A new day brings new opportunities on the MLB card, as a bunch of new series get underway on Friday. We’ve got a few big numbers out there, but most of the card has competitively-lined games, which were few and far between over the last few days. Hopefully that means it will be the start of a nice stretch in the article.
With a lot to get to, let’s get to it with a look at the July 8 card.
Pirates/Reds: The Pirates got a good effort from Roansy Contreras and then sent the promising prospect down to make room for the 27th man in the second game of the doubleheader. We saw two low-scoring games in the double dip and a split. We actually saw a good start from Pittsburgh’s Bryse Wilson for once, but the defense and bullpen failed him in the seventh. It remains a good live betting angle to look for spots to fade pitchers, especially bad ones, heading into the fifth, sixth or seventh innings.
Marlins/Mets: The Marlins managed two hits against Trevor Williams and the Mets bullpen in yesterday’s 10-0 loss. The Mets jumped all over starter Daniel Castano and Jimmy Yacabonis and then put it in cruise control. Jazz Chisholm Jr. is ramping up towards baseball activities and is set to play a Rookie game on Saturday. He essentially went out on June 25, as he had one plate appearance after that and then hit the IL. Since then, the Marlins have batted .214/.268/.353 as a team. They may not like him, but they sure as hell miss him.
More specifically, they’re batting .210/.271/.350 against righties, where Chisholm has been most effective.
Cardinals/Braves: Despite a dominant pitching performance from Spencer Strider, the Braves came up on the short end last night of a 3-2 extra-inning affair. The Braves were 1-for-15 with RISP and had plenty of chances to bust the game open early. But, Strider was the story with 12 strikeouts, including his first nine outs. He had 23 whiffs in 51 swings. What an incredible find by the Braves in the fourth round of the 2020 draft.
Rockies/Diamondbacks: The Road Rockies actually got all the way to four runs last night and topped the Snakes by a run. The most surprising thing for me in this one is that Dallas Keuchel didn’t throw a single cutter against the right-handed-heavy lineup. He only allowed eight hard-hit balls and didn’t walk anybody over seven innings. I still won’t trust him much, but he appears a little more comfortable back with Brent Strom.
Giants/Padres: The scary collision between Jurickson Profar and CJ Abrams stole all the headlines in this one, which was a really good pitcher’s duel between Logan Webb and Joe Musgrove. Webb was excellent over eight innings, even though he only had two strikeouts. His season ERA is now under 3.00. Musgrove walked four, but only allowed one hit. His spin rates were down across the board in this start, though. This was his lowest start by spin rate on the slider since April 26 and his lowest of the season with the cutter. He had the control issues and only nine whiffs in 42 swings. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s something, but I’ll keep an eye on it.
Cubs/Dodgers: Apparently Tony Gonsolin just isn’t really going to regress. He allowed 11 hard-hit balls over seven innings and only had three strikeouts, but limited the Cubs to two runs on four hits. Brusdar Graterol left with a cramp after facing one batter, so that’ll be something to monitor with the Dodgers bullpen and some of the injuries that they’re already dealing with.
Royals/Astros: We finally got an under in this high-scoring series to finish it out. Astros started struggled mightily in this series and the team trailed a lot early in games. The Astros ultimately scored three runs off of Kris Bubic, but the southpaw had 17 whiffs on 41 swings. He also walked six guys. That’s about all that was interesting about this game, but the series as a whole was fascinating with a ton of runs at Minute Maid Park.
Angels/Orioles: Praise be to the Orioles for stopping the article losing streak at seven games. There was a ton of hard-hit contact in this game and nine barrels, but it ended 4-1. Oriole Park has really suppressed offense this season with those changes in left field. Mike Trout went 0-for-4 with three hard-hit balls, including two outs on barrels. I’ll take them any way I can get them right now.
Yankees/Red Sox: Fun one at Fenway to get this series started. The Yankees pen slammed the door shut and the six early runs scored by New York held up for the 6-5 win. Gerrit Cole was the subject of a ton of hate on social media after giving up the Rafael Devers three-run homer in the fifth, but it was a hell of a piece of hitting from Devers to get the barrel to a changeup down and out of the zone. It caught too much plate, but it wasn’t a bad pitch. The bigger issue in that inning was the walk to Kevin Plawecki.
