MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Wednesday, September 20th

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MLB schedule today has 15 games

A full slate of MLB action is on the betting board today, as we’ve got a big helping of day games around the country. With several things to tend to this morning in my duties as Managing Editor, I got started about an hour late on today’s write-up, so I’ll be skipping over the really early games in hopes of finding some good plays for the matinees and the nighttime games.

 

On these travel days and weekends, we’ll be seeing more day games to round out the regular season with kids back in school and temperatures cooling off, so early games will continue to be part of the fabric of the regular season over the next week and a half, so it’ll just be something we have to deal with.

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Here are some thoughts on the September 20 card (odds from DraftKings):

San Francisco Giants (-115, 7.5) at Arizona Diamondbacks

Logan Webb and Merrill Kelly are the slated starters in this one, as we’ll see the series finale of a quick two-game set between the Giants and D-Backs. The Diamondbacks won 8-4 last night, as the game had all 12 runs in the first five innings and nothing after that between Alex Cobb and Zac Gallen.

Today’s game certainly has a lower-scoring projection with Webb and Kelly, who are both having excellent seasons. Webb has a 3.31 ERA with a 3.22 FIP overall and a 3.60 ERA with a 3.26 FIP in the second half. The one thing for Webb that is a bit of a concern is that he has big home/road splits.

Home: 102.2 IP, 2.37 ERA, 2.93 FIP, .227/.259/.337, .259 wOBA, 8 HR
Away: 98.1 IP, 4.30 ERA, 3.53 FIP, .259/.290/.414, .303 wOBA, 12 HR

Some of his home/road dichotomy can be blamed on a 9.8% difference in LOB%. Some of it is also that he’s simply allowed more hits and a higher SLG on the road, where his BABIP is 29 points higher.

Kelly has a 3.45 ERA with a 4.02 xERA and a 3.81 FIP over 159 innings. He has allowed seven runs twice over his last four starts with one run allowed in each of the two starts in the middle. He’s walked nine over his last 10.2 innings of work, which is unlike him. He’s also had decreased velo in each of his last two starts, which came on the road against the Cubs and Mets. His spin rates have been lower since June than they were early in the season and he has seen a lot of fluctuations lately.

I don’t have a bet here, but will be watching Kelly closely to see if there’s something to worry about moving forward.

New York Mets at Miami Marlins (-120, 7.5)

Kodai Senga and Eury Perez form a really good pitching matchup down in South Florida, as the Marlins lay a short home number. Miami walked off the Mets last night after blowing a save in the top half of the ninth in a low-scoring 4-3 affair that was 3-1 through eight innings with Joey Lucchesi and Braxton Garrett.

I could certainly see another low-scoring affair here, especially since Senga has been brilliant this season. He threw six shutout innings last time out to once again cash his Over 17.5 Outs prop and struck out 10 of the 22 batters that he faced. Senga has allowed a lot of hard contact over his last three starts, but he’s also racked up 27 strikeouts out of 73 batters faced.

Since June 28, Senga has a 2.40 ERA with a 2.81 FIP in 13 starts over 78.2 innings. He’s got a 98/28 K/BB ratio in that span and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any start. He’s only allowed three runs three times and three earned runs twice. At least the Mets got this one right with signing Senga.

Perez comes in with a 3.06 ERA and a 3.94 FIP in his 88.1 innings at the MLB level, but he hasn’t been as sharp since he got back from the minors. Since August 7, he has a 4.11 ERA and a 4.31 FIP in seven starts after having his service time manipulated. Perez has only completed five innings once in his last three starts and has allowed eight runs on 14 hits in 14.1 innings of work. All three of those starts came on the road, so we’ll see if he can get back on track in a good pitcher’s environment.

I’m not so sure that he will. And the Mets, despite all of their issues, still have a lot of talent in that lineup. I fully expect Senga to continue rocking and rolling, as he’s been so good for a long period of time. As much of a mess as the Mets are, they have a top-10 offense in the month of September with a .334 wOBA and a 114 wRC+. So do the Marlins, but the difference here is that Senga is throwing the ball better than Perez.

I’ll take the Mets as a 1st 5 pup here.

