We’ve got a busy Friday slate to think about today with 16 games on the betting board. The Phillies and Nationals play two and everybody else will play one regularly scheduled game. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve seen a lot of doubleheaders lately as teams try to squeeze in the games pushed back from the late start to the season or fit in postponed games from bad weather. Those can be tough on a pitching staff, so keep a watchful eye on the workloads.
At risk of jinxing myself, the article picks are 9-2 over the last six days to get back on track. Never get too high or too low in this business. It can be really humbling some days and you’re going to have plenty of ups and downs. Trust your process, make adjustments and try to carry a more positive outlook. The mental side of handicapping is something you never really master, but a big part of the equation on a daily basis. Take time to enjoy the wins and lament the losses. View each day as a new opportunity and you’ll be able to come out of the tough times.
Padres/Cubs: The Cubs welcome the Braves to town having lost 10 in a row. That seems bad because the Braves have won 14 in a row. The Padres are your new NL West leader at 41-24 and just scored 41 runs over the four games at Wrigley Field. There were some optimal hitting conditions on the North Side, but the Cubs only managed 15 runs over the four games. There were some position players in there, but the Cubs bullpen allowed 30 runs in this series for a robust 16.53 ERA. Winning and losing streaks have a lot to do with bullpens, especially in this case.
Phillies/Nationals: No-sweat winners are the best, aren’t they? Seven runs in the third from the Phillies against Patrick Corbin allowed us to cruise to a run line winner yesterday. Only two of the nine runs Corbin allowed were earned, but he still didn’t pitch well again.
However, that’s burying the lede a little here. Zack Wheeler’s velo was down across the map and he only had four whiffs in 40 swings with decreased spin rates on everything but the changeup. Maybe he scaled it back a bit with the big lead, but he only touched 96 twice after the first inning. I’ll keep an eye on this for his next start.
Brewers/Mets: The Mets won 5-4 on Thursday, but it wasn’t a good day for either team. Tylor Megill left after 3.1 innings with shoulder discomfort and Aaron Ashby left after 4.1 frames with forearm discomfort. For two rotations already missing key pieces, this is a bit of a scary development. Both guys said they were fine after the game, but MRIs will tell the real story.
With the loss, the Brewers dropped their 12th game in the last 15. The Mets are 7-6 during their tough stretch with the Dodgers, Padres, Angels and Brewers. Now they’ll alternate between the Marlins and Astros for the next 11 games before the schedule drops off again through the All-Star Break.
Athletics/Red Sox: Give the A’s a ton of credit. They’re a terrible team, but they were staring down the barrel of an 0-for road trip and came away with a gritty 4-3 win over the Red Sox to head home with some positive vibes for the cross-country flight to OAK. It wasn’t easy thanks to two unearned runs, but the bullpen held and our under also held, mostly because the Red Sox were 1-for-14 with RISP.
The Red Sox play the Cardinals, Tigers, Guardians, Blue Jays and Cubs before finishing the first half with 14 games against the Rays and Yankees. I think it’s always important to look ahead to see the upcoming schedule because we can paint a mental picture of how a team is likely to perform so that we don’t overreact to recent performances and line adjustments.
Rays/Yankees: The Yankees are a really good team, but it’s amazing how well they’ve run this season. They’re 12-4 when scoring two or three runs, which is an absurd win rate. League-wide, teams are collectively 187-333 when scoring two or three runs and that includes the Yankees’ incredible record. They’re 14-4 in one-run games and now 13-1 overall in June. Regression will find this team at some point. I’m not entirely sure when, but they’re doing some pretty remarkable things that wouldn’t continue for any team.
Rangers/Tigers: The Tigers scored one run on Thursday and have scored three or fewer runs in 44 of their 63 games. Incredibly, they’re 8-4 when they score at least three runs, but that’s been a real challenge. They’ve lost six of seven on the run line and only have one win in the last eight games. Another quirk is that the Tigers have played 37 games at home and just 26 on the road. They’ve scored 57 runs in 26 road games with an 8-18 record. The next three are at home before they play 22 of the next 29 away from home.
