The weekend has arrived and we’ve got just eight days until the All-Star Break begins. Some teams can’t wait. Most teams can’t wait. I can’t wait. But, we’ve got plenty of games before that happens and a full day of baseball today.
To the card we go.
Marlins/Mets: Both Pablo Lopez and Chris Bassitt were effective yesterday, but the Mets bullpen struggled in the 5-2 loss. Lopez did need 93 pitches to get 15 outs and only had five strikeouts, but he also only allowed six hard-hit balls. The Mets offense still has a 107 wRC + over the last 30 days, but their .313 wOBA ranks 17th. Their soft contact has caught up with them a little bit and it coincides with Atlanta being the hottest team in baseball, hence the gap in the NL East closing.
Nationals/Braves: Speaking of the Braves, they pummeled Erick Fedde and coasted to a 12-2 win. I’m glad the game restarted after the rain delay because totals and Braves run line bettors would have really gotten screwed. I’m shocked that they did after a 75-minute rain delay in a blowout.
Michael Harris II was 4-for-4 with four RBI as he continues to surge. He’s batting .310/.342/.542 from predominantly the No. 9 hole. Lineup balance 1 through 9 matters. He gets on base to turn it over to Ronald Acuna Jr. I’d still rather see him hitting fifth or sixth, but he’s that “second leadoff hitter” that managers sometimes like to use and it’s worked.
Pirates/Brewers: Kevin Newman was thrown out by 30 feet to end the game and keep us from hitting the over. This game had 10 walks where only two of them scored and two guys thrown out on the bases. The handicap was mostly right on the starters, as the 1st 5 total went over. The bullpens were sadly better than I had hoped, though Josh Hader did struggle in throwing 24 more pitches. Another reason why sending Newman was an asinine decision. I felt like I had two good handicaps yesterday that lost anyway. Every loss stings. Some are worse than others. All you can do is keep troubleshooting and moving forward. Or take a day or two off, but that’s harder for me given my career path.
Phillies/Cardinals: The reason why I mention potential delays and weather concerns is because they can alter game play. It only took 219 pitches to play this game after a 56-minute delay. Players don’t want to be there all that late, especially when there’s a day game the next day.
The pitching matchup helped, too, as Zack Wheeler threw seven shutout and Adam Wainwright threw a complete game loss. Waino only gave up five hits (two solo HR) despite 15 hard-hit balls. The home/road splits are real, y’all.
Rockies/Diamondbacks: Six runs is quite an offensive explosion for the Road Rockies, as they scored four off of Zac Gallen in five innings and a couple more off of the bullpen. Fastball command hurt Gallen yesterday. For the season, batters own a .199 BA with a .338 SLG on his fastball. Yesterday, the Rockies were 4-for-6 on batted balls with a homer and two doubles. Gallen also had a spin rate decrease across the board. We’ll see how he looks next time out.
Giants/Padres: Has Ruben Niebla unlocked something with Blake Snell? Snell has struck out 23 of 47 batters in his last two starts and allowed just seven hits and six walks. He’s never going to have the best control, but his swing-and-miss upside has returned and that increases his margin for error. He also threw six full innings, which is very rare for him. Snell has thrown the curveball more of late and that pitch has generated a 51.6% Whiff%. His slider has a 47.1% Whiff%. After 55.4% fastball usage in June, he’s at 51.6% in July, with nearly all of the difference coming on curveballs. This is a much better distribution for him and it has shown the last two starts. His stock is rising in my mind.
Cubs/Dodgers: The Dodgers walked off the Cubs, who continue to show a ton of fight and actually led 3-2 going into the ninth after 5.2 sharp innings from Keegan Thompson with eight strikeouts. If Chicago ever hits with RISP, they’ll dig themselves out of the early-season hole. This is a better team than the record would indicate.
Angels/Orioles: The Orioles are hella fun. They’re also starting to learn how to win and also believe in themselves. With two out and nobody on trailing by two, the Birds went 1B, 2B, 1B, 1B to walk off the Angels. Mike Trout was 3-for-5 with three RBI and a home run. Shohei Ohtani was 3-for-5 with a solo HR. The Angels lost 5-4. It is incredible how bad everybody else around those two is and you’ve got management batting Jonathan Villar with a .224/.271/.316 slash in front of Trout in the leadoff spot. Stunning incompetence to make your best player come up with nobody on base most of the time.
Taylor Ward should probably be hitting leadoff with a .395 OBP. Make teams pitch to Trout with a guy on base more often. The more you watch the day-to-day of baseball, the more you wonder how most of these guys ascended to the roles that they are in.
Yankees/Red Sox: The Yankees offense was not very good in May. Their .310 wOBA came with a 103 wRC +, as they were really propped up by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. However, the Yankees had a .343 wOBA and a 126 wRC + in June and have a .401 wOBA and a 166 wRC + in July. The offensive uptick has made this team far scarier and now on par with the pitching staff. This is unquestionably the best team in baseball and this offense is now even more feared. I don’t think this pace is entirely sustainable, but even with a 125-130 wRC +, the Yankees aren’t going to lose many games at all.
One other note here that Nestor Cortes struggled. He allowed four runs on eight hits, including two homers and eight hard-hit balls. That is the second straight start against an AL East opponent with four runs allowed. Deception is a HUGE part of how Cortes succeeds. The Rays were seeing him for the third time. Boston actually hadn’t seen him yet, but obviously had tons of tape. After not allowing more than three runs until June 8, Cortes has allowed four runs in three of his last seven starts. Since June 8, he has a 5.34 ERA with a 6.03 FIP. It’s time to reevaluate him.
