A full dance card is on tap for Tuesday, as we have 16 MLB games to consider. The Brewers and Cubs will play two in a day/night twin bill in the Windy City, but the rest of the games will begin at 7:05 p.m. ET or later. That means it’s a perfect day to spend the morning and afternoon studying the matchups with plenty of time to spare. It’s a busy night on the diamond, but there are a lot of games with pretty big lines. We’ll sort through it all and find the top plays of the day for you.
Right after we look back at yesterday. Monday’s card was relatively small, but the majority of the games were addressed in our picks and analysis piece. Money did come in on Kansas City, as expected, and they actually won the game to hold off the Tigers. The price point on Texas was too high, but they won again and Martin Perez luckboxed his way to a good start. Arizona was a nice winner for us as that game went as planned. It was a slow day with limited plays, so hopefully you managed your bankroll properly.
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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.
Boston at Baltimore (-110); Total: 10
The Red Sox deserve a lot of credit for going into Cleveland for a standalone makeup game and coming out with a win. Now they head to Baltimore for a huge series atop the AL East standings. With the Blue Jays in New York against the Yankees, it’s a big week for the AL East. Eduardo Rodriguez and Yovani Gallardo are the listed starters for the series opener.
Not many people are talking about it, but Rodriguez has been really good since his recall after the All-Star Break. In his six starts, he’s worked nearly six innings per start with a 2.80 ERA, a 3.65 FIP, and a 4.01 xFIP. His command is still a little bit hit or miss, but he’s got 32 K in those 35.1 innings and there aren’t that many clear signs of regression. It is a small sample size, but he’s faced the Yankees twice, Minnesota, Detroit, Seattle, and the Dodgers, so we’re talking about some decent lineups. Rodriguez has been sneaky good after a terrible start to the season and that deserves some respect. He was battling a knee injury throughout Spring Training, so maybe he’s just healthy now. People don’t realize how important the lower half of the body is for pitchers because everybody’s so focused on arm injuries.
Yovani Gallardo has simply been an innings eater for Baltimore at a very steep price. He has a 5.17 ERA with a 4.95 FIP and a 5.35 xFIP, so he hasn’t even given them quality innings. Guys that don’t miss bats and have declining command absolutely cannot walk people and Gallardo has done far too much of that this season. In just 78.1 innings, Gallardo has walked 41 batters. He walked 68 in 184.1 innings last season and 54 in 192.1 innings in 2014. It’s hard to see Gallardo going through this Boston lineup with much success.
It’s a stiff test for Rodriguez as well, but I feel like the wrong team is favored in this spot. The Red Sox did lose the off day yesterday, but they got into Baltimore at a reasonable hour and got a good night’s sleep. Baltimore came back from a very long road trip and the first game back at home can sometimes be a tough hurdle to climb over.
I’m looking at the Red Sox here, as I’m a believer in what Eduardo Rodriguez has been doing.
Toronto (-115) at New York (AL); Total: 8.5
This is a really tricky game to handicap. Marco Estrada takes the hill at Yankee Stadium against Michael Pineda. These two pitchers are having contrasting seasons. Estrada has been very fortunate with balls in play and has outpitched his advanced metrics by a large margin. Pineda has had no fortunes with balls in play and has a huge ERA-xFIP discrepancy.
Estrada has a 2.95 ERA with a 3.92 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP. Estrada continues to limit damage with a 78.3 percent LOB%, but it is worth pointing out that he’s had more jams to pitch out of recently. His BABIP has risen about 20 points over the last several weeks, which is what we expected because he was on track to post the best BABIP in baseball history. Estrada came off the DL on July 22 and has allowed 10 runs over his last four starts. He’s given up 23 hits in those four outings, so maybe his command isn’t as sharp as it was before the injury? That’s something to watch going forward.
Michael Pineda has brilliant K/BB peripherals, but his command just hasn’t been there. He has a 5.07 ERA with a 3.88 FIP and a 3.38 xFIP. Pineda hasn’t worked out of enough jams and has given up too many home runs. He has 152 K in 131.1 innings of work, but he’s given up 140 hits and 21 home runs. It’s one of the stranger seasons we’ve seen in a while. Lately, Pineda’s been really hit or miss. Since June 25, Pineda has allowed two runs or less in five starts. He’s given up four or more runs in four starts. It seems to really depend on which version of Pineda you get.
One of the things I try to do when handicapping is eliminate as much possible variance before firing on a game. I can’t eliminate any in this game. Estrada should be okay no matter what, but whether he gives up one run over six or four runs over six is a complete unknown. Pineda might give up five or throw seven shutout with 12 K. I’m avoiding this one.
Miami at Cincinnati (-130); Total: 8.5
Jose Urena has been recalled from Triple-A to start for the Marlins against Anthony DeSclafani and the Reds. It hasn’t been pretty for Urena at the big league level this season. In three starts and 16 relief appearances, Urena has a 6.69 ERA with a 4.68 FIP and a 5.04 xFIP. He’s had a high FIP at Triple-A in 12 starts as well. Urena has a poor MLB strikeout rate in his career and really bad peripherals. There’s very little to like about him in this or any matchup.