Angels/Mariners: The Angels won, but George Kirby was really good for Seattle last night. He had 16 whiffs on 52 swings, including 12 on the fastball. Kirby’s limited arsenal is a concern for me facing teams for a second time, but he’s fared well in his first exposure against a team. He’ll be a guy to watch as the schedule softens up moving forward.
Guardians/Rockies: The Guardians swept the Rockies to keep right on rolling and Baseball-Reference actually puts them at 62.9% to make the playoffs (FanGraphs is at 36.2%). In fact, B-Ref has the Guardians as the likeliest team to win the AL Central! They’ve won seven of eight and 14 of 18. Now, though, they face the Dodgers, Twins, Red Sox, Twins and Yankees with a bunch of negative regression signs. Let’s see how they’re priced in these games because I think there are some fade chances.
Weather: The weather looks good for offense in a lot of places today. Not only will it be hot, but winds are blowing out in several of those cities as well. Hitting conditions will be very good in D.C., Chicago, Cincinnati, Boston, New York, Detroit and Colorado. Both games in D.C. have double-digit totals. Coors sits at 12.5 for Padres/Rockies. We could hit 10 in Cincinnati as well.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Phillies (-180, 11) at Nationals: It was shocking to see a line move towards Joan Adon this morning for Game 1. Adon has a 6.95 ERA with a 6.18 xERA and just got demoted after being one of the league’s worst pitchers over his 12 starts. Nobody is missing from the Phillies lineup. Juan Soto is in the Washington lineup. Seems fairly telling about Ranger Suarez.
Brewers (-110, 9.5) at Reds: Man, how far have the Brewers fallen to be a pick ‘em in this spot with Eric Lauer against Hunter Greene? Greene has been a lot better lately, but this line speaks volumes about where Milwaukee is right now. The total has jumped from 8.5 to 9.5 market-wide with the good hitting conditions in Cincinnati.
Rays (-160, 8.5) at Orioles: Shane Baz and Dean Kremer are the listed starters for Friday at Camden Yards and we’ve seen a pretty big move on Baz and the Rays. He was rocked by the Twins in his first start, but had pitched extremely well in four starts at Triple-A. Kremer has made two starts and has a 3.86 ERA with a 4.17 xERA, a 4.42 FIP and a 5.21 xFIP. He has a 6.50 ERA and a 5.73 FIP in 81.2 MLB innings, so it looks like the modeling crowd does not have him rated highly.
Rangers at Tigers (-120, 8): We’ve seen a flipped favorite move at several shops with Tarik Skubal and the Tigers laying a price against Jon Gray and the Rangers. Remember what I wrote about earlier and the Tigers offense. A move like this speaks to how much starting pitchers impact the line.
White Sox at Astros (-160, 7.5): This total is either 7.5 with over juice or 8 with under juice depending on where you look, but we have seen some White Sox money hit the board. They draw a lefty in Framber Valdez and send out a quality right-hander in Lucas Giolito. This move makes sense to me.
Guardians at Dodgers (-275, 8): We’ve seen the “ace bump” for Clayton Kershaw, but this also looks to be a Zach Plesac fade. He has a 4.70 ERA, but a 6.07 xERA on the season, which is not a great look going up against a potent Dodgers lineup.
What I’ll Be Watching
Lucas Giolito: Giolito draws the Astros and he’s had a rough go of it lately. He’s allowed 15 runs on 22 hits over his last three starts, including five home runs. His Hard Hit% is up to 45.6% this season now and his Barrel% is 12.5%. Giolito’s command has not been up to snuff thus far, but an 82.8% LOB% has really helped him to a 3.88 ERA. He has a 4.66 xERA and a 4.43 FIP, so he is a guy that could be in line for some negative regression. On the other hand, he has a 19.6% HR/FB% and a .352 BABIP against, so there are some positive regression signs, too.
Giolito’s enormous reverse platoon splits stick out a bit here. Righties own a .316/.379/.650 slash with a .432 wOBA, while lefties have batted just .209/.281/.291 with a .255 wOBA. His changeup is his best pitch and it neutralizes lefties. Righties have feasted, though.
