The Field of Dreams Game takes the spotlight on August 11, as we have only eight games on the card and just two night games. The Cubs and Reds will play in the cornfields this year. I’ll give my thoughts on that game at the end, but here’s a look at what’s going through my mind across the rest of MLB.
Reds/Mets: The Mets just kept right on rolling with a 10-2 win over the Reds, who have probably just spent the week looking forward to tonight’s game in Iowa. They trailed early and it only got worse in the three-game sweep. T.J. Zeuch gave up six runs over the first three innings and the bullpen gave up some insurance runs. Only three Mets had hard-hit balls, but Pete Alonso had four and Tyler Naquin had three.
Nationals/Cubs: I couldn’t lay -155 with the Cubs, but I mentioned yesterday how I didn’t understand the Josiah Gray money that comes in on a regular basis. Well, Gray went 6.1 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits, but everything fell apart in the seventh and the Cubs picked up a 4-2 win. Gray only had eight whiffs on 43 swings. I get that there’s some potential there, and he did limit the hard contact allowed, but I still don’t really see why steam comes in every time he pitches.
Giants/Padres: Even when the Giants scored seven runs, the bullpen and the defense lets them down. Jake Junis also didn’t pitch very well, but this defense is extremely bad and the Giants allowed three unearned runs yesterday. Of greater concern, it was another rocky start for Sean Manaea, whose ERA is up to 4.76 now. The Padres need to figure out what’s ailing him and get it fixed. He did only allow one hard-hit ball, but the stuff just hasn’t been sharp for a while now.
Marlins/Phillies: The Phillies did win and did hold the Marlins to three runs. I wish I would’ve trusted myself with the handicap. I don’t love the Noah Syndergaard fit with Philly because of the shoddy defense, but the Marlins offense is so bad that it would give Philadelphia a chance. Sandy Alcantara gave up three runs in the eighth, as he turned the lineup over for a fourth time. Syndergaard was solid and the bullpen was decent once again. He did only have four strikeouts, which is one of my concerns, but he only allowed six hard-hit balls.
Cardinals/Rockies: The Redbirds jumped on Kyle Freeland for five runs in the first inning and never looked back. Jose Quintana gave up two runs on seven hits and the Cardinals had 20 hard-hit balls to create some offensive support, including 13 off of Freeland in 4.1 innings of work. This was a pretty good matchup for the St. Louis offense and they took advantage. They had five barreled balls in the game.
Quintana pitching as well as he did with Pittsburgh is a pretty good sign for being with St. Louis, as he got a massive defensive upgrade and the early returns have been strong.
Pirates/Diamondbacks: Mitch Keller wasn’t terribly sharp in this one, but he was more effective than Madison Bumgarner and the Pirates have a shot at a split today. Keller’s velocity was way down, with each pitch coming in at least a full mph under his season average and he only had four whiffs in 46 swings. Other pitchers had velo drops, so maybe it was a slow gun, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it because Keller’s been hurt a lot and I think he might be worth backing the rest of the way if it was nothing.
Angels/Athletics: JP Sears and the A’s were nearly a late add to the card when it was announced that Paul Blackburn wouldn’t get the start. To give you an idea of what the books think of Blackburn, he was scratched and the line went up 10 cents. The Angels ultimately prevailed 5-4 and Sears went 5.1 innings with two runs allowed on three hits. I think he’s a nice fit in Oakland. The problem was that the A’s managed just one hard-hit ball against Touki Toussaint, who walked five in his last start against Oakland.
I’ll be looking to bet Sears or unders when he pitches at home. We’ll have to wait and see on the road.
Yankees/Mariners: How about 43,000 for a day game? Playoff fever is alive and well in Seattle and they scored a series win over the Yankees thanks to Carlos Santana’s two-run shot in the seventh. Nestor Cortes struck out 10 over six scoreless innings, but it unraveled a bit in the seventh. Robbie Ray walked five over 6.1 innings, but only allowed three hits and really battled. The game only had nine hits, but seven runs were scored.
The Yankees really need to get the bullpen back on track in a hurry. Guys with strong season-long ERAs have struggled mightily of late, leaving Aaron Boone was a lot of low-confidence arms expected to pitch in high-leverage.
