Thanks to Mother Nature, and Hurricane Matthew, we’ve got three games scheduled for today instead of two. The Indians vs. Red Sox Game 3 was pushed back a day and is now sandwiched between the NLDS series. All three home teams are modest favorites today, as it’s an elimination game for two of the three squads. The MLB playoffs have been pretty unpredictable thus far, so let’s see if we can get a handle on what will happen tonight.
Looking back to yesterday, the under hit in the Nationals/Dodgers game for what wound up being the only tip of the day. The Indians game will be reposted for today with some additional updates/notes.
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Washington at Los Angeles (NL) (-145); Total: 7.5
As I mentioned yesterday, this is an awful spot for both teams, but especially Washington. The Nationals and Dodgers will take the field less than 24 hours after Game 2 ended and there was also a cross-country flight and a three-hour time change mixed in. It’ll be Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals against Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers.
The obvious way to look here is the under. The Dodgers were 30th in wOBA against left-handed pitching and also dead last in slugging by a large margin. Gio Gonzalez isn’t a top-flight southpaw or anything, but he’s a solid hurler. He’s been really consistent over the course of his career with a 3.73 ERA, a 3.53 FIP, and a 3.70 xFIP. He posted a 4.57 ERA this season, but a 67.6 percent strand rate was mostly to blame. He also gave up a career-high in home runs. But, we’ll likely see some tired bats dragging through the zone here today.
Kenta Maeda had a strong first season in the big leagues, although it is pretty interesting to see that he only had 175.2 innings in his 32 starts. Maybe the Dodgers were worried about those injury reports when he signed or they were protecting him from facing a lot of lineups the third time through. Whatever the case, Maeda’s very well-rested for this start. He had a 3.48 ERA with a 3.58 FIP and a 3.70 xFIP while striking out over a batter per inning.
He did tire a bit down the stretch, as he posted a .245/.300/.399 slash against as opposed to a .216/.284/.330 in the first half. He also had some regression in his BABIP and LOB% metrics. He’s a tough at bat for teams that haven’t seen him a whole lot and the Nationals fit that criteria. They’ve never seen him. The Dodgers were able to hold back most of the key arms in their bullpen with the 5-2 loss on Sunday, so all hands are on deck to bridge to Kenley Jansen and he’ll definitely go two innings if need be.
If you want some mid-afternoon action, the under is definitely the way to go here in this spot.
Repost: Cleveland at Boston (-135); Total: 9.5
Rain is threatening today’s game at Fenway Park, which would hurt the Indians because it would take away the potential off day for the bullpen if they are used extensively in these two potential games in Boston. Josh Tomlin is on the hill for the Indians against Clay Buchholz. You can make a case that the Indians would be road chalk if Danny Salazar or Trevor Bauer were pitching this game. Bauer would probably be about a pick ‘em or a very small dog, if you assume that 25-cent home field edge. That’s a pretty telling indicator of what oddsmakers think about Clay Buchholz.
Buchholz posted a 4.78 ERA with a 5.06 FIP and a 5.32 xFIP in his 21 starts and 16 relief appearances this season covering 139.1 innings. He returned to the rotation on September 6 and threw four solid starts and one awful start, but there are some big regression signs present. Buchholz had a 3.14 ERA with a 4.19 FIP and a 5.39 xFIP in that small sample size. He struck out 21 in 28.2 innings, but he also walked 10. He held batters to a .241 BABIP and posted an 80.5 percent strand rate. On the season, he had a 68.5 percent strand rate and a .263 BABIP against, so maybe there was some positive regression in the strand rate coming and that was it.
The Indians will be able to throw eight lefties at Buchholz here. Lefties hit .274/.363/.425 in 294 plate appearances. Righties only hit .219/.286/.410 in the same number of trips to the plate, but they hit 15 of the 21 home runs. Unlike the first two games of the series, where aggressiveness was the gameplan, the plan today is patience. We’ll see if the Indians can achieve that in a pressure-packed and hostile environment.
Josh Tomlin is obviously a pretty big worry for the Indians. He posted a 4.40 ERA with a 4.88 FIP and a 4.13 xFIP in his 174 innings this year. He gave up 36 home runs and 187 hits, so his pitch-to-contact style made it tough for him to have a ton of success. Not many parks are favorable for a guy like Tomlin, but Fenway Park is certainly a place where he could struggle in a big way. Tomlin helped himself by only walking 20 batters on the season, but hitters take a very aggressive approach.
