Isn’t it nice that Major League Baseball condensed the schedule today in honor of the start of college football season? As September hits and rosters expand, there are only four games to consider today on the diamond, with one of them a getaway day game for a bad west coast team in an Eastern Time Zone city. Off days are like gold at this point in the season and most teams only have one remaining after today. At least there are reinforcements with roster expansion, but it’s still going to be a grind for the better teams that are in the postseason hunt. With only four games today, we’ll dive into all of them and see what we can find.

Looking back to yesterday, the under did hit in Chicago and the White Sox bullpen did blow it for Chris Sale. No word on if he went on another scissors rampage. Unfortunately, action was cancelled on the Miami game with a pitching change, but it did end 5-2 as I predicted! St. Louis had some line value and lost anyway, as the offense sputtered against Matt Garza. The Royals didn’t win (!!), surprisingly, in a game that was a toss-up in the late innings and into extras.

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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.

San Diego at Atlanta (-145); Total: 8.5

The Braves have laid some big numbers in this series for being one of the worst teams we’ve seen in a while. They actually laid above -170 on Tuesday and won as a -140 dog last night. It’s easy to see why money is coming in on the home team here. The Padres have a cross-country flight all the way to Los Angeles to meet the Dodgers tomorrow to wrap up a nine-game road trip. San Diego has been beaten by a combined 15-4 in this series. This feels like one of those spots where playing spoiler energizes a young team, like it did in Miami, but they can’t get motivated against bad teams.

Jarred Cosart gets the pill today. Cosart has actually thrown the ball fairly well in his five starts for the Padres with a 2.88 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, and a 3.98 xFIP. He’s only given up one run in each of his last three starts with a large amount of sequencing luck. In his last two starts, he’s allowed 17 baserunners over 10.2 innings, but has only allowed those two runs. Cosart can be a tough guy to score against because he induces a lot of ground balls, so hitters have to string together those knocks. On the other hand, he doesn’t miss a lot of bats and has suspect control. Really, it comes down to whether or not he strands the runners that get on base, because he allows a lot of them.

The Braves wanted to stack their pitching staff with hard throwers and Mike Foltynewicz certainly fits the bill. Unfortunately, his arsenal depth isn’t quite there and that’s a reason why he has a 4.67 ERA with a 4.30 FIP and a 4.14 xFIP since June 30, when he returned to the ballclub. His 61 K in 69.1 innings are okay and his BB rate in that span isn’t bad, but he hasn’t worked out of jams and has given up 10 home runs. He’s just not a pitcher to get excited about. One consideration here, however, is that the Padres haven’t hit righties all year. Folty has a .309 wOBA against vs. right-handed batters and a .349 wOBA against vs. left-handed sticks. He’s also pitched better at Turner Field, which is a tough hitter’s park, although this is a hot and humid day game, so the ball may carry a little bit more.

If you have to play it, take the Braves. If you don’t have to play it, leave it alone.

Miami at New York (NL) (-195); Total: 7.5

Jose Urena and the Fish are a big underdog against the suddenly-surging New York Mets. The Marlins are in a pretty big tailspin right now because they can’t hit, which I talked about yesterday. The loss of Giancarlo Stanton and the fall-off from Marcell Ozuna has left this team without thump in the middle of the order. Ozuna is now day-to-day with a wrist injury and it seems unlikely he’ll play against deGrom.

Urena is merely an innings eater for a staff that doesn’t have a ton of depth. He’s making his seventh start and has a 4.81 ERA in 33.2 innings as a starter. He’s actually had better success as a starter than as a reliever, but he hasn’t had much success in either role. He doesn’t miss enough bats to get out of leverage situations and has below average command.

There are some lingering worries about Jacob deGrom. In a season where Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have gone down, and Zack Wheeler hasn’t come back, the Mets are pretty thin in the rotation. deGrom’s a proud papa for the first time this year and there were some complications in April with the pregnancy and things like that are a major life change. Terry Collins said that his right-hander looked worn down after his last start, so deGrom was supposed to be skipped through a turn in the rotation.

He’s actually working on seven days rest here, not having pitched since the 24th. He’s given up 13 runs on 25 hits with four home runs allowed over his last two starts. The velocity looks okay from those two outings, so I don’t think we’re dealing with anything more than fatigue here. He’s just not commanding pitches in the zone. Given how the Marlins are hitting, this is a good lineup for him to get back on track.