Pick: Mets 1st 5 (+100)

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs (-180, 7.5)

The Cy Young dreams are done for Justin Steele, but something more pressing is at hand in this one. The Cubs are not playing well and haven’t been for a while. They rolled to a 14-1 win behind Javier Assad and a big night for the bats to snap a five-game losing streak, but they had lost eight of 10 going into that game. With how tight things are in the NL Wild Card race, every game is magnified in importance and the Cubs need to take advantage of this homestand with Pittsburgh and Colorado in town.

They successfully did last night and are big favorites to do so tonight behind Steele, who got blown up last time out to the tune of six runs on seven hits over six innings. Steele had allowed a total of six runs over his previous five starts, so it could not have come at a worse time. It was his first time allowing more than three earned runs since May 26 against the Reds. He still has a 2.73 ERA with a 3.06 FIP, so now we’re left to wonder if that was just a blip on the radar or something more.

Steele, like so many other pitchers out there, has blown past his previous innings high, which was actually set last season with 119. He’s thrown 165 innings this year and been the savior of the Cubs rotation. I don’t necessarily see anything in the contact management numbers or his spin rate data that suggests that he’s leaking oil or anything, but I have to think that the increased workload is taking some sort of toll.

Mitch Keller seems to have found his groove once again. He’s given up eight runs twice since August 3, but one was against the Brewers in a game that just got away and the other was against the Braves, who nobody is safe against. Keller’s had a lot of good outings lately and just fired eight shutout innings against the Nationals six days ago. He wasn’t even hit that hard in the start against Atlanta, as he allowed a 37.5% Hard Hit% and a couple of barrels. He was hit a little harder by the Brewers on August 3, but the stat line looks worse than the numbers.

Even with that Braves game, Keller has allowed a 31.6% Hard Hit% and a 3.8% Barrel% in his last four starts with a 25/5 K/BB ratio over 27 innings of work. He’s only allowed one run in his other three starts, including eight shutout frames against the Cubs on August 25.

I don’t know if the Pirates win, but this line seems a little bit big. Pittsburgh has consistently been in games throughout the second half, as they haven’t mailed it in like some teams have. They’re 23-23 since the start of August and their ace is on the mound. I think they are a live dog in this one. They’re playing free and easy, while the Cubs have definitely been pressing. I’d also rather trade the 20 cents and take Pirates full-game over the 1st 5 because Keller has been working effectively deep into games.

Pick: Pirates +150

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals (-112, 8.5)

The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Trevor Megill, but another bad Drew Rom start was too much to overcome in last night’s 7-3 loss. The series is even as we head into Game 3 of four in this series. It will be another underwhelming pitching matchup between Adrian Houser and Zack Thompson.

Houser comes in with a 4.53 ERA, 4.34 xERA, and a 4.09 FIP in 95.1 innings of work. He missed a little over two weeks and came back six days ago to throw five innings of two-run ball against the Marlins with five strikeouts and zero walks. He didn’t make any rehab starts. He just jumped right back into it and looked pretty decent after giving up a ton of hard contact throughout July and August.

Thompson comes in with a 4.34 ERA, 4.68 xERA, and a 3.69 FIP in 56 innings. He has a 4.37 ERA and a 3.74 FIP in 35 innings as a starter, but he is coming off of his worst start in that role with four runs allowed on five hits over five innings on the 15th against the Phillies. Since August 6, which encompasses all seven of his starts, Thompson has allowed a 46.4% Hard Hit%, including a 64.3% HH% in that last start.

With an insurance run in the ninth, the Brewers were able to avoid using Devin Williams last night. Their bullpen is in really good shape here. Houser and Thompson may very well cancel out and I’d take the Brewers pen at a short price, so I’ll take them for the full game here as well.

Pick: Brewers -108

Boston Red Sox at Texas Rangers (-155, 9)

Bunch of day games in the AL, so I’ll run through ‘em quick since I won’t have any plays. This is Jon Gray and Brayan Bello in Arlington, as the Rangers finally got some decent relief work last night to pick up a 6-4 win. Gray has been riding the struggle bus to work for a while now. He has a 4.05 ERA with a 4.36 FIP for the season, but a 5.73 ERA with a 4.57 FIP over his last 15 starts. If we narrow it even more, he’s got a 7.17 ERA with a 5.65 FIP over his last five starts.

