Under four weeks remain in the Major League Baseball season, unless we need a tiebreaker in both leagues. After a busy college football opening weekend, baseball becomes the focus for the next two days before the NFL season kicks off on Thursday night. There are actually some reasonable lines tonight, so it’s a good day for bettors to get back to the diamond and scratch out some profits to use on other sports or to put away for a rainy day. We certainly have a lot to look at during this time of year, so let’s see what there is to discuss for September 6.
Right after we look back at September 5. Bartolo Colon gave the Mets a huge lift on Monday and they persevered through a miserable situational spot for the win. The Phillies cashed on a line that didn’t make any sense and, in fact, the Phillies became about a -120 favorite after being a +115 dog when the article went up. It wasn’t a great day for plays, but if you missed the discussion about the Sale vs. Verlander line in the article or the Seattle vs. Texas line on BangTheBook Radio, check those two things out.
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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 (-120) at Pittsburgh; Total: 9
This is a make-or-break series for the Pirates and they broke last night. Things were ugly. The Cardinals shot out to a big lead early on and never relented with a 12-run outburst. It’s safe to say that there were some upset players and staff after last night’s showing, but there’s clearly no guarantee that the Pirates will bounce back. In fact, I expect the opposite. I expect the tailspin to keep going.
The Cardinals can smell blood in the water in this series and they’re definitely better equipped right now to keep moving forward. They’ll do it on the shoulders of 23-year-old Luke Weaver. Weaver does have some command concerns early in his MLB career, but he’s also struck out 26 batters in 21 innings of work. He’s proven to be a pretty extreme fly ball guy at the big league level, which is definitely sustainable, particularly in a place like PNC Park that doesn’t have a lot of carry on a day-to-day basis. He’s shown a lot of poise in leverage spots in this small sample size and he should get plenty of run support this evening.
The magic of getting by with substandard starting pitching has stopped for the Pirates. Gerrit Cole is great, but the team has reshuffled the deck with the Francisco Liriano trade and the call-up of Jameson Taillon. If one of Taillon or Cole were on the bump today, this might be a different scenario. Instead, it’s Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong has posted a solid 3.56 ERA with ugly peripherals, including a 4.68 FIP. Since returning to the team on August 4, he’s given a mixed bag of results in his six starts, but he’s walking on thin ice, especially with 12 walks over his last four starts. The Cardinals have been excellent against righties all season long and I wouldn’t expect it to stop now.
Laying chalk in a division game on the road is never easy, but the Pirates just look like a team going in the wrong direction right now.
New York (NL) at Cincinnati (-105); Total: 9
Unfortunately, I think the oddsmakers slapped a terrific number on this game. My initial thought was to face the Mets after yesterday’s awful travel schedule and big win, but laying anything with a minus sign in front of it on the Reds is a tough sell. The Mets will go with Rafael Montero for his second start of the season. The Reds will counter with lefty Brandon Finnegan.
Montero made his first start of the year on August 29 and worked five shutout innings, but he managed to pitch around six walks against the punchless Marlins. Montero had major control issues in his 16 starts with Triple-A and posted a 7.20 ERA with a 5.47 FIP. It’s the PCL and the home park is Las Vegas, which is a launching pad, but those are still awful numbers. Montero was once a pretty highly-touted prospect, but it has never come to fruition.
Brandon Finnegan is a guy that I’d watch very closely here over his last few starts. He’s thrown 154.2 innings this season after throwing 105.1 innings last season. The Royals took him out of a starting role and put him in the bullpen, so this is definitely some new territory for the former TCU standout. Because of his fly ball style and his K/BB rates, the margin for error is really thin for him. That’s why he’s given up 27 HR on the season. The deeper we get into the season, the more concerns I have about his command and repeating his delivery.
The weird thing is that he’s getting stronger. Over his last three starts, Finnegan has a 29/4 K/BB ratio and has allowed four runs on just nine hits. I’m not really sure what to make of this. Maybe he made an adjustment on the fly or maybe it’s just variance. I want to ride the wave, especially with this price and this spot for the Mets, but I’m not sure that I can. If I had to, I’d go with Cincinnati tonight. It pretty much depends on if we have better options on the rest of the card.
