Major League Baseball is back in the spotlight as baseball fans enjoy one of the two days of the week without football now that the college and NFL seasons are both underway. Tuesdays and Wednesdays still belong to MLB, at least until MACtion and Fun Belt college football begins on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s a busy slate of games on Tuesday night, including some important matchups with playoff implications in the American League and some jockeying for position in the National League. The following is a breakdown of some of the most compelling games of the day.
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Baltimore at Washington (-125); Total: 8
This is a repost of yesterday’s write-up on this game, which was rained out. The odds have been adjusted to reflect Tuesday’s line.
The Orioles and Nationals are still playing hard, even though neither of them will make the playoffs. The Orioles are a dog here with Ubaldo Jimenez on the hill against Gio Gonzalez. Speaking of bad second halves, Ubaldo Jimenez fits the bill. After posting a 2.81 ERA with respectable peripherals and almost a strikeout per inning in the first half, he has a 6.58 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 65.2 innings of work in the second half. All of his numbers are way up across the board. Jimenez was due some regression with a 3.28 first half FIP and a 3.39 xFIP, but he’s gone above and beyond his 5.25/4.40 second half marks.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see a lot of room for improvement. His strand rate is unusually low at 63 percent, especially for a guy that has generally done a good job with runners on base. But, his mechanics are always inconsistent and the Nationals are swinging the bats pretty well as a team right now.
Gio Gonzalez doesn’t get enough appreciation for just how consistent he is. An unsightly .341 BABIP has led to an increased ERA, but Gonzalez’s 3.60 xFIP is basically right in line with his career numbers. For the third straight season, Gonzalez is worth exactly 3.2 fWAR and he produced 3.1 fWAR in 2010 and 2011 with the Athletics. There’s something to be said about consistency like that. He’s been limited a little bit by some nagging shoulder trouble over the last two seasons, but he’s really good at his craft.
I like the Nationals here and this price has gotten more exciting. Jimenez is not pitching well and Gonzalez is. It’s basically that simple. The Orioles lose a hitter because they’re playing in a National League park and that is usually something that bothers AL teams that are constructed like the Orioles.
New York (AL) at Toronto (-135); Total: 8.5
For an in-depth look at this matchup, please check out my game preview.
Chicago (AL) (-115) at Detroit; Total: 8.5
It’s official. The Tigers don’t give a [feces] anymore. Jeff Samardzija, who couldn’t get out a lineup from a School for the Blind, threw a one-hit Maddux in the first game on Monday. The Tigers, who should have been upset about how that game went, scored two runs off of Erik Johnson and the White Sox bullpen in the nightcap. It would be very surprising to see the Tigers do damage against Jose Quintana on Tuesday night.
Like Gio Gonzalez, Jose Quintana doesn’t get nearly enough respect for just how solid he is. With at least two starts left, he should post his third straight 200-inning season with quality run prevention numbers. Quintana has been victimized by high BABIPs in each of the last two seasons, but he perseveres and still posts good stats. He has a 3.45 ERA this season with a 3.15 FIP and a 3.54 xFIP. He oozes pitchability and has gotten his strand rate back to its normal level. He has the best walk rate of his career this season and it’s easy to forget that he’s only 26 years old. He’s in his prime now and should have another strong season next year.
Daniel Norris will be on a pitch count once again, which means more of the god awful Tigers bullpen. Norris threw 47 pitches in his first start back off the DL last week against the Twins and will probably be held to around 60 pitches in this start. Without the minor league seasons to give guys rehab outings, teams have to be very careful at the Major League level. Norris has a lot of promise, but he still has erratic control and subpar command. The silver lining for him in this start is that the White Sox are atrocious against lefties, but Norris won’t be in the game more than maybe four or five innings at best.
The White Sox are an easy play here. The Tigers don’t care. They’ve checked out on Brad Ausmus. The White Sox have drowned out Robin Ventura as well, but they have a little bit more pride than Detroit does.
Los Angeles (AL) at Houston (-165); Total: 8.5
Analysis for this AL West showdown can be found in my game preview.
Seattle (-115) at Kansas City; Total: 8
How horrible is Jeremy Guthrie? Bad enough for the Seattle Mariners to be favored over the Kansas City Royals. Guthrie is back in the rotation as Danny Duffy returns to the bullpen. It’s really a no-win situation all the way around for the Royals, since both guys are pretty bad. Hisashi Iwakuma is on the hill for the Mariners in this one.
It will be interesting to see how Kuma finishes up the season. It’s been a really tough year for the 34-year-old, who will hit Major League free agency for the first time. He has a 3.90 ERA with a 4.07 FIP and a 3.39 xFIP on the season, as a major spike in home runs due to injuries has hurt his bottom line. Since returning from the DL on July 6, Iwakuma has been solid for the most part. He gave up five runs and four home runs in his first start back and has a couple of clunkers, but he has allowed three runs or less in 12 of his 14 starts since that two-and-a-half month DL stint. The Royals don’t see much of Iwakuma and he’s got a lot of deception and a lot of stuff with movement, so this may not be a bad matchup against an aggressive lineup.
To put it nicely, Jeremy Guthrie blows. He has a 5.55 ERA with a 5.38 FIP and a 5.17 xFIP with the league’s best defense behind him. Most of his rate stats are the worst of his career. He’s also been below replacement-level all season. The Royals aren’t really asking for much from him and it’s amazing that he’s thrown 200 innings of terrible baseball several times in the past. The Royals are obviously a much better team than the Mariners, but this is how bad Guthrie is.
Take the Mariners. If Guthrie burns you, like he probably will, direct all hate mail to Kauffman Stadium.
Cleveland (-120) at Minnesota; Total: 8
What happens when two teams in must-win situations meet? Well, one of them wins, one of them loses and (spoiler alert) neither of them makes the playoffs. The Indians will valiantly try with Danny Salazar on the mound against Ervin Santana. As an Indians fan, I’ve loved the last two starts from Danny Salazar. He didn’t have his best stuff on September 10 against Detroit, but showed his maturity and fought his way through 6.1 innings. He was strong last week against Kansas City with seven innings of one-run ball. Danny Salazar is a dark horse for the Cy Young Award next season as he continues to refine his stuff and learn how to get hitters out. His split-change is among the best changeups in the league.
Ervin Santana had a throwaway season after a suspension cost him the entire first half and it took him some time to get back into rhythm. He has fired four straight quality starts with 32 strikeouts in 29 innings of work. That kind of strikeout rate isn’t sustainable for Santana, but he’s got a live arm at this time of the season and a lot of other pitchers don’t. He’s only thrown 87 innings this season. This is a tricky start for both pitchers. The Twins have more power than the Indians and the one blemish with Salazar is that he gives up home runs. Santana also has that home run problem, but the Indians have a lot less power.
I’d probably lean towards the Twins in this one. Minnesota always gives the Indians problems and the Indians bullpen has been pretty rough outside of Cody Allen lately.
Texas (-120) at Oakland; Total: 8
Bet the under. Martin Perez throws left-handed. So does Sean Nolin and he is an extreme fly ball guy. There doesn’t need to be a ton of in-depth insight or analysis here. Neither of these teams have much success with lefties and Oakland is a great park when you have a fly ball split. Perez is more of a ground ball guy, but the A’s are beyond the point of caring about this season.