Anyway, it was another one-run win for the Yankees and a good tone-setter for the series. We’ll see if Aaron Judge is back tonight.
Tigers/White Sox: Detroit was held to two runs yet again, but this time came up on the right side of a 2-1 decision. It’s hard to bet on Detroit in any context, but I did want to mention that their bullpen ranks fourth in fWAR, third in ERA and fourth in FIP. This is a really good, under-the-radar group that ranks near teams like the Astros, Yankees and Dodgers in reliever performance. The offense still stinks, but if this team wasn’t so decimated by injuries on the starting pitcher side, things could be different.
Blue Jays/Mariners: Marco Gonzales did it again. He had zero strikeouts and just two whiffs in his 6.2 innings of work, but allowed just two earned runs on eight hits. He allowed 10 hard-hit balls, but limited the damage yet again. I’ll have to fade him when he hits the road just on principle.
Ty France came back from injury for the Mariners, so they got his big bat back into the lineup. Other than that, the story remains the same with the Blue Jays. They’re just gassed and a long west coast trip doesn’t help.
Weather: Same old, same old here. Pop-up storms in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Today’s game’s that could be threatened are in Cincinnati, Baltimore, Atlanta and St. Louis. The Rays/Reds game with Shane McClanahan and Luis Castillo is the most threatened. That’s the kind of game where the teams aren’t likely to do much on offense anyway and if there is a threat of a delay, they may fly through that one.
Marlins at Mets (-160, 7.5): We usually see money on Pablo Lopez whether he’s at home or on the rad, but we aren’t seeing that today and have even seen the Mets take money at some shops. Lopez does get more love at home than on the road, but I’m always intrigued by the line moves that don’t happen and this is one.
Phillies (-125, 7.5) at Cardinals: The Phillies have been bumped 10-15 cents in this Zack Wheeler vs. Adam Wainwright matchup. The total is 8 with heavy under juice in some spots and 7.5 with some over juice in others. Philadelphia is playing better than St. Louis right now and I personally don’t love this spot for the Cardinals with Ryan Helsley throwing 26 pitches yesterday and Giovanny Gallegos working back-to-back days. I don’t know if bettors move lines on that sort of bullpen handicap, but it may be part of it for some.
Rockies at Diamondbacks (-165, 9): Zac Gallen has been bumped about 15-20 cents depending on the book for this outing against the Rockies and Chad Kuhl. Gallen has struggled a bit lately with his velocity and hasn’t mixed his pitches well, but the Rockies can’t score on the road.
Yankees (-150, 9.5) at Red Sox: I’m interested in this total movement, as we’ve seen some heavy juice put on 9.5 and some shops have even moved to 10 with Nestor Cortes vs. Connor Seabold. Seabold allowed seven runs in his first start against Toronto, but one run over four innings in his next start against the Cubs. He’s racked up a ton of swings and misses through two starts, but confidence seems low in both pitchers here.
Tigers at White Sox (-170, 8): Bettors have picked up on what I’ve seen from Tarik Skubal of late. He has allowed 26 runs on 36 hits in his last six starts covering 30 innings. The White Sox also hit lefties well, as we all know. I think the big question is whether or not Lucas Giolito has fixed something, which I’ll write about shortly.
Rays (-175, 7.5) at Reds: The size of this line move depends on the opening line that the books posted, but we’ve seen ample money hit Shane McClanahan and the Rays here. Luis Castillo is a tough customer himself, but McClanahan is on another level. Another thing that stands out here is the total of 7.5 at Great American Ball Park, which is an extremely rare sight to see.
What I’ll Be Watching
Lucas Giolito: From May 31 to June 22, Giolito allowed 30 runs on 40 hits in 25.2 innings of work. He gave up nine homers in starts against Toronto twice, Tampa Bay, Houston and Texas. He gave up a ton of hard contact and showed no command whatsoever. In his last two starts on the road against the Angels and Giants, Giolito allowed three runs on nine hits in 12 innings with 13 strikeouts against three walks. His last start against the Giants was his best of the season from a Hard Hit% standpoint.
