a bit better lately about producing strikeouts, bumping his K% up to 17% with his 8.7% BB%. He actually has a respectable 10.7% SwStr%, but it hasn’t really translated into a lot of strikeouts this season. That said, over his last six starts, he has had outings with 8, 6, and 7 punchies and he’s also allowed just four runs over his last 18.1 innings pitched. He’s given up a homer in five straight starts, which certainly isn’t good for his FIP, but he’s mostly limited the damage, especially of late.

Here’s what I wrote about Senga yesterday:

At least you mostly know what you are going to get with Kodai Senga, who has a 3.53 ERA with a 3.86 xERA and a 4.01 FIP in 81.2 innings of work. Senga has struck out 28.5% of opposing batters, but also walked 13% of them. He’s only allowed a .208 batting average despite a 40.8% Hard Hit%, so I’d be worried about that going up, but he does wind up with a lot of two-strike counts where batters need to protect the zone.

Senga has allowed four or more runs six times in 15 starts, but he’s had more good outings than bad. Against a very aggressive Diamondbacks team that may not take advantage of his erratic nature, I’m curious to see how this start goes. Arizona is 19th in BB% and likes to swing early in the count.

I liked the idea of fading Davies with Senga and the Mets offense did explode against Davies and the bullpen, so that was really nice to see. Today, though, the dynamics are a little different and the Mets bullpen usage is more of a factor after using a few key guys yesterday.

This one is a pass for me today.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers (-250, 9)

I was on the right track yesterday with how Luis Ortiz had a bad matchup against the Dodgers, but it was the Pirates who prevailed in the 9-7 game and nearly went over the total themselves. The game was over by the fourth inning, so that would have been a nice one to have, but the Pirates offense has not been good against righties for quite some time. They were good yesterday and we’ll see if they can be good again today, albeit against a better pitcher.

Bobby Miller gets the call today for LA, as the Dodgers face another big favorite role. Miller has had a rough go of it recently, though, as he has allowed 16 runs on 16 hits in his last three starts over 15.1 innings pitched. After starting his MLB career with two runs allowed over his first four starts, opponents have adjusted and Miller has failed to do so. He’s also run into some bad batted ball luck, but he’s not overpowering anybody like he did in the minor leagues.

Miller looked a little better last time out against the Royals, but the Astros and Giants combined for 13 runs against him in his last two home starts, so we’ll see if he can figure some things out back at home here.

Osvaldo Bido gets the call for the Buccos coming off of his worst start in four tries. Bido allowed four runs on four hits and didn’t strike out any of the 18 batters that he faced in his 3.1 innings against the Brewers. Prior to that, he had allowed six runs in 15.2 innings pitched with 18 strikeouts against five walks. The offense ultimately bailed him out with Carlos Santana’s walk-off home run, but it was a throwaway outing for the rookie, who failed to register a single swing and miss.

So far, Bido has done a good job of limiting walks and has only allowed one home run, so we’ll see how he does against the Dodgers here. I don’t have a play on this one.

Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers (-225, 8.5)

Tarik Skubal’s return was a success for the Tigers, as he went four shutout innings with six strikeouts and Reese Olson piggybacked with five scoreless innings and five strikeouts. The problem was that the offense didn’t get the memo and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in the 1-0 loss to JP Sears and the A’s pen.

Today is another good day for the Tigers, as Eduardo Rodriguez returns to the big league ballclub. Rodriguez had a 2.13 ERA with a 3.10 xERA and a 3.18 FIP in 67.2 innings before hitting the IL for a finger tendon issue. His last MLB start was May 28 and he allowed one run on a solo homer to the White Sox, but then the issue popped up. He only made one rehab start and went 4.1 scoreless at Triple-A back on June 29.

After using Olson in the piggyback yesterday, the Tigers will have to rely on their bullpen today, but everybody but Tyler Holton has had a full two days off.

It is Ken Waldichuk’s turn for Oakland, but my guess would be that he is the bulk reliever behind some kind of opener. Waldichuk has a 6.78 ERA with a 5.47 xERA and a 6.19 FIP in his 66.1 innings pitched. He’s given up a lot of walks and a lot of homers with a .362 BABIP against. His command and control are just not MLB-caliber.

