There are only five days left of the regular season, but it seems like there could be some wild card tiebreaker situations that would force a Game 163 for two or more teams. These last five days are the final ones where you can get some kind of idea about what’s going to happen. The MLB playoffs are totally random, as you would expect for such a short sample size. Let’s take a deep dive into the Wednesday night card because there are actually more games that I like than usual and maybe that’s a good thing.
Looking back at Tuesday, it was a pretty weak card. The lean on the Orioles was a loser, but the over in the Seattle/Houston game came in and that was a pretty strong opinion. We’ve really tried to limit exposure here over the last few weeks, as I’m just not seeing the games very well at this point in time.
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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.
Seattle (-110) at Houston; Total: 8.5
The lone day game on Wednesday is this AL West and AL Wild Card battle between the Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros. It’ll be James Paxton against Doug Fister in the battle for second place in the division. A Houston win and they will leapfrog Seattle for second and might gain ground in the Wild Card race. A win for Seattle and they’ll move 1.5 games up on Houston and maybe gain ground as well.
James Paxton isn’t a great matchup for the Astros, who have one of the highest BB% in the league and that’s how they generate a decent amount of their offense. Paxton doesn’t issue walks. He has a 109/23 K/BB ratio in his 116 innings this season. The thing that has affected Paxton, though, is spotty command. He’s only allowed eight home runs, so that’s been good, but Paxton has given up 128 hits this season. The Mariners have a lot of subpar defenders on the field on a regular basis and that’s why Paxton has been victimized by BABIP.
The nice thing here is that he’s a high-strikeout guy against a high-strikeout lineup. The best way to overcome a bad defensive team is to miss a lot of bats. Paxton has done that to the best of his ability this season. It certainly seems like Paxton against the Astros is a better matchup than Fister against the Mariners. Fister has not been good lately. He hasn’t worked more than five innings since August 22 and he’s given up five home runs in his last six starts. Fister only has 12 strikeouts in his last six starts. That’s putting a lot of pressure on the defense and his sequencing luck.
Since August 11, Fister has a 7.36 ERA with a 5.26 FIP and a 5.28 xFIP in his nine starts. He’s given up 39 runs in 44 innings, 36 of them earned. It’s a small sample size and there’s some noise and variance in there, but he may be hurt. Or he may simply not be that effective at this stage of the game because his arsenal is not very deep.
I’d have to look at Seattle in this spot. Both teams have bullpen issues, but Paxton should go deeper into this game than Fister and that would limit the exposure of the Mariners bullpen.
Baltimore at Toronto (-135); Total: 9
Chris Tillman and Francisco Liriano meet in the biggest game of the day. As things currently stand, these are the two teams that would play in a one-game wild card playoff next week. Tillman was outstanding to start the season with the use of his changeup and some other arsenal changes, but things progressively went downhill and he eventually spent time on the DL. Over his first 64.2 innings of the season, Tillman only allowed 21 runs. Since then, Tillman has allowed 50 runs over 101.2 innings. Hitters adjusted and his sequencing luck dropped off.
Tillman was rocked in his August 20 start and hit the DL. He came back on September 11 and worked a gem against the Tigers, but he’s given up six runs on nine hits with four walks over his last 7.1 innings of work. That’s a small sample size, so there’s probably not a whole lot of predictive value in that, but it worth pointing out that those two starts came against teams that see him a lot. This will be his fourth start against Toronto. There are only so many adjustments that pitchers can make.
That’s an advantage that Francisco Liriano has in this start. Since joining Toronto at the Trade Deadline, Liriano has not faced Baltimore. With the Blue Jays, Liriano has a 3.35 ERA with a 4.49 FIP and a 3.82 xFIP in his 43 innings of work. He’s a really hard guy to peg, but he’s inducing a lot of ground balls and it seems like Russell Martin has really helped him out. He’s still issuing some walks, but the swing-and-miss stuff is there. The elevated home run rate is concerning this season, especially against a Baltimore team with some power.
Because Liriano’s biggest drawback is the walk and the Orioles don’t walk a whole lot, the Blue Jays would be the lean here. It’s hard to trust Tillman with the recent DL stint and the struggles that he has had since his hot start. The Orioles do have an excellent bullpen, so it could be more of a toss-up game if this one is close late. That has to be a consideration in games like this because managers will have a much quicker trigger finger with so much on the line.
