Fourteen games of America’s pastime come our way on the July 4 holiday, as we’ll have all-day baseball across the country. Lots of day games are on the docket, so this will be a slightly-shortened version of the article to get it posted before as many games as possible get underway.
If you missed it, check out last night’s version of The Run Line, as I played the host role and Josh Towers was the analyst for a couple hours of baseball betting insights. HOUR 1 | HOUR 2
Brewers/Pirates: Another dominant showing from Brandon Woodruff, who seemed to use his downtime to figure out what was going on. He struck out eight over six neat-and-tidy innings with just 94 pitches. In two starts since the return, he’s struck out 18 with no walks in 11 innings on just 170 pitches. He’s also allowed an average exit velocity of 82.2 mph and an 18.2% Hard Hit%. The Rays and Pirates are not good lineups, but those are impressive numbers.
Padres/Dodgers: The Padres came back off of Craig Kimbrel in the ninth to avoid the sweep after a really gutsy start from MacKenzie Gore. Gore really didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled and held the Dodgers to one run over 5.2 innings. He walked four, struck out five, gave up nine hard-hit balls and hung in there. It was a great start for his maturation process and a huge lift for the Padres, who eventually won 4-3. I’ve noticed some anti-Gore sentiment lately in the markets and I just don’t really see where it’s coming from. He wasn’t sharp, but that’s a different kind of lineup. I think he’s still a very good pitcher.
On the LA side, big starts from Mitch White in the bullpen game, as well as Tyler Anderson and Clayton Kershaw. Even though LA didn’t complete the sweep, it was still a good series to get back on track.
Cardinals/Phillies: Philadelphia won the rubber match on Sunday Night Baseball thanks to seven elite innings from Zack Wheeler, who only allowed three hard-hit balls. Adam Wainwright allowed 12 over his 5.2 innings, including a couple of homers. Ryan Helsley pitched two innings for Saturday’s save, something we’ve seen Oliver Marmol do a lot this season.
My biggest takeaway, though, remains how the Phillies continue to battle with the patchwork pen and no Bryce Harper. They’re 20-9 under Rob Thomson and have only lost consecutive games three times and only had one bad stretch with losses in four of five. Maybe Girardi was a bigger issue than I initially believed.
Royals/Tigers: So, we have to talk about Tarik Skubal. He allowed five runs on five hits with three walks and just one strikeout in 4.2 innings on Sunday against the Royals. Over his first 10 starts, Skubal had a 2.15 ERA, 1.99 FIP and 2.87 xFIP with 61 K against 10 BB in 58.2 innings of work. Over his last six starts, he has a 7.80 ERA with a 5.28 FIP and a 4.27 xFIP with 29 K in 30 innings, but also 14 BB. He’s also allowed six home runs. Yesterday, Skubal had a big velocity downturn, as his sinker and slider velo were both down 1.2 mph.
When you get a lot of pitcher injuries like we’ve seen with the Tigers, it is scary to see how Skubal’s command and control have fallen off and now the velo is on the fritz as well. Yesterday’s start featured his lowest fastball velo of the season. I’m officially very concerned.
Rays/Jays: The Rays won the last three games in this five-game series with an uptick in offense. They scored 24 runs in the three games and caught a break when Kevin Gausman took a liner off the leg, as they proceeded to rock Casey Lawrence, who was thrust into long relief. Then Thomas Hatch started Game 2 and they scored 10 runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings against him with 13 hard-hit balls.
I can’t quantify it, but hitting is often contagious, especially with RISP. Players relax a little more after somebody gets some big hits and the Rays got quite a few big hits to finish out this series. I don’t know if they’re ready to go on a run or not, but they ranked in the bottom five in a lot of offensive categories in June, so it’s a good sign.
Angels/Astros: There have been plenty of reasons to be worried about the Angels, but this weekend felt like the nail in the coffin for the season. They’re only halfway through, but got swept by the Astros in walk-off fashion on Sunday and were not competitive at all in the first two games. They’re one of two teams with today off, so maybe they can rally, but this team has just 10 wins since May 24.
Orioles/Twins: The Orioles lost the series in Minnesota, but they had a chance to win every game, getting walked off on Friday and Saturday, but coming away with a 3-1 win on Sunday. The Birds got another good start from 6-foot-8 Tyler Wells and the bullpen was able to hold this one down. They’re 22-20 over their last 42 games and I don’t think people realize how solid this team is, especially with some offensive upticks in June.