This will be the first time since July 4, 2017 that the Tigers have been -200 or higher. Let’s see if they hold up their end of the bargain.

Baltimore Orioles (-115, 9) at New York Yankees

The Orioles have put themselves in a position to be major buyers at the Trade Deadline and the area of need is very, very clear. Dean Kremer takes the mound today with a 5.04 ERA, 6.03 xERA, and a 5.13 FIP over 91 innings pitched. He just allowed seven runs on seven hits to the Twins and has allowed seven home runs in his last three starts. He’s allowed 19 home runs for the season and a 45.2% Hard Hit% with an 11% Barrel%.

With his last start, Kremer is up to a 5.51 ERA at home in 49 innings. He has a 4.50 ERA on the road in 42 innings, but his wOBA against is 33 points higher on the road and his SLG against is 41 points higher. His LOB% on the road is nearly 7% higher thanks to a bump in K%, but his overall command and batted ball success aren’t that much better.

It will be a nice, warm day in New York. The breeze won’t be helping, but temps in the 80s and increasing humidity as nighttime sets in should help. That could be a problem for Kremer, but could also be one for Randy Vasquez. He has a 1.74 ERA with a 4.13 xERA and a 4.84 FIP over 10.1 innings pitched. He’s allowed two runs on six hits in 10.1 innings with a 9/3 K/BB ratio. He’s also hit three batters.

Vasquez’s two starts have both come at home against the Padres and White Sox. In 13 minor league starts over 61.2 innings, Vasquez has a 5.11 ERA and has allowed eight homers with a 69/34 K/BB ratio.

I gave a lot of thought to the Over here, but Kremer has been crushed by lefties this season and the Yankees have a short supply of those. Lefties have a .318/.373/.559 slash with a .398 wOBA, while righties have a .262/.308/.436 slash with a .322 wOBA. Lefties have hit 11 of the 19 homers he has allowed and righties have struck out about 4% more often with a much lower BB%.

Yesterday’s game saw 12 runs when the teams combined to go 2-for-19 with RISP. Another example of the randomness of baseball.

Texas Rangers (-115, 10) at Boston Red Sox

It will be Jon Gray and Brayan Bello at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. I was right about Bello last time out, as he was terrific over seven innings yet again, but the Red Sox didn’t score, so the Under was the play instead of the Boston side of the ledger. We’ll see if Bello can run it back against a much stronger Rangers offense.

Wth the run that he’s on, I don’t see why not. He hasn’t allowed a homer in any of his last six starts. He’s allowed a total of 14 runs in his last nine starts with a 2.26 ERA and a 3.24 FIP. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in that span and only did that once in a start against the Rays back on June 5. He has a 57.5% GB% in that span and just a 37.5% Hard Hit%, so he’s really done well to avoid hard contact.

It has been a different story lately for Jon Gray. He threw a complete game against the Cardinals with 12 strikeouts on June 7, but then a blister issue popped up that forced him to miss a start. In the three starts since, he’s allowed 12 runs on 16 hits over 13.1 innings with just 10 strikeouts against seven walks. 

I’ve been a pretty staunch Gray defender this season in the face of a lot of statistical regression signs. He has a 3.21 ERA with a 4.40 FIP and a 4.22 xERA. His low K% is more of a bad luck thing, given that his SwStr% is nearly 13%. He’s also had a velocity uptick over the last two months. With where his command profile is right now, and a single-digit SwStr% in his last two starts, I’m not sure I can defend him here.

Boston’s primary relievers are fine after yesterday’s loss in a bullpen game. Texas has used their primary guys a good amount lately, including three appearances in four days for Will Smith and Josh Sborz.

Pick: Red Sox -105

Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins (-265, 8)

I’m running behind with the article today from doing some extra digging throughout the card, so I can save some time on this game. Alec Marsh is making his second career start for the Royals in this one. In the recently-released prospect report at FanGraphs, Marsh was listed as KC’s third-best prospect, but this is not a very good minor league system. Most of the prospects have graduated to the Majors already.

