Seven days of baseball remain before the All-Star Break. These are important games for some teams, while others may go through the motions a little bit as the week progresses. The MLB Draft is July 17 and the Trade Deadline is August 2, so there will be a lot going on with those two events as well.
It’s a busy time for baseball and also a busy time for me with college football. I just finished the first run-through of my power ratings and will have an article coming up to help you create your own. I’m also doing four conferences for our upcoming College Football Betting Guide that comes out the last week of July. For those of you tired of the daily baseball grind, football is coming fast.
I hosted The Run Line last night with Josh Towers. If you missed it, here are the links to listen HOUR 1 | HOUR 2. Let’s get to the Monday article.
Nationals/Braves: Going into a massive series with the Mets that starts tonight, Atlanta polished off a sweep of the Nationals. Ian Anderson wasn’t great with four walks, but did only allow two runs on two hits. It’s still a struggle, but his last two starts have been better. The Braves don’t need him to be good, just average.
Atlanta did have to go 12 innings here and had to use Tyler Matzek, Jesse Chavez and Collin McHugh for multiples. AJ Minter has worked three of the last four days. Keep their bullpen in mind this week against the Mets.
Marlins/Mets: Taijuan Walker was terrific in going head-to-head with Sandy Alcantara, but the Marlins outlasted the Mets 2-0 on Sunday. Miami misses Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s bat, but the Fish are 8-3 in their last 11 and are knocking on the door of .500. With a four-gamer against the Pirates at home this week, they have the chance to get there by winning three of four.
The Mets offense has a .302 wOBA over the last 30 days with a .233/.300/.387 slash and a 100 wRC +. The lack of contact quality seems to have caught up with them. Their 103 runs in that span are only better than Washington, the Angels and Oakland. That’s not ideal company. By the way, the Marlins have scored the fourth-fewest runs.
Pirates/Brewers: The Pirates won on both Saturday and Sunday over the Brewers, beating Brandon Woodruff on Saturday. Since the nine-game losing streak from June 7-14, Pittsburgh is 12-13, so they’ve played respectable baseball in the last 25 games. Of their 13 losses, four are by one run and five are by two runs, so they’ve been highly competitive. They’ve also had five one-run wins and three wins by two runs. Tons of close games may eventually take a toll in late August and September.
Phillies/Cardinals: A total of 10 runs were scored in the three-game set at Busch between these two teams. The Cardinals were shut out in the first two games and won 4-3 in the finale. St. Louis is only 3-8 over the last 11 games dating back to June 29. Paul Goldschmidt has not homered in that span over 44 PA and has zero RBI. He’s still slashing .289/.386/.395, but his exit velocity is down to 87 mph. He really carried this offense for a while and nobody else has picked up the slack during his return to earth. Something to consider today and this week I’d say.
Cubs/Dodgers: Julio Urias gave up five runs in the first inning yesterday and got pulled after two innings and 59 pitches. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, as he hit two batters on the back foot and had a couple of Gavin Lux misplays. I give Dave Roberts credit for pulling him when he wasn’t all that sharp and it looked like it was going to be a tough day.
Urias is a guy I’d be very careful with in the second half. Out of nowhere, he jumped to 185.2 innings last season after not throwing 100 innings since 2016. His fastball velo is down overall this season and his home run rate is up.
Giants/Padres: Two huge wins on Saturday and Sunday for the Giants, who actually fell to .500 with Friday’s loss. They jumped all over MacKenzie Gore, who allowed eight runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings and also got seven shutout from Alex Wood with the big lead. Gore’s fastball velo was down and he now ranks in the bottom 11% in average exit velo against and bottom 12% in Hard Hit%. Over his last five starts, Gore has allowed six runs once, eight runs twice, zero runs and one run. He’s going to have some up-and-down outings it would appear based on batted ball luck since he’s allowing a ton of hard contact. More importantly, since striking out 10 against Milwaukee on June 4, he only has 13 strikeouts against 16 walks in his last five starts. Buyer beware.
Angels/Orioles: I mentioned last week that the Orioles are a good bet in toss-up games or short favorite roles because of their bullpen. Well, they’ve won eight in a row, with many of those games lined in that range. They’re within one game of .500 in baseball’s best division and they’re really starting to believe. As long as the bullpen isn’t totally gassed, I feel like this same angle still applies moving forward.
Guardians/Royals: The Guardians magic has officially dried up. The schedule hasn’t helped, but the lack of depth and proven players is really showing. Nolan Jones has provided a really nice spark, but they’re still running out too many offensive zeroes. Owen Miller isn’t hitting. Amed Rosario doesn’t hit for any power. Jose Ramirez is more hurt than we know. They had the big explosion against Jon Heasley on Saturday, who promptly hit the IL. There just isn’t much to like about this ballclub right now.
