Four day games are on the docket today to go along with 11 nighttime matchups as the MLB regular season inches closer to the playoffs. Tuesday night was filled with excitement with a couple of walk-offs, a dynamic pitcher’s duel in LA, a steal of home plate, and a triple play. It was also a good night for us with winners on the Dodgers and the under, the Rays, and the Marlins out of yesterday’s picks. We look ahead to Wednesday as some key series wrap up and teams head towards the holiday weekend. Let’s see if we can make some good money tonight.
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The Baltimore Orioles are simply falling apart and the oddsmakers continue to give them a lot of respect. In this one, Erasmo Ramirez faces off against Kevin Gausman. Those that listen to The Bettor’s Box, which will return tomorrow, know how upset I’ve been with Baltimore’s handling of Gausman this season. Gausman is up to 11 starts and eight relief appearances at the big league level, with six starts in the minors. He owns a 4.39/4.11/3.89 pitcher slash on the season with a pretty decent K/BB rate, but a poor home run rate and a low strand rate.
The potential of Erasmo Ramirez has shown through at times this season. He has a 3.68 ERA with a 4.05 FIP and a 4.11 xFIP thanks to a very low .259 BABIP against. Interestingly, he has a higher GB rate this season than in past seasons, even though he has gone with more pitches classified as four-seam fastballs than two-seam fastballs. What’s really surprising is that Ramirez has a swinging strike rate of 11.3 percent, which is well above average, and a strikeout rate that is well below average. Lately, Ramirez has been a little bit hit or miss.
In looking at these two pitchers, both of them flash some potential, but also struggle with consistency. Given how the two teams are playing, specifically on offense, the Rays have to be the lean at this price, since the pitchers are fairly similar. Baltimore is really letting things snowball here and that’s not a team that I want to back right now.
I rarely put games with heavy chalk in here because there’s only one side that you can conceivably take, but this one is worth looking at because Aaron Nola is a live dog in this fight. Nola has mixed his pitches and has sequenced really well over his first eight starts in the Major Leagues to the tune of a 3.26/4.06/3.94 pitcher slash. The strikeout rate isn’t fully there yet, but a .212 batting average against with an awful defensive team is small sample size sign of how effective his stuff can be. Hitters have only posted a 17 percent line drive rate, so they’re not barreling him up very often.
After some bumps in the road, Matt Harvey has it all figured out. Since Harvey allowed seven runs on June 10 against San Francisco, he has allowed just 12 earned runs over his last 12 starts with a 1.34 ERA and a .192/.244/.301 slash against. While I like Nola a lot, Harvey’s in a groove. The Phillies might be worth a very small bet in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle, but I really like the under here after an offensive slugfest last night.
It’s hard to find two lefties that are more different than Carlos Rodon and Tommy Milone. Rodon will run it up there in the mid-90s with a devastating slider and Milone is your standard issue four-pitch mix left that sits in the 86-87 range. Of the 52 earned runs that Carlos Rodon has allowed this season, 22 of them have come in three starts. Taking away the two that he allowed over three relief appearances, Rodon has only allowed 28 runs in 13 of his starts. The walks are still a problem, but hitters aren’t making a whole lot of solid contact and Rodon would have better run prevention numbers with a better defense.
The White Sox have been shut down by every left-hander with a pulse this season. Then again, some dead left-handers might have a chance to throw seven shutout against Chicago. Entering play on Wednesday, the White Sox are tied with the Brewers for the worst offense in baseball against lefties. A quick reminder that pitchers hit in the NL. Chicago has the third-lowest walk rate, the lowest SLG, and a .283 wOBA. Unlike the Brewers, who have a .261 BABIP against LHP, the White Sox have a .299 BABIP, so the Brewers have gotten a little unlucky, whereas the White Sox have no excuse.
Milone has command problems as a pitch-to-contact fly ball guy, but does own a 3.86 ERA on the season. The advanced metrics aren’t as pretty, but they never are with contact pitchers. Surprisingly, this is Rodon’s first start against Minnesota. I like the unfamiliar lefty angle, but I’d rather look to play the under in this game. For a side, I’d lean to the White Sox because this could be a close game and I like their bullpen a little bit more than Minnesota’s.