Detroit (-110) at Chicago (AL); Total: 9.5
This is a tough handicap because the White Sox bullpen has blown each of the last four games against the Tigers, so Chicago’s starters have held Detroit down and have had a chance to win. They just haven’t sealed the deal. At some point, you’d have to think that they would protect a lead and win a game. Is today that day?
Well, they may not have a lead to protect, so there’s that. There is a play that I really do like in this game and that’s the under. Matt Boyd has been really good since his recall on July 9. Boyd has a 2.55 ERA with 46 K in 49.1 innings of work. He’s stranded a lot of runners and his FIP and xFIP aren’t nearly as happy with his performance, but he’s missed bats and cut down his walks.
People don’t really realize how solid Miguel Gonzalez has been this season. He has a 4.05 ERA with a 3.95 FIP and he’s been victimized by two really bad starts. Gonzalez gave up eight runs in 5.1 innings against Toronto and seven runs in 3.1 innings against Detroit. That’s 15 of the 46 earned runs that he has allowed this season. So he’s given up 31 runs in his other 16 starts. Obviously, you can’t take away bad starts and pretend like they never happened, but you can consider everything in the proper context.
The big worry here with Gonzalez is that he’s making his first start since August 11 and he was blasted in his rehab start five days ago when he gave up seven runs on 11 hits. But, he was probably just trying to see if he was healthy and that was about it, so I’ll expect a low-scoring affair tonight and hope for the best with Gonzalez.
San Francisco at Colorado (-120); Total: 11.5
There’s not a whole lot of confidence in Jeff Samardzija, is there? Then again, if we factor in the Coors home field advantage, the Giants are a short favorite on a neutral field. So, maybe that’s a silver lining? Either way, Samardzija has not been what the Giants were hoping for. He hasn’t been terrible, but a 4.06/4.17/4.25 isn’t sitting all that well given the league and also the park change.
Everything was okay until May 30, but Samardzija has now hung a 5.15 ERA, 5.01 FIP, and 4.73 xFIP over his last 17 starts. He’s not missing bats and he’s given up 17 dingers in 99.2 innings of work. Those are not great numbers heading into a start at Coors Field. Samardzija has, however, held the opposition to three runs or less over his last five starts, so maybe he’s starting to turn the corner.
Tyler Anderson keeps right on going with his 3.43/3.58/3.42 pitcher slash. He’s got excellent overall numbers and has really turned into a big bright spot for this Rockies team. He’s missing bats and he’s inducing ground balls, which are two things that really go a long way, particularly at Coors Field. Anderson should be able to sustain this pace through the rest of the season, though he’s worked 120 innings after missing all of 2015 due to injury. He worked 118.1 innings in 2014, so this workload isn’t new, but it’s a lot after missing a full season. We’ll have to see how much longer the Rockies send him out there.
There’s nothing to believe that Anderson will struggle, since he’s conquered Coors throughout the year. Samardzija at Coors is probably another story and the Giants offense has been so inconsistent that we really don’t know what to expect from them right now. As for me, I’m not expecting much. Lefties have hit Samardzija really well and the Rockies can stack some lefties against him, so I’d look at the home team here.
Texas at Seattle (-115); Total: 8
Martin Perez and James Paxton meet in a battle of lefties on Tuesday night. The Mariners scored a big, much-needed win on Monday night to stop a little bit of a skid. The Rangers have a pretty big cushion, but they’re playing for home field advantage, which they’d have through the World Series if they got that far.
My thoughts on Martin Perez are well-documented, so let’s focus on James Paxton. Paxton is having a bit of a rough go of things here recently. He had to have a replacement nail put on his middle finger, which just sounds disgusting. Paxton injured the hand during his last start. During his bullpen session, Paxton was unable to get a feel for his changeup and only threw fastballs and curveballs. His changeup isn’t a huge part of his arsenal, but it sounds like there’s definitely some discomfort there and I’m not willing to back that.
I’d have to look Rangers here. I don’t like Perez and I know that Seattle gets disrespected by the oddsmakers when they face lefties, but this Paxton thing sounds like a big issue and the Mariners haven’t been playing all that well lately anyway.