Athletics/Mariners: The big story here is that Frankie Montas left yesterday’s game after throwing 13 pitches. Montas’s fastball velo was down 2.4 mph and his sinker velo was down 2.7, as he left with shoulder discomfort. This would be a huge downer for the A’s, as they were counting on him to bring back a huge trade package. Hopefully he’s okay, but a velo drop of that magnitude is never a good sign.
White Sox/Giants: The Giants have dropped four in a row and they are really pushing themselves out of the playoff picture at this point. Even with the extra wild card spot, they’re on the outside looking in from this recent stretch. The Giants just had a homestand against the Reds, Tigers and White Sox and went 2-6. That’s inexcusable. The White Sox, meanwhile, are back within one game of .500 again and 4.5 back on the Twins.
San Francisco has some excellent starting pitchers and decent offensive numbers, but the team defense has been a problem day in and day out.
Weather: Instability in the Midwest has thunder chances in Detroit and Chicago, and there’s also the threat of rain in Atlanta. Otherwise, it looks like smooth sailing in most locales and wind isn’t a huge factor.
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.
Game 1: Guardians (-145, 8.5) at Tigers: Jose Ramirez is back in the lineup for Cleveland for Game 1, as Zach Plesac, who has been pitching well of late, has been bet into a bigger favorite against spot starter Garrett Hill and the Tigers. Doubleheaders are always tricky handicaps, but the 26-year-old Hill has a 4.06 ERA with a 3.87 FIP in eight Triple-A starts after mowing down Double-A hitters.
Royals at Astros (-240, 9): The Astros are taking money against the Royals today in Jake Odorizzi’s return to the mound. It will be Jon Heasley for the Royals, as they face long odds with a starting pitcher that has a 5.20 ERA with a 5.80 FIP over his 45 innings of work.
Pretty light day for line moves to this point.
What I’ll Be Watching
Zach Plesac: Plesac gave up seven runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings against the Astros on May 24. Since then, he’s allowed a total of eight earned runs in his last six starts, including two looks at Minnesota and a matchup with the Dodgers. In that span, Plesac has a 41.9% Hard Hit%, but is running a .238 BABIP and has allowed 14 barrels. This looks like a smoke-and-mirrors act to me. He’s got a 2.00 ERA with a 3.70 FIP and a 4.00 xFIP in that span.
This isn’t a case of a guy necessarily pitching better. It’s just a guy having better fortunes on batted balls in play. Whether or not the Tigers can take advantage is anyone’s guess, but I don’t see this level if performance sticking around and will be looking for chances to fade him in the near future.
Dakota Hudson: Bettors frequently fade Hudson because of his low ERA/high FIP profile, but he’s doing that for the fifth straight season in his career, so it’s probably time to just accept that his ERA will almost always outperform his other metrics. With that being said, Hudson’s ERA is a career high 3.83, while his xERA sits at 4.91. He has allowed 16 runs in his last four starts and this doesn’t profile to be a good matchup for him.
You know I’ve harped on this point all season long, but the Braves offense really only struggles against guys with swing-and-miss upside. Hudson has 44 strikeouts out of 332 batters in 80 innings. His SwStr% is just 7.1%. His Chase Rate is low and his rate of contact is high. If Hudson has a good day today, it’ll be because of the defense.
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
Royals/Astros Under 9 (-115): Games at Minute Paid Park have only averaged 7.4 runs this season and we’ve got the chance for a sleepy game from both teams on the July 4 holiday. I’m especially looking for that out of the Astros, who just finished a stretch of playing the Yankees and Mets and then finished it off by burying the Angels with a three-game weekend sweep. Houston is now up 13.5 in the division and welcomes to lowly Royals to town, who are just 29-48 on the season.
Jake Odorizzi returns for the Astros, having allowed two runs on five hits over eight innings in two rehab starts. Two of the hits in his last outing were infield singles and he struck out six of the 17 batters he faced. Odorizzi seemed pleased with his stuff and where his health was after that outing and now he’ll return to the big leagues against a below average offense.
Truth be told, I don’t have a lot of kind things to say about Jon Heasley, but he had held the opposition to three or fewer runs in his first seven starts before getting knocked around in the last two. He is going to a better pitching environment now and he has held righties to a .284 wOBA. The Astros are missing a pretty good left-handed stick in Michael Brantley.
This just has the makings of a “win and get out” 4-2 or 5-2 type of game for Houston. As I said, Minute Maid Park has suppressed offense in a pretty big way this season and Houston has only allowed 3.09 runs per game, while scoring just 4.3 runs per game. With a Houston team that just made some statements in some important games, I’m not sure this one will measure up. I’ll take my chances on Under 9.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.