September begins this week, so teams can call up players on the 40-man roster and bring in some reinforcements for the rest of the season. For the contenders, that means pinch runners, relief pitchers, and some platoon bats. For the teams with no playoff prospects, they’ll get a look at some org guys, mid-level prospects, top prospects, or give guys a thank you for being good soldiers throughout the season. Football also really kicks off this week, so it’s possible that we’ll see some less efficient lines as the focus shifts to the cash cow leagues. Either way, we’ve got three days until that happens, so let’s see what August 29 has to offer.

Glancing back to yesterday’s action, it was a rough day. We actually got five shutout innings from Kevin Gausman and CC Sabathia to ruin that under. We talked about Robert Gsellman and he was underwhelming as the Phillies cashed a dog ticket. Tampa Bay’s offense exploded for 10 to ruin the under in Houston. Ivan Nova and the Pirates were the lone bright spot of the day. Back to the grind.

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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.

Toronto (-125) at Baltimore; Total: 10

Ugh. This game is ugly. Marco Estrada takes on Wade Miley in this battle of AL East contenders. The reason it’s so ugly is because Marco Estrada’s carriage has turned back into a pumpkin and the dress he wore to the ball is now a tattered and torn outfit designed to clean the house in. You get the analogies here, right? His glass slipper has fallen off. The clock struck midnight. The fairy godmothers have left the building. Shall I keep going?

A few weeks back, Estrada was flirting with the best BABIP in recorded history. Now, his BABIP sits at .227, which is still very good, but it’s 11 points higher than last season’s mark. Estrada used a DL stint and the All-Star Break to rest an aching back and it’s been all downhill since he came back. Since July 22, a span of six starts, Estrada has a 5.18 ERA with a 5.00 FIP and a 4.88 xFIP. His BABIP in that span is .311 and he’s given up six home runs, which don’t count towards BABIP.

For a while, he was pitching right around it, but he’s given up 11 runs on 15 hits in his last nine innings. There are a couple of theories. Either this is simply the regression that was coming for him or he’s hurt again. His velocity readings have been down most of the season, so it’s hard to pull much from that. His last two starts have featured some of the lowest Zone% readings of the season, which was also a trend when his back started acting up in late June. It’s entirely possible that Estrada is hurt again. I never want to back an injured starter.

But, Wade Miley has been awful for Baltimore. This is a total stay-away game. I think the Estrada line is a little bit too high on the road given how he’s pitching, but Miley could give up a seven spot in the first and I wouldn’t be surprised. Watch Estrada closely here in this start and over his next few starts. There are a lot of red flags.

St. Louis (-145) at Milwaukee; Total: 8

This is one of those games that piques my interest at this time of year. We know that the Brewers aren’t a very good team, but I’m always curious to see how young, rebuilding teams embrace these situations where they can impact the playoff races. There’s also something else at play here.

Joe Schwarz of Vivo El Birdos, the SB Nation home of the Cardinals, has been tweeting some interesting things lately with regards to the team and its relationship with manager Mike Matheny. I’ve never been a big Matheny fan and neither have the statistically-minded Cardinals fans I know. There’s a lot of talent on this Cardinals team, but it does feel like most of the season has been a grind.

There’s been a 20-cent line move on Carlos Martinez in this one. Martinez has a 3.13 ERA with a 3.70 FIP and a 4.00 xFIP. His K rate is down quite a bit, but pitching to contact has worked out with a 52-point drop in BABIP and a ground ball increase. His K and BB metrics are going in the wrong direction here in the second half, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that, but he’s been solid throughout the season.

Zach Davies is okay for a few more starts in terms of his innings workload. Davies made his MLB debut last season and worked 34 innings over six starts to get to 162.1 innings. He’s at 142 this season, so he’s got a few more bullets in the gun. Davies has a 4.06 ERA with a 3.95 FIP and a 4.10 xFIP, but he gave up 13 of his 60 earned runs over his first three starts to bury a fairly deep hole for himself. We obviously can’t ignore those starts, but he has a 3.53/3.76/3.08 pitcher slash since the start of May.