Tigers/White Sox: The White Sox got a couple of unearned runs off of a Tigers bullpen that has been really solid this season, but the bigger story here was Michael Kopech. He fought through 5.1 innings and only allowed a couple of runs, but his fastball velocity was down 2.8 mph. It ticked up a bit after a rough first inning, but he clearly wasn’t himself. Kopech has thrown 78 innings this season after throwing 69.1 last season and not pitching in 2019 or 2020. If I’m the White Sox, I skip his start this week and let him have an extended break. This will absolutely be a situation worth watching closely.
Twins/Rangers: There were 38 runs scored in this series, as the teams split a couple 6-5 games and the Rangers won 9-7 on Saturday. Those waiting on Martin Perez’s negative regression may have found it, as he’s allowed 13 runs on 21 hits in his last 18.2 innings of work against the Royals, Mets and Rangers. This was an ugly series for starting pitchers.
Astros/Athletics: The A’s actually managed to go 3-3 on their homestand against the Blue Jays and Astros, but they needed a bunch of wild pitches and bad defense to scratch out three runs on Saturday. The bigger story here is that Christian Bethancourt was traded to Tampa Bay over the weekend, so Oakland’s selling has begun. If Frankie Montas is healthy enough to get traded, he’s probably next, though Ramon Laureano could be an attractive piece as a very good defensive outfielder.
With the 3-3 homestand, Oakland is now 11-31 at home. They’re back on the road now until after the Break.
Blue Jays/Mariners: The Mariners have ripped off eight in a row and 11 of 12 after a weekend sweep of the Blue Jays. This was a particularly demoralizing series for Toronto, as they had late leads in Saturday and Sunday’s games and a freak incident played a huge role on Sunday when a throw broke through the webbing of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s glove.
Selfishly, I’m so happy for Carlos Santana. It was rough in KC with a team going nowhere, but he’s slashing .282/.404/.538 for the Mariners in 47 PA. Apparently he worked out with Julio Rodriguez in the offseason, so this is a huge clubhouse move as well. He was an awesome teammate by all accounts in Cleveland and I hope he thrives in Seattle. Since June 1, he’s slashing .326/.448/.547 with a .430 wOBA, a 186 wRC +, an average exit velo of 92.2 mph and a Hard Hit% of 51.3%. That’s a huge bat to add to the lineup.
Yankees/Red Sox: The Red Sox scored nine unanswered runs last night to stun the Yankees and split the four-game series. That came on the heels of a three-run 10th inning on Saturday after the Yanks scored two in the top half. Maybe these are the kinds of losses that bring New York down a peg. We’ll have to see.
Rays/Reds: Wander Franco has a fractured hamate bone and will miss 6-8 weeks for a Rays team that has been battered by injuries. To make matters worse, the Rays were swept by the Reds after a 5-3 stretch against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. If anybody can navigate this, it’s a deep team like the Rays, but they’re just 11-13 when Franco doesn’t start this season.
Weather: Low storm chances today, but we’ve got hot and humid weather in a lot of places, including Kansas City, Cleveland and St. Louis. Winds are also blowing out in Cleveland for Lance Lynn vs. Cal Quantrill.
Injuries: Lots of updates and new injuries from the weekend, so keep an eye on those. Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Phillies (-120, 7.5) at Cardinals: The warm weather has this total juiced to -115 or -120 on over 7.5 and there is even a stray 8 out there. But, we’re also seeing money on Aaron Nola and the visiting Phillies. The 1st 5 ML for Philadelphia is out to -130 or higher as well.
Mets at Braves (-125, 7): You don’t normally see line moves against Max Scherzer, but that’s the case here in this one. It’s been a pretty small move, but we’ve seen 5-10 cents worth of action on Max Fried and the host Braves.
Game 1 Tigers at Royals (-130, 9): We’re seeing a little bit of movement on the Tigers here with Whit Merrifield out of the lineup for Kansas City. I wouldn’t read any more into the move than that, as both teams are playing a bit better of late.
What I’ll Be Watching
Brayan Bello: Bello’s MLB debut did not go overly well, as he allowed four runs on six hits over four innings of work with two strikeouts and three walks. The 23-year-old had been dominant at every level in the minors with high strikeout rates and excellent ground ball percentages. He only allowed five hard-hit balls and an average exit velocity of 85.9 mph in that outing against the Rays, but fell on the wrong side of batted ball luck and variance. It’s weird for a kid to make his second start against the same team, so we’ll see if he fares any better here.