It’s not a strong lean, but laying the price with the Jays is the way I’d look if I had to play it.
New York (NL) (-110) at Miami; Total: 8
It has been an emotionally-draining week for the Miami Marlins, but they’re getting some love here in the betting market for Wednesday night’s matchup. Seth Lugo goes for the Mets and Andrew Cashner goes for the Marlins. The Mets opened more like a -130 favorite.
This will be Seth Lugo’s second start against the Marlins since he joined the rotation on August 19. He’s been serviceable, with no more than three runs allowed in any of his seven starts. I think the thought process here is that he’s been very fortunate to limit opportunities without a whole lot of strikeouts. In those seven starts, Lugo has 24 K in 35 innings, but he’s posted a .214 BABIP and a 98.1 percent strand rate. The runs he has allowed have mostly come via the home run. Those are pretty unsustainable numbers. If this was a different opponent and a different spot, it would be a no-brainer to fade those.
Andrew Cashner is an incredibly difficult guy to back. He hasn’t been efficient with his pitches at all and he hasn’t shown signs of improvement, even though he got a huge defensive upgrade going from the Padres to the Marlins. Cashner has only worked six innings in two of his 10 starts with the Fish. Fortunately, the Miami bullpen mostly got a night off from yesterday’s blowout, so they will be ready to go.
At this new price, the Mets are the only side I can look at. They’re looking to lock up that wild card berth and they have the better starter on the mound.
Minnesota at Kansas City (-130); Total: 8.5
I don’t understand this line at all. I realize that the Minnesota Twins have lost 101 games, but this is a bad number for two teams that don’t care. Both starters care and that’s why I like the Twins in this spot. Paul Molitor asked Ervin Santana if he wanted to pack it in for the season and the veteran said no. He wanted the ball here. With every reason to pass on the start, maybe that’s something that will endear him to some teammates and they’ll give it a good effort behind him.
Since June 19, Santana has a 2.35 ERA with a 3.28 FIP and a 4.05 xFIP. There are some unsustainable numbers in there, like carrying a .259 BABIP with the horrid defense of the Twins, but Santana has been very good for this team. He’s struck out 97 in his last 111 innings and he’s done a good job working out of jams. He’s still trying and that means a lot on a team that needs some leadership. It doesn’t hurt that Kansas City’s offense is horrible, so this is a good matchup.
Jason Vargas is making his third and final start of the season. Vargas is on the comeback trail from Tommy John. So far, he’s thrown the ball well, with three earned on four hits over seven innings. The Royals will have to tap into the bullpen early and Ned Yost isn’t going to throw out some relief ace or some star. He’ll throw out some stiff like Dillon Gee to mop up some innings or some rookie.
I’m taking the Twins here. Santana should have a strong outing and I can’t say the same for Vargas and the Royals pen. I realize the Twins are an awful team, but they should rally around their ace here.
Tampa Bay at Chicago (AL) (-110); Total: 8.5
Blake Snell’s 2016 season will come to a close in the Windy City. Miguel Gonzalez’s will as well. The difference here is that Snell has proven some things and knows where he stands for next season. Gonzalez isn’t sure. The journeyman right-hander has been excellent for the White Sox and has expressed his desire to stay, but he is a free agent.
Snell’s stuff is electrifying. It’s the only way you can explain a guy with a .358 BABIP and a 12.8 percent BB% posting a 3.65 ERA with a 3.46 FIP. Snell just doesn’t give up home runs and finds a way to work out of a majority of the jams that he gets himself into. You probably haven’t noticed, and why would you, that the White Sox are very quietly the seventh-best offense in baseball by wOBA against left-handed pitching. Not all lefties are created equal and Snell is a new look for them, but they have been quite productive in this split.
Miguel Gonzalez is hoping to finish with an ERA under 4.00 in what has been his most valuable season from a fWAR standpoint. Gonzalez has been a great addition for the White Sox and has eaten some good innings for them. He struggled last time out, but he has a 3.04 ERA and a 3.40 FIP over his last 12 starts. The Rays haven’t hit right-handed pitchers all year, so why would they start now?
Snell has been a tough guy to scratch out runs against, so maybe the full game under and the first five under are reasonable plays here. There’s also a case to be made for the White Sox, as Snell’s inefficiency runs his pitch counts up early in the game and the Rays bullpen has shown some cracks this month.