The silver lining is that the consecutive off days for Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are really significant. The Indians can shorten this game if Tomlin can manage a few innings and a lead. Andrew Miller would be good for multiple inning and so would Allen. Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw had yesterday’s travel day off. The Red Sox have a pretty healthy bullpen as well, so that’s probably what this game will become. Live betting this game will be the way to go because you can take advantage of questionable managerial decisions and/or bad leveraging of pitchers. John Farrell has made some mistakes in this series with his bullpen and his lineup construction. Terry Francona has been great with the bullpen, but has missed some pinch hitting opportunities. Neither manager has been flawless, but Francona should leverage the pen a bit better, so that could be a factor in live betting as the game goes along.
At the current number, it’s pretty clear that Clay Buchholz doesn’t have much respect from the oddsmakers. The public will probably come in and fade Tomlin with his HR rate at Fenway, so waiting if best if you like the Tribe. We’ll see if Boston gets added to some cross-sport ML parlays or something throughout the day.
Update: So, rain did hurt the Indians. They lost the travel off day, so it could put additional strain on the bullpen. As far as today’s game goes, the wind is expected to be blowing in from left at a pretty good clip, so that should help both pitchers, but especially Josh Tomlin. The line is mostly sitting in the -145 range, so there was some money line parlay exposure and some straight bets on Boston, probably from the public. We’ll see what happens with this number today with the wind blowing in and a total of 9.5.
Chicago (NL) at San Francisco (-125); Total: 6
Playoff hero Madison Bumgarner is in a very tough spot here tonight at AT&T Park. The Giants are down 2-0 to the Chicago Cubs and it seems unlikely that the Giants will score a lot off of Jake Arrieta. It’s up to Bumgarner to keep the season alive and he’s a small favorite to get the job done. This will be the most interesting line to follow along with today. Bumgarner has the narratives of his playoff performance, but the Cubs are the Cubs and they haven’t been an underdog very often this season.
There wasn’t a whole lot of buzz about Arrieta this season. He posted great numbers with a 3.10 ERA, a 3.52 FIP, and a 3.68 xFIP, but he was an afterthought in this rotation and on this team. He wasn’t going to repeat his performance over the previous two seasons, but he didn’t completely bottom out and that’s the biggest part. His walk rate was elevated and his HR rate went up, but neither one was that big of an issue. It’s why his FIP and xFIP climbed, but he still induced a lot of weak contact and was a very useful pitcher. It really seems like he’s being undervalued a bit here. It’s also fair to assume that Arrieta had a little bit of fatigue after working 229 innings plus playoffs last season to absolutely blow away his previous career high.
Bumgarner had another spectacular regular season and then fired the CG SHO that helped the Giants advance into this series. This is a real big test for him and the team, but he’s handled big tests before. I do think that this is a very fair line, if you assume 25 to 30 cents of HFA for the Giants. Bumgarner is great, but he’ll also need some run support and the bullpen is a bit of a question for the Giants.
The Cubs posted the highest wRC+ against lefties by a pretty large margin and were second to the Diamondbacks in wOBA. The Cubs had the highest OBP and over 30 percent of their plate appearances against lefties ended in a walk or a strikeout, so they work a lot of counts and should be able to get Bumgarner out of the game at some point. That’s something that the Mets couldn’t do and it really hurt them.
There are a couple of angles to look at. If you take a Cubs position, you’re getting plus money on the better bullpen, even if you’re giving up the last at bat. That will allow you to scalp and middle if the Giants go down 1-0 with Bumgarner still out there. I would have to look at going in that direction, but you can also take a position on Bumgarner, who would become a much bigger favorite if the Giants scratch out the first run.
My preferred play here is to start with Chicago and then live bet to scalp and middle. As far as a totals look, the under is hard to play at 6, since a couple weak hits and a bomb could put you halfway to it. It will be a cool night in San Francisco with those marine conditions, so the ball isn’t going to carry much. It’s a good park for both of these defenses. Both ranked in the top three in baseball. So, the under makes a little bit of sense, despite the low number, but it’s not a strong play.