Adam Wainwright: Waino makes his fourth road start since the start of May in this one at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. As a guy who traditionally has some big home/road splits, I don’t have high hopes for Wainwright on a warm day on Boston. His five road starts this season have been against the Brewers, Marlins, Reds (April 24), Royals and Cubs. He gave up four runs on eight hits to the Reds before it even got warm at Great American Ball Park. This total sitting at 10.5 in the Wainwright and Michael Wacha matchup is pretty shrewd thanks to early movement from influential money. I tend to agree with the expectation of a high-scoring game, with Wainwright likely to struggle. He’s allowed 29 hits in his last four starts and that includes a two-hit, 10-strikeout performance against the Padres.
Friday Best Bets
Shop around for the best lines! I’m using a market consensus number that should be widely available to most, but every cent matters, so do the best you can to get the best line possible.
VEGAS LINES | ODDS BY STATE | MLB MATCHUPS
Braves/Cubs Over 8.5 (-105): Charlie Morton and Keegan Thompson are starting this matinee in Wrigleyville and this total has been bumped up from 8 to 8.5. Personally, I think it should be 9 and maybe even with some over juice.
Let’s start with Morton, who has allowed 16 runs over his last four starts with four in each of them. He still has the swing-and-miss upside, but his command profile is a shell of what it used to be. His Hard Hit% is 42.7% this season, which is a career-worst and his Hard Hit% is 51.1% over his last seven starts. He’s allowed 10 barrels in that span and has allowed six homers in his last four starts. He’s a guy that has really struggled since the switch flipped on offense in mid-May. It’s not like he’s faced a bunch of great offenses either. He’s faced the Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Rockies (at Coors) and Pirates.
Life as a starter is not really working out for Thompson. He has a 6.26 ERA over 23 innings as a starter with a .303/.388/.596 slash against and a .418 wOBA. Starting is so much different than relieving. Fastball velocity goes down and the lack of arsenal depth is far more noticeable. For example, Thompson’s K% as a reliever was 25.3%, but it sits at just 13.6% as a starter. Overall, Thompson’s SwStr% is just 8.9%. As I’ve talked about a lot during this Braves run, Atlanta is extremely dangerous against pitchers that don’t have a lot of swing and miss. Thompson fits the bill.
The Cubs bullpen just gave up 30 runs in a four-game series against the Padres, so that gives you an idea of where they’re at right now. Atlanta’s bullpen is excellent, but Morton should give up a few runs before we get to that point.
Sorry for another early pick, but I couldn’t pass on Over 8.5 here.
Giants/Pirates Under 8 (-105): Carlos Rodon and Zach Thompson are the listed starters for this one at PNC Park to fire up a weekend set. Rodon gave up eight runs in his May 15 start against the Cardinals, but has only allowed 15 earned runs over his other 11 starts. All of the underlying metrics and peripherals look very strong for Rodon, who has a Hard Hit% of 37.7%, a low Barrel% at 5.6% and draws a Pirates lineup that ranks 25th in wOBA against LHP.
The Pirates have a 24.3% K% against lefties, which is the third-highest in MLB and has been growing as the season has gone along. That should bode well for Rodon, who has a 30.6% K% on the season. It should also keep the Giants defense from having to do too much.
The Pirates are making some major strides with Zach Thompson. I really like Thompson, who got off to a bad start this season. He gave up 21 runs in his first four outings over 14.1 innings of work, but he has only allowed nine runs in his last 35.2 innings of work. The Pirates are starting to leverage his 6-foot-7 frame better with more curveballs and more top-shelf fastballs up in the zone. Thompson has elite spin on his fastball and grades well in the exit velocity and Hard Hit% metrics, as well as a 71st percentile Chase Rate.
The Giants pen has stabilized with a 2.52 ERA and a 3.40 FIP over the last 14 days after some really tough patches in May. The Pirates pen has average numbers, but the top guys had a day off yesterday and should be in good shape for today. With all of that in mind, I’m on the Under 8 in the Steel City.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.