Happy NFL Opening Day! It’s merely coincidental that the MLB schedule only features seven games today, with one of them functioning as a getaway day affair in Cleveland between the Astros and the Indians. All seven home teams are favored tonight, though only one of them has a price higher than -160. Days off are very precious for teams right now, as most of them only have one more. Some may have two. It will be interesting to see if those teams in the playoff race get a bump tomorrow. For now, it’s time to focus on these seven games and see if we can extract some value.
Looking back to yesterday, give Tampa Bay credit for showing up after getting blown out. They played spoiler against the Orioles and we dropped out first one. But, we got Jharel Cotton and the Athletics in the late afternoon. The battle between Mike Leake and Jameson Taillon stayed under for the full game, but the first five innings went over. The Marlins finally won and Andrew Cashner pitched well. The over did hit again in Texas/Seattle to salvage the night and leave us with a small deficit.
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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.
Houston at Cleveland (-150); Total: 8.5
The Indians would love to secure a split here in this series, but they definitely have some work to do. They’ll face MLB debutant David Paulino in this 12:10 p.m. ET first pitch. Houston is very aggressive with their development paths for young players and Paulino went from Rookie ball to Double-A to Triple-A this season. His injury-filled past has kept him from working a lot of innings in a season, but he’s got a big fastball with a good curveball. Unfortunately, he lacks a third pitch and has that injury history, so he’s likely suited for a bullpen role.
In any event, the Indians have obviously never seen him and he’s pitched well pretty much everywhere he’s been at the MiLB levels. He’s only given up six home runs spread across 196.1 minor league innings. He has 219 strikeouts in that span and a WHIP under 1.00. There’s some upside in him here today. His injury history has slowed him down, but he’s also only 22 years old.
Trevor Bauer struck out 13 against Toronto on August 19 and has only struck out 11 over his last three starts. This is a tough lineup for Bauer, who does have walk issues periodically. He can also use Houston’s aggressiveness against the lineup and keep them off-balance, so he can have success if he’s locating his pitches. I think there are a wide range of outcomes for Bauer.
Not knowing much about Paulino, this day game is a pass, but both teams should be fully invested, so it won’t be one of those ugly getaway day contests we often see in September.
Tampa Bay at New York (AL) (-120); Total: 8.5
Not a whole lot of respect is being thrown CC Sabathia’s way here in this one. Alex Cobb just made his first MLB start since September 28, 2014 and he’d be lined as a neutral-park favorite in this game. It was great to see Cobb back on the mound and great to see him throw the ball well, as he’s been through a lot over the last few seasons. I’m not so sure that I’m ready to buy in.
Cobb really struggled in eight minor league rehab appearances. Now, the MiLB rehab starts are solely about testing out health and throwing every pitch. There’s not a whole lot of sequencing that goes into it. It’s just about being healthy and trying everything. That being said, getting knocked around like that is a sign of poor command. Cobb’s control also wasn’t great. It was a dramatically different scenario at the MLB level, where Cobb pounded the strike zone, got ahead, and threw over 55 percent curveballs and changeups. Shutting down Toronto is very impressive. We’ll have to see if he can keep it going. My initial guess is no.
CC Sabathia has a 4.20/4.22/4.48 pitcher slash on the season, but at least he’s back to being a useful starter. He’s strung together three solid outings in a row and I really don’t think that the Rays are going to be as effective against lefties as they have been throughout the season. For the most part, Sabathia has kept his team in games, so this could very well come down to the bullpens. The Yankees lost some pieces via trade, but they’ve kept rolling right along. The Rays have a solid pen as well, but I’m not sure that they’ll have a lead to protect.
A slight lean to the Yankees here, with my reservations about Cobb providing the fuel for that fire.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-150); Total: 8.5
It was a huge boost for the Pirates to snag that last game against the Cardinals to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive. I really wanted to be able to play on the Reds in this series and when the Pirates visit Cincinnati next week, but the Reds are 4-12 over their last 16 games and they’ve lost a lot of those games in blowout fashion. This is a team that seems to have hit the wall and September is solely for development purposes with a rebuilding team.
This is a good park for Dan Straily, though. Straily is an extreme fly ball guy and PNC Park is pretty stingy when it comes to home runs. Straily had his string of 10 straight starts with three runs or fewer snapped on August 29 and then he walked seven in his last outing. It’s far to wonder if he’s lost his release point a little bit here based on season-to-date workload or whatever else. He’s a little bit of a shaky pick tonight, even the Reds are one of the more attractive underdog picks on the board for tonight.
