We’ve got a busy night on the diamond with only one day game (at Wrigley) as another MLB weekend gets underway. Braves vs. Mets and Padres vs. Dodgers are the big highlights, but we’ve got 14 games to consider on the card.
Brewers/Pirates: Another day, another loss to the Pirates for Milwaukee. This time it was a 5-4 defeat in 10 innings after the Brewers scored the go-ahead run in the top half of the inning. It was newcomer Matt Bush who surrendered the second straight walk-off run. The Brewers are not playing well right now. I still think they’re the team to beat in the Central, but getting swept by the Pirates is a bad, bad look. We’ll see if they fare any better against the Reds.
Dodgers/Giants: The Giants are 6.5 games out in the Wild Card after getting swept by the Dodgers. I’m not going to say that their season is over, but it sure looks that way. What a remarkable fall from last season’s team. The Giants aren’t even halfway to last year’s 107-win total and it’s almost the second week of August. They’re 3-12 since the All-Star Break and have scored just 44 runs in 15 games.
Rockies/Padres: This felt like a good spot to go against the Padres, but I didn’t have the stones to do it. The hype of the trade settled down a little. Joe Musgrove made his first start after signing an extension. The huge series with the Dodgers loomed. Colorado won 7-3, paced by a home run robbery in the second. Now we’ll see how the Padres stack up with the Dodgers.
Nationals/Phillies: Noah Syndergaard’s first start was not very good for the Phillies, as he allowed four runs on 11 hits in five innings, but the Phillies won 5-4 in the rain-shortened affair. Syndergaard got credit for a complete game. He allowed six hard-hit balls, but only had two strikeouts and found out what life is like with the Phillies’ defense behind him.
The best thing for the Phillies was that Bryce Harper started taking some dry swings and looks to be on track for a September return. That would be a huge boost. Given how the Giants have fallen off the face of the earth, a Phillies to make the playoffs bet is now out to -205.
Braves/Mets: The Mets drew first blood in this series with a 6-4 win. Carlos Carrasco gave up three runs on four hits over six innings, but did have 17 whiffs to go with his six strikeouts. I love that Buck Showalter used Edwin Diaz for two innings to make sure and secure this win. More managers need to think like that.
Kyle Wright gave up four homers and only had seven whiffs on 42 swings. It wasn’t a sharp start for him, which could be why the Braves have adopted a six-man rotation. It should help those guys stay fresh.
Cubs/Cardinals: David Ross asked a bit too much of Marcus Stroman, as he gave up three runs in the seventh and squandered the 3-0 lead he was given in Game 1 before the Cardinals walked it off against some guy named Erich Uelmen. Both starters pitched around a ton of hard contact in that one.
Game 2 featured a gem from Jose Quintana with a solo homer allowed over six innings and seven strikeouts. The Cardinals look invigorated and the Brewers still look distraught over the Josh Hader trade. Like I said, I’m still fairly bullish on Milwaukee, but it’s ahrd to argue with St. Louis’s recent play and their pieces. That bullpen is now very solid by cutting some of the dead weight in middle relief.
Athletics/Angels: Janson Junk pitched like junk and Paul Blackburn and the A’s allowed seven solo homers, so the under never had a prayer in this game. It’s been a tough run lately, but I feel like most of the handicaps have made sense and haven’t worked out. That one was just a really bad handicap. The ball’s going to carry better at Angel Stadium during the day and I knew that, but got stubborn. Sometimes you need to take a few extra moments to think about the more basic parts of a handicap and I didn’t do that here. Frustrating.
Astros/Guardians: Justin Verlander only allowed two hits over his six innings, but also only had seven whiffs with five strikeouts. He located well and it’s what makes him so special. It’s not all about the swing and miss. Cleveland did have six hard-hit balls against him, but managed very little offense overall and got a bad start from Zach Plesac. The Twins really did separate themselves at the Trade Deadline in this division and any plus-money price to win it is probably worthwhile at this point, as sad as it is to say.