I’m leaning towards the over here, however. The Mets are starting to hit a bit now and that really is contagious. I’m not sure how quantifiable it is, but confidence is a big thing in the batter’s box and the Mets are swinging it much better of late. The Marlins don’t have a lot going for them, but deGrom has been struggling and that might be the equalizer that Miami needs to claw out a few runs.

San Francisco at Chicago (NL) (-160)

No total, as we know, with the night game at Wrigley Field. The Giants head to town for a four-game weekend set with Jeff Samardzija going in Game 1. The Cubs will counter with Mike Montgomery, who will be piggybacked by Trevor Cahill if he doesn’t work deep enough into the game.

Right when I started talking bad about Jeff Samardzija, variance and regression hit and he’s given up just five runs over his last four starts, covering 25.2 innings of work. Look deeper, though. Samardzija has 21 strikeouts in that span, which is much better than his season-to-date average, but he’s issued eight walks as well. Samardzija allowed 10 baserunners last start and stranded them all against Atlanta. He’s taken on three of the weaker offenses in the NL because Miami is without Stanton.

There are some encouraging signs, but they may not be as encouraging as you think and certainly aren’t encouraging enough heading into Wrigley Field to take on this offense. I do wonder if there will be a lull for the Cubs, who are going to cruise to the division title, but it won’t come here against a team like the Giants. San Francisco is struggling, but they’re still a three-time World Series champion over the last six seasons.

Mike Montgomery was a savvy addition by Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, which is no surprise. Montgomery has a 3.50 ERA with a 4.48 FIP and a 3.78 xFIP in his 18 innings for the Cubs. That covers two starts and seven relief appearances. Montgomery’s first start was solid, as he met his pitch count with one run allowed on a solo home run in 4.1 innings. His last start was less solid, as he wasn’t very efficient over his five innings. He walked four and allowed three runs on six hits. He wasn’t hit hard, though. All three runs scored on groundouts after he made his own problems with walks and hit-by-pitches. Another scored following a double and a bunt single from the pitcher. Context matters a lot sometimes.

The Cubs should be good here, even at the big price. With the way the Giants are limping around right now, the -1 is certainly in play if you want to limit your exposure.

Chicago (AL) (-120) at Minnesota; Total: 8

In this pillow fight of a game, both teams suck. Chicago just blew three straight games with leads against Detroit to fail miserably at playing spoiler. The Twins played two one-run games and a lopsided loss in a series sweep at the hands of the Indians. The Twins have lost 13 straight. The White Sox don’t care against bad teams.

Unfortunately, somebody has to win this game, even though both of them should just get credited with losses the rest of the season. Jose Quintana goes for the White Sox and Ervin Santana goes for the Twins, so at least the pitching matchup is decent. Quintana is still rolling right along with his 2.77 ERA, 3.34 FIP, and a 4.01 xFIP on the season. As I’ve told you before, the xFIP for Quintana is irrelevant because he’ll never post a league average HR/FB%. He’s just a special, highly underrated pitcher, and it’s hard to see this Twins offense doing a whole lot against him today. It’s really a matter of whether or not the bullpen blows it for him.

Bright spots are few and far between for the Twins, who keep f’ing up the development paths of their key prospects. One bright spot has been Ervin Santana, who is living up to that contract that nobody understood. The Twins have gotten a 3.54 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, and a 4.25 xFIP from Santana. Like Quintana, Santana has been nowhere near the league average HR/FB% recently, so no worries on the xFIP.

Santana was rocked by Toronto last time out to snap a string of six starts with three runs or fewer allowed. Take it back to June 19 and he’s only allowed more than three runs in a start twice. He’s been very effective. Last start, he lost his release point and walked a season-high five against Toronto. He’s actually making his first home start since July 31, so it’s been over a month since he pitched at Target Field. His ERA is a little high at home at 3.76, but his slash against of .233/.278/.361 is spectacular.

In this particular spot, I’d look at the first five under. I don’t see either team excited to play this game and that always favors the pitchers. The only worry with that is that both defenses are bad, but I’ll trust two arms having good seasons to keep it low scoring before the bullpens come in and all hell breaks loose.