I really do wonder how long Ivan Nova can keep this up with the Pirates. He has a 2.89 ERA with a 3.29 FIP and a 3.38 xFIP in his 37.1 innings. Nova has only walked two batters in that span and has pitched well to this Pittsburgh defense. It’s not like he was a guy that walked a lot of people with the Yankees, but we’re talking about historic levels of control. I don’t think the Reds are the team to deal that regression, but it is coming. When it does, Nova’s low K rate will be problematic once again.
I wish I could gauge the feeling in the Pirates clubhouse after winning that one last night against St. Louis. They’re still 4.5 games off the pace in the wild card hunt. I don’t know if it was a springboard or not. Either way, I’m probably staying away from this game.
Milwaukee at St. Louis (-150); Total: 7.5
I know the initial gut reaction is to take a stab at Milwaukee because Junior Guerra’s been great this season and Jaime Garcia has not. Guerra only worked 3.1 innings last time out and he’ll be on a pitch count again here today. He couldn’t make any rehab starts coming off of his elbow injury and he will set a new career high in innings pitched today. St. Louis is in a letdown spot coming out of that emotional series against Pittsburgh. Unlike Cincinnati, who is still in the tank, Milwaukee has won five of six after a 10-20 August. The shock of losing Jon Lucroy is gone and the youngsters are playing with some piss and vinegar.
It’s not a bad idea to take the Brewers. It’s just not a great idea either, since this price is a little bit lower than I’d want it.
Colorado at San Diego (-130); Total: 8
Jeff Hoffman and Clayton Richard are the guys listed to start for their respective teams in this one. Colorado is just 30-37 away from home this season, even though they have a +13 run differential. If they are invested the rest of the way, maybe they can even that number out a little bit and cash some underdog tickets. Maybe today is one of those days.
He’s been a bit overmatched at the MLB level. After striking out 124 batters in 118.2 Triple-A innings this season, Hoffman only has five strikeouts over 68 batters at the MLB level. The long ball has been his biggest issue. It doesn’t seem like he’s all that comfortable at this level just yet. He was shelled by the Cubs in his debut start at Coors Field, so that was a bad spot. He’s been okay in his last two starts, but he has walked seven. The guess there is that Hoffman is trying to aim his pitches since he got hit so hard in his first start. “Just pitch.” That’s what he’ll be told today before facing a San Diego lineup that hasn’t hit righties in years.
I’m not sure how big of a motivating factor it is for teams, but Hoffman has not snagged his first Major League win yet. Guys that have been around know how special that is for a pitcher, so maybe the Rockies bring a little bit of extra incentive to the ballpark.
This will be Clayton Richard’s fifth start with the Padres and he’s pitched really well in his 24.1 innings for them. Of course, he’s also stranded 89.7 percent of his runners, so anybody can post a low ERA with that going on. Richard has a 3.97 FIP and a 4.01 xFIP in the small sample, so regression is clearly present. Richard has allowed 17 hits over his last 12 innings and only one run. I know we’re playing with really small sample sizes here, but I don’t trust him at all.
Give me the Rockies today.
Texas at Seattle (-115); Total: 8.5
I know Derek Holland isn’t any good, but I’m not laying a price with Taijuan Walker. I’ve tried to avoid this season and as many Texas games as possible for obvious reasons. That’ll be the case today as well. I won’t be playing this one, but I will break it down for you.
The market came in on Seattle yesterday and there hasn’t been a whole lot of pro-Texas line movement. Oddsmakers have been making good money off of the sharper, more astute MLB handicappers fading this luckbox of a team. The Rangers are good, but they’re not as good as their record shows and a lot of people keep futility betting on regression. That’s probably the primary reason why you se Walker favored here, even though he’s been awful of late. Walker has only allowed three runs or fewer in four of his last 14 starts. He’s been burying his team and he really buried them last time out when he didn’t make it out of the first inning.
I’m not sure if it’s mental, mechanical, physical, or something else, but when Walker’s bad, he’s really bad and he’s really bad for stretches of time. He can also really shine in small sample sizes. He’s very Jekyll and Hyde-like and that makes for a really hard pitcher to bet on or against.
Holland has been really useful since coming off of the DL on August 23. He’s given up four runs on 14 hits in 18 innings of work. It’s hard to know what’s sustainable and what isn’t with Holland. He’s had so many injuries that he’s never really gotten into a great rhythm in a while. One thing to point out is that Holland has a 4.57 ERA, but he gave up 11 runs in 2.2 innings on May 5. Outside of that start, he has a 3.58 ERA, so that one start accounts for a full run on his ERA.
Gun to my head, I’m playing Texas, but today’s mostly a day to observe.