Two days are left before the All-Star Break and one day of my article. Even if I was writing a Sunday piece, I’d pretty much advise against betting anything on the card, as it is really hard to know which teams and players are fully there and which ones are on the plane to a vacation destination. I saw somebody call it “The Ultimate Getaway Day” and that’s not wrong.
Hopefully most teams are still engaged today, though, as a general rule, I’d suggest looking more at veteran teams around the All-Star Break in any sport. Those guys are more likely to be locked in for a variety of reasons.
More than half of the season has been played, but it’s been a nice “first half” and I truly appreciate everybody that has read this column throughout the season. I’ll be doing some housekeeping and second-half lookahead stuff this week, as well as working on some college football content, which I hope y’all will enjoy.
Catch me with Ben Wilson on The Run Line at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday night.
Phillies/Marlins: Another day ending in –y, another Sandy Alcantara start, another game with no run support. Alcantara and the Fish lost 2-1, as they could only muster one run against Kyle Gibson and couldn’t come back off of the Phillies pen. Alcantara struck out 12 and didn’t hurt his Cy Young cause one bit, but one run on four hits and one walk won’t get it done for any offense. That Marlins home regression vs. RHP has been on display this week for sure.
Braves/Nationals: I understood the anti-Ian Anderson sentiment in the market, but Patrick Corbin had a bad matchup. Atlanta went wire-to-wire with three in the first and gave up three meaningless ninth-inning runs in the 8-4 win. Corbin allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings. Corbin still had eight strikeouts, a reminder of Atlanta’s K% downside, but they made a bunch of solid contact. It will continue to be a second-half angle to look at the Braves or their team total overs against any lefty and any pitcher with below average strikeout and whiff rates.
Reds/Cardinals: The Redbirds beat the Redlegs 7-3, but the most interesting development here was that Nolan Arenado basically implored the front office to get this team some help at the deadline. They’ve MacGyvered a rotation together through some injuries and that’s easily the biggest area of need. Let’s see if they listen. If they don’t, this becomes a situation to monitor, as alienating one of the team’s two best players is never a sound strategy.
Pirates/Rockies: Jose Quintana’s regression hit yesterday and the Pirates had a lot of bad luck on 13 hard-hit balls against German Marquez in the 13-2 loss. Marquez allowed two runs on six hits in 6.2 innings, but five of the six hardest-hit balls against him went for outs. Meanwhile, the Rockies kept crushing lefties at home, scoring six off Quintana and six in two innings off of mop-up reliever Dillon Peters.
Diamondbacks/Padres: Yu Darvish was pushed to 114 pitches to give the Padres bullpen a little bit of a breather in yesterday’s 5-3 win. Darvish allowed three runs on five hits and struck out nine. Managers are trying to get a little more from their SP this week given that they’ve now got four extra days of rest between starts. It took Madison Bumgarner 104 pitches to get through five innings, as he allowed five runs on eight hits and walked four. This Padres offense still fails to impress me on a daily basis and they’ll be a team I look at very closely this week.
Brewers/Giants: What a melt from Josh Hader. The Brewers closer allowed three home runs totaling six runs in a stunning and shocking 8-5 loss. Hader’s workload, coupled with his wife’s pregnancy that took him away from the team for a bit, has had him reeling for a little while now. His ERA is up to 4.50 and he won’t be going to LA for the ASG, as he’ll spend time with his wife and kid. Brewers fans and bettors are hoping some downtime will be enough to get him back on track.
Red Sox/Yankees: I am genuinely shocked that the Yankees didn’t pull out yesterday’s win. It’s the kind of game that they’ve won all season long, but they lost 5-4 in extras to the Red Sox for their fifth loss in six games. Good for us being on Boston, but the Yankees are finally getting some of that regression that was built into their incredible start.
Clay Holmes did throw a scoreless inning and his velo was back, so we can hold off on the panic for now.
Tigers/Guardians: A day after Aaron Civale left hurt after one inning, Zach Plesac only recorded eight outs and gave up five runs on six hits. The defense didn’t help him, but he was neither sharp nor effective. Cleveland is in such a weird spot for the Trade Deadline. The division is there for the taking, but this team is not good enough and needs a lot of help. Also, they’re going to need their trade currency to graduate to the big leagues soon. It’ll be interesting to see how the next two weeks go for them.
