It’s Tuesday, which means that it’s one of the two days without football this week. That means tonight is all about Major League Baseball and all 30 teams are in action for the final Tuesday night of the regular season. Everybody plays at night as well, so there’s plenty of time to break down the matchups and get your research in order. There’s plenty to get to for tonight, so let’s take a look at the card.
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St. Louis at Pittsburgh (-110); Total: 7.5
As Monday’s podcast free pick, the Pirates stranded approximately 47 runners in a 3-0 loss to the Cardinals. The only thing that people will remember about that game is the terrifying collision between Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos. Piscotty is okay and that should be a huge weight off of the team after such a frightening scene.
Tuesday night brings Michael Wacha to the hill against Charlie Morton. Wacha Flocka Flame will make his 30th start of the season and, in all likelihood, cross the 180-inning plateau. His previous high in innings pitched is 149.2 during the 2013 season and only 64.2 of those frames came at the big league level. Is Wacha’s September performance mostly variance or is there something more to it? He has a 6.75 ERA with an ugly .269/.387/.519 slash line against. The number that jumps out to me is the K/BB ratio of 15/14. That’s definitely unlike Wacha, who never walked more than 11 in a month this season.
Wacha’s velocity readings are fine, but his release points were a little erratic, but previous starts have a similar chart of release points. After having a start skipped in early September, Wacha has walked three or more in all four starts and his last start was his first one without allowing a home run. It’s tough to tell if this is variance, a sign of an underlying injury, or a workload issue. Whatever the case, Wacha has not been sharp lately.
Charlie Morton hasn’t found the same success this year as he has in past seasons with the Pirates. He has a 4.54/4.16/3.82 pitcher slash, due mostly to some sequencing issues and a drop in command. His home run rate has nearly doubled from his 2013-14 performance and that has hurt his ability to strand runners. Morton’s strikeout rate has also declined. He’s had a couple of bad starts in a row, though one was in Colorado, so that deserves a pass. He’s BABIP-dependent and that makes him a tough bet on a start-to-start basis. The Cardinals have a lot of left-handed hitters and lefties are batting .290/.378/.486 off of him this season.
I’d look to the over in this game. It has the potential to be a frustrating bet because the Cardinals may hit everything at everybody and Wacha may show up and pitch well. But, given the recent performance of both pitchers, this could be a little bit more high scoring than last night’s matchup.
Toronto (-150) at Baltimore; Total: 8.5
Lay the price with the Blue Jays tonight. Marcus Stroman does not look like a guy that missed the first five months of the season. He’s got a live arm and the fact that he’s so fresh at this time of the season should make AL teams very worried entering the playoffs. His strikeout stuff hasn’t returned yet, but the two-seamer has been very effective and he’s inducing a lot of weak contact.
Miguel Gonzalez is making his first start off of the disabled list for a shoulder injury. He’ll be on a pitch count and probably won’t be very effective against the Blue Jays lineup. Expect his command to be a bit rusty and expect the Blue Jays to take full advantage.
Minnesota at Cleveland (-125); Total: 8
The Indians didn’t get many good swings off of Tommy Milone on Monday night, even though they adjusted their lineup to have their regular complement of platoon bats. Francisco Lindor’s home run and Jason Kipnis’s triple were the only offense that they could muster. With a dreary, rainy day expected in Cleveland tonight, it’s hard to see the Indians excited for this matchup. The Twins, meanwhile, have everything to play for.
Kyle Gibson was blasted by the Indians last week, which is likely the reason why we’re seeing this line move. Cody Anderson scattered 10 hits over his 6.2 innings and the Twins couldn’t get any big hits. All in all, these pitchers are pretty similar, though Gibson has shown a little bit more of a swing-and-miss rate this season than he has in past seasons. Perhaps the same is coming for Anderson down the road.
I don’t know what to do with this game. I’m wary of backing Gibson again, but I also know that Anderson is so BABIP-dependent that it’s scary to back him. This is probably a stay away game, though, as mentioned, the Twins have a lot to play for and the Indians know that they are not making the postseason.
Over. Take the over. Matt Moore and Adam Conley are both in tough spots here. Moore has thrown the ball well over his last two starts, but the Marlins and Rays both have good lineups against left-handed pitching. Even without Giancarlo Stanton most of the season, Miami is ninth in wOBA against lefties and third among NL teams. The Rays are seventh in wOBA and fifth among AL teams (is it a coincidence that three of the top five in wOBA against LHP are in the AL East?).
Tropicana Field usually suppresses runs and these two teams are playing out the string, but both offenses have excelled against southpaws on the season.
Chicago (NL) (-135) at Cincinnati; Total: 8.5
Grab this one before the line gets away and take the Cubs. Is there a more lifeless team in the bigs right now than the Cincinnati Reds? I can’t find one. Even against Dan Haren, the Reds are on auto-fade. The Reds have lost nine straight. They’ve scored four runs over their last three games and flirted with getting no-hit by Max Scherzer on Monday. They’ve scored 21 runs over the last nine games. They’re going to avoid 100 losses no matter what (which is sometimes a point of pride for a team), so they have literally nothing to play for.
Kansas City (-135) at Chicago (AL); Total: 7.5
The Royals have a lot of incentive to play well in this game because they need to get Johnny Cueto on the right track before he starts Game 1 of the ALDS against the winner of the AL West. The Royals trail the Blue Jays by a game for home field throughout the AL playoffs and I don’t believe that they will overtake them.
Cueto has not been good since he joined the Royals and he doesn’t seem to know how to figure it out. That’s the worst part of it for me. It’s like he hasn’t experienced adversity in the past and he’s doing quirky things in his windup and none of it is really helping. The Royals haven’t been able to develop much pitching during Ned Yost’s tenure, so I have no confidence in the coaching staff to figure it out. This is all on Cueto. Cueto is 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA, a 3.94 FIP, and a 4.04 xFIP. Even with a league change, these numbers are way off of what we expected from Cueto. His command has been non-existent. Some sequencing things have made matters worse, but his command is so much worse than anybody could have anticipated.
On the other side, there’s Jeff Samardzija, who has had a miserable season for the White Sox as he approaches free agency. He put it all together last start against a Tigers team that had no interest in playing a day/night doubleheader, but beyond that, he’s been awful. Prior to that CGSHO, he had allowed four or more runs in all but one of his second half starts. The strikeout rate has dropped off in a big way and several of his pitches rate below average this season.
I think you look for runs in this matchup. Cueto may show up and shine, but his command profile over the last few weeks inspires zero confidence. Samardzija isn’t missing bats and the White Sox don’t swing and miss much anyway.
Boston at New York (AL)
Washington at Atlanta
Detroit at Texas
Oakland at Los Angeles (AL)
Milwaukee at San Diego
Houston at Seattle
Los Angeles (NL) at San Francisco