There are only four days left of the MLB regular season. It’s hard to believe, since it feels like it was April 3 not that long ago. But, here we are, putting the finishing touches on another MLB season. This is the last Thursday of the regular season, so it’s the last chance to have that shortened card and those getaway day games. There are two of them today, although rain could keep the Indians and Tigers from playing. Let’s see how things are looking for September 29.
Right after we look back at September 28. I said I actually liked some things on the card and some things worked and some didn’t. The Mariners were a winner to start the day and the Blue Jays looked pretty good, but Hyun Soo Kim’s pinch-hit dong gave the Orioles an enormous win. A pitching change in Miami went unnoticed by me, but the Mets did win, if you played action on any starter. Minnesota was a disappointment, but the first five under and full game under both hit on the South Side in the Windy City.
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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) at Pittsburgh (-110); Total: 8.5
The Cubs will turn to 24-year-old Rob Zastryzny, who I will simply call “Rob”, for today’s matchup against the Pirates. The right-hander has been impressive in seven outings out of the bullpen after making 23 starts and one relief appearance between Double-A and Triple-A this season. The 2013 second-rounder out of Missouri is a standard three-pitch lefty that sits in the upper 80s and low 90s. Rob is the type of guy that scouts have a hard time slapping a future role on because the arsenal depth is hit or miss and his mechanics aren’t very clean for a guy that isn’t a hard-thrower. He had some high walk rates in the minors each of the last two seasons, so it’d be a surprise if he works more than a couple of innings here.
Bullpen days are tough handicaps. I’ve heard both sides of the story. It’s hard for a large number of relievers to all have success, but it’s also hard for the hitters to adjust to so many different arm angles and arm slots. More often than not, I tend to stay away.
This is an even more interesting game, though, because Ivan Nova has been struggling. Nova was sailing right along with the Ray Searage magic potion coursing through his veins, but he’s allowed 11 runs on 18 hits over his last seven innings. A lot of it is simply variance because he’s been inducing ground balls and he’s gotten some good luck about them finding holes. Maybe workload is a thing, since Nova hasn’t worked more than 150 innings at the MLB level since 2012. I’m also concerned that the Pirates have packed it away for this season. They’ve dropped five of seven and haven’t looked real good doing it.
I’d actually have a slight lean to the Cubs here. The Pirates are dealing with some outfield injuries that have watered down the lineup recently and the Cubs will be throwing a bunch of guys looking to impress the coaching staff or get focused for the playoffs. This is a Pirates team that is seven games under .500 since August 29, so I’m not sure how invested they still are.
Philadelphia at Atlanta (-135); Total: 8.5
One start won’t make or break Jeremy Hellickson’s free agent campaign, but the 29-year-old has a chance at some more financial security after turning in a good 2016 season. He’s posted a 3.78 ERA with a 4.03 FIP and a 4.05 xFIP over his 185.2 innings on the season. He’s been healthy and that’s the most important thing. He’s got one more start to go and it comes against an Atlanta Braves squad that has been drawing a lot of attention from the betting markets. They’ve been blasting righties in the second half and have regularly been favored by prices like this against fellow dregs.
It’ll be Josh Collmenter for the Braves, as he makes his third start for his new club. He’s been in three different organizations this season and it’s safe to say that he’d like a more permanent home for next year. He’s been okay in two starts for the Braves, striking out 12 over his 12 innings, but he’s also allowed four home runs and five walks. Collmenter wasn’t very effective as a reliever for the Diamondbacks this season either. He’s been a valuable swingman/fifth starter type in his career, so it’s easy to see why Atlanta would roll the dice on him.
The Phillies are a tough team to peg right now. They were 56-63 on August 15 and they are 70-88 now, so they have certainly hit some rough patches. They’ve also been getting blown out quite a bit in that stretch. I would think that Hellickson gives them a decent outing here tonight and I don’t know what Collmenter will bring to the table. If I had to lean one way, I’d look Phillies, but the Braves have been playing well for a while. This is probably a pass.
Tampa Bay at Chicago (AL) (-120); Total: 7.5
Chris Archer and Jose Quintana is a good pitching matchup any time of year. That’s especially true here now, as we have two offenses that aren’t all that invested in the games and two pitchers that want to finish on a high note. We know Archer does. It has been a tough season for a guy that was getting some Cy Young buzz before the season.
Archer has given up too many home runs this season, but the swing-and-miss stuff is still there. Archer has 218 strikeouts on the season. He’s been excellent in the second half with a 3.19 ERA and a .209/.257/.350 slash against. He’s cut his walk rate from 9.9 percent to 5.5 percent and the better control has allowed him to work around those 11 home runs. He had a 3.62 xFIP in the first half, so he was due for some improvement, but I’m not sure people expected it to be this drastic. Because the Rays have not been a good team, people have ignored just how good Archer has been in the second half.
Jose Quintana has been consistent this season. He’s been good at home and on the road, in the first half and the second half, and he’s been a steady complement to Chris Sale. Quintana has shown less strikeout upside in the second half and has had a couple of rough outings in September, but he’s still been tremendous. Quintana is also going to make 32 starts for the fourth straight season.
I like both of these guys a lot here. I don’t necessarily like the bullpens, but I think both starters are dazzling tonight. It’ll be a damp, dreary night in Chicago, so I’d be surprised to see the two offenses excited about this one and that can only help the pitchers.