That doesn’t exactly seem worthy of this kind of line and Bello has a 3.38 ERA with a 3.37 FIP in his last six starts after a few tough weeks in July and early August. I wouldn’t have taken the shot on the Red Sox even with more lead time, but this is a lofty ask of the Rangers.

Cleveland Guardians (-148, 8.5) at Kansas City Royals

It appears that this will be Zack Greinke’s final start in Kansas City. If he decides to retire, which seems likely given how this season has gone, his next start will come in Detroit and then that will be it. There hasn’t been a lot of fanfare as he appears to be finishing his career where it started, but his teammates may be aware of his plans and that could give the Royals a bit of an extra boost.

Also, the Royals are looking for a sweep in this series. The Royals swept the Mets on August 1-3 and the Twins July 28-30, but they only have 50 wins on the season, so sweeps are very rare.

Lucas Giolito is coming off of his best start as a Guardian with seven scoreless and 12 strikeouts against the Rangers. He’s got 21 strikeouts in his last 14 innings after getting obliterated by the Twins in his Cleveland debut. He’d honestly be an interesting fit in Cleveland next season, but the Guardians aren’t going to commit long-term dollars to a starting pitcher unless he’s willing to come cheaper than market value.

No idea what happens here, but I’ll be curious to see if Greinke is indeed making his last start in KC and potentially his last start ever if this is how he wants to go out.

Baltimore Orioles (-120, 9) at Houston Astros

Kyle Bradish and the O’s are road favorites here against Cristian Javier and the Astros. Baltimore is looking for the series sweep after jumping all over Hunter Brown yesterday for a 9-5 win. Bradish has been exceptional since mid-May, but did have a minor hiccup against the Rays last time out with four runs allowed on seven hits over seven innings. We’ll see if he can get back on track against an Astros bunch missing Yordan Alvarez, who is getting a day to collect himself.

Javier continues to struggle his way through starts with a 4.74 ERA and a 4.86 FIP in 146.1 innings of work. He’s allowed a home run in every start dating back to July 28 and still looks like a shell of the pitcher that he was last season. Not much more to say here with the early start, but it’s definitely a tough matchup for him.

Toronto Blue Jays (-120, 7.5) at New York Yankees

Skipping over Mariners (Kirby) and Athletics (Joey Estes MLB debut) and Angels (Detmers) vs. Rays (Civale)…

Can’t say I expected to see a line like this so late into the season with Kevin Gausman and Michael King, but King has been great and the Jays have had some issues lately. To be fair, this line did swing towards Toronto after opening closer to a moneyline pick ‘em, so the markets have swung a bit towards the road team side.

King has allowed a total of three earned runs over his last five starts and may end up being a viable starting option for the Yanks next season. He’s allowed 19 hits and has 29 strikeouts against just four walks. He hasn’t given up a homer in that span over 21.1 innings.

Gausman walked six last time out against Texas and allowed four runs on six hits, but it could’ve been way worse. He had allowed nine runs over four starts prior to that. Gausman has been good for one blow-up per month, so maybe the one six days ago qualifies.

I don’t have a strong feel one way or another on this one.

Detroit Tigers at Los Angeles Dodgers (-230, 8)

I just wanted to mention this game because I shared some bad info on the Dodgers yesterday. Caleb Ferguson opened in front of Ryan Pepiot, who was terrific again.

Today is the day with Bobby Miller and we’ll see how the Dodgers handle it. I think what I read was about how Ryan Yarbrough and Emmet Sheehan will piggyback in the postseason, not for the regular season. It’s been a little bit difficult to filter through all the football stuff in my X timeline to find baseball and I saw it in passing and erroneously reported the plan. My bad on that one and hopefully it didn’t impact how you viewed that game or this one.

I guess we’ll see how they handle it today with keeping Miller fresh for the postseason. The Tigers are starting Reese Olson before heading to Oakland for four games.

TL;DR Recap

Mets 1st 5 (+100)
Pirates +150
Brewers -108