There are only six days left in the Major League Baseball regular season, unless we need a Game 163 (or 164) to determine a wild card. This is also one of the two days this week when baseball stands alone in the spotlight until football begins again on Thursday. All 30 teams are in action under the September lights this evening, so there are some reasonable betting opportunities. As mentioned, keep exposure low at this time of the year. There are a lot of variables and a lot of players in games that probably shouldn’t be.
Four games were discussed in yesterday’s article with a 1-2 record and a pass. The White Sox were the winner behind James Shields. The Pittsburgh Pirates were a roll of the dice on a big dog and also a loser. The A’s couldn’t score against Jered Weaver, but Sean Manaea pitched well again and he’ll be a guy to focus on going forward into next season.
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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.
Baltimore at Toronto (-135); Total: 8.5
Money has been coming in on the Baltimore Orioles for this matchup north of the border. This is a big series for both teams and the type of series that can let the chasers back into the Wild Card race. If the season ended today, these two teams would play in the Wild Card. Because it doesn’t, a sweep would be a worst-case scenario for either of these squads. Two pitchers will career-high workloads will go in this one, as Kevin Gausman takes on Aaron Sanchez.
Gausman is having an excellent season and he’s a big reason why the Orioles are where they are. He’s posted a 3.57 ERA with a 3.98 FIP and a 3.75 xFIP. He’s struck out almost a batter per inning in his 166.1 Major League innings and he’s done well to strand runners and pitch around a high home run rate and a .310 BABIP. A big reason for his success is that lefties are only batting .223/.266/.372 against him. Righties have really done a number, but teams adhere to platoon advantages and haven’t been able to maximize their potential offensively against Gausman. He was absolutely cruising along, with just three runs allowed over his previous five starts because the Red Sox scored five runs on 10 hits off of him in 6.1 innings last time out.
Aaron Sanchez has been brilliant this year. He has a 3.12 ERA with a 3.57 FIP and a 3.74 xFIP. He’s part of the six-man rotation that the Jays have been using to limit innings on his arm and the arms of other starters. Sanchez has been up and down lately and he’s been very fortunate from a BABIP and LOB% standpoint because he’s not missing as many bats as he was earlier in the season. That’s a big reason why this line is moving. Gausman seems to be getting stronger and Sanchez is wavering a little. Sanchez has allowed four of his 14 home runs in his last five starts, so maybe the command is getting a little bit shaky.
He’s been reliant on BABIP all season long with his GB%, so it’s not a new development, but there does seem to be a little bit more risk there with Sanchez than there is with Gausman. A very slight lean to the Orioles, although they looked better 10-15 cents ago.
Philadelphia at Atlanta (-145); Total: 8
Jerad Eickhoff will make his 32nd start of the season here for the Phillies against the Braves. Eickhoff has a 3.75 ERA with a 4.29 FIP and a 4.26 xFIP over his 187.1 innings of work. He’s still working deep into games and he’s avoiding walks, so those are good signs for a guy with a new career-high in innings. Eickhoff has, however, given up seven home runs over his last two starts. He’s hitting some barrels here of late. That may be a mechanical issue due to some arm fatigue. His velocities were good last time out, but the three starts before that resembled April starts when he was building up arm strength. I’m a little bit worried about him here in this start.
Julio Teheran is back to being the pitcher that he was in 2014. He’s not issuing walks and he’s one of those rare guys that can carry a low BABIP against. He’s got a 3.10 ERA with a 3.74 FIP and a 4.21 xFIP. Teheran had Sunday’s start pushed back after the death of Jose Fernandez, so he hasn’t worked in about a week. At this stage of the season, that’s certainly okay with him, given that he’s worked back-to-back 200-inning seasons.
I don’t think Atlanta deserves to be this big of a favorite, but there are a lot of reasons to trust Teheran and not to trust the Phillies. It’s a stay away game, unless you can find a creative way to play it. The Braves have been overachieving a bit here in the second half, so I’d be wary that the balloon pops as we get closer to the final day of the season.
Seattle at Houston (-115); Total: 8
It’s getting harder and harder for Houston to get off the deck and I think Monday’s loss was one of the final nails in the team’s season. The Astros are now 3.5 out in the Wild Card and they are limping to the finish with an 11-13 record this month. The Mariners have some issues of their own with Edwin Diaz looking human in that blown save on Monday, so this is definitely a tricky spot.
Felix Hernandez had that emotional start at home last time out, but it wasn’t all that impressive. He struck out four and walked three. His ability to induce weak contact and get defensive help were the keys to that outing. Felix’s K% has dropped in the second half and his walk rate has gone up. On one hand, I want to trust his veteran knowhow and good secondary stuff against an aggressive, free-swinging Astros lineup. On the other hand, he doesn’t miss a lot of bats anymore and he misses the zone too often. He’s also had a lot of control issues from the stretch with men on base to make things harder on himself. His walk rate is 4.4 percent higher with men on base than it is with the bases empty. There are a lot of concerning things there, but the raw stuff is still so good that he can work around it more often than not.
Mike Fiers is a guy that has pissed me off all season. He’s not a good pitcher, yet I seem to fade him when he actually makes a good start. Fiers owns a 4.40 ERA with a 4.53 FIP and a 4.18 xFIP on the season. The issue may simply be that he’s gotten a lot of run support and I get burned by the Astros offense. Whatever the case, Fiers has been pretty decent since late August, aside from a start against the Cubs, who are just better than everybody else.
If I had to go any way with this game, I’d look at the over. Both starters have some blow-up potential and the bullpens are having some issues recently as well. That’s going to give the over the best chance of hitting here, since these two pitchers have a wide variety of outcomes.