Guardians/Tigers: For the first time since June 22, the Guardians stand alone in first place. Sure, it helps to be playing the Tigers while the Twins are playing the Dodgers, but that’s how the schedule works. Aaron Civale looked really sharp the first time through the order, but lost his command in the fourth and had to be bailed out by the bullpen, which fired five scoreless innings. Cleveland should have scored more against Drew Hutchison, but they squandered some chances and didn’t even draw a hit or a walk over the final four innings. This stretch with eight of 11 against the Tigers is something the Guardians needed to take advantage of and so far they have.
Rangers/Astros: My dude Glenn Otto beat Justin Verlander yesterday. He wasn’t overly sharp with four walks in five innings, but he gave his team a chance and they took it with five runs off of Phil Maton in the 10th. If Otto learns some control this winter, he’ll be a play-on guy next season. The raw quality of the stuff is pretty good. He just needs to learn to harness it.
White Sox/Royals: I looked hard at this game, but got scared of fading the White Sox against a lefty. The reality is that Tim Anderson had a 197 wRC %plussign% against lefties before getting hurt, so he’s an enormous loss. Kris Bubic has stopped walking people and has actually pitched well over his last four starts. Johnny Cueto didn’t experience the regression I thought he might, but he did give up nine hits in six innings. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that the White Sox just aren’t very good and they’re worse without Anderson.
Rays/Brewers: Rowdy Tellez may have saved the Brewers season this week. Six days ago, he stole a base in a clip that went viral on Twitter, sparking a team that was down in the dumps after the Trade Deadline a sweep at the hands of the Pirates. Yesterday, he homered lefty-lefty off of Colin Poche to force extra innings, where the Brewers won 4-3. They still trail in the NL Central, but things could be a lot worse.
The Rays only managed five hits in this game and are just 7-11 with 61 runs scored in 18 games since the All-Star Break. It feels like they’re just trying to hang on right now. They still have nine left with the Yankees and Blue Jays.
Braves/Red Sox: To me, there’s nothing worse in baseball betting than when you bet a 1st 5 over that doesn’t get there and the full game does. I went back and forth on the full game or the 1st 5 and chose wrong. I also mentioned that Braves run line or the Over 9 were both probably good. Those were and the one I picked wasn’t. It’s so frustrating sometimes to do this racket and this was one of those times. With both bullpens forced into action after last night’s marathon, I should have just gone full game.
Every Brave had a hit. Every Brave had a hard-hit ball. The Red Sox had 11 off of Kyle Wright and only scored one run over six innings. I think the handicap was right. The execution just wasn’t.
Twins/Dodgers: Another five-and-fly from a Twins starter, as Sonny Gray only made it through 4.2 innings and the Twins surrendered first place to the Guardians. This bullpen is showing more cracks now as well, as guys like Griffin Jax are struggling with the extra workload and the stresses of pitching in leverage. Minnesota’s schedule softens up considerably now with the Angels, Royals and Rangers for the next 10 games, so we’ll see if they can right the ship.
Weather: Nada. No weather to worry about. It’ll be another good day for offense at Coors Field. The weather will also be perfect in Dyersville, Iowa for the Field of Dreams Game. Now we just have to wonder if the juiced balls return.
Marlins at Phillies (-145, 8): Some small interest in the Marlins has crept into the market with Edward Cabrera vs. Kyle Gibson. Keep in mind that day games feature early lineups, which allows the modeling crowd to tinker knowing who is in and who is out. JT Realmuto is not in the lineup for Philadelphia.
Cubs at Reds (-110, 9): We’re seeing pretty hefty over juice on this one, as everybody remembers last year’s game that featured a lot of offense. The weather conditions were a lot different last season, as it was hotter and more humid. Drew Smyly and Nick Lodolo are the slated starters here and we haven’t seen much side movement, but the total is up to 9.5 at some shops.
Guardians (-140, 8.5) at Tigers: Detroit is taking money this morning for this one, as Josh Naylor is one of three regulars out of the Cleveland lineup. I think this is more of a fade of Zach Plesac than anything else, along with the fact that Emmanuel Clase has pitched four of the last five days and would seem to be unavailable today.
Rangers at Astros (-260, 8): So, underdogs are almost blindly taking money right now. The modeling/quant crowd must feel like all favorites, especially those playing for something, are overpriced at this point. The Rangers are another one taking money. I can’t adopt that strategy, but those that set their own lines can and seem to be doing just that.