Orioles/Rays: Tyler Wells had 16 whiffs in 47 swings and threw five excellent innings, but got caught in the sixth and Brandon Hyde likely made a misstep using Cionel Perez instead of Felix Bautista. The Rays strung together three straight doubles and a two-run homer to take a 5-2 lead and Baltimore’s rally fell just short. But, the main takeaway is that Wells was good and the offense kept fighting until the end.
Mariners/Rangers: I didn’t understand the move down on the Mariners/Rangers line yesterday and it turns out that my intuitions were correct, as Seattle won again by an 8-3 count. Robbie Ray tired in the sixth and seventh and allowed three runs, but he had 12 strikeouts against zero walks, which is an elite performance. Ray heads into the Break with a 1.36 ERA, 2.64 FIP and 2.74 xFIP in his last seven starts with 58 K against 11 BB in 46.1 innings of work.
Athletics/Astros: I looked at this game yesterday and wondered if the Astros might take the night off. They’re missing Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley and now Jose Altuve, who may not play this weekend. They managed one run on three hits against Cole Irvin, who only needed 67 pitches to get through six innings. Houston was in swing and go-the-hell-home mode. The lineup was a mess. They have that luxury with Seattle pretty far behind, but this was a complete no-show and I felt it was coming, but who can really back Oakland these days?
White Sox/Twins: With an Over 9, we got four runs in the first inning of this one and then only four runs the rest of the way. It was a highly irritating loss. Rocco Baldelli correctly pulled the plug early on Devin Smeltzer and limited his exposure to a lineup that pummels lefties. Michael Kopech’s velo ticked back up, but he did only have three whiffs in 42 swings. He allowed nine baserunners in five innings, but only two of them scored. Frustrating loss, but I still think that was the right handicap.
Dodgers/Angels: I know that the Dodgers are a huge favorite today, but no part of me sees the Angels showing up for this game. They lost 9-1 yesterday and the lone run was a Brandon Marsh solo homer in the ninth. The defense didn’t help Patrick Sandoval or any of the other pitchers last night. Mike Trout remains sidelined. This Angels bunch is just sad at this point.
Weather: A few games have rain concerns tonight, with the biggest worries in D.C., Minnesota and the Bronx. Otherwise, not much to talk about around the bigs.
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 at Marlins (-110, 7.5): Most shops have Max Meyer favored in his MLB debut for the Marlins against Ranger Suarez and the Phillies. It seems like books weren’t sure how to price Meyer and we’ve seen about a 20-cent move on Miami.
White Sox at Twins (-115, 9): We’ve seen this total go down from 9 to 8.5 at some shops. The ones holding 9 have heavy under juice and the ones showing 8.5 have heavy over juice. I don’t have any data, but I think a lot of people look for unders on Saturday and Sunday before the Break. It’s warm and the only 9 or higher totals are at Coors Field and in Toronto, but that may come down with KC’s lineup anyway.
Mariners (-140, 8) at Rangers: Here’s another total move down from 8.5 to 8. I’m not sure I agree with this one, but the Rangers definitely project much better against lefties than righties, which is likely part of the move here.
What I’ll Be Watching
Mitch Keller: I’m still mad at myself for not taking Keller and the Pirates earlier this week against the Marlins. Keller’s got a 4.88 ERA, but it comes with a 4.48 xERA, a 3.99 FIP and a 4.10 xFIP. There are some clear positive regression signs in the profile, as the Pirates have turned him into more of a ground ball pitcher by adjusting his pitch arsenal. He’s got a .335 BABIP against and just a 70.2% LOB%, so that’s why his ERA is so high, but it also has to do with his start to the season.
Keller has a 3.75 ERA with a 3.53 FIP in his last eight starts over 50.1 innings. He’s increased his K% a bit and is running a 53.7% GB%. His Hard Hit% is high at 43.5%, but hard-hit ground balls aren’t as much of a problem as line drives and fly balls. This is not a sexy profile and the modeling crowd won’t like it, but he’s a better pitcher than the numbers suggest in my opinion.
I lean Pirates today, but I’m still confused at what Jose Urena has done in his two starts, so I’m staying away.