The aforementioned Brewers, who are awful against lefties, draw one on Wednesday in Jeff Locke. The Brewers will counter with Zack Davies. Locke was pushed back a day following a pretty good start at Miami his last time out. There’s nothing special at all about Jeff Locke, who has below average K and BB rates, a poor strand rate, and a 4.46/4.16/4.00. He also doesn’t work very deep into games. His last start was the first time he made it out of the sixth since July 19. The best thing you can say about him is that he normally keeps his team in the game.
Will Locke need to do more than that against Zach Davies? Davies was a bit of a surprise signing after he was taken in the 26th round in 2011 by the Baltimore Orioles, but $575,000 vs. pitching in college is the decision that some kids are forced to make. The Orioles sent him to the Brewers in the Gerardo Parra deal. Davies has a little bit of projection with a very good changeup and plus command. The question is whether or not his fastball will play at the Major League level. Look for him to sit in the 93-94 range at the outset until the nerves settle down and he drops back into the 90-91 range.
The fact that Davies has some plus secondary offerings gives him some value in this start. Locke is what he is and Davies has a little bit of upside. On the other hand, the Brewers don’t hit southpaws at all. Even still, I think I’d look at the underdog Brewers in this one. The stuff is pretty good for Davies. It’s the small stature that has tempered scouts’ expectations.
Tonight’s premier pitching matchup is in St. Louis between Max Scherzer and Michael Wacha. Scherzer has elite K/BB rates and a 2.88/2.77/2.97 pitcher slash on the season. Wacha has steadily increased his strikeout rate throughout the year and owns a 2.69/3.26/3.67 pitcher slash. Don’t worry about the ERA/xFIP difference with Wacha, since he’s dealt with it throughout his MLB career. He doesn’t give up a lot of home runs because he has impeccable command and one of the game’s best changeups.
These two guys are really good. Scherzer is overpowering and Wacha has some incredible pitchability. I really like St. Louis in this matchup. The Nationals offense has been in a state of flux all season long. The Cardinals don’t strike out as much as a lot of teams and that should work to their advantage against a guy like Scherzer. As great as Scherzer is, he has an 11-11 win-loss record because of a lack of offense. That’s not simply a coincidence. The Nationals are not a good offensive ballclub. Wacha has allowed four earned runs over his last six starts. He might be the best pitcher in baseball that nobody talks about.
Because of Scherzer, because of his notoriety, this line gives value to the Cardinals and I’m happy to take it.
Cole Hamels is on the mound for the Rangers and Ian Kennedy will take the hill for the Padres. The Rangers are on a tear and Hamels is on the mound against a Padres lineup that ranks 25th in wOBA against lefties, 27th in SLG, and has the fourth-highest K%. Kennedy has had a big home run problem this season that has led to a 4.82 FIP. Somehow, he has a 3.94 ERA.
Kennedy has thrown the ball extremely well since the All-Star Break, with a 2.32 ERA and a .207/.283/.371 slash against. I was surprised that nobody took a shot on the positive regression he showed at the trade deadline, but nobody was willing to dive in. Perhaps the Padres didn’t make him available. It’s worth pointing out that Kennedy got hurt right after Spring Training ended, so he basically had to start all over again. That’s why he posted a 7.15 ERA with a .288/.359/.608 slash over his first eight starts. Since the start of June, Kennedy has allowed more than three earned runs once in 16 starts. That’s a 2.63 ERA with a .229/.294/.428 slash against.
Hamels just threw one of those starts that reminded everybody of why he was so sought after despite his high salary. He gave up one run on two hits over eight with 10 punchouts against Baltimore on August 28. It was easily his best start as an American Leaguer. Hamels had two four-walk games in 21 starts with Philadelphia and already has two in four starts with Texas. But, this game is back in a National League park.
I like the Rangers in this one. Kennedy is throwing the ball extremely well, but Hamels has the opportunity to be overpowering. Being on the road might be helpful for a guy like Hamels, who spent his entire career with the Phillies and then had to uproot his life and family to move to Texas. On the road, he can simply focus on pitching and let go of things at home. Look for a dominant outing from Hamels as the Rangers’ playoff push continues.
San Francisco at Los Angeles (NL)