The sting of Sunday hasn’t gone away as we look ahead to Monday’s card around Major League Baseball. There are 10 games on the slate tonight, all of them under the lights. This will be a very difficult week to bet on baseball. It’s the final week of the regular season and some of the really terrible teams that have been profitable will pack it away. Some teams hovering near .500 may make a push to finish without a losing record. Just limit your exposure this week and look for the good opportunities.
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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.
Chicago (NL) (-170) at Pittsburgh; Total: 7.5
Kyle Hendricks and Chad Kuhl are the listed starters for this one in the Steel City. The Cubs just finished up on Sunday Night Baseball with a win over the Cardinals and they’re pushing towards home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. Chicago’s next win will be its 100th of the season, so maybe there’s some pressure to get that done and out of the way. Otherwise, this could be a little bit of a letdown spot for Chicago.
The Pirates are still invested in playing out the string, which is impressive since they’ve been a regular playoff team for a while and this is definitely a disappointing performance. It’s probably ill-advised to bet against Kyle Hendricks, but his second half just doesn’t happen for anybody not named Clayton Kershaw or Jake Arrieta. Hendricks has a 1.46 ERA in his 80.1 innings of work with a 94.9 percent LOB%. He’s been very fortunate in just about every leverage situation. His K rate is up in the second half, but this is still a pretty remarkable performance over a long period of time.
I don’t know if the Pirates can deal that regression and I don’t know if Chad Kuhl can hold up his end of the bargain. Kuhl has a 3.73 ERA with a 3.90 FIP. His low strikeout rate is a worry, but he’s a good fit for Pittsburgh’s defensive ideology and that’s why he’s been able to have success. He induces a lot of pull-side contact on the ground.
The only way I can look here is Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay (-120) at Chicago (AL); Total: 9
Drew Smyly has really struggled for most of the season, though not as much as James Shields has. Smyly owns a 4.86 ERA with a 4.56 FIP and a 4.55 xFIP on the season. His K and BB rates are still solid, but he’s given up way too many long balls and his LOB% is too low. The White Sox have quietly inched closer to the top 10 against left-handed pitching, so that’s a consideration here in this one. The White Sox are still playing it out after keeping the Indians from clinching the division at home over the weekend. We’ll see if they take that same strategy into this series, which means absolutely nothing for either team.
Every start should mean something for James Shields, though. He’s having easily the worst season of his career and that has to be frustrating for a gamer like him. For a little while, he seemed to get back on track, but he was rocked in Philadelphia last time out. The question I have about the Rays in this game is how invested they will be. They’ve had the opportunity to play spoiler in the AL East playoffs for a while, but this series is going to be meaningless for both teams. Maybe I underestimate how much players care at this time of the year. I don’t see Tampa Bay being engaged here today.
With that, even with Shields on the hill, I’d have to look White Sox here. I just don’t think a trip to the Windy City is high on Tampa Bay’s care list and I do think that the ripple effect of the Jose Fernandez passing will have players wanting to be home with their families more than usual here at this time of the year.
Seattle at Houston (-120); Total: 8.5
Hisashi Iwakuma and Collin McHugh are the listed starters for this AL West showdown. This is a big one, as the Mariners are a half-game ahead of the Astros and both teams are trying to make a miracle push for the playoffs. The Mariners have gotten the early action for this one, as the Astros keep finding ways to screw up when they get opportunities to get closer or cut down the gap.
Iwakuma has been pretty good of late, though this is a tricky park for him. Iwakuma has induced fewer ground balls this season than in any of his previous four seasons as a Major Leaguer. More fly balls have led to that elevated home run rate. I do like the idea of a savvy veteran against an aggressive lineup, which is why Jered Weaver had some success last year against Houston, but I’m not sure I’m in love with the spot here.
On the other hand, Collin McHugh’s season is full of inconsistency and variance, so who knows what he’ll bring to the table. He’s had bad command most of the season with a high BABIP against and some homers. He has a .349 BABIP against and he’s still given up 24 home runs, which is a career high. The Astros have gotten some good outings from him lately, but you never know what you’re going to get. I don’t like that level of variance, so I’ll pass on this one.
Oakland (-110) at Los Angeles (AL); Total: 8.5
The Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels play that all-important series to prevent finishing last in the AL West here in this one. The A’s send Sean Manaea to the hill against Jered Weaver. Manaea is having a really fine rookie season, aside from some minor injuries that have popped up. He has a 4.03 ERA with a 4.12 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP, but he’s certainly pitched better than that. Since June 29, when Manaea came back from a back injury, he’s posted a 2.84 ERA with a 3.76 FIP and a 3.56 xFIP in 13 starts. He has 76 K in 82.1 innings of work. He’s given up 11 home runs in those 13 starts, which is to be expected with a rookie learning how to pitch at the MLB level.
Jered Weaver is just awful. Weaver will likely make his last two starts as a member of the Angels organization here this week, as he is a free agent after the season. Weaver has a 5.20 ERA with a 5.70 FIP and a 5.68 xFIP on the year. He’s actually given up two runs in four of his last six starts. He’s given up 100 earned runs and has 100 strikeouts on the season. The last qualified pitcher to have more earned runs allowed than strikeouts was Henderson Alvarez in 2012. In today’s strikeout-happy era, that’s quite a stat.
I like the A’s tonight. They’ve been pretty good offensively of late, especially when away from O.co Coliseum. They also have the vastly superior starting pitcher on the mound.