The last weekend before the Trade Deadline gets underway today with a lot of really good pitching matchups and some exorbitant AL East favorite prices. We’re seeing both the Yankees and the Blue Jays as nearly $4 favorites with Gerrit Cole against the Royals and Alek Manoah against the Tigers. It’s fair to say that those games will not be on my card for today.
Speaking of my card, it’s been a rough few days and it looks like July will be the first month in the red. The ups and downs of the MLB season have been on full display and if this is your first time betting baseball on a daily basis, you’re getting a crash course in the roller coaster ride that it can be. I’ll be looking to get off the ride as football season gets underway, as September has historically been a bad baseball month for me for a variety of reasons, but we’ll see how things play out in August.
Marlins/Reds: The Marlins battled to a 7-6 win, but the big story here was that Daniel Castano took a 102 mph rocket off of his head and left the game after just 23 pitches. All tests seem encouraging, so hopefully he’ll be back soon. The Reds bullpen blew this one in the ninth with a ghastly outing from Hunter Strickland, but Graham Ashcraft allowed 12 hard-hit balls in 6.2 innings, yet somehow only one run.
I’d expect Miami’s offense to tick back down now that they’ve left the friendly confines of Cincinnati and are heading back home.
Phillies/Pirates: Yeesh. The Phillies bullpen had a day to forget yesterday, as an 8-0 lead suddenly became an 8-7 game. Zack Wheeler allowed two of the runs and Corey Knebel pitched a really uncomfortable eighth innings, but Jeurys Familia gave up five runs and recorded just one out on 19 pitches. Pittsburgh’s valiant comeback attempt fell short, but it gave them something to build on today.
On the Philly side, every hitter in the lineup had at least one hard-hit ball and seven of nine players had at least two, as Zach Thompson’s Regression Monster was lurking with seven runs allowed on 11 hits in 5.2 innings.
Dodgers/Rockies: The Dodgers hit the over all by themselves with a 13-0 win over the Rockies on Thursday. They scored 10 runs off of Jose Urena and Tyler Anderson cruised with 94 stress-free pitches over seven innings. Los Angeles had 19 hard-hit balls in the game and made them count with 14 hits. Urena now has a 4.67 ERA after a couple of awful starts in a row.
Side note, Dustin May made his third rehab appearance last night and struck out six of 12 batters while allowing just two hits for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Cubs/Giants: I didn’t really like much on the card last night, but felt like the Cubs had a decent chance as a %plussign% 120ish underdog against the slumping Giants, but they left their bats in Chicago and managed just two hits over 6.2 innings against Alex Wood. All four runs that Justin Steele allowed were unearned and he only allowed two hard-hit balls, as the Giants only had five hard-hit balls for the entire game.
Patrick Wisdom missed a pop up that left Mike Yastrzemski at second. After an infield single, a strikeout and a hit by pitch, the Giants had a 71.8 mph well-placed lob wedge to center that scored two and a 91.9 mph infield single to score another. After being burned by the Giants defense multiple times this season, it seems fitting to get burned by somebody else’s defense when betting against the Giants.
Rays/Orioles: Home Jordan Lyles worked around four walks, but only allowed three hits to continue his excellent season at Oriole Park. Ryan Yarbrough was really good for the Rays, though, with 15 whiffs and one run allowed on just four hits over six innings with eight strikeouts. Tampa Bay only had four hard-hit balls, so it was more of what I’d expect from their offense than what we’ve seen in some other recent games. It was also an emotional day at OPACY with a curtain call for Trey Mancini, who is likely to be traded before the O’s return home.
Royals/Yankees: Aaron Judge hit a ball that hasn’t landed yet off of Scott Barlow to give New York a 1-0 win. Brady Singer and Jameson Taillon were both really good here, with Singer aggressively attacking the zone with a mix of sliders and changeups. It’s another throwaway season for Kansas City, but they have something in Singer, who had double-digit strikeouts for the second straight start.