Blue Jays/Twins: Of course, the Twins also got rocked by the Blue Jays 9-3 yesterday, as Minnesota’s bullpen had a total meltdown. Sonny Gray only gave up one hit, but did walk five in his five innings. Three relievers pitched and all three gave up three runs. That’s still a concern for this team, but the division is a joke.
White Sox/Rangers: The White Sox managed all of two runs on five hits last night, as Johnny Cueto threw a complete game in a losing effort. He did give up 11 hits, but the Rangers managed one unearned run off of debutant Cole Ragans and only had four hard-hit balls in the game. That should’ve been a good matchup and a good situation for them, but they disappointed, much like they have all season.
Red Sox/Royals: The story remained the same for Nick Pivetta, as he allowed a bunch of hard contact in five innings with three runs on seven hits. He just doesn’t have good command of the strike zone, as he allowed nine hard-hit balls and got fortunate that the Royals squandered some of chances, leaving runners on third twice to end innings. After watching Rich Hill and Pivetta the last two days, I’m shocked the Red Sox didn’t get more starting pitching help.
Weather: The best chances for rain are in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Queens, but we’ve got some other games in question, including matchups in Chicago, Philly, Cleveland and Detroit. It’s a lot of the same of what we’ve seen with high humidity and dew point numbers in a lot of places.
Injuries: Jon Gray is an update to this list with a strained oblique, so his season is pretty close to done. Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Nationals at Phillies (-190, 9): We have seen a little bit of movement towards Josiah Gray and the Nationals here. As I’ve said, Gray is a guy that the modeling crowd seems to think very highly of and we’ve seen a lot of moves in his favor. To see one without Juan Soto and Josh Bell in the lineup is just additional confirmation of his standing in the market.
Braves at Mets (-140, 8.5): Here’s another trend we’ve seen throughout the season – a fade of Ian Anderson. This line has jumped about 20 cents on the Metropolitans and Taijuan Walker. Bettors have lined up to fade Anderson all season long, so it isn’t a shocker here.
Blue Jays (-120, 8.5) at Twins: Tyler Mahle’s Twins debut is today and we’ve seen a little bit of interest in Minnesota. More on Jose Berrios in a minute.
Angels at Mariners (-200, 7): We’ve even got some 6.5s out there in the wild for Patrick Sandoval vs. Robbie Ray. With the low-scoring expectation and some rocky outings recently for Ray, we’ve seen a bit of Angels interest here. Not much, but enough to pull the line below -200 at most shops in the market.
Yankees (-150, 8.5) at Cardinals: I’m watching this line very closely. The Cardinals have been better against lefties than righties all season long and get one here in Nestor Cortes. However, Dakota Hudson is on the bump for St. Louis and we typically see a lot of money come in against him. We haven’t seen that yet. I’m not sure if we will. Money seems split on this game, as the Cardinals are playing really well right now. Fascinating line, fascinating matchup.
What I’ll Be Watching
Jose Berrios: Berrios heads into this start against his former team with a 4.96 ERA, 5.20 xERA and a 4.63 FIP. He’s on a nice run with six straight starts of three or fewer earned runs and has allowed two or fewer in five of them. He’s also faced the Royals missing most of their lineup and the Cardinals without Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in that span, along with the Tigers, A’s and Rays. He’s still allowed a Hard Hit% of 41.7% or higher in four of those six starts and has a Hard Hit% of 44.7% for the season with a Barrel% of 11.1%. I don’t think he’s fixed because of his results against a pretty soft schedule. We’ll see how he does today with the Twins, but I agree with the slight movement towards Minnesota. Not enough to bet the game, but I don’t think Berrios is totally on track.
Eric Lauer: It has been a tale of two seasons for Lauer, who draws a pretty good matchup against the Reds at home. Cincinnati rakes at home, but does not have nearly the same offensive upside on the road. From April 12-June 5, Lauer had a 2.38 ERA with a 3.66 FIP in 10 starts covering 56.2 innings. He struck out 65, walked 17 and only allowed 15 earned runs.
Since then, Lauer has made nine starts with a 5.33 ERA and a 5.81 FIP over 49 innings. He’s only struck out 42 and walked 20. He’s given up 12 home runs and 29 earned runs. The command and the control have both gone by the wayside and he’s faced some pretty marginal lineups in that stretch. I’ll be curious to see if he looks like an improved pitcher today with a decent draw.
