MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Minnesota Twins

Date/Time: September 17, 8:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.21) vs. Tommy Milone (8-5, 3.73)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Minnesota -115

Total: 7.5

AL Wild Card contenders clash on Thursday night as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Minnesota Twins open up a four-game series at Target Field. Hector Santiago will take the mound for the Angels against fellow lefty Tommy Milone for the Twins. It’s safe to say that nobody expected this series to have playoff implications this season, but the Twins have been a surprise team and the Angels have really underachieved in a big way. The Twins are a slight home favorite in one of three games with huge playoff implications in the American League on Thursday.

The Twins enter play on Thursday trailing the Houston Astros by 1.5 games in the race for the second wild card spot. The Yankees are five up on the Twins and seem to be safely locked into hosting that one-game playoff for the right to face the top team in the AL in the Division Series. The Angels are 3.5 out, but it feels like a lot more than that. Perhaps it’s the perception of the Angels entering the season, but they haven’t strung together enough consistent play to truly feel like they are part of the race. The Angels are just 27-42 against teams with winning records, but the Twins aren’t much better at 29-38. Somebody will have to win this one.

As a general rule, home/road splits for pitchers are overblown. The sample sizes aren’t overly significant and one or two bad starts can really skew the numbers. In the case of Hector Santiago, however, they are very important. Santiago is a very extreme fly ball pitcher and there are a lot of advantages to pitching in Anaheim, with the marine air and the cooler conditions that don’t allow the ball to carry as well as it does in other parks. At home, Santiago boasts a 2.53 ERA with a .199/.292/.337 slash against. On the road, the numbers balloon to 4.09, .247/.311/.461.

Santiago was a regression candidate after his sparkling first half. He had a 2.33 ERA, but also had a 3.98 FIP and a 4.51 xFIP. An ERA-xFIP discrepancy that big tends to see regression and rather significant regression in most instances. For Santiago, his did, in fact, show up. He has a 4.89 ERA in the second half with a 5.53 FIP and a 5.50 xFIP. A major increase in both walks and home runs is all it takes. His strand rate is still 82.7 percent, which is why he has a 3.21 ERA, but that number has been normalizing as well.

Another area of concern for Santiago in this start is run support. The Angels get lefty Tommy Milone and they have steadily dropped down the rankings in terms of offensive production against lefties. The Angels are now 28th in wOBA against lefties in 2015. Milone is basically a standard-issue, innings-eating lefty with his 3.73 ERA, 4.36 FIP, and 4.16 xFIP. He’s been serviceable for the Twins and the hope would be that that’s all they need from him in this start.

Milone doesn’t have any stats that really jump off the page. He was blasted last time out against Chicago, so that’s worth watching, but the White Sox were seeing him for the second time in 10 days and his arsenal isn’t deep enough to make big adjustments. The Angels haven’t seen him yet this season. The Angels are just 19-32 in their last 51 games, so this is definitely the right time for a guy like Milone to catch the Angels. They are 21-18 against left-handed starters this season, but their offensive performance against them is an example of why stats like that are overrated.

MLB Free Pick: Minnesota Twins

The Twins continue to be a surprise contender for the wild card and they’re catching Anaheim at a great time. The Angels and their problems with lefties have to be considered here in this start, as well as the fact that the Twins likely have a better bullpen than the Angels.