A little bit of a late start to the morning and a lot of day games means a slightly abridged version of today’s picks and analysis. Sundays are always tough anyway and should be your day with the lowest volume, simply because players sometimes aren’t all that excited about being at the ballpark. Perhaps they were out late the night before or this is the final game of a homestand or a road trip. For the purposes of lead time, we’ll just look at the 2 p.m. ET or later start times for June 5.
Looking back briefly at yesterday’s card, the Brewers were a nice winner to open up the day over the Phightin’ Phils. The Red Sox were also another winner with Steven Wright besting Marcus Stroman and the Jays. If you were lucky enough to catch the Astros before the price exploded, they filled your bankroll with a winner. That line took off shortly after the article was posted, but they won, so that was nice. The Indians rolled to a win, so I didn’t jinx my team. All in all, it was a really good day for us and one that was sorely needed.
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.
Tampa Bay (-115) at Minnesota; Total: 9
After a solid start to the season, Drew Smyly finds himself with a 4.77 ERA, a 4.14 FIP, and a 4.01 xFIP. All of the sudden, his command is gone, especially in big spots. The left-hander has also leveled off from a strikeout standpoint. Since racking up 27 K in his first three starts covering 21.2 innings, Smyly only has 43 K in his last 44.1 innings of work. Not that it’s a bad ratio, but he has taken some steps back in that regard.
The Twins have been terrible against left-handed pitching with a .285 wOBA, which ranks 28th in MLB. This is the classic decision that handicappers are often faced with. Do I trust the pitcher that is struggling or the offense that normally struggles? Usually, it’s a good sign to just stay off of a game, but let’s look at the other side.
Tyler Duffey is a guy that I like and the Rays really struggle with right-handed pitchers. The Rays are 20th in wOBA against righties and Duffey is a guy I like. He hasn’t had the results so far this season with a 4.57 ERA, but his 3.44 FIP and 3.71 xFIP are solid. He’s given up a lot of hits and a lot of hard contact, which is something he didn’t do in last year’s smaller sample.
I’m avoiding this one today. I think the under does have a little bit of value with a late night yesterday due to some rain and two pitchers that have favorable matchups based on the splits. If you want action on this one, look towards the under.
Oakland at Houston (-170); Total: 8.5
Another day with a strong line movement on the Astros. Lance McCullers gets the ball against Sonny Gray and the A’s. Oakland has tomorrow off before they head to Milwaukee and Houston makes the short trek to Arlington to open up a series with the Rangers. Always remember those situational spots on Sundays. They can sometimes dictate how the game goes.
Anyway, Sonny Gray makes his return to the rotation for the A’s after spending some time on the DL for what was either a back injury or an excuse to try and straighten out the right-hander. It’s been really ugly for Gray, who has run out of batted ball luck. To exacerbate his problems, his control is gone and his command has tailed off. A 6.19 ERA isn’t a reasonable expectation for the rest of the season, but this may be the year where Gray is up around that 3.70 xFIP he had last season. I do think he’ll improve, but I don’t know if it starts here.
I will say this. If Gray did have a back issue, that can really throw everything off. We often think of arm injuries as being the most detrimental to a pitcher, and they are, but we can overlook things like lower half or core injuries. Hell, look at how Taijuan Walker has pitched since having a neck injury. It wouldn’t surprise me if Gray looks better today. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets shelled either, but I think there’s hope that he improves and starts to command better.
With Oakland’s season already spiraling out of control, Lance McCullers should be in line for some success here. He’s still a little bit erratic coming back from the DL, but his raw stuff is so good that he can overcome most of it. He has a 4.79 ERA, but a 3.36 FIP and a 3.52 xFIP. The A’s are 23rd in wOBA against RHP, so this is a solid matchup.
I actually like the under a little bit here in this one. Gray may be on a pitch count, which is a consideration, but it’s an early getaway day Sunday matchup and these are two starting pitchers that you can normally trust.
Seattle (-115) at Texas; Total: 9.5
Things still don’t look right for Hisashi Iwakuma. The Mariners right-hander failed a physical to sign with the Dodgers and the Mariners immediately scooped him up for their rotation. He’s allowed 74 hits and 34 runs over 69.1 innings of work. He’s given up 10 home runs in that span with a 4.41/4.33/4.33 pitcher slash. The stuff just hasn’t been great. He hasn’t issued a walk in his last two starts, but he’s allowed 13 hits in 14 innings, including four home runs. To make him road chalk here is more of an indictment on the Rangers than a vote of confidence in Iwakuma.
Derek Holland also hasn’t been very good. The left-hander has a 4.78/4.30/5.55 pitcher slash on the year. The big worry for him is that he isn’t missing bats at all. That means that he needs excellent BABIP luck to avoid giving up four or five runs. More often than not, he’s gotten that luck this season. He gave up 11 runs in 2.2 innings to Toronto back on May 5. He gave up five runs in his next start. Outside of that, Holland hasn’t given up more than three runs in a start. Two terrible starts really skew his overall numbers. On the other hand, you know how I feel about pitch-to-contact guys.
The concludes a short little five-game trek for the Mariners, who played a very long series in San Diego prior to opening up this series. Their bullpen is absolutely gassed. I think I would actually lean Texas for the sweep here. I know the risks of backing Holland and a subpar Rangers bullpen, but I feel like there’s a bit of value given how Seattle has looked here over the last four days. Keep in mind, they were down 10 runs in the one game they’ve won over that stretch.
San Francisco at St. Louis (-145); Total: 8
Sunday Night Baseball features a couple of NL powerhouses with the Giants and the Cardinals getting together. It’ll be Jake Peavy against Carlos Martinez in this one. Peavy has worked his three best outings of the season in his last four starts and still only has a 6.34 ERA to show for it. Peavy has given up 39 runs on 69 hits in 55.1 innings. He has a .345 BABIP against with a hard-contact rate of 39.5 percent, per Fangraphs. Command has been a huge issue for him and he actually has the highest HR/FB% since his sophomore season way back in 2003. The velocity keeps dropping. The 35-year-old is well past the point (2000 innings) where a lot of pitchers start to drop off considerably.
Consistency has been an issue for Carlos Martinez, who gave up six runs over his first 28 innings of work and then 25 over his next five starts. He threw eight shutout against Milwaukee last time out with eight strikeouts to tie a season high. Obviously, the Giants are a better lineup than the Brewers.
There’s one angle in play here that always interests me. This is a late game for the Giants, who are wrapping up a 10-game road trip and have an off day tomorrow. They are 5-4 on this trip so far. Teams strive to go .500 on the road, especially over long trips, and this has been a long trip from Colorado to Atlanta to St. Louis.
For St. Louis, this was a very brief stop at home bookended by off days, in one of MLB’s worst scheduling decisions to date. The Cardinals came back from Washington and Milwaukee to a day off, hosted this series, have Monday off, and then they head to Cincinnati.
Situationally, I think this is a great spot for St. Louis. Also, the Giants are without Hunter Pence (for the next two months). He was limited to 52 games last season and the Giants went 34-18 when he played and 50-60 when he didn’t. He’s a really important cog offensively and defensively for this team. I think there’s a bit of a mental hurdle when he goes out.
It’s not my favorite play, but I think it’s a decent one. The only way I’m looking at Sunday Night Baseball is to lay it with the Cardinals.