Mondays after football weekends always seem a little bit tougher, don’t they? There are two Monday Night Football games tonight, but there are also 12 MLB games to discuss. The lines seem a little bit more manageable on Monday, considering most of the last couple of weeks has been full of heavy chalk. Clayton Kershaw is a -350 favorite against the Colorado Rockies, but the other lines are all pretty reasonable. With that, let’s break down the Monday card and see what we can find to make money on.
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This line certainly interests me because the Nationals are not a team I’d want to back at that price right now. They got a good performance from Max Scherzer against Miami on Sunday, but the Nationals were hardly interested in playing that series. They only scored eight runs in three games. The playoffs are a pipe dream at this point and Bryce Harper’s banged up. He’s been their everything.
The Phillies are back to struggling, just 11-20 in their last 31 games, but they’re still playing hard and that’s what counts in this one. With Ruben Amaro Jr. fired last week, the time for changes is here and that will cause a young team to push a little bit harder since everybody is under evaluation. One of those players under the microscope is Aaron Nola. With Cole Hamels gone, the Phillies need some youth to emerge and Nola is the best candidate. He’s been very good over his first 10 starts with average K/BB rates and a 3.56/4.02/3.88 pitcher slash. His home run rate is a tad high, which explains the FIP, but that’s a sample size issue more than anything else.
Zimmermann is an impending free agent, but nothing he does over his last three or four starts will impact the money he’s going to be offered. He is what he is and that’s a solid pitcher with excellent control and above average command. He’s also a quality innings eater. He’ll get probably $20M per season or more. The reason to gamble on the Phillies in this game is because the Nationals probably won’t give Zimmermann much run support. They’re not all that engaged in games right now and playing the lowly Phillies isn’t going to do much for the competitive nature of the team.
Give the Phillies a shot at this price. Nola can hold his own against the lineup and the Phillies are still scratching and clawing offensively. They’re only 4-8 in September, but they have scored 4.4 runs per game. Score four today and I think you’ve got a winner.
We’ve seen a pretty significant overnight line move in the game between the Red Sox and Orioles. Kevin Gausman is up to a -130 favorite for the O’s against Eduardo Rodriguez. Baltimore is on the periphery of the playoff race right now, well off the pace for the wild card, but a big victory on Sunday night over the Royals could lead to a spark. That seems to be what bettors are banking on.
One wrinkle about this game is that Eduardo Rodriguez is likely to be limited. The Red Sox are worried about his innings, since he set a new career high two starts ago. The market seems to have soured on Rodriguez, even though he’s really only had four bad starts sprinkled among a lot of good outings. He’s given up six or more runs four times in his 18 starts, but he has allowed two runs or less in 12 of his 18 starts. The Orioles are playing pretty well, but the Red Sox have a strong offense and Rodriguez has been pretty good for the most part. The workload issue is a minor concern, since he has thrown well in four straight outings.
Kevin Gausman has been so inconsistent this season, but inconsistency has been the theme of his season. Gausman was shuttled back and forth between the minors and the bullpen. He’s been a fixture at the big league level since the All-Star Break and has thrown some quality starts, but most of them are the bare minimum requirements for a quality start. The best thing about Gausman is that he hasn’t had many blow-up starts that give his team no chance.
In this one, I’m going to stay away because of the line movement, but if this number goes any higher, Boston is the play. They’ve got a really solid offense that had a lot of bad sequencing luck earlier in the season when they were among the league leaders in men left on base. They were getting chances, but weren’t cashing in. I like Boston the rest of the way and lean to them in this matchup.
The Rays draw another left-hander in CC Sabathia on Monday night. It seems like the Rays have been facing lefties every other day over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, they’re on the outskirts of the playoff race right now. The Yankees just had a rough series against the Blue Jays, so motivation is a little bit of an issue in this game for both teams. The Yankees don’t have a great shot at the division right now and are just trying to navigate through the Mark Teixeira injury.
Sabathia has had some major command problems throughout the season and he isn’t even really supposed to be pitching on his bum knee. He missed time from August 23 to September 9 and gave the Yankees 4.2 decent innings last time out. This line is really surprising because the Rays hit left-handed pitching so well and Sabathia is below average at this point. Righties are batting .314/.370/.520 against him this season and the Rays have so much success against lefties because of their platoon advantages.
Erasmo Ramirez isn’t going to win any awards or anything, but he’s flashed some of his potential this season. The 25-year-old has a 3.96/4.02/4.02 pitcher slash on the season with average rate stats across the board. His BABIP is a little bit low and his strand rate is a little bit low, so those two sort of cancel out in a sabermetric sense. The low BABIP is a bit of a surprise given his ground ball rate, so perhaps there’s some regression left in that statistic. That’s a concern for me here. I think it’s enough to keep me off of the Rays. I do, however, think that some runs could be possible in this game, so the over could be worth a shot.
There should be a playoff-like atmosphere in Texas tonight when the Astros and Rangers meet in the first of four with huge AL West and AL Wild Card implications. Fortunately, the pitching matchup should live up to the billing as Scott Kazmir takes on Cole Hamels. The transition from pitcher-friendly Oakland to hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park had elevated Kazmir’s numbers, as you would expect, but the strikeouts are returning and he’s outpitching his advanced metrics just like he was in Oakland. He has a 3.13/4.24/4.32 pitcher slash with Houston in nine starts after a 2.38/3.17/3.65 with Oakland over 18 starts.
The Rangers struggle with lefties and Kazmir is a good one. One area of concern is that Kazmir seems to be working up in the zone more with Houston and fly balls are not a good thing in Arlington. This should be a good matchup for Kazmir, but he’s not instilling much confidence that he can go out and be dominant right now. With Hamels on the other side, who has dominant potential, Kazmir needs to be good.
Hamels has seen a drop in his strikeouts, which should come as no surprise in the American League, and a groin issue has kept him from being as sharp as usual. This is the kind of start he was acquired for and I can’t help but think that the Rangers are going to get the Hamels that they expect in this start. The southpaw has pitched in these pressure games before and the depth of his arsenal should be an advantage against the aggressive Astros.
I’m looking for a very low-scoring game here with a Rangers win.
I’m surprised to see the line move in this game. Why? Tune in to today’s edition of The Bettor’s Box for my pick on this matchup.