On the other side, you’ve got Anthony DeSclafani up against his former team. DeSclafani made his MLB debut in 2014 with the Fish and was traded to Cincinnati in the Mat Latos deal. That has clearly worked out well for the Reds. DeSclafani has been really good this season with a 3.11 ERA in 72.1 innings of work. There’s a little bit of regression in his stat profile, as he has an 80.6 percent LOB%. He has that 3.11 ERA, but a 3.92 FIP and a 4.06 xFIP. He’s never come close to the league average HR/FB%, so the xFIP is a bit misleading here. In any event, batters are hitting .295/.357/.474 with the bases empty and just .205/.261/.355 with men on base and even lower with RISP. There’s some cluster luck in there for DeSclafani that may even out here in the near future.
With that in mind, I think there are a few ways to approach this game. The full game over is a possibility, along with the Miami team total over. The Reds should do some damage against Urena, so their team total is a reasonable play as well. It’s entirely possible that DeSclafani just buckles down from the stretch and has cleaner mechanics, but those are some pretty big splits and there has to be some regression to the mean.
Chicago (AL) at Cleveland (-190); Total: 7.5
I get it. I understand why the Indians, who are a much better team than the White Sox, are such a big favorite here. Corey Kluber has been absolutely locked in this season and should get Cy Young consideration once again. But, the Indians are facing Jose Quintana, easily the most underrated starter in baseball. Quintana is getting his share of Cy Young buzz as well.
This is one of those spots about betting numbers and not teams. This number is entirely too big with Quintana on the mound. The market did drive this number up 20 cents, so we’d be going against some steam, but the Indians are really overachieving against left-handed pitching of late. For a while, the Indians were in the bottom third of the league. They are now 14th in wOBA and have a 104 wRC+, but they’ve beaten up some bad lefties lately. Quintana is a much different animal.
This is one of those spots where you look at a half-unit wager to try and make nearly a full unit. It’s a low-risk, high-reward play on a really underrated pitcher in Quintana.
Kansas City at Detroit (-130); Total: 7
This could be a fun one between Danny Duffy and Justin Verlander. Duffy has been, arguably, the league’s best starter over the last two months. Verlander’s career resurgence is really impressive and the Tigers have a lot to play for right now. Since Duffy’s fourth start of the season on June 1, he’s posted a 2.69 ERA with a 3.21 FIP and a 3.53 xFIP. Duffy has struck out 104 batters in 93.2 innings of work with just 18 walks. He’s given up 11 HR in that span, but that’s been the only black mark on his resume. In these 14 starts, Duffy has allowed more than three runs on just one occasion. Interestingly, it was against Detroit.
Justin Verlander has really pitched well this season. He’s back up to over a strikeout per inning and has a 3.42 ERA with a 3.49 FIP and a 3.92 xFIP. He’s more of a fly ball pitcher now with that high spin rate fastball and his assortment of offspeed offerings. If you buy picks from somebody or follow any of the trends accounts on Twitter, you’re a lock to see the Verlander career numbers against Kansas City. He’s 22-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 40 career starts. They won’t tell you that he’s 6-3 with a 4.14 ERA over the last three seasons, with guys that are actually on the roster still.
Regardless, it’s tough to take either side in this game. Duffy could come out and dominate. The Tigers could have another offensive outage, especially with Miguel Cabrera likely out of the lineup. Considering Cabrera may be sitting, the under may be worthwhile. No team in the AL has scored fewer runs than Kansas City, so don’t expect them to do a whole lot of damage. Duffy has had his issues against Detroit this season and throughout his career, but the Tigers offense hasn’t been doing much lately and Miggy may be sidelined.
Washington (-120) at Colorado; Total: 11.5
We’ve seen a little bit of steam on the home team as Gio Gonzalez faces Chad Bettis. We’ve talked about Gio Gonzalez a lot this season. He’s posted a 4.24 ERA with a 3.91 FIP and a 4.02 xFIP. He’s got a 69.8 percent LOB%, which is well below his career average. He’s actually cut back on his walks and has better BABIP luck this season compared to last, yet his ERA is higher. That’s because of a big spike in home runs. Gio has an 11.9 percent HR/FB% this season, the highest of his career since 2009. Normally, Gio is a guy that is well below that mark.
Is that a worry heading into Coors Field? It certainly could be. He’s not inducing ground balls at the rate that he did last season, so maybe the fastball is staying up or the breaking stuff isn’t as sharp. He’s got experience with Coors Field, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. His velocity has been down throughout the season as well, so maybe he’s just reaching that point that all pitchers reach where the stuff stops being as effective. It may be a little bit early for that at just 1,400 innings, but he has battled chronic shoulder soreness and has often pitched through it.
Chad Bettis is having an interesting season. As one of the few Rockies starters that I’ve liked in recent years, Bettis takes the hill tonight with a 5.27 ERA, but a 4.23 FIP and a 4.02 xFIP. Bettis is a guy that has been victimized by sequencing luck. His 66.6 percent LOB% with a 51.3 percent GB% is a sign that he just hasn’t had enough balls hit at fielders in high-leverage spots. If we look deeper, hitters have a .274/.315/.424 slash with the bases empty and a .306/.384/.504 with men on base. His .344 BABIP against with men on base is certainly problematic.
The problem is that I haven’t seen him enough to know if it’s a mechanical issue from the stretch or just bad luck. The fact that his K/BB ratio drops precipitously with men on base compared to with the bases empty leads me to believe that it’s an ongoing mechanical issue.
It’s possible that the line move has added value to the Washington side here. It wouldn’t be a strong play by any means, but a lean on the Nationals is in order.