One interesting note in the write-up is that Marsh is “pitching backwards” in 2023, meaning he’s throwing his breaking balls and offspeed stuff early in the count in hopes of surprising late in the count with the fastball. He struck out five in his debut against the Dodgers, but allowed five runs on six hits in his four innings. He also walked four. Against a Twins team that strikes out a lot, it will be interesting to see if Marsh can find some success in that regard.

Pablo Lopez was excellent against the O’s last time out with six innings of one-run ball. He has a 4.24 ERA with a 3.41 FIP and a 3.10 xERA, so there are a lot of positive regression signs in the profile and this is a lineup he should be able to dominate, hence the huge line.

Toronto Blue Jays (-120, 9) at Chicago White Sox

Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn wrap up the AL portion of the card here. It will be the 18th start of the season for Berrios, who has a 3.74 ERA with a 4.10 FIP and a 4.73 xERA. He comes into this start struggling a bit, as he’s allowed 12 runs in his last 16 innings on 19 hits, including five home runs. He’s struck out 20 and walked three in that span, but just had his worst start of the season by Hard Hit% and exit velocity.

Bad command Berrios might be back, which is what we saw from him all of last season when he had a 5.23 ERA with a 5.11 xERA and a 4.55 FIP. His xERA isn’t that far off, but he’s been able to be better than expected. If his fortunes are turning, that would be a real big problem for the Blue Jays going forward.

Speaking bad command, Lynn has had that pretty much all season. He has a 6.47 ERA with a 4.76 xERA and a 5.11 FIP in 96 innings pitched. He has allowed 22 home runs, just five short of a career year and we aren’t even to the All-Star Break yet. The crazy thing about Lynn is that he has 116 K in his 96 IP, but still has a 63.1% LOB% and a .339 BABIP against. Remember that BABIP doesn’t count homers or strikeouts, so he hasn’t had much luck on balls that stay in the yard either.

Over his last three starts, he’s been a bit better about allowing hard contact, but you just never know what you’re going to get from him. With the command profiles of these two guys, a total of 9 probably seems a little low, but the White Sox are really bad against righties and Lynn at least has the strikeout upside, though the Blue Jays don’t strike out all that much.

The Blue Jays mildly interest me today, but Berrios has been much worse on the road compared to at home this season. That’s enough for me to stay away in a high-variance game.

Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays (-130, 9)

Yesterday was yet another example of correctly liking a pitcher, but taking a side over the total and losing another bet as a result. Zach Eflin was very, very good for the Rays, but Aaron Nola was very, very good for the Phillies and Tampa went down 3-1. When given a fork in the road, I’ve chosen the wrong direction pretty much every time this season and I cannot express how frustrating that is. Eflin struck out nine and allowed two runs on just four hits over seven innings, but Nola allowed just a solo homer in the eighth with 12 strikeouts.

I can’t imagine we’ll see the same level of pitcher’s duel here, as we get Zack Littell as the opener for Yonny Chirinos. The Phillies will send out Taijuan Walker, who has actually been really good for a while now. 

Littell has allowed nine runs on 17 hits in 15.1 innings pitched. He threw a couple scoreless innings as the opener two appearances ago and has not allowed a run in his last three innings, but has allowed a run in seven of his 12 outings.

Chirinos is bursting with regression signs. He has a 3.64 ERA with a 5.73 xERA and a 5.01 FIP in his 54.1 innings pitched. He has a 12% K%, so he’s allowed a ton of balls in play with a 45.1% Hard Hit%. He’s allowed a 55.4% Hard Hit% in his last three appearances with 14 runs allowed on 22 hits in 16 innings. Regression is hitting and it is hitting hard. The Phillies are a top-10 offense against righties and against righties on the road since June 1.

Since adding some velocity, Walker has been quite stellar. He has a 3.93 ERA with a 4.19 xERA and a 4.35 FIP for the season, but he has only allowed three runs in his last five starts covering 32 innings of work. He has a 32/7 K/BB ratio with that velo uptick and has been throwing the ball extremely well. In those five starts, he has only allowed four barrels and has a 36.9% Hard Hit%.

