There are 16 days left in the MLB regular season, unless we need a Game 163 (or 164?!) to decide the wild card winners. It’s been a long and grind and hopefully you’ve learned some things along the way. It gets really tough from this point forward, as teams get closer to clinching division titles and teams playing spoiler may be starting to run out of gas. It’s a good time to limit your MLB exposure and focus on the value given in other sports. That being said, there are still opportunities to make money and we’ll try to find those for you today.
I was asleep at the wheel last night, as reader @mg86 on Twitter pointed out how great of a situational spot Arizona was in against the Dodgers. That was a winner. I’m upset at myself for missing that one. The Orioles lean didn’t work out. Philadelphia got blown away. The under was a loser in Fenway. The two underdog games both hit, so if you played them, congrats. It was the only saving grace of a bad day. The Cubs backed into the division title with St. Louis’s loss late last night, but we didn’t get a Cubs/Brewers line to pick off. If you did, let me know what price you got!
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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.
Miami (-115) at Philadelphia; Total: 8.5
Tom Koehler as road chalk is an interesting situation, but not only is it justified, but I think this number is too low. The Phillies will counter with Adam Morgan. Not that Koehler is paying attention, but he does have the chance for his best year from an fWAR standpoint, so that would be a career year in my mind. I’m mostly using that point to illustrate how he’s been very useful his season. The strikeout rate is up and he’s done a better job of limiting home runs. This is actually the best year he’s had on the road in his career. It’s mostly sequencing variance, but he should have more confidence on the road. That’s a good thing. The Marlins have pretty much fallen out of the race, but I think they’re still playing hard now that the lineup is gradually getting back to normal.
The Phillies send Adam Morgan to the mound tonight. Morgan’s been terrible this season with a 5.73 ERA, a 5.09 FIP, and a 4.46 xFIP. He’s given up 21 home runs in just 99 innings. The Marlins have some right-handed bats that do really well with the platoon split, like Marcell Ozuna and Martin Prado, so this isn’t a great spot for Morgan.
The Phillies haven’t had an off day since September 1 and there are some guys going through this grind for the first time. I feel like they’ll show that fatigue here in this series. I’ll take the Marlins here as a short road favorite.
Tampa Bay (-110) at Baltimore; Total: 9
Books across the marketplace have different numbers on this game, with some showing the Rays as a small favorite and others showing Baltimore as small chalk. The Rays are actually playing better here in a spoiler role than I realized. They’ve won four of their last five against teams with a ton to play for. They also took back-to-back series from Toronto and the series opener in Baltimore.
Obviously, Tampa Bay has a huge starting pitching edge. I don’t think people realize how close to normal Chris Archer has been of late. Since the All-Star Break, Archer has 87 K in 72.1 innings with a 3.11/2.84/2.87 pitcher slash. He’s still giving up some home runs, but he has an 87/14 K/BB ratio and walks plus home runs were killing him in the first half. He’s struck out at least nine in four of his last six starts. Command is a big thing against Baltimore and he’s struggled a little bit with that this season, but Archer looks like the pitcher that we know and love right now.
Since Ubaldo Jimenez returned to the rotation, he’s fired four straight quality starts, including a complete game. He looks like a dramatically different pitcher. I don’t need to tell you that his BABIP in that span is ridiculously low, because you can infer that. The biggest thing is that he’s only issued six walks over those 28.2 innings of work. If he avoids walks, his stuff is good enough that he can get by with a lot of weak contact.
The Rays have been bad against righties all season long. Maybe this is a game that stays under the total. There’s always the risk of a Ubaldo blow-up, but I think this total might be a half-run too high.
Detroit at Cleveland (-165); Total: 7.5
The Detroit Tigers head to Cleveland needing a series win, but a sweep would be the preferred outcome. The Indians have a magic number of 11 heading into this series and they have their ace on the mound to set the tone on Friday night. Corey Kluber takes the ball against Michael Fulmer, who was skipped last time through the rotation, for this big AL Central showdown.
The Indians have basically reversed three years of misfortune against Detroit this season. They are 11-1 against the Tigers and have outscored them 79-36. To me, a diehard Indians fan, this team looks extremely tired. They have had two off days since July 28 and it’s starting to show. But, just when you think they’re down, they rattle off four or five in a row and they’ve been dominant at home. This is one of those series that fires up the adrenaline for the Indians, so I think we get a good effort.
Detroit will turn to Fulmer, who has a 2.76 ERA with a 3.81 FIP and a 3.91 xFIP on the season. I’ve been waiting for Fulmer’s regression to hit with a .251 BABIP against and an 81.3 percent LOB%, but it hasn’t happened yet. Is today that day? The Indians have hammered right-handed pitching all season long. Fulmer will cross 160 innings this season, something he’s never done before, and that’s why Detroit has been so careful with his workload.
I won’t be laying it with Cleveland and I know there will be some nibbles on the Tigers, but I think this game is priced pretty well, all things considered.
Chicago (AL) (-130) at Kansas City; Total: 7
Lay it and play it. The White Sox just took three of four from the Indians and showed a little bit of grit and tenacity in the process with that getaway day win on Thursday. Bad teams tend to fold in those spots, but the White Sox didn’t. Today, ace Chris Sale is on the mound hoping to improve his Cy Young chances.
Kansas City is done. They had that little push that got everybody excited, but they’ve been outscored by 20 runs in 13 September games and the tank is empty. They’ve lost five of seven and three of them were complete blowouts against a bad Oakland team. There’s not much more to say. I think the Royals are a fade the rest of the way.
Houston at Seattle (-130); Total: 8
This is a huge series for both teams. It’s much bigger for the home Mariners, who are absolutely rolling right now and are in close striking distance of the wild card. The Astros are four back, so there’s still hope, but they run into a Mariners team that is 10-3 this month and they’re winning games in impressive fashion.
I don’t trust Collin McHugh. McHugh is one of those guys that has good stuff and swing-and-miss upside, but his command leaves something to be desired. That’s why he owns a 4.86 ERA and a 4.11 FIP. He has a .358 BABIP against and it’s been high like that all season long. Normally, high BABIPs are a reason to expect regression, but when you carry one for 157.1 innings, it’s a sign of terrible command.
Felix Hernandez isn’t the dominant pitcher that he once was, but the full arsenal is still good and he’s still very capable of inducing weak contact. With guys like Hernandez, I really like them against aggressive lineups. Houston is an aggressive lineup. One of the most incredible stats has to be that the Astros have not faced Hernandez at all this season, even though the two are division rivals.
I’m backing the home favorite here. Houston’s inconsistency is too much for me to overlook and it has affected all facets of the team, from the pitchers on down to the hitters.
St. Louis at San Francisco (-120); Total: 7.5
Matt Moore seems to enjoy being out of the AL East and the AL in general. He’s ripped off over a strikeout per inning in his 46.2 frames with the Giants and he’s looked much better from a command standpoint. His control is still hit or miss, but he’s kept the ball in the park and has turned in some pretty good starts for the Giants. He’ll draw a lineup that hasn’t hit lefties all season in the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals will counter with Luke Weaver.
I can’t say enough good things about Weaver. He’s struck out 39 in 31 innings of work. The long ball has been his only big problem, with five in 31 innings, but AT&T Park is the perfect place for a guy with swing-and-miss upside and average command. Take Matt Moore, for example. Weaver has really shown some poise pitching out of jams as well. The Cardinals, who churn out minor league talent like crazy, seem to have something here.
I actually like both pitchers in this matchup. The Cardinals are 21st in wOBA against lefties. This is a good spot for the under.