Giolito threw the lowest percentage of four-seam fastballs of the season last time out. Opposing batters own a .289 BA and a .461 SLG on that pitch this season. He’s increased his changeup usage a bit of late. It looks like Giolito and pitching coach Ethan Katz are making some adjustments. The Tigers aren’t a great barometer, but he should dominate this lineup, so let’s see if he does.
Aaron Civale: In three starts since returning from injury, we’ve seen some different things from Civale. He’s had three tough assignments against the Twins, Red Sox and Yankees, so this matchup against the Royals could go a bit better. The curveball has been a bigger pitch for him and he’s thrown with more of a sinker grip and less of a four-seam fastball grip. The results still haven’t been great and he’s allowed 20 hard-hit balls out of 43 batted ball events, but he’s had more swing and miss to the profile. Given that he allowed at least four runs in each of his first six starts, any improvement is big.
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.
Pirates/Brewers Over 8 (-110): Aaron Ashby and JT Brubaker are the listed starters for this one and just faced these respective lineups last time out. Ashby gave up four runs on five hits in 3.2 innings to continue the struggles that he has had recently. He has allowed 18 runs on 28 hits over his last 18.2 innings of work. He is a guy that has tremendous strikeout upside, but also fights with his command from pitch to pitch. In that span, he has allowed five home runs, which is not great for a guy with a 61.5% GB%.
Brubaker allowed four runs on seven hits in that start. He’s actually having a pretty decent season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a bit rusty here, as his turn in the rotation was skipped this last time through. He hasn’t pitched since June 30.
There are additional concerns in this game as well. Both of these teams rank in the bottom third of the league in Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric and you can see that with a .313 BABIP against for Brubaker and a .340 for Ashby. The Brewers are actually 21st in Outs Above Average on the infield, which is highly relevant with Ashby’s ground ball numbers. The Pirates are 27th in OAA on the infield.
Finally, both of these bullpens are up against it a bit. For the Brewers, an appearance today would mean a fourth in six days for Brad Boxberger and Josh Hader. Hader actually threw 70 pitches over four days earlier in the week and Boxberger threw 69. Ashby hasn’t completed five innings in each of his last three starts and the Brewers have had middle relief issues all season.
We saw Pittsburgh’s relief woes in that 16-0 game earlier this week, but they played a doubleheader yesterday and David Bednar and Wil Crowe would each be working a third time in four days. Bednar was recently hurt with a back issue as well. I feel confident in going against the line move here and am on the Over 8 at -110.
Guardians (%plussign% 110) over Royals: The Guardians got a much needed day off yesterday to reset and try and salvage something before heading into the All-Star Break. I don’t think they’re suddenly going to get hot again, but I do like today’s matchup against the Royals.
Aaron Civale and Brady Singer are very similar pitchers this season. That seems ludicrous to say, given that Civale has a 7.04 ERA with a 4.71 FIP and Singer has a 4.30 ERA with a 4.16 FIP. However, when you look at both guys, their home run rates are nearly the same. Singer actually has the higher Hard Hit% at 41.4% compared to Civale’s 41%. The two guys also have nearly identical Barrel% marks, even though Singer’s ground ball rate is much higher.
There are two big differences. The first is that Civale’s had far less batted ball luck with a .353 BABIP against compared to a .302 for Singer. The other notable difference is that Singer has a 75% LOB% and Civale has a 55.6%. That’s how you wind up with such a big discrepancy. Under the hood, these two guys have a lot of similarities, but the luck factors have been on Singer’s side.
So, I’ve got two pretty similar starting pitchers, but Cleveland’s bullpen is clearly superior with a lower ERA, lower FIP, higher K% and lower BB%. Also, Cleveland’s pen has had a few lighter days this week, whereas the Royals just had some heavier days against the Astros.
I’ve been more impressed with the life on Civale’s stuff since returning, even though the results haven’t been there. He’s also faced the Twins, Red Sox and Yankees, so this is a step down in class. Meanwhile, Singer’s last three starts have been the Tigers and the A’s twice and he’s still allowed 10 runs on 19 hits in 18.1 innings. With Cleveland at a plus-money price, I’ll take my chances today on the better bullpen with a pretty even starting pitcher matchup and a Guardians team off of a badly-needed off day. You can even find some %plussign% 115s out there. Shop around!
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.