It’ll be a tough Monday for MLB bettors with several afternoon games thanks to the Labor Day holiday. With just one football game, albeit a big one, bettors will be looking for action throughout the day, so we could see a lot of public-driven line moves in the market. After a weekend with a lot of big favorites, there are some more reasonable numbers this Monday as division rivals kick off series. Let’s see what games provide the best betting options for September 7.
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Pittsburgh (-125) at Cincinnati; Total: 8
You heard me mention this game on last Thursday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box, so you should not be surprised to see it mentioned here. The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing one of those Circadian Rhythm games that I like to key in on. This one takes the degree of difficulty up a notch by being a 1:10 p.m. ET first pitch in Cincinnati. The Pirates are coming off of the late game against the St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. By the time that wraps up and the Pirates get settled in Cincinnati, they’ll have maybe six or seven hours before they need to be back at the ballpark.
It also helps that Jeff Locke is on the mound for the Pirates. Locke is failing the eye test as much as he’s failing the stats test of late. The Reds, for all of their issues, have hit lefties pretty well this season, even though Marlon Byrd is now with the San Francisco Giants. Frankly, I’m not even worried about the pitching matchup here. This one may lose, but this is an ideal Circadian Rhythm situational betting spot to take advantage of the weary Pirates with their worst starting pitcher on the mound. Take the Reds and don’t give it a second thought.
Drew Smyly faces his older team and Randy Wolf faces a lineup that destroys lefties. There are a lot of interesting storylines in this matchup. To me, the most interesting, and most relevant, is that the Tigers don’t really care very much at this point. They attacked Danny Salazar early in the count on Saturday and had a good day, but they struggled mightily with Josh Tomlin and Cody Anderson over the weekend. To me, that’s a team just looking to hit fastballs and simply caring only about a challenge. Salazar throws hard and has good stuff, so the competitive nature took over for the Tigers. With Smyly, outside of the fact that he’s a former teammate, nobody cares.
Add in the fact that Randy Wolf is on the mound and the Rays are a very attractive play, even laying money on the road. Entering play on Sunday, the Rays ranked fifth in wOBA against left-handed pitching and their 114 wRC+ was tied for third with the New York Yankees. This is a team that hits lefties extremely well and has the same SLG as the Yankees, who have a much friendlier home park.
With a day game on a holiday, the Tigers would rather be anywhere else than at the ballpark right now. Veteran teams that have experienced winning and are not good are great fade teams in September. Detroit fits that bill in a big way, both in this game and the rest of the way.
The Athletics pulled a switcheroo on me on Sunday and will trot out Felix Doubront on Monday against the Houston Astros. Mike Fiers will be on the hill for Houston. We’re seeing significant public money on Houston per the overnight lines and that will be the case throughout the morning hours on Monday as well. The Astros have everything to play for and the A’s have nothing to play for.
After getting blasted in his first AL start, Fiers has allowed two earned runs over his last four starts and there is a no-hitter included in there. Fiers got a couple extra days between starts after the no-hitter and will have a couple extra days between starts for this one. One thing we have seen with Fiers is that he’s finding out that an extra hitter in the lineup generally means more pitches and more patience. If Oakland is patient, they can have some success in this game. If they aren’t, Fiers can carve them up, especially in the pitcher-friendly, cavernous O.co Coliseum.
As far as Felix Doubront goes, he throws a lot of pitches and doesn’t work deep into games. The Astros are a swing-and-miss team, but they’re also a patient team, ranking third in BB% against LHP entering play on Sunday. This would seem to be a poor park for the Astros, given their reliance on the home run and Doubront’s lack of allowing them this season. Houston is a big favorite for a reason, but don’t be surprised if Doubront pitches better than you might expect. There’s a little bit of “erratic deception” in there that could force Houston to expand the zone. On the other hand, he walks a lot of batters. Houston should win, but it may not be the blowout you would expect.
The San Francisco Giants called a team meeting over the weekend. The message: “Play hard no matter what”. My response would be NSFW. The Giants are done and they are playing like a team that is done. There’s a good amount of veteran leadership on the team, but that can only go so far at this time of the season. Nagging injuries and DL stints have really derailed the Giants and they’re basically impossible to back at this point because you never know when they’ll step up and care.
That being said, Monday’s starter, Mike Leake, has something to play for. Leake is looking for an offseason payday. Leake has been limited to four starts with the Giants due to a hamstring injury, which is unfortunate for him because pitching well in a playoff chase would have enhanced his value. He’ll fall short of the 30-start mark this season, but he’s been pretty durable otherwise, so he’ll get one of those 3/36, 4/48 type contracts probably. But, he could use a strong start here against a very good offensive team.
The Diamondbacks are in a lull right now, where they are really struggling and their pitching has really fallen off. This will be a big start for Patrick Corbin, who wants to end the season strong. In 11 starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, Corbin’s racked up almost a strikeout per inning on the season. His command has been a bit spotty, as you would expect, but the stuff is more explosive. I like what’s happening with Corbin. His strand rate will regress but so will his home run rate. He also has one of the best defensive teams in baseball behind him.
Given the state of the Giants right now and the fact that the Diamondbacks have a goal of .500 in mind, they also have more motivation to go to the ballpark everyday. I’ll take the Diamondbacks in this one, but I’d also look at the under given the importance of the month of September for Mike Leake.
Today’s winner for most interesting line comes from the game between the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers are road chalk against a lefty, which is rather surprising, and the Mariners enter this one on a five-game winning streak. It’ll be Yovani Gallardo against Roenis Elias in this matchup.
Gallardo continues to be a serviceable innings eater for the Rangers this season, posting a 3.27 ERA with a 3.98 FIP and a 4.36 xFIP. A high strand rate and a low home run rate have allowed Gallardo to post a quality ERA while outpitching his advanced metrics. I’m a little bit surprised to see the Rangers favored in this one, but this game does have all of the hallmarks of the inflated line for a team pushing for the playoffs against a team with nothing to play for. Because of where this line is, the context-based play would be Texas.
Roenis Elias wound up being the odd man out for Seattle and have allowed eight runs over 12 innings since he rejoined the starting rotation on August 27. He hasn’t pitched particularly well over his 91 Major League innings this season, with a 4.35/4.52/4.37 pitcher slash. He wasn’t much better at Triple-A either. It is a little bit difficult to gauge what to expect from Elias. The Rangers are 19th in wOBA against lefties, but 21st in wRC+ because they play in a hitter-friendly ballpark. It’s also worth mentioning that Texas ranks tied for 19th in road wOBA.
Still, the line makes me think that Texas is the right side. The Mariners have been streaky in the second half, so there’s some hope that they are going to play well to the end of the season. I don’t have a strong opinion on this game, but, as mentioned, context clues suggest the Rangers.
Chicago (NL) at St. Louis