Football returns tonight, but there are only two games, so it’s another night for following the action in Major League Baseball. Four day games, all starting at 3:10 p.m. ET or later, are on tap, along with eight games under the lights. Every game is previewed at BangTheBook, but my article will go more in-depth so you can break down the game from an advanced point of view. We’ve been in a tough month for betting baseball with a lot of variables, ranging from minor league call-ups to teams that aren’t giving consistent efforts. Just know that my research and concentration have not wavered at all and I promise to keep doing my absolute best in breaking down the card.

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Pittsburgh (-130) at Colorado; Total: 11

I’m really interested to see what happens in the betting market with this game and what happens in this game. The Pirates clinched a playoff spot yesterday and have a big series coming up with the Chicago Cubs. They have every reason to have a letdown, including the fact that Jeff Locke is pitching. On the other hand, Clint Hurdle has a lot of high-character guys on his team and the Rockies are absolutely abysmal against lefties. The Pirates are also still playing for the NL Central crown and that should be a good motivation.

This is part of what I mean about September. There are so many more psychological and philosophical angles to consider than usual. It’s not enough to simply examine Pitcher X vs. Team Y and factor in all of those things. Also, with sample sizes, what you see is what you get for this season from a lot of guys. These aren’t excuses. These are facts. It’s tough to adapt to September baseball, no matter how long you’ve been handicapping. This isn’t the only game that sets up like this. There are others on the card. But, this one has the most examples.

Chad Bettis is a guy that I like at the back end of Colorado’s rotation for the future. He has some upside and some attributes that can allow him to be a league average pitcher in this ballpark. He has a solid ground ball rate and a decent strikeout rate. It’s not the overpowering type of K rate you’d want from a guy in an environment like this, but he’s been pretty effective now that he’s back to being a full-time starter.

Jeff Locke is a guy that I don’t really like, but he might as well keep eating up innings for the Pirates. His ground ball split might be enough to allow him to pitch well in this park. I think I’d look at the under in this game. It’s a very early start time with one team hitting the road and the other looking forward to time with family or the offseason. The Rockies can’t hit lefties, which should help Locke, and the Pirates may be looking ahead to that series in the Windy City.

Chicago (AL) at New York (AL) (-125); Total: 7

Chris Sale vs. Michael Pineda wins the prize for best AL pitching matchup of the day. Patrick Corbin vs. Clayton Kershaw wins in the NL. I love Chris Sale as a pitcher. His stuff is unquestionably elite and he’s managed to stay healthy despite mechanics that give scouts hives. Sale has a 4.66 ERA with a .273/.326/.431 slash in the second half and the blame for that falls solely on Robin Ventura. Sale has thrown at least 100 pitches in 24 of his 29 starts. Yeah, he’s a workhorse, but some of these pitches have come the fourth time through the lineup in blowouts. Sale threw 116 pitches in a blowout loss to the Indians in his last start. He’s thrown at least 104 pitches in eight of his last nine starts.

Frankly, Ventura is destroying him. After Sale’s start tonight, Ventura will have three of the top eight starting pitchers in pitches thrown in all of baseball. Sale is undoubtedly a great pitcher, so the Yankees have their work cut out for them, but I have to wonder what New York’s emotional state is. They are basically locked into the wild card after losing their series against the Blue Jays. But, they still want home field for that game.

Michael Pineda has had a very strange season statistically. Pineda has a 4.10 ERA with a 3.31 FIP and a 2.97 xFIP. He has a tremendous K/BB ratio, but has shown below average command at times with a high home run rate and a high BABIP. The BABIP can also be contributed to a pretty poor Yankees defense in the first half of the season. Pineda missed time from July 24 to August 26 and has struggled in three of his five starts since his return. He pitched well last time out against the Mets on the road.

I have to look to the Yankees in this one. Sale is great, but expecting offense from the White Sox is a fool’s errand. Sale will be pushed beyond his limits and could run into trouble late in the game. Pineda should give the Yankees six quality innings and then turn it over to one of the best bullpens in baseball and a group that got the night off on Wednesday.

Tampa Bay at Boston (-120); Total: 8.5

The Tampa Bay Rays have had a lot of success against lefties and they get Wade Miley on Thursday night to wrap up this four-game set. Erasmo Ramirez will take the hill for the Rays. This is the fifth time that Miley will face the Rays and he actually hasn’t been that bad against them this season. Miley’s strikeout numbers have dropped a little bit in the AL, which is no surprise, but most of his numbers are in a similar ballpark to what they were with Arizona. He shows some platoon splits, but not as extreme as other lefties with similar profiles, so that’s why he’s been able to be worth almost three wins above replacement player this season per Fangraphs.

I’m still trying to figure out what Erasmo Ramirez is, even after 151 innings this season. He’s a finesse type of pitcher with a below average strikeout rate, but vastly improved command of both his fastball and changeup. His changeup is 11 runs above average this season, which is why he has been able to hold hitters to a low BABIP. Also, teams try to use platoon advantages whenever possible because they are proven to work, but Ramirez has big reverse splits. Lefties are batting .187/.254/.303 and righties are batting .283/.337/.434.  I don’t know if what he is doing is truly sustainable, but I’m not surprised that Kevin Cash and a progressive organization that has done a fine job developing pitchers has been able to get more out of Ramirez than the Mariners ever could.

The market seems to favor Tampa Bay in this start. I don’t know if I agree with that. Ramirez has been much worse outside of the pitcher-friendly conditions at the Trop and Fenway is definitely an unforgiving ballpark for pitch-to-contact guys. Miley’s in a similar boat, but the market is weighing pretty heavily on Tampa Bay’s platoon splits, but they’ve had four shots to hit Miley and haven’t done a whole lot thus far.

Cleveland at Minnesota (-130); Total: 8

Thoughts on this game were included in today’s edition of The Bettor’s Box.

Other Games

Arizona at Los Angeles (NL)

Texas at Oakland

Baltimore at Washington

Philadelphia at Miami

New York (NL) at Cincinnati

Milwaukee at St. Louis

San Francisco at San Diego