A full slate of nighttime baseball is on the docket, with a 16th game thrown in for good measure as the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates play a traditional double dip after last night’s rainout. The next five weeks are really important in the MLB season. Teams want to put their best foot forward before the All-Star Break, which is usually a time to reevaluate the expectations for the season. Everybody’s beyond the 40-game mark and now is the time to rack up as many wins as possible. It will be interesting to see which teams rise up and which teams fall off.
Looking back at yesterday’s results, our Mets/Pirates pick got rained out. That write-up will be copied and pasted into today’s piece, but be sure to check out those lineups with the traditional doubleheader. It changes the dynamic quite a bit. There has also been a line move, with the Pirates favored. Michael Fulmer and the Tigers were a winner, though the line had us a little bit worried. Chris Archer and the Rays topped the Diamondbacks to give us a loser in that one. San Diego piled on Williams Perez early to give us a loser in the late game.
Our focus, as it always is, will be on the games that provide a lot of line value and those that give us the opportunity to dig deep and find the wagering angles and betting tips that will produce winners.
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Per usual, the games with big lines will be overlooked, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about them or a play on the underdog is a possibility. Also, day games are usually skipped due to the lead time of the article. That will not be the case on Thursdays or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
(author’s note: reposted from yesterday with adjusted line)
New York (NL) at Pittsburgh (-115); Total: 8
We have a matchup here of one team that hits lefties well and one team that doesn’t. One starter that is good and one starter that isn’t. One bullpen that’s good and one bullpen that isn’t. These are games I tend to stay away from because there are edges, but there are also things that cancel out those edges. If Steven Matz pitches well, the Mets should win this game. If he doesn’t, the Mets could still win this game. If Jon Niese handles his former team, the Pirates will win. You can make arguments like that about every game.
My goal in breaking down a game is always to make cases for both teams and decide which is stronger. I want to see a reason both sides could win because I’m not giving myself enough perspective if I keep a closed mind.
So, with this game, I see a guy in Matz that has been the Mets’ second-best starter behind Thor. He’s improved his control from last season and he has a great understanding of how to pitch. His ground ball rate is up 10 percent and his strikeout rate is above average. There’s a ton to like about his pitching profile. We’ve also seen the Pirates have some ups and downs against LHP, with a high BABIP starting to regress towards the mean.
Jon Niese is basically what he was in the NL East, but he’s facing better hitters in the NL Central, so that has hurt his command. Niese is still a below average strikeout guy with an above average ground ball rate and uninspiring peripherals. That’s everything he was with the Mets for so long. He could pad his stats a little bit against teams like the Phillies and the Marlins, but he hasn’t been able to hide much in the NL Central.
He’s actually thrown the ball really well over his last five starts. In that span, Niese has a 2.64 ERA, but he has a 93.6 percent strand rate and a .258 BABIP against. Maybe he’s learning how to pitch into that Pittsburgh shift. Maybe he’s just getting lucky. My money is on the latter. His recent results have influenced that market, despite some unsustainable trends.
With that in mind, I’ll look at the Mets here in this one. The Pirates have a .337 BABIP against LHP. Only Boston’s is higher. Matz is a guy that can take advantage of Pittsburgh’s 23.8 percent K% against LHP. Also, if this is a close game late, the Pirates have one of the worst bullpens in baseball this season. That’s a big advantage to the Mets.
To add, this is Game 1 of a doubleheader, so anything could happen. I generally stay away, but I disagree with the line flip on this game, so, if the Mets field a decent lineup, I’d fire on them.
Kansas City at Baltimore (-120); Total: 9.5
It’s too bad we’ve lost some line value on this game because this opening line was terrible. The Baltimore Orioles send Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill against Yordano Ventura on Tuesday night. Say what you want about Ubaldo, and most of it probably isn’t good, but there’s something to be said about the fact that I trust him more than Yordano Ventura right now. Walks and a high BABIP have killed Jimenez this season, as he has a 6.59 ERA with a 4.59 FIP and a 4.62 xFIP, but the Royals don’t walk and they’re trotting out a replacement-level lineup with a lot of ciphers plus Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer.
Yordano Ventura has pitched 61.2 innings. He has 41 strikeouts, 35 walks, 35 runs allowed on 59 hits, and a 4.82/5.28/5.68 pitcher slash. He’s been terrible and the only thing saving him is the Kansas City defense that has allowed him to post a .264 BABIP against. His swinging strike rate is down to 6.8 percent and hitters have stopped chasing pitches outside of the zone.
Baltimore should be all over this matchup. There’s always the chance that Jimenez is terrible and Baltimore loses 10-8 or something, but this is a spot where I’m very comfortable in laying the juice on the home team.
Toronto (-120) at Detroit; Total: 9.5
There are some really big totals today. We’ve got one here between the Blue Jays and the Tigers. Aaron Sanchez goes against Matt Boyd, as Boyd faces his old team. He was traded to Detroit in the David Price deal last season. You won’t find many stronger matchups for Aaron Sanchez than this one. Detroit has only had a platoon advantage in 44 percent of its plate appearances because they are so right-handed-heavy. Sanchez has held righties to a .229/.286/.308 slash this season with a .265 wOBA. In his career, righties are batting .175/.243/.220 with ONE home run in 380 plate appearances.