The Phillies pen is in fine shape after Monday’s off day and Craig Kimbrel and Jose Alvarado had relatively light days yesterday. I think the Phillies are absolutely worth a look as an underdog tonight.

Pick: Phillies +110

Atlanta Braves (-165, 10) at Cleveland Guardians

I want to preface this handicap by reminding you that baseball makes no sense. There are exactly zero reasons to believe that Cal Quantrill can pitch well tonight against the Braves. Not one. For the season, Quantrill has a 6.18 ERA with a 5.99 xERA and a 4.92 FIP. His anemic K% sits at 12.3% and he’s allowed a total of 20 runs in his last three MLB starts over 11.2 innings of work.

Quantrill came back from missing a month with a bum shoulder and allowed six runs on eight hits to the Cubs with one strikeout in 19 batters faced. He only made one Double-A rehab start, which I couldn’t understand, since his struggles were about way more than just the shoulder. The Braves hit everything hard and Quantrill doesn’t really get the swings and misses to neutralize this lineup.

Mike Soroka will try again for his fourth start of the MLB season. He’s allowed 12 runs on 18 hits in 15.2 innings pitched with five homers allowed. His best start was his last one, as he was recalled on June 30 and held the Marlins to three runs on six hits over six innings. It’s clear that Soroka is still working to find his command, but his last five starts in the minors were rather solid with five earned runs allowed, going at least six innings in each of the last four.

Los Angeles Angels at San Diego Padres (-180, 8.5)

Patrick Sandoval and Seth Lugo meet here, as a watered-down Angels lineup takes the field. There will be no Mike Trout and it wouldn’t be surprising to see no Shohei Ohtani after he left yesterday’s start due to a blister. Anthony Rendon fouled a ball off of his leg and he’ll likely be out, though it’s not like he has been hitting anyway. It’s probably addition by subtraction if he’s out again.

But, the Angels are in a pretty bad mental state right now. I think it’s extremely hard to bet on them anytime soon, as they may be feeling like the season is slipping away a bit at this point. One potential boost could come in the form of Sandoval, who really deserves a better fate this season. He has a 4.57 ERA with a 4.51 xERA and a 3.99 FIP, but his 67.5% LOB% and a .319 BABIP with a 33.5% Hard Hit% is really unfair. He gave up seven runs on eight hits last time out with eight strikeouts and a Hard Hit% of 20%. The Angels are not a very good defensive team and it shows in Sandoval’s starts more than anybody else’s.

The Padres have been better against lefties throughout the course of the season, and especially lately, so it might be another frustrating night at the yard for Sandoval. For Lugo, this seems to be a decent matchup in the friendly confines of Petco Park. He has a 3.59 ERA with a 4.51 xERA and a 3.54 FIP in his 57.2 innings of work.

This will be Lugo’s fourth start since coming off the IL. He’s allowed four earned runs over 16 innings with 15 hits allowed and just one walk. He’s struck out 15 in that span. There isn’t much to be done with this game. The Padres should win, but that’s a big price.

Seattle Mariners at San Francisco Giants (-170, 8.5)

I think one of the most incredible achievements in baseball that nobody talks about is how Tommy Milone just continues to hold onto a big league career. He debuted back in 2011 and has made 8, 4, 6, 9, 1, 0, and 1 start over his last six seasons. To be honest, it’s really impressive. This will be his second start of the season after going 4.2 innings way back on April 14.

Alex Cobb goes for the Giants today with a 3.12 ERA, 4.02 xERA, and a 3.20 FIP in 83.2 innings of work. He is having a really nice season, with the high xERA coming from a high Hard Hit%. Otherwise, there are a lot of positives to his profile, including a low walk rate. He’s got a 57.6% GB% as well, so that’s another feather in his cap.

Cobb is only making his second start since returning from the IL, though, so I don’t have a ton of confidence in how he’ll do. He only struck out three of the 22 batters that he faced last time out. He has the chance to do a lot better than that against th