Tigers/Blue Jays: Yusei Kikuchi’s return was a good one for Toronto, as he threw five innings in just 67 pitches. The only blemish was a solo homer and he only walked one. It was the Tigers, but baby steps are important for Kikuchi. The Blue Jays did have some relief issues after he left and that is a position of need as we head to the Trade Deadline.
George Springer left hurt in this one, so the Blue Jays may also be looking for another bat, depending on how the follow-up testing goes.
Guardians/Red Sox: Triston McKenzie made one mistake and it cost him, as the Guardians mustered just two runs on five hits against the Red Sox. Xander Bogaerts unloaded on a three-run homer in the sixth as McKenzie faced the lineup for a third time. It has still been a fine season for McKenzie, but the multi-run homer has always been his issue. He only allowed four hard-hit balls and the line looks a lot worse than it actually was.
Mariners/Astros: Houston shook off the Oakland sweep and beat the Mariners again, this time by a 4-2 count behind Jose Urquidy and the bullpen. The teams traded two runs apiece early and then nobody scored again until the eighth when Andres Munoz, working for the fourth time in five days, gave up two runs. I’m really surprised Scott Servais went to him and it appeared to be a mistake. Munoz is unavailable tonight now, with Erik Swanson having working Monday-Wednesday and Matthew Festa would be pitching a fourth time in six days.
Rangers/Angels: The Angels were shut out over five innings by Spencer Howard, who came into the game with a 7.11 ERA and an 8.02 FIP. Meanwhile, Shohei Ohtani had 22 whiffs in six innings with 11 strikeouts and got the loss with two runs allowed on eight hits. Now we wait to see if that was his last start for the Angels.
Weather: A couple of NL East teams are in the crosshairs of Mother Nature tonight with the best rain chances in Washington D.C. and Atlanta. Otherwise, not a bad night for baseball in most locales.
Mets (-115, 6.5) at Marlins: We haven’t seen as much of it lately, but we are seeing the home Marlins steam today behind Sandy Alcantara with a move of 10-20 cents depending on the opening line posted across the market. The 6.5 has heavy under juice and we may actually see a 6 pop somewhere.
Guardians at Rays (-115, 7): You don’t find Shane Bieber in an underdog role very often, but that’s the case here against Jeffrey Springs and the Rays. This total opened 6.5 at some shops, but sits 7 with under juice market-wide at this point. There has been a little interest in the Rays to make them the clear favorite, but we haven’t seen too much movement.
Mariners at Astros (-180, 7): We’re seeing mostly 7s on the total here for Robbie Ray and Justin Verlander after most books opened 7.5 with the total. We haven’t seen a lot of side movement to this point, but what little we have seen has primarily been on the Seattle side of the ledger.
What I’ll Be Watching
Shane Bieber: Twelve days between starts didn’t seem to help Shane Bieber, as the stuff looked flat in his last outing against the White Sox. He allowed six runs on eight hits, including three home runs, but managed to last six innings against the ultra-aggressive Pale Hose. Bieber allowed 12 hard-hit balls and a Hard Hit% of 54.5%, his fourth start since mid-June with a HH% of 52% or higher. Since June 14, Bieber has a Hard Hit% of 47.4%, yet has a 4.44 ERA with a 3.70 FIP and a 3.33 xFIP. He’s only struck out 42 in 46.2 innings, so he doesn’t have nearly the same swing-and-miss upside he once did. His velocity also remains down. He does get a good draw in a ballpark that suppresses power here, so we’ll see what he’s able to do against a Rays team that doesn’t make a whole lot of quality contact.
