Here we go with another day of Major League Baseball handicapping. Fortunately, there’s nothing else going on in the sports world today, so we can focus solely on the diamond. As you already know, that’s just me being facetious. It’s the first NFL Sunday of the season, so we aren’t seeing a whole lot of MLB line movement at all. In fact, looking at the market, there’s only one game that has moved considerably and it’s the Sunday Nighter. I know we’re all focused on football, but let’s see what the MLB card holds for today.
After we see how we did yesterday. Seattle was a lean winner in a big way. Kendall Graveman did regress. Because I’ve had so many spots where pitchers haven’t this season, I started questioning the primary basis of my MLB capping. It’s a lesson for all to learn. The Indians were a walk-off loser in extras, but they didn’t score against Hector Santiago, so they deserved it. Detroit got blasted in the most frustrating game of the night. Both underdog suggestions lost.
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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.
With a short lead time today from a late morning and with all the NFL frenzy, we’ll have a shortened article today and only look at later games.
Texas (-130) at Los Angeles (AL); Total: 9.5
What a fun game this is! Colby Lewis is making his first start since June 21 and Jered Weaver is horrible. There’s a lot of familiarity here between these two teams and these two starters. The Rangers are clearly the better team and they’re getting a pretty hefty price here with so many unknowns about Lewis. Lewis is an extreme fly ball guy that has really cut down on his walks. He’s worked 11 minor league innings in preparation for this start, so we’ll have to see how he fares. My guess would be not very good, but the shadows will play a role with the afternoon sunshine and the stadium lights.
Jered Weaver used to take refuge at Angel Stadium from the bombardment that he took on the road. At this point, Weaver’s not even a useful starter at home. Opposing hitters are batting .312/.350/.534 and he’s actually given up more HR at home than on the road. A lot of people are going to pour in on the over for this game, in spite of the shadows, and it’s pretty easy to see why.
As far as a side for this game, you basically have to look at Texas. Weaver is actually getting worse as the season goes on. He had an out-of-body experience in July, but he’s back to being atrocious. Since the All-Star Break, opposing hitters are batting .332/.380/.585. Texas has things to play for. Anaheim doesn’t. That has to be a factor for a Sunday day game.
San Francisco at Arizona (-115); Total: 9
Who would have thought we’d ever see a line like this? The Diamondbacks have killed left-handed pitching all season long and Matt Moore uses his left hand to throw a baseball. Zack Greinke had an epic season last year, but he has been a shell of himself so far this year.
I have plenty of concerns about Matt Moore, who was knocked around last time out and has worked more innings this season than the previous two seasons combined. This is a bad park for a lot of starters and Moore is a fly ball type of guy. Since his near no-hitter, Moore has made two starts, one good and one bad. The bad one came in Coors Field, so I’m willing to give him a pass for that. Even with the way that Arizona crushes southpaws, I’m really leaning hard towards the Giants here.
I’m not ready to fall over and bet it, but what has Zack Greinke done to inspire any confidence? This is where I put on my sports psychologist hat and start to make theories. My thought about Greinke is this. He’s unhappy. He hates this situation in Arizona and he’s probably regretting his decision to go there. Instead of focusing on making adjustments and improving, he’s just going through the motions to get to the offseason. He gave up five home runs last time out, so that start was clearly an anomaly. He sort of alternates between good starts and bad starts at this point, but this is a lost season for him. He had a long DL stint and I just don’t think he has that same competitive fire.
Greinke only has eight starts with seven or more strikeouts out of his 23 outings. It was a lot easier to have lower strikeout totals in Los Angeles. It’s a lot harder at Chase Field. Greinke has a .477 SLG against in his home park this season. I realize that he’s the bigger name and that the Diamondbacks have hit lefties well, but I’m looking at the dog here in this spot.
Colorado (-120) at San Diego; Total: 8.5
It’s a bit surprising to see Edwin Jackson money in the marketplace for this game. The Rockies haven’t done much to warrant being road chalk all that often, but Jackson is terrible. Chad Bettis hasn’t been great this season, but he is away from Coors Field and he’s facing a lineup that can’t hit righties at all.
Bettis has a 4.88 ERA with a 4.28 FIP and a 4.04 xFIP on the season. He hasn’t worked out of enough jams. Last season, he had a higher K rate, a worse BB rate, and an ERA that was .65 runs lower because of his sequencing luck. This season, Bettis has had next to no luck. His HR/FB% is a career high and his LOB% is down at 68.1 percent. I feel like he’s a guy that could have some better fortunes as we inch closer to the end of the season. He’ll never post great LOB%, but it should be a little bit higher than it is.
Edwin Jackson has a lot of motivation to finish the year strong so that he can find a job somewhere next season. He struck out 11 in his last outing against the Red Sox, which was definitely unexpected. Prior to that start, Jackson has a 32/29 K/BB ratio in his 54.2 innings of work. He caught a tired Boston team in a bad spot in my mind, so I’m not putting much into that game.
I’m looking to lay the price with Bettis. The Rockies are the better team and they have the better starter in this spot. People probably don’t realize it, but the Rockies actually had a positive run differential away from Coors Field earlier this week. It’s now sitting at zero, but they are eight games under on the road. They’ve played better than that, so I like them in this spot.
Chicago (NL) (-145) at Houston; Total: 7.5
The only line mover of the day is this game between the Cubs and the Astros. I wonder if oddsmakers set this number a little bit too high to limit money line parlay exposure with the NFL starting up today. Either way, it’s dropped 25 cents since it opened, so the market definitely likes the home team in this spot.
Jake Arrieta hasn’t been able to replicate his Cy Young season, but anybody that thought he would is crazy. He worked 229 innings plus playoffs for the first time ever and his control has had some hangover effects as a result. He’s still posting great numbers with a 2.84 ERA, a 3.41 FIP, and a 3.67 xFIP. His K rate is just fine. I understand the line move here because it’s a big number, but I don’t love the Houston lineup against Arrieta. He has issued some walks this season, but he also misses a lot of bats and doesn’t give up home runs. He’s given up 28 HR in his three seasons with the Cubs. I know he’s facing an extra hitter here and Minute Maid is a good hitter’s park, but I don’t see it. I also don’t see the Cubs coming up lame in the primetime spotlight.
I’m also not a Mike Fiers fan. He’s been a lot better here recently, but he still sports a 4.29/4.55/4.21 slash on the season. He’s given up a lot of long balls, which is what I expected with the move to the American League. Fiers’s home/road splits are pretty significant, which is probably another reason why the market flocked to back him. He has a 3.33 ERA at home, but a 5.43 ERA on the road. I think he’s been fortunate this season with sequencing. He’s allowed a .298/.335/.525 with the bases empty and a .245/.314/.400 with men on base and even lower numbers with RISP. He’s pitched out of some jams this season and I think some of that will even out a bit.
I won’t go against the market because that’s some respectable money. I think the market liking Houston is a sign that they expect the Houston offense to score some runs, so if you must have action opposite Sunday Night Football, the over is the way to look in this spot.
As far as situational spots go, the Cubs and Astros both open up big division series. The Cubs take on the Cardinals and the Astros take on the Rangers. Both are night games, so there’s not really anything noteworthy here.