Sean Manaea: Manaea did not locate well last time out against the Mariners. He allowed 13 batted balls of 95 + mph on 15 batted ball events, including two barrels. That single start drove his Hard Hit% from 37.3% to north of 40%. He’s walked 10 batters over his last three starts against the Diamondbacks twice and Seattle. He gave up five runs to the Cubs on June 14. His SwStr% has been under 10% for three straight starts after only having that happen once in his first 12 starts and now he goes to Colorado to pitch in the challenging conditions of Coors Field.
Monday 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
Padres/Rockies Over 12 (+ 100): The concerns I just listed about Sean Manaea are very relevant heading into this start against the Rockies. He’s not generating swings and misses at the same rate and especially not generating chases outside the zone. Couple that with the complete lack of command in his last start and it sure looks like his stuff just isn’t very good right now.
Colorado has been a good lineup against lefties at home and on the road, but what the Rockies have done at home to southpaws is very extreme. The Rockies lead all of baseball with a .380 wOBA at home. Even with the park adjustment applied to wRC +, their 119 mark is 12th. Their .499 SLG ranks third and they have the highest batting average and OBP. It isn’t just about the carry at Coors, but also about the spacious outfield dimensions. The Padres lead baseball in Outs Above Average, but rank sixth defensively, so they’re still good, but their infield defense has been the star. Manaea’s GB% is only 38.6%, so over 60% of balls in play are line drives or fly balls.
Jose Urena hasn’t pitched at Coors Field since 2017. The journeyman right-hander did pitch at elevation a few times in the minors, allowing 10 runs on 12 hits in El Paso and six runs on 14 hits over 9.1 innings in Albuquerque. He held the Dodgers to one run on five hits over 6.2 innings in his first start with the Rockies, but pitched around nine hard-hit balls in 21 batted ball events.
Pitching at elevation is hard and even harder for a guy with a career 4.73 ERA and 4.79 FIP that allows a ton of balls in play and doesn’t have great command. I’ll grant that it is a big number and a big ask for a Padres team that hasn’t hit righties well most of the season, but Urena is a well below average right-hander. The Padres did post a .332 wOBA and a 118 wRC + against righties in June. They’ve cooled off in July, but they’ve faced Tony Gonsolin, Logan Gilbert and Logan Webb as right-handed starters. Urena is not in that type of group.
Both bullpens rank in the bottom 10 in ERA over the last 14 days. I went back and forth on Over 6.5 for the 1st 5 or the full-game over, which you can find at 11.5 and -115 on the over at some places (DraftKings), but 12 is the consensus number now at even money and I try to give a number that everybody can get. Obviously 11.5 is better than 12, even with a few extra cents of juice, but 12 is the fairer number to grade.
Red Sox (-110) over Rays: I do think that Bello’s second start will go better than his first. He goes from raucous and intimidating Fenway Park to Tropicana Field, where he’ll likely have a pro-Red Sox crowd, but with a much smaller contingent of fans. It’s not like Bello was hit hard in his first start and he took a positive approach after the game, talking about the adjustments that he’ll need to make to facing MLB hitters. Alex Cora also noted how the kid will settle down in his second start and that it will help that catcher Christian Vazquez will be behind the plate for the second time. The stuff quality is there. It’s just a matter of executing and he should be able to do that better in a calmer environment. He was ahead of nine batters 0-1 and they had four hits, all doubles, against him. I can’t see that happening again.
Boston has a pretty good matchup here against Josh Fleming. Matt Wisler will open, as he pitches for the fourth time in six days, but then Fleming will come in. He has a 6.17 ERA with a 4.20 xERA and a 4.26 FIP. He’s running a high BABIP and a low LOB% this season, which explains the big ERA/xERA/FIP discrepancy, but he’s also caused his own problems with a 42.4% Hard Hit%.
Boston has a .348 wOBA against LHP this month in 138 PA and had a .344 wOBA in 267 PA in June. They also decimated lefties in May with a .390 wOBA. They’ve hit lefties well and have a lineup that projects well against lefties with a good bit of right-handed power. Yesterday’s game was a late one and it was a late arrival in Tampa, but they should be able to overcome it with the excitement of Bello’s second start and a solid matchup for the lineup.
The Rays are likely to be reeling without Wander Franco again, as his replacement, Taylor Walls, has just been a bad baseball player this season. I’ll take the Red Sox tonight and look to fade the reeling Rays.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.