Those hungry for some betting action have a full menu of baseball to look over today. There’s one standalone day game with the Cubs hosting the Cardinals, but the rest of the action comes this evening. All 30 teams are in action to kick off the second-to-last weekend of the MLB regular season. Over the next 10 days, we’ll see some inflated lines on the “must-win” teams and the expectation will be for bad teams to mail it in and roll over. Will that be the case? We’ll have to see, but we’ll start with a look at Friday’s options.
The Yankees lean did not come through, as they failed to hit Blake Snell and fell yet another game out of the wild card race. The other two write-ups had stronger opinions and both came through, as the under hit nicely in Game 2 of the Tigers/Twins doubleheader and the Brewers scored a 3-1 win over the Pirates. Baby steps.
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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.
Washington at Pittsburgh (-115); Total: 8
Gio Gonzalez and Jameson Taillon square off in the Steel City for this series opener. This is going to be a very difficult series to handicap. The Nationals have a commanding lead in the NL East and their only concern now is staying ahead of the Dodgers for home field advantage in the first round. They have a 2.5-game cushion. The Pirates are barely hanging on in the Wild Card race, as they sit 4.5 games back. With the Cardinals playing the Cubs, a Cubs team that would get to 100 wins with a sweep, perhaps the Pirates can gain some ground there, but it’s the Giants and the Mets that they are chasing right now.
The weird season for Gio Gonzalez continued. He’s had some downright ugly starts, including his last two against Atlanta. Gonzalez allowed six runs in each start over 7.1 total innings, but he had an 11/0 K/BB ratio. Gonzalez has had several starts like that this season where he’s given up a boatload of runs because of batted ball luck and sequencing issues. It makes him a tough pitcher to gauge on a regular basis. He’s tough to gauge in this spot as well. His last six starts have featured Atlanta three times, Philadelphia twice, and Colorado at home. He’s had some good starts and some bad starts. Pittsburgh has a decent offense.
I’m a bit worried about Jameson Taillon. The rookie right-hander has thrown 154.2 innings between Triple-A and the big leagues this season after not pitching at all in 2014 or 2015. That’s a really heavy workload. So far, it’s not really showing, although he has had some command issues over his last couple of starts, which came 10 days apart. Taillon hasn’t missed a whole lot of bats lately, so his stuff may be losing some of its explosiveness.
I’m not seeing much to like about this game in any way, shape or form.
Boston (-120) at Tampa Bay; Total: 7.5
This game, on the other hand, I do like. I’m looking at Tampa Bay all the way here. You’ll see a bunch of bullshit about how Chris Archer is the least profitable pitcher in baseball this season or close to it or whatever, but he’s been dynamite since the All-Star Break. After a brutal first half, in which he allowed 18 HR in 110 innings and walked 48 to allow a .253/.330/.437 slash, Archer has dropped those slash numbers to .203/.251/.346 in the second half and has a 91/15 K/BB ratio. His 29.2 K% is a lot closer to what we expected this season and the spectacular walk rate is a great side effect.
Archer is going to be one of the top arms going into next season and he’s still a top arm now. He’s getting stronger for a team that has nothing to play for and that’s a good sign because it shows that he’s still engaged. He’s also been terrific at the Trop and not so great on the road. AL East road parks are hard pitching environments, so this is a case where I do consider the home/road splits to be significant.
Drew Pomeranz, on the other hand, is going in the wrong direction. He’s had back-to-back poor starts and fatigue may be a factor. Pomeranz said it wasn’t after his last start, but players aren’t going to admit something like that in most cases. He’s worked 164.1 innings after working 86 last season as a spot starter and reliever. Since he left the friendly confines of the National League and joined the gauntlet AL East, Pomeranz has a 4.91 ERA and a 4.91 FIP. He’s still missing bats, but he’s missing fewer barrels and missing the zone more often. The Rays certainly aren’t a great team, especially on offense, but Pomeranz is having some significant issues.
I’ll take the Rays here. The Red Sox are coming off of that Boston sweep and they’re up 5.5 games now in the AL East. Home field is still a thing, but they have a little bit of a cushion and that may be a factor today.
Kansas City at Detroit (-125); Total: 8
The Royals still seemed to be invested in the game when they were in Cleveland. Hopefully they carry that over to Motown as well. The Royals and Tigers open up a weekend set with Danny Duffy on the mound against Michael Fulmer. Duffy is still rolling along during his career year. He’s posted a 3.18 ERA with a 3.52 FIP and a 3.71 xFIP. He’s racked up over a strikeout per inning in his 24 starts and 16 relief appearances. As a starter, Duffy has a 160/31 K/BB ratio in 151.2 innings of work and his only blemish has been the 22 home runs he has allowed.
Duffy draws a Tigers team that is surging right now. It’s worth pointing out that Duffy has kept hitters to a .228/.265/.356 slash the first time through the order and a .222/.280/.406 the second time through. The third time through, he goes up to .252/.302/.480. This will be something to watch here in this game if it’s close. That could swing the balance in Detroit’s favor, although their patchwork bullpen is nowhere near Kansas City’s.
Michael Fulmer is reportedly going to make two more regular season starts and the 23-year-old would be the option in the Wild Card Game for the Tigers if they make it. He still sports a 3.03 ERA with a 3.88 FIP and a 4.00 xFIP on the season. He’s been able to sustain that low BABIP and high strand rate because he has an elite changeup. He did have some issues against the Indians last time out, as he gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings of work. He hasn’t struck out more than five in a game since his August 14 complete game against Texas. He’s also given up a home run in five straight starts. It does seem like fatigue is starting to get to him a little bit. He’s throwing this game on two extra days rest, so we’ll see if that helps.
Given that Fulmer is definitely over his career high in innings and Duffy is only slightly over his, I have to look at the Royals here. They also have the stronger bullpen. It feels like the Tigers are overachieving a little bit right now because of the schedule. The Royals may not be a great team, but they seem to be invested in trying to ruin other people’s seasons, so that will be the mentality we hope for in taking them as a short pup here.
Seattle (-140) at Minnesota; Total: 9
All I’m going to say about this game is that Minnesota cannot wait for the season to end. Seattle should sweep this series. If they don’t, it’s a missed opportunity. The Twins look lifeless. Some individual players are stepping up, but this is a horrible defensive team with next to no pitching. With some front office reshuffling going on, the Twins are in a state of flux. I’d lay it with Seattle just about every game this weekend.
Cincinnati at Milwaukee (-125); Total: 8.5
I actually think this is a really good line from the oddsmakers. You can make a case in favor of Anthony DeSclafani, who has been brilliant this season, but Zach Davies has been tremendous as well and he’s been getting better as the season has done along. I have a hard time with games like this late in the season. There are two good pitchers, but two bad teams. It almost becomes a guessing game to see which starter will get help from the offense and from the fielders.
The thing that still stands out for me about DeSclafani is his LOB%. It’s 79.3 percent, which is definitely high for a guy with his strikeout rate. Davies doesn’t really have any statistical anomalies that stand out. If I wanted to handicap off of that one stat, I could, but I actually do like the under here. Neither pitcher has issued a lot of walks this season. The Brewers do a bulk of their offensive damage via the walk. Making the Reds hit their way on has worked for a lot of pitchers this season. Take the under here and see how things go with the bullpen.