We only had four games to consider on Thursday, as the schedule makers gave the majority of the league a desperately needed day off. We’re back to a full slate on Friday to kick off a weekend with some key series that feature playoff implications. The pennant races and the wild card races are officially in the stretch run now and the season will end just about a month from now after leaking over into the month of October. September can be a really tough month to handicap because of inflated prices, odd lineups, unknown pitchers, and a whole lot of other factors, like motivation and trying to guess whether or not teams are invested in playing spoiler. We’ll see if we can get the month off to a good start.
Looking back to yesterday, we looked at all four games, but didn’t have any overly strong plays, but the opinions were on point. The over did cash in the Marlins/Mets game. The Cubs were a winner if you took the straight moneyline, but those that went with the -1 were forced to take a push.
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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.
New York (AL) at Baltimore (-125); Total: 9
It’s a huge series at Camden Yards, as the Yankees keep trying to scratch and claw their way into a postseason berth and the Orioles simply look to hang on, as their fortunes have turned a bit here recently. The Yankees and Orioles had this pitching matchup last week in the Bronx between Chad Green and Dylan Bundy and we successfully handicapped that one as a Yankees win, with the spotlight too big for Bundy at Yankee Stadium.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot, as these two line up again, but in Baltimore. Green didn’t exactly shine in that last start, as he failed to go five innings and gave up three home runs. He’s now given up 11 gopher balls in 44 innings on the season. That’s definitely not going to get it done, particularly in a place like OPACY, where the ball carries quite well and the Orioles have the power to back it up. It’s always interesting to see what kinds of adjustments pitchers make facing a team for the second straight time. For Green, I don’t know how many he can make, since over 80 percent of his arsenal has been four-seam fastball and slider per Baseball Info Solutions this season.
Dylan Bundy has worked 85 innings this season, which is more than he’s worked over the last three seasons combined. That has to be a worry with Bundy moving forward here and we’ll have to see when the Orioles are start to limit his innings and pitches. I am a bit concerned, especially with high-stress innings here in September to keep the team in the playoff race.
There’s a chance that one of these two promising arms puts it together, but I’m looking for runs here, much like the most recent matchup. I’d have to give both offenses the nod, for a lot of reasons, so expect some fireworks in this AL East matchup tonight.
St. Louis (-115) at Cincinnati; Total: 8.5
The Cardinals send prized prospect Alex Reyes to the bump against Anthony DeSclafani in one of tonight’s better pitching exhibitions. Reyes showed some flashes of his stuff last time out, but he wasn’t efficient with his pitches and couldn’t make it through five innings. He should fare better here, with a lineup that he can handle and those first-start nerves out of the equation. Reyes has always fought with his control, so we’ll see how that works against MLB hitters over the long-term, but the raw stuff is still there. He didn’t have great numbers in Triple-A, likely trying too hard to get over the embarrassing suspension he had to start the season.
What worries me more than Reyes in this spot is the impending regression I see from Anthony DeSclafani. The Reds right-hander has been excellent this season and has a really spectacular arsenal, but he’s carrying around a 79.8 percent LOB%. With the bases empty, hitters are posting a .280/.330/.436 slash. Those numbers drop to .208/.260/.341 with traffic on the basepaths. We’ve talked about cluster luck before and DeSclafani’s picture is currently the one next to that definition. Sequencing means so much for a pitcher and it’s worked out really well for DeSclafani.
The Cardinals have been a top-five offense in wOBA most of the season. They currently rank fourth. If any lineup has a good shot to deliver that regression to DeSclafani, it’s probably this one. With that in mind, I’ll lay the short price on Reyes and the Redbirds.
Houston at Texas (-115); Total: 10
Look who’s quietly playing well again. The Houston Astros just won’t go away and die here in this AL West or in the wild card race. They open up a big Lone Star State Showdown against the Texas Rangers. It’ll be Doug Fister against AJ Griffin, which, a Fister Griffin pitching matchup sounds like a Family Guy character.
We’ve talked about these two guys a lot. Fister is an artist when it comes to pitching. What he manages to do with low K rates and average walk rates is really incredible when you think about it. His arsenal just lends itself to weak-ish ground ball contact and he’s one of those guys that hitters can’t believe they went 0-for-4 against.
In my mind, AJ Griffin is a good matchup for the Astros. He induces a ton of aerial contact, which could work in Houston’s favor as a team with some decent pop. He’s also not a big strikeout guy and can issue some walks. His control has been spotty at best since he returned from the DL a few months ago and I kind of wonder whether or not there’s something else there.
The Rangers are remarkably fortunate in one-run games this season and they have absolutely owned Houston this season. Yet, we see the Rangers at a very short price at home. I think people are going to be scared off by Houston in this spot because of the season-to-date results, but I wouldn’t be. I think this pitching matchup favors them and I think the Rangers are an overrated team for several reasons.
Chicago (AL) (-105) at Minnesota; Total: 9
I feel like this is a pretty decent situational spot for a look at the White Sox. The Twins just snapped a 13-game losing streak, which is a big deal for them. They also beat Jose Quintana, which makes it a little bit more special. Losing streaks are awful. Players are pissed. The Twins have no postseason prospects, obviously, and could very well lose over 100 games, but the competitive nature of a professional athlete makes it hard to accept.
With that losing skid done, however, I think the Twins relax a little bit. They’re no longer making history. Obviously, they want to try and get a winning streak going, but I think, as hilarious as it sounds, this is a bit of a letdown spot for the Twins. I also believe that the pitching matchup with Carlos Rodon and Kyle Gibson is favorable for Chicago, although their offense is bad against pretty much everybody. Rodon still has to keep working on things and can’t take any start for granted. Gibson knows what he is and where he stands, so there’s less on the line. I actually like the White Sox tonight, but this isn’t like a two or three-unit play or anything.
Arizona (-120) at Colorado; Total: 11.5
The Diamondbacks and the Rockies get together at Coors and we’ve seen some pretty significant movement here on the Diamondbacks, which we should see when they face a lefty. This is not a good team, but Robbie Ray coupled with the platoon advantages that the Diamondbacks have had this season made them an easy pick for the market.
There’s probably a small bit of value left on Arizona, though I’d probably take their bullpen out of the equation and look at a team total over for the Snakes.