The high total has a lot to do with Matt Boyd, who has a career 6.75 ERA with a 6.02 FIP and a 4.92 xFIP in 73.1 innings of work. This season, he has one good relief appearance and a couple of decent starts. The idea here is that the Blue Jays, who massacred left-handed pitching last season, can have some success against a guy like Boyd. That’s probably the case, but I’m not sure that they can have enough success to push this number over the total.
There are a lot of things I like in this matchup. I like the Blue Jays. I like the under. I like the Detroit team total under. I like the Blue Jays on the -1 line. There’s a lot to like about this matchup for Sanchez and the Jays.
Houston (-105) at Texas; Total: 9
This is an interesting one for me. I feel like Dallas Keuchel is on the verge of figuring it out. Over his last three starts, Keuchel has a 17/2 K/BB ratio, but he’s given up 12 runs on 18 hits. Texas has battered him twice, so I would expect that money comes in on the Rangers for this one. Also, the Rangers are 7-0 against the Astros this season. But, there’s something about Keuchel here. He seems to take a couple steps forward and then one enormous step back. Maybe that’s in my head, but it sure seems to be the case.
Cole Hamels’s stat line is weird. He has a 3.39 ERA, but a 4.88 FIP, and a 3.68 xFIP. Hamels has given up 13 home runs in 69 IP, but he has an 83.8 percent strand rate. Ten of the 13 home runs Hamels has allowed have been solo shots, which are fine. The problems occur when pitchers start giving up multi-run dingers. He doesn’t have any big splist with the bases empty or with men on, aside from that home run disparity. We have to expect Hamels’s HR/FB% to come down, since it’s more than double his career rate.
I’m cautiously buying Keuchel here and I like Hamels as well, even though his changeup hasn’t been his bread-and-butter pitch of late. I think both guys can have some success. I’d lean Texas, since Hamels seems like a surer bet, but I do like the under here.
Miami (-110) at Minnesota; Total: 9
Adam Conley and Pat Dean sound like characters on an ABC buddy-cop drama, but they’re actually the starting pitchers slated to go at Target Field on Tuesday night. Efficiency continues to be an issue for Conley, who has only worked 58 innings in his 11 starts, and I think that could be a bit of a problem here tonight. This is a good matchup for Conley, as the Twins are among the league’s dregs in hitting against lefties, but American League lineups feature an extra hitter. That will likely put the Miami bullpen into the mix earlier than usual.
When Conley has been good, he’s been really good. He has four starts with no runs allowed and one start with one run allowed. He’s also given up four runs or more in four starts. I don’t like to back wild inconsistency like that. You simply don’t know. I know that the Twins haven’t seen him, so there’s an unfamiliar lefty angle in play here.
I don’t know much about Pat Dean, except that his minor league numbers don’t impress me at all. He’s never missed bats, though he’s somehow missing them in this small MLB sample. He has quite a pattern with his 4.15/4.16/4.17 pitcher slash, a .342 BABIP against, and a 79.6 percent strand rate. His first Major League win came in a start against Felix Hernandez, which is cool. He’s not a very exciting pitcher, which sort of fits the mold of every starter Minnesota’s had in the last five years.
I don’t know what to do with this game. The offensive performance against LHP would suggest Miami, but Conley’s been very inconsistent. Also, Dean tilts more to the fly ball side and the Twins have a terrible outfield defense. And yet, I can’t pull the trigger.
Boston (-120) at San Francisco; Total: 8
The Red Sox have some tough lineup choices to make at AT&T Park today and tomorrow. David Ortiz can’t really play first base, but his bat would be a welcomed addition to the lineup against Albert Suarez tonight. The Red Sox will have to watch Rick Porcello bat in this one. Porcello has hit a bit of a rough patch with a 5.79 ERA over his last four starts after being really good to open the year. His K/BB rates are still terrific, so this is just some BABIP and LOB% regression, which you would expect from a guy with a 46 percent ground ball rate and a .263 BABIP. There’s always variance and volatility in that.
The thing about Porcello’s recent struggles is that they’ve all come against teams with good advance reports on him. The analytics staffs for the Royals and Indians have a lot of video on him. The Blue Jays and Orioles see him frequently. The Giants don’t see Porcello very often, so he should have a little bit of a boost in that regard. Also, he’s given up 11 HR in 69.2 innings this season. AT&T Park suppresses power, especially at night, so this should be a good environment for him.
Albert Suarez is making his second MLB start after opening his career with four relief appearances. The 26-year-old has a standard four-pitch mix with a fastball/slider/curve/change and some good separation between his pitch speeds. He can also sink the fastball a little bit, helping to produce a 53 percent ground ball rate. He has a 10.5 percent swinging strike rate, but a pretty low strikeout rate, so that’s a little bit surprising. He does have seven strikeouts in 10 innings over his longer appearances.
I’d expect to see some Red Sox money roll in here throughout the day and that’d be the side I would choose. I mentioned on Sunday how much the Giants have struggled without Hunter Pence in the past and he’s a really significant loss for this offense, especially because guys like Joe Panik and Matt Duffy haven’t been able to replicate last season. Buster Posey has started a little slow. This is not a great lineup right now. Aside from the long travel and the lack of a DH, there’s a lot to like about Boston today.