Marcus Stroman: Justin Steele deserved a better fate last night and maybe Stroman will get the good graces of the baseball gods against the currently weak-hitting Giants lineup. Stroman has allowed two runs on eight hits in 14.1 innings of work since he returned from the IL on July 9. He’s struck out 14 and walked five. He’s faced the Dodgers, Mets and Phillies in that span, so he’s taken on some decent offenses. Stroman has a 4.38 ERA for the season, but gave up 21 of his 30 earned runs in three of his 12 starts, so he’s been rather good in the other nine outings. Since returning from the IL, his GB% sits at 63.9%, so he’s gotten back to his worm-burning ways and that has to be a good sign going forward.
Friday Best Bets
Shop around for the best lines! I’m using a market consensus number that should be widely available to most, but every cent matters, so do the best you can to get the best line possible.
Cardinals/Nationals 1st 5 Over 5 (%plussign% 100): Miles Mikolas heads into a tough road environment as a pretty big regression candidate for this start against the Nationals. While Washington doesn’t have the most potent lineup, Nationals Park plays different in the heat and humidity and that’s something that could really hurt Mikolas, whose home games come in one of the best pitching environments in the league.
Mikolas is running a .240 BABIP with a 77.7% LOB% on the season, leading to a 2.87 ERA with a 3.76 FIP and a 3.83 xFIP. We saw some regression hit last time out against the Reds with six runs allowed on seven hits and I’m expecting more of the same in this start.
I have zero faith in Anibal Sanchez and have no idea why the Nationals are wasting their time again. Sanchez has allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 10 innings of work with a 9/4 K/BB ratio. He’s allowed three home runs already and saw a big velocity dip from his first start to the second. St. Louis gets back Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado after the dynamic duo missed the series in Toronto because of the country’s vaccination requirements.
Sanchez relies heavily on the changeup, which can be a neutralizer for left-handed batters, but righties own a .462/.563/.923 slash in 16 plate appearances thus far and had a .327/.391/615 slash in 115 plate appearances back in 2020. In fact, for most of his career, righties have fared better against Sanchez.
I’ll stick with the 1st 5 here because the Cardinals are coming off of an off day and their primary relievers are all in good shape, including Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley. I’d rather not need runs off of those guys late, since the line (correctly) implies that the Cardinals will have the lead in the late innings. Hopefully they’ll do so by jumping all over Sanchez. I’ll take the 1st 5 Over 5 at even money.
Twins (%plussign% 110) over Padres: Joe Ryan and Blake Snell are the listed starters for the series opener in San Diego, as the Twins play just their fifth game since the All-Star Break. Minnesota has had ample time off for a bullpen that was used a ton in the first half, so I like where they’re at heading into this game.
I also really like this matchup for Ryan. He’s an extreme fly ball guy with just a 29% GB% and the ball doesn’t carry particularly well at Petco Park. He’s got a 2.89 ERA with a 3.35 xERA, a 3.80 FIP and a 4.63 xFIP, as xFIP assumes a league average HR/FB%, but Ryan has only surrendered nine long balls in 81 innings pitched. He has strong contact management numbers with a 36.1% Hard Hit% and a 7.5% Barrel%.
Ryan struggled a bit in June as he came back from injury, but he has only allowed five earned runs in his four July starts and looked very sharp coming out of the Break with seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings against the Tigers. The Padres rank 23rd in wOBA against right-handed pitching and 29th in home wOBA, so this should be a great matchup for Ryan and a well-rested Twins bullpen.
Snell goes into this start with a 4.75 ERA, even though his peripherals look better than that. His issue remains a high walk rate, with 33 free passes in 55 innings of work. He’s been able to counteract that with a high strikeout rate, but the Twins have the sixth-lowest K% against lefties this season. This is just the second start in 15 days for Snell and I worry about guys with shoddy control not getting enough reps to avoid walks.
The Padres bullpen and closer Taylor Rogers have had some issues lately as well. With just about every primary reliever for the Twins on two days of rest, I expect those guys to perform well and think Ryan has an excellent matchup, so Minnesota is worth an underdog look this evening in the %plussign% 110 range.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.