As we’ve seen on Wednesdays throughout the season, we have day baseball to contend with on August 17. There are five afternoon matchups and 10 more that start at 7:05 p.m. ET or later. It’s an interesting part of the season for a variety of different reasons, including those that we have discussed in recent articles. With two weeks until the influx of September call-ups, reinforcements aren’t coming for the bad teams. It’s the time of year when those bad teams carry line value, but it’s also hard for handicappers to take that plunge. We’ll see if any bad teams stand out in today’s picks and analysis piece.
It was a mixed bag on Tuesday. The Red Sox were a winner and some of the overs hit in the Miami/Cincinnati game, including the full game and the Reds team total. The under pushed in KC/DET and we had some tough losses. The White Sox were right in it, but the Indians bullpen slammed the door shut as a big favorite. The Nationals were flat and only scored two runs at Coors Field, which will almost never win a game in those conditions. Back to the grind today.
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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.
St. Louis at Houston (-110); Total: 8
The betting market has taken a stance on this getaway day contest between the Cardinals and the Astros. That stance is to back the road team. It’ll be Carlos Martinez against Doug Fister in this matchup between wild card hopefuls. The Astros are really slumping in a big way. They’re 5.5 out in the wild card and nine back in the division. It looked like the Astros were going to catch the Rangers about a month ago, but fortunes have really changed.
Perhaps that’s part of this line move. Houston is seven games under .500 since July 25, but there are times when they are still lined like the potential-filled team that they were supposed to be entering the season. It’s also fair to assume that there’s some anti-Doug Fister sentiment here. Fister has a 3.61 ERA with a 4.50 FIP and a 4.76 xFIP. He’s had a couple of clunkers lately, but he’s largely pitched pretty well. It has to be remembered that there are some guys that can outpitch their advanced metrics. Fister is one of them and has been. They are outliers and anomalies, but they are out there.
Carlos Martinez has some signs of regression in his profile as well, but it does seem like he is better equipped to deal with them and get over it. Martinez has a 3.34 ERA with a 3.84 FIP and a 4.03 xFIP. He has one of the top ground ball rates in the game and it’s hard for hitters in this current generation to string a lot of hits together to score runs. The game is predicated on walks and dingers for a lot of teams.
That being said, Martinez has struggled recently. He’s given up 14 runs over his last three starts, including matchups against Atlanta and the Marlins in Miami. Is this just some BABIP variance or a sign of something more? His average velocity is a tick on the low side relative to some of his recent starts, so I’m going to chalk it up to a mechanical issue.
Generally, getaway day games don’t go over the total, but I need to see Martinez sharpen up some things and the Cardinals have been very good against right-handed pitching throughout the season. We could see some runs here today.
Pittsburgh at San Francisco (-120); Total: 8.5
Ivan Nova and Matt Cain make for a pretty terrible getaway day matchup in San Francisco. The Giants’ free fall continued yesterday and they lost their grip on first place in the NL West. The Pirates are gradually picking up steam and are now five games over .500 and one game back in the wild card hunt. The Giants are 9-20 since the All-Star Break, so they’ve been an excellent fade team. It also seems like oddsmakers are a little slow to react to just how poorly the Giants are playing. They’ve scored 104 runs in those 29 games.
This is a tough spot. The Pirates are wrapping up a long road trip and have an off day tomorrow to get ready for a weekend home set against Miami. You would hope that both teams come fully engaged to play this afternoon, since there’s a lot on the line for both of them over the last seven weeks of the season.
Ivan Nova has made two starts for the Pirates and has thrown the ball well. He hasn’t walked anybody in his 12.1 innings, so his .325 BABIP against and two home runs allowed haven’t been too hurtful. Nova only has seven strikeouts out of 49 batters faced. He’s also had issues keeping the ball down to induce ground balls, which is important, because the Pirates like to shift and likely acquired him because of his 54.3 percent GB% with the Yankees. It’s likely just small sample size variance, but we’ll have to watch it.
Matt Cain is just a bad pitcher at this point. He’s giving up too many home runs and too much hard contact. Cain has a 5.47 ERA with a 5.29 FIP and a 4.83 xFIP. There’s nothing to like about Matt Cain and when you factor in all of the Giants’ issues offensively, there’s probably some value on Pittsburgh here today. It goes against a lot of conventional philosophies regarding getaway day games and the end of road trips, but sometimes you have to buck the trends.
Boston (-125) at Baltimore; Total: 9
David Price is a road favorite at Baltimore against Dylan Bundy, as he should be, yet something feels strange about that sentence. I’m not going to say that the wrong team is favored, but in looking at this game and realizing what the context is of this matchup, it does feel like Orioles money is going to hit the market here at some point. It’s been a tough year for Price, who has had the worst sequencing luck of his career. Price doesn’t have a career-low LOB% or anything, but he has a 4.29 ERA with a 3.49 FIP and a 3.32 xFIP. Home runs have hurt him as well. He’s also allowed a .333 BABIP against, which is over 40 points higher than his career average.
He just doesn’t seem as dominant as we’ve seen him in the past. He’s allowed 18 runs over his last five starts, and that includes eight shutout against the Angels. There’s just something about Price that feels off about this season. He recently crossed the 1,600-inning mark for his career, so I don’t think it’s a workload issue. It’s probably an ongoing mechanical issue that he hasn’t been able to correct. That’s not a good issue to have against a Baltimore team that has some good power.
The Orioles have a premier pitching prospect and he seems to be healthy. Dylan Bundy owns a 2.93 ERA with a 3.84 FIP and a 4.22 xFIP. You have to look at his numbers in two different capacities. He has a lot of relief appearances, but he’s been more comfortable as a starter with a higher K% (29 percent!!), a lower BB rate, and better numbers across the board. For a lot of guys that came up as starters, they feel more comfortable in that role because they have the luxury of working through any minor inconveniences. As a reliever, you don’t get the luxury of time.
Opposing hitters are only batting .172/.226/.374 against Bundy as a starter. Even though the Red Sox won yesterday and also won Monday’s makeup game against the Indians, I do like the Orioles here tonight against Price. I think we get some line value because of the name recognition on Price. Boston plays a random Thursday day game in Detroit to open up the weekend set after this ESPN game, so we have an excellent situational angle to monitor for Thursday, as they play four games in three cities in 99 hours.
I still like Baltimore tonight, but we’ll keep that angle in mind for Thursday as well.
Kansas City at Detroit (-125); Total: 8.5
A lot of times, I don’t even like to look at games like this because I don’t like either starting pitcher and I don’t like either team. Yordano Ventura goes for the Royals and Anibal Sanchez for the Tigers. There’s nothing to like about either of those starters, both of whom have poor numbers throughout the season. Kansas City is on a little bit of an upswing here, but it’s probably just relative to their opponents. The Tigers were trying to maintain a pace that they cannot sustain with their starting pitching and now their injuries.
With Nick Castellanos out and Miggy Cabrera dealing with the biceps injury, the Tigers offense has fallen off lately. The Tigers also have a subpar bullpen. There’s probably value in a game like this if I dug deep enough, but I don’t want to. There are some mental hurdles that are simply too much to overcome from a handicapping standpoint and this is one of them. I dislike both of these starters and both of these offenses so much that I can’t take a side or a total play.
You’ll find games like this periodically. The best thing to do is move on. Don’t force it. Don’t try to find something that’s not there. Just move on.
Catch today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio for thoughts on the Miami vs. Cincinnati and New York Mets vs. Arizona matchups!