Cal Quantrill: With what I mentioned above about Civale and Plesac, the Guardians desperately need Quantrill to get back on track. He gave up six runs on eight hits to this Tigers lineup on July 5, but only three were earned and he got no help from the defense. With that being said, he’s allowed a home run in seven straight starts and has a 5.46 ERA with a 5.47 FIP in his last five starts across 28 innings. His pitch-to-contact style has caught up with him of late and it would be huge for Cleveland going forward if he could do what he should do against a paltry Tigers lineup today.
Saturday 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
Red Sox/Yankees Over 8.5 (-120): Nick Pivetta and Jameson Taillon are the listed starters for this one. This is a rematch of last Sunday’s game that ended 11-6 in favor of Boston and featured 12 runs in the first five innings. I don’t do the article on Sundays, but I mentioned last week when I was looking ahead to that game that it was an excellent over candidate. This one is also like that.
Taillon has allowed 20 runs in 21 innings over his last four starts. The stats and peripherals look decent, but I really don’t like the lack of swing-and-miss upside. He allows a lot of balls in play and doesn’t have a very high chase rate on pitches outside the zone. He’s allowed seven home runs in his last four starts and his fastball continues to be hittable, as opposing batters own a .304 BA and a .527 SLG against the pitch. His slider is up to a .526 SLG on 64 balls in play as well and that’s his second-most popular pitch. He’s already allowed 43 extra-base hits this season. His numbers would look much worse if he didn’t have an elite walk rate, but the Red Sox are a pretty aggressive lineup that likes to attack early in the count anyway. Boston is sixth in Swing% and 23rd in BB%, so Taillon’s control isn’t nearly as much of a factor in this matchup.
Pivetta has a 4.08 ERA with a 4.30 xERA and a 3.84 FIP, so his peripherals look decent, but he allows a ton of hard contact. His Hard Hit% is 46.2% going into a start against a team that has been first or second in Hard Hit% just about all season. In two starts against the Yankees, Pivetta has allowed 17 hard-hit balls on 28 batted balls. The Yankees have also had six barreled balls against him.
There should be a lot of hard contact and a lot of balls in play early in this game. There are also some bullpen questions for the Yankees. Clay Holmes, Michael King and Wandy Peralta have each worked three of the last four days. Aroldis Chapman has worked two of the last three and threw 25 pitches yesterday. Albert Abreu threw 39 pitches on Wednesday/Thursday. Jonathan Loaisiga looked awful coming back from the IL and Lucas Luetge wasn’t much better on Thursday.
With a full total of 8.5 at -120 and a 1st 5 of 5 at even money, I still felt like the full game had more equity to it, especially since I could see a scenario where Aaron Boone pushes Taillon too far into the sixth or even seventh to try and help the bullpen out.
Pick: Over 8.5 (-120)
Dodgers Run Line (-1.5, -120) over Angels: I really don’t see the Angels showing up today. I guess there’s a chance that Mike Trout comes back to play today because of the optics of playing in the All-Star Game, but missing his own team’s last few games, but still. This Angels team just wants to get the hell away from baseball for a while.
Julio Urias has only allowed 30 earned runs in 89.2 innings of work. The long ball has been a mild problem, but he did allow four of his 14 home runs in one start, so I don’t think his FIP is an accurate representation of his season, so I’m less worried about the 4.09 there and more focused on the 3.01 ERA. He’s only allowed 72 hits in 89.2 innings because of a 28.6% Hard Hit%. He is also coming off of a short start with just 59 pitches, so he should be about as fresh as he’s going to be. His defense let him down last time out.
In 17 starts, Urias has allowed two or fewer runs 12 times. That seems like a pretty good matchup against an Angels team that has been one of the worst offenses in baseball for the last two months.
Jose Suarez has a tough assignment against the Dodgers today. He has a 4.79 ERA with a 4.48 xERA and a 4.56 FIP in 41.1 innings of work, but what stands out to me is the 10.3% BB%. The Dodgers are second in BB% at 10.1% and third against LHP at 9.9%. While this is their weaker batting split, that high walk rate should come in handy today against a guy like Suarez. It will also run up his pitch count and the Angels pen has a 5.05 ERA with a 4.48 FIP over the last 14 days.
This is one of those cases that I mentioned about a veteran team understanding the importance of banking wins. The Dodgers have goals and aspirations. The Angels are just wondering if Shohei Ohtani will be traded and are playing with an interim, lame-duck manager. I can’t see them being invested today, even after getting blown out yesterday. I also can’t see them having any measure of success against Urias.
Pick: Dodgers -1.5 (-120)
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.