What I’ll Be Watching
JT Brubaker: I wanted my Guardians to target Brubaker at the Trade Deadline as a guy that looks like he just needs to get out of Pittsburgh. The Pirates are improving with their pitcher development, but bad luck has been following Brubaker around this season. His Hard Hit% is not bad at all at 38.7%, but he has yielded a .344 BABIP on the season. His 69.4% LOB% in concert with the high BABIP is why he has a 4.49 ERA, despite a 3.78 FIP.
Over his last 10 starts, Brubaker has a 4.29 ERA with a 3.03 FIP. A .392 BABIP has wreaked havoc on that stretch with a Hard Hit% of 41.4%. That’s a little high, but not .392 high. He’s only allowed three homers and struck out over a batter per inning in that stretch. If he had been traded like Quintana, we’d probably see an uptick in his performance. Instead, we’ll have to see if it’s more of the same. That being said, Brubaker has allowed 27 hard-hit balls in 52 batted ball events since the All-Star Break.
German Marquez: Marquez has a 3.92 ERA over his last 11 starts, a stark contrast to the 5.19 ERA he has for the season. He’s got the same home/road splits that we’re used to seeing, as Coors Field is just a brutal pitching environment for just about everybody. Over the last 11 starts, Marquez has faced the Dodgers three times and they account for 13 of the 29 earned runs that he has allowed. He’s actually only made three starts against teams outside the AL West and has fared well in all three of them.
The Cardinals are in the top five in contact quality since the All-Star Break, so shedding some of the dead weight and bringing up prospects has been good for them. Marquez does have a 6.11 ERA at home and a .376 wOBA against, so I’m not sure he’ll fare well in this start, but he’s been a much better pitcher since the start of July after a horrible beginning to the season.
Thursday 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.
Orioles (%plussign% 110) over Red Sox: Orioles as a dog? Check. Orioles with a big bullpen advantage? Check. Orioles with said pen advantage after an off day? Check. Orioles with said pen advantage and a neutral or better starting pitcher matchup? Check.
I’ll take Baltimore tonight. Dean Kremer gets pushed back a day because of the rain, so he’ll face the Red Sox now instead of the Blue Jays. There is some context to apply here with Rafael Devers having spent some time on the IL, but the Red Sox are 20th in wOBA at .303 since the All-Star Break. They have the second-highest K% in that span at 26.3%. Meanwhile, Baltimore is a top-10 offense and only getting better.
The Red Sox have also played atrocious defense in that span and send out Josh Winckowski tonight, who only has 32 strikeouts in 50 innings of work. Winckowski has a 45.2% Hard Hit% and has allowed 17 barrels in 10 starts. That’s not great for a guy who generally pitches to ground ball contact, but he certainly makes mistakes up in the zone and gets punished for them. He allowed one homer in his first five starts, but has allowed seven in his last five.
Kremer has allowed a .272 wOBA the first time through the order, a .315 the second time through and a .458 in 44 plate appearances the third time through. With a rested bullpen, Brandon Hyde should be aggressive in getting him out of the game before it has a chance to go awry. On the flip side, Winckowski has allowed a .321 wOBA the first time through and a .402 wOBA the second time through with a .575 SLG against.
In other words, the Orioles should be able to play from in front, where their big bullpen advantage plays up. In the second half, the Orioles have a 3.63 ERA with a 4.18 FIP, while the Red Sox have a 6.42 ERA with a 4.52 FIP. Furthermore, Red Sox relievers threw 198 pitches over the last two days against the Braves.
I’ll take the Orioles at plus money.
Field of Dreams Game
Wanted to scribble a few thoughts on the Field of Dreams Game. The first is that I wanted to take the Reds 1st 5, as I’m a believer in what Nick Lodolo has been doing. Since his recall on July 5, he has a 3.81 ERA with a 4.43 FIP. He had a hiccup last time out against the Brewers with four walks and that’s what kept me away. Lodolo walked a lot of guys when he broke camp with the team, but had cut that back a bit. Now he’s pitching on an unfamiliar mound in an unfamiliar setting and that concerns me.
Drew Smyly came back on July 10 and has allowed 13 runs in 23 innings since his return, but he has faced the Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Giants and Marlins. He pitched for the Giants, so they had good reports on him and he struggled in that start. Neither bullpen is super trustworthy. Still, the move on the over seems a little presumptuous after how we saw the ball carrying last year in this game. We also had two teams that made a lot of hard contact in the Yankees and White Sox. We don’t this season.
I’ve got the slightest of leans to the under, but no play for me.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.