Perhaps the opening number was a little bit low, but the current number looks a little bit too high. The Cardinals are 22-19 since the Break with a -10 run differential, so they’ve been a little bit fortunate. The workload is mounting on their bullpen and there could be more than meets the eye in the clubhouse and the dugout.

New York (AL) (-115) at Kansas City; Total: 8.5

Who will stop the Kansas City Royals? The luckiest team in baseball history (don’t @ me) is doing it again here this season. The Royals are 68-62 with a 63-67 Pythagorean Win-Loss record and they are 19-7 in August after a 7-19 July. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to figure out the Royals and how they consistently defy statistical theories. They’re 11-2 against Minnesota with an 83-39 run differential, so their run differential against everybody they’ve played outside of the Twins is -62.

Anyway, it’s Michael Pineda and Dillon Gee tonight. We’ve seen some overnight money on the Yankees, likely due to Kansas City’s late-night matchup in Boston, which, they, of course, won with an eight-run sixth. The late (early?) arrival in Kansas City influenced the sharper players to fade the Royals a little bit. It may also be about Pineda, whose FIP and xFIP have been well below his ERA all season long. Pineda’s K/BB ratio is elite, but his command has been non-existent. The Royals don’t have much power and have been one of the AL’s worst offensive teams most of the season, but it’s a leap of faith to expect Pineda to improve his command this late in the year.

It may also be a fade of Dillon Gee, who has given the Royals a negative fWAR this season. He has a 4.55 ERA with a 5.06 FIP and a 4.55 xFIP in his 99 innings. So, basically, he fits right in and will go 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in this year’s playoffs. Do I sound bitter? I feel like I sound bitter. Normally I don’t let my biases come out, but the Royals have provided me endless frustration as an Indians fan and with my handicapping style, so the hell with them. Sorry to any Royals fans out there, but you have a ring and a flag to shove in my face, so you’ll be just fine.

Yeah, I’m not touching this game.

Los Angeles (NL) (-125) at Colorado; Total: 11

The Dodgers and the Rockies meet in NL West action in the thin air of Denver. Kenta Maeda returns from a stop at rookie ball to make this start against Jon Gray. Maeda was sent to rookie ball to give the Dodgers some additional roster flexibility over the weekend against the Cubs because there are so many injuries to consider. So, Maeda’s back making MLB meal money on his per diem and he’ll make this start at Coors, where he’s thrown the ball well in his first two outings.

Two outings is not a predictive sample size and strange things can happen at Coors Field, so I’m not ready to say that he’s conquered the altitude. One thing I do find interesting about this series is that it could represent a letdown for the Dodgers. Los Angeles went 4-2 on a six-game homestand that features the Giants and the Cubs. One is their chief division competition and the other is the best team in baseball. Now, the Dodgers go play the Rockies, in a place where long games are a regular occurrence. It’s also a standalone road trip to the Rockies before coming back home for six more.

I think there’s some definite value on a Colorado series price and there’s probably some value in Colorado here tonight. Maeda’s been solid throughout the season, although he has had some home run issues here in the second half with seven dingers allowed in just 39 innings. That seems suboptimal heading into Denver, but we’ll see how it plays out.

Jon Gray could deal with this throughout his career, but he has a 4.61 ERA with a 3.72 FIP and a 3.67 xFIP. He’s got a 4.83/3.70/3.71 for his career, so his strikeout rate and decent home run rate are showing up in the advanced metrics, but his BABIP and sequencing luck are showing up in the high ERA. This start will set a new career high in innings for Gray, so we’ll have to see how the Rockies handle him over the final five weeks of the season. He bounced back in his last start after giving up 19 runs over his previous three starts, so we’ll see how things play out.

Ultimately, I like this situational spot for the Rockies, so that’s why I’d look to go with them and also look at that series price.