No day baseball on Wednesday, which is a bit of a surprise, but we’ve got 15 games to consider for the September 16 slate. The playoff races in the American League are pretty interesting, which is good because there’s not a whole lot to pay attention to in the National League. Two of the biggest games with AL playoff implications were previewed this morning here at BangTheBook by yours truly, so those previews and additional analysis on the betting card is about to come your way right now.
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Boston at Baltimore (-125); Total: 8.5
Oddsmakers seem a little bit uncertain on how to price this AL East matchup. The Red Sox are sending Henry Owens to the mound and the Orioles are responding with Mike Wright, who is a well below average starter that doesn’t have the upside of Owens. Owens has made seven starts covering 36 innings in his MLB career thus far and hasn’t found a whole lot of success with a 5.25 ERA, a 5.12 FIP, and a 5.24 xFIP. Take a deeper look, however. Owens has allowed seven runs in a start on two different occasions. In his other five starts, he has allowed just nine runs.
Small sample sizes often get skewed with these bad starts. Owens turned 23 a couple months ago, so he’s still learning how to pitch, but he has very high marks from scouts about his future potential. Sometimes we’ve seen it and other times we haven’t. The one thing to notice about those two seven-run outings for Owens is that he had no command in those starts. Five of the six home runs he has allowed this season came in those two starts.
The Orioles have good power, so Owens will need to be sharp to avoid the long ball in this one. I have higher hopes for Owens than I do for Mike Wright. Wright, a 25-year-old non-prospect, managed to put it together for 81 innings in Triple-A and posted a 2.22 ERA with a 3.28 FIP. As a big leaguer, over 39.2 innings, he has a 5.45/5.62/5.32 pitcher slash. After he started his MLB career with 14.1 scoreless innings, he has allowed 24 runs over his last six starts, with no fewer than three. None of those six starts have been at least six innings.
As I’ve mentioned before, both on my MLB podcast The Bettor’s Box and in these articles, I like the Red Sox offense. They have come back to earth as Jackie Bradley Jr. cooled off because they aren’t getting the same type of production throughout the lineup, but there’s a ton of talent in this Boston offense. The Red Sox are 26-29 in the second half, but they are +22 in run differential. I’m all about backing the Red Sox at good prices and this is a good price.
Kansas City at Cleveland (-130); Total: 7.5
I have no idea what is going on with this line move. The Royals and Dan Duffy have come down about 10 cents overnight and throughout the morning against Dan Salazar and the Indians. The narrative about the Indians against lefties was squashed a long time ago and Salazar is one of the most impressive young arms in the league. Duffy is not.
One concern about Duffy is that his starts put a lot of pressure on the bullpen and the Royals bullpen has had some big issues lately. Kelvin Herrera has not been sharp. Greg Holland is suffering a major loss of velocity. Duffy has made 23 starts and has worked 126 innings. He’s not particularly efficient, doesn’t miss a whole lot of bats, and has suspect control. By being a fly ball pitcher that mixes his pitches relatively well, he’s been able to avoid getting blown up in his start, but teams just chip away for three or four runs off of him.
That’s not the case with Salazar at all. Salazar’s start against Detroit over the weekend wasn’t particularly impressive from a stat standpoint, but I loved it as an Indians fan. Why? Because he didn’t have his best stuff and had to battle. Salazar, who has 176 strikeouts in 161.1 innings of work, only had three strikeouts over 6.1 innings. He stranded runners, mixed pitches, changed speeds, and was able to keep his team in the game. Pitchers need starts like that to mature.
Against the Royals, it’d be a surprise if Salazar racked up strikeouts, so the lessons he learned from that last start may be vital in this one. He’s added a show-me curveball that flashes enough potential to take hitters off of his other pitches and that has made a big difference this season.
The line movement on this game makes no sense to me. The Royals still have all kinds of issues. Some batted ball luck and some more intelligent managing and the Indians probably win that game on Tuesday night. The Royals did nothing against Josh Tomlin after doing nothing against Carlos Carrasco. This is not a great offense right now and they’ll need to score for Duffy.
Chicago (NL) (-140) at Pittsburgh; Total: 7
For an in-depth preview on this matchup, head on over to this link.
New York (AL) at Tampa Bay (-130); Total: 7
Luis Severino vs. Chris Archer. That’s a great matchup. For more, here’s an in-depth preview of the game.
Houston (-145) at Texas; Total: 8.5
Can Dallas Keuchel stop the bleeding for Houston? First place is on the line in this one. Here’s a more detailed look at the matchup.
Detroit at Minnesota (-145); Total: 8.5
Another day with no market support for Servin’ Ervin Santana. The Tigers are countering with Daniel Norris in his first start back off of the disabled list. Norris has iffy mechanics and shaky control, so it’s rather absurd to expect him to be sharp. Norris was on the DL with an oblique injury and he’s taking the place of Anibal Sanchez, who was supposed to return from the DL after a shoulder injury.
Norris hasn’t thrown in a game since August 19, so we’re looking at a pitch count situation and the Tigers bullpen is bad. It may not matter because Norris still has to navigate through the Twins before turning it over to the pen. The Twins are in the top half of the league in wOBA against lefties and rate just a tick below league average in wRC+. Their offense looks a lot different in the second half with Miguel Sano swatting bombs.
There’s not very much to like about Norris this season. His 2/1 K/BB rate isn’t inspiring and he went from Toronto, with good pitch framing catchers to Detroit with very bad pitch framers. He’s not going to get a lot of help here.
As far as Santana goes, it hasn’t been a great season. He signed with the Twins and was suspended for the first half of the season for using a banned substance. Santana has allowed just three runs over his last 22 innings with a 27/4 K/BB ratio. It’s tough to tell what Santana will do from start to start because consistency hasn’t really been his thing, but it is a lost season overall because he went through Spring Training and then didn’t do anything for several months.
The Tigers don’t strike me as a team ready to bail Norris out if he gets rocked. I’ll take the Twins and I’d honestly consider the run line in this game.
Los Angeles (AL) at Seattle (-145); Total: 7
I’ve found some decent times lately to use spot plays on Jered Weaver. Weaver’s declining skill set makes it very hard to know what to expect from him on a regular basis. We got a great underdog winner last week against Houston. This spot I’m not very comfortable with. Seattle is a pretty good park for a fly ball guy like Weaver. The Mariners lineup is probably a better matchup than Houston’s, but the Mariners have seen Weaver just once this season and it was on Opening Day.
In looking at this matchup, it’s worth pointing out how hard the Mariners are playing. They lost with King Felix on the hill on Tuesday, but they are 9-5 in September and are a tick above .500 since the All-Star Break. I’ve speculated that they’re battling in honor of Lloyd McClendon, who will be reevaluated after the season with a new GM in the mix.
Speaking of guys with reasons to play hard, Hisashi Iwakuma has three or four more starts before he hits free agency. It would be a surprise to see him leave Seattle, if the Mariners pony up the money, but Kuma has had a tough season. An injury earlier this year has limited him to 16 starts. The command problems that have driven up his home run rate were injury-relayed. Kuma gave up five home runs in three starts before hitting the DL and then gave up four more in his first start back. Since then, he has allowed just seven over his last 12 starts.
I’m not sure where to go with this game. I’d say that it’s a pass. If this total was 7.5, I’d look to the under. If I had to take a side, I’d likely go with Anaheim, just because that’s definitely some line value on the better overall team.