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.
Braves (%plussign% 125) over Mets: Look, I totally understand the worries about Ian Anderson. The numbers don’t really lie with a 4.99 ERA, but he does have a 4.31 xERA and a 4.23 FIP in his 101 innings of work. His 69.8% LOB% is the issue. He’s not really pitching that much worse than last season when he had a 3.58 ERA. It’s just that he had a 79.1% LOB% and his BABIP was 52 points lower. His Hard Hit% is up a little bit, but his Barrel% is down quite a bit from last season.
Anderson badly struggled on eight days rest in his first second-half start against a bad Angels lineup, but he rebounded nicely with six shutout innings and nine strikeouts against a similarly bad Arizona team. The Mets are far from a bad offense, but I think Anderson gets some run support today and that he’s not a bad matchup against a Mets lineup that doesn’t walk a ton and still ranks 20th in Hard Hit%.
I’ve been looking for chances to fade Taijuan Walker and I think this is one of them. Oddly enough, he has not faced the Braves this season, but he has faced the Marlins four times since June 18. Unlike Anderson, whose ERA has been hurt by BABIP and LOB%, Walker has a 2.79 ERA because of a 78.9% LOB% and a .275 BABIP against. He has a 3.99 xERA and his FIP and xFIP both suggest some negative regression. His Hard Hit% is HIGHER than Anderson’s at 41%, but he’s had a lot more batted ball luck.
I think there’s a good chance that he struggles today against a Braves lineup that makes a ton of hard contact and they get a pitcher in Walker with below average K% and SwStr% marks. You’ve heard me talk about it a lot that the Braves struggle with guys that can generate swing and miss. Walker’s 19.2% K% is well below the league average for starters at 21.5% and his 9.5% SwStr% is also well below the league average of 10.6%.
The Braves have a solid bullpen and yesterday’s two-inning effort from Diaz may come into play late in the game with how Buck Showalter deploys his relievers if it’s close or if the Mets have a lead. I like this spot for the Braves and the %plussign% 125 price is just too high with the line move, so I’ll go against the grain back the heavy-hitting underdog.
Rockies (%plussign% 115) over Diamondbacks: Taking the Road Rockies? In this economy? Yes. Yes I am. We’ll see German Marquez against Madison Bumgarner here and I like that matchup for the road team. Marquez is having another season chock full of ugly home/road splits, which have basically encompassed his entire career as a member of the Rockies. He should look at Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray and demand a trade.
In any event, the full-season numbers for Marquez are hideous with a 5.29 ERA, 4.77 xERA and a 4.70 FIP, however, let’s look deeper. In 66.1 innings at home, Marquez has allowed a .304/.344/.540 slash line with a .376 wOBA and 14 of his 19 home runs. He has a 6.11 ERA in those starts with a 4.94 FIP. On the road, however, Marquez has yielded just a .228/.314/.383 slash with a .308 wOBA against. He still has a 4.20 ERA because of a 64.9% LOB%, but he’s been much better in those 49.1 innings of work.
Marquez has allowed 18 earned runs in his last 42.2 innings covering seven starts, but he’s allowed 14 of those runs in three starts against the Dodgers. He’s pitched well against the White Sox, Pirates, Diamondbacks and Twins otherwise.
I realize that Madison Bumgarner has a 3.83 ERA for the season, but he’s also got a 4.61 FIP and a 5.00 xERA, so he’s clearly a negative regression candidate, whereas there are a lot of positive regression signs for Marquez. Bumgarner’s start to the season is why his full-season numbers still look good. Since May 21, he has a 4.56 ERA with a 4.62 FIP in 13 starts over 75 innings.
The Rockies lineup is loaded with right-handed bats and they have hit .266/.322/.460 against Bumgarner with 13 of the 15 homers he has allowed. Colorado’s better split has been against lefties and I’ll trust them to play from in front in this one. Neither bullpen is all that good, but the price is better on the full game than the 1st 5, so Rockies %plussign% 115 is the play here.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.