A new day on the diamond has arrived, bringing 11 games with it. There are six games in the afternoon hours and five more in the late night hours. An unscheduled doubleheader between Minnesota and Houston is on today’s docket. There are very few good betting opportunities on favorites today, as we’ve got some sizable lines out there that inherently make underdogs worthy of consideration. Expect to limit yourself tonight on the bases, but at least you’ve got plenty of Olympics competition and preseason NFL on your wagering menu. Let’s see if we can find anything from the diamond.
Right after we look back at yesterday. The Nationals were a nice winner for those that were willing to lay the short price to back the home team. Robbie Ray finally lived up to his positive regression, so the Diamondbacks eked one out over the Mets. Jose Quintana was a tough-luck loser against the Royals, so it was another disappointing day for us with a couple of one-run decisions that went the other way.
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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 Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
Game 1: Houston (-115) at Minnesota; Total: 9
The Astros and Twins both lost the services of Wednesday’s starters because they played a couple of innings before rain put a stop to Wednesday night’s game. So, with Dallas Keuchel and Ervin Santana out of the picture, the teams will turn to Doug Fister and Jose Berrios in Game 1 of this double dip. Chris Devenski and Tommy Milone will work the nightcap of this day/night twin bill.
Doug Fister has actually been a savior for this Astros rotation. Fister was a one-year flyer for a team that needed some rotation help and he’s posted a 3.47 ERA in 135 innings of work. His advanced metrics don’t look great because he doesn’t have a good K/BB ratio, but he’s one of those guys that means more in a practical sense than an analytical sense. There are some worries about Fister, particularly with his 79.6 percent LOB% as a guy that doesn’t miss many bats. He has also held opposing hitters to a .270 BABIP.
Normally, this would be an auto pick on Houston. The Astros still have a lot to play for, while the Twins have to spend a very long day at the park dozens of games out of the playoff chase. But, the Twins have been pretty good offensively since the start of July.
As good as the offense has been, though, the Twins are still sending Jose Berrios to the hill. Berrios has an 8.31 ERA with a 6.12 FIP and a 4.53 xFIP in his first six Major League starts. He was recalled two starts ago and has allowed seven runs on 11 hits with nine strikeouts and one walk in 11 innings. He seems to be throwing the ball a bit better, but command, particularly in leverage spots, is still hit or miss. You can’t take awful starts away, but Berrios did allow seven runs in less than an inning in his last start before he was sent down in May.
A lot of factors about this game point to the Astros. The line seems to point towards the Twins. With a small card and not a lot of playable favorites, the Astros do make some sense here. It’ll be tough for Paul Molitor to manage this day if Berrios blows up the bullpen, so he may be left out there to take some lumps if he struggles. That could decide the game early.
Atlanta at Milwaukee (-130); Total: 9
This game is awful. Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, takes on Matt Garza in a battle of two guys that don’t really deserve rotation spots. These guys are simply eating innings for teams with no postseason prospects in 2016. But, it’s on the card and might actually carry some value. Hernandez had a 4.42 ERA for Toronto’s Triple-A team and then went to Atlanta’s and hung a 5.52 ERA in 14.2 innings before getting the call to return to the bigs. He gave up three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and a walk against St. Louis in his last start.
I’d be surprised if he can do any better than that. Hernandez hasn’t been effective since 2010 and he’s not going to magically reinvent himself at this stage of the game. The identity scandal took a lot out of him and he’s a great case study in “what could have been”. What he is now is a subpar pitcher with no business pitching at the big league level.
Matt Garza doesn’t really belong either, but he has a contract to finish out, so the Brewers are going to let him take some abuse and save the younger arms. Garza has a 5.03 ERA with a 4.56 FIP and a 4.68 xFIP on the year in his 53.2 innings of work. He’s actually worked three decent games in a row, so maybe there is a little bit of mileage left on the 32-year-old. He’s actually signed through next season, so he may be pitching for a job. With Garza having a little bit more upside than Hernandez and Milwaukee’s offense in a similar situation, the favorite looks like a reasonable play here today.
St. Louis at Chicago (NL) (-160)
No total has been posted yet for this NL Central showdown between the Cardinals and Cubs. This is a big four-game set for the Cardinals if they want to keep pace in the wild card hunt. The division is all but a formality at this point, with the Cubs up by 12 games. Carlos Martinez goes for the Cardinals today against Jon Lester for the Cubs.
It’s hard to believe that Martinez is only 24 years old because there has been immense pressure on him this season. That pressure went up a couple notches with the Michael Wacha news from this past week. Martinez and Adam Wainwright are really the only two left standing in the Cardinals rotation now, with a revolving door of average or below starters in the back end of the group. Martinez has a 3.29 ERA with a 3.85 FIP and a 3.98 xFIP. He’s done a better job of pitching to contact this season as he has learned hitters and their tendencies. That’s allowed him to work deeper into games and be more efficient with his pitches. It’s been an impressive season for the kid and hopefully it continues. That being said, Martinez has hit a little bit of a rut. Since he struck out 11 Brewers in five innings on July 9, Martinez has a 17/11 K/BB ratio over his last four starts with 15 runs allowed on 23 hits.
Jon Lester is having a very solid season and there’s no reason to believe he’ll slip up tonight. Lester has a 2.93 ERA with a 3.82 FIP and a 3.54 xFIP on the year over his 22 starts. He’s had some home run issues that have driven up his FIP, but everything else has been quite good. You can make a case that Lester is due for a little bit of regression because his BABIP is 35 points below his career average and his LOB% is 83.6 percent, by far the highest of his career. Both of those are directly correlated to how good the Cubs are defensively, but Lester still may run into a little bit of trouble here and there the rest of the way. Keep that in mind.
Chicago (AL) at Kansas City (-160); Total: 8
Very quietly, basically with a whisper, Miguel Gonzalez is back to being a useful starting pitcher. Don Cooper does great work for the White Sox and Gonzalez owns a 4.09 ERA with a 3.97 FIP and a 4.50 xFIP on the season. He actually has a career-best FIP by cutting down on his home runs against and that’s why he’s given the White Sox some decent innings. Gonzalez has allowed 46 earned runs in his 101.1 innings, but he’s given up 15 of those in two starts. Take away those two blow-ups and he has allowed 31 ER in 92.2 innings of work, which is a 3.01 ERA. Obviously you can’t just discount those starts, but Gonzalez has been quite good more often than not this season.
Danny Duffy is really locked in for the Royals. Duffy made his first start of the season on May 15. His fourth start of the season came on June 1. Since that June 1 outing, Duffy has a 2.87 ERA with a 3.35 FIP and a 3.51 xFIP. He has 98 K in 84.2 innings in that span with just 18 walks. Duffy has really found something special in his age-27 season and has basically salvaged something from a lost year for the Royals. He hasn’t given up more than four runs in a start in that span.
With a limited card and few betting options, the under looks like a good play here today. Unders continue to be on an excellent run as oddsmakers overrate the value of warm weather. Gonzalez isn’t getting the respect that he deserves in this start. This total is at least .5 runs too high. If you like line value, I think there’s some here in this game.