Twins/Rangers: Gray Day fell the way of the Rangers yesterday, as Sonny melted in the fifth and that was all Texas needed. All six Rangers runs came in the fifth and they held on for the 6-5 win. I’m telling you, this is the issue with the Twins. Their starters can’t work deep into games and the bullpen just isn’t very good. They can address it at the Trade Deadline, but that’s why they’re not running away in a horrible Central Division.
Tigers/White Sox: The TTO penalty caught Lucas Giolito yesterday, as he gave up five runs on five hits in 6.2 innings, with the Tigers plating four in the seventh. While Giolito ran out of gas after getting the first two batters out in the seventh, the bigger issue is that Joe Kelly was called upon in a high-leverage situation and he stinks. Tony La Russa is a joke and he should’ve been fired before he ever set foot in the dugout, not to mention all of the times this season. The guy is a dinosaur. You know the thing about dinosaurs? They’re extinct. Get this guy out of the dugout and the clubhouse.
Guardians/Royals: The Guardians bullpen was such a strength earlier in the season, but the converted starters are leaking oil. Eli Morgan has a major crisis of confidence and Terry Francona keeps running him out there as the primary setup man. This team can’t blow outstanding starts like what Aaron Civale gave them. At least that part of the handicap was right. The Guardians also had bases loaded with one out in the ninth and failed to score, which would have brought Emmanuel Clase into the game instead of Sam Hentges.
Cleveland just isn’t a very good team. The schedule can be used as a crutch, but there aren’t enough good hitters and that’s especially true with Jose Ramirez’s July drop-off. I don’t see Cleveland getting out of this funk over the next eight days. Keep in mind, if they don’t have those improbable wins against the Twins where they trailed late, this is a team that might have one or two wins since the middle of June.
Blue Jays/Mariners: The Blue Jays are really struggling with all these games and limited days off. They only scored two runs off of George Kirby and the bullpen, as the Mariners got over .500 with last night’s win. Kirby gave up 10 hits, but managed to only give up two runs, as Toronto’s RISP issues re-emerged. The extra-inning game couldn’t have helped a tired Toronto bunch.
Weather: Only a couple of games have weather threats, with Baltimore and Atlanta in the crosshairs of some severe weather. Good pitching conditions in St. Louis today with a breeze blowing in and cooler temps.
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 Cardinals (-115, 9): Remember my mantra. Sometimes it’s the line moves that don’t happen that say more. I’ve written all season about how the markets hate Dakota Hudson. He gets the nod today for St. Louis and this line hasn’t moved. That’s very telling to me.
Rockies at Diamondbacks (-120, 9): A modest Road Rockies Fade today, which usually happens to a higher degree, but Arizona isn’t very good either. It’s a southpaw battle here with Kyle Freeland and Madison Bumgarner. I’m a little surprised at the line move here because Bumgarner’s xERA is over a run higher than his actual ERA and his FIP is nearly a run higher.
Tigers at White Sox (-160, 8.5): The Tigers are taking some influential money here with a move down of about 10 cents across the market. Johnny Cueto goes for the White Sox and Garrett Hill makes his second career MLB start for the Tigers after shutting down the Guardians on July 4. The White Sox have been awful against RHP all season long, which is my guess for the move.
Guardians (-135, 8.5) at Royals: This is an uncomfortably large favorite role for Triston McKenzie on a hot day against an improved Royals lineup, but the market has moved this price 15-20 cents. I’m not a big Jon Heasley fan either, but this line has really climbed.
What I’ll Be Watching
Triston McKenzie: Today in “Baseball Makes No Effing Sense”, McKenzie is coming off of seven shutout innings against the Yankees with one hit and one walk this past Sunday. In the two starts prior to that, he allowed five home runs and 13 runs on 17 hits against the Twins. He also had a strong start on June 16 at Coors Field, despite being an extremely extreme fly ball guy. I honestly have no idea what to think of him here. The Royals are ninth in wOBA over the last two weeks, as Whit Merrified has shown signs of life and several others are swinging good sticks.
For the season, though, the Royals profile as a team that McKenzie should fare well against. They’ve hit the seventh-fewest home runs and haven’t made a ton of quality contact. They don’t strike out a lot, but also don’t walk a lot. McKenzie is not a guy that I trust, despite okay numbers. I’ll be curious to see how he does here, especially with the Jekyll-and-Hyde act lately.
Drew Rasmussen: This is Rasmussen’s second start since returning after a hamstring injury. He gave up two runs on five hits in 4.2 innings to the Blue Jays on July 2. He’s got a solid 3.30 ERA with a 3.84 FIP in his 62.2 innings of work, but there are some well-defined home/road splits here. He’s allowed just a .183/.320/.261 slash with a .221 wOBA in 32.2 home innings, but a .281/.343/.488 slash and a .358 wOBA in 30 road innings. His road starts have been against the Cubs, White Sox, Twins, A’s, Mariners, Rangers and Blue Jays.
Great American Ball Park is a tough place to pitch because the ball carries so well. Rasmussen is a pitch-to-contact guy with a 41.7% Hard Hit%. Even with Tampa’s paltry offense, this total is 9 with heavy juice, which seems to bring Rasmussen’s credentials into question, especially with a 4.45 xERA.
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
Rockies 1st 5 (+ 105) over Diamondbacks: We’ve got a southpaw clash here between Kyle Freeland and Madison Bumgarner. One offense is superior against lefties and it is the one in the underdog role today. Obviously you have to eliminate the Coors Field impact because Colorado leads the league in performance against LHP because of some hugely-inflated numbers at home, however, the Rockies still have a .323 wOBA and a 107 wRC + on the road against southpaws.
Their lineup is built for hitting lefties with a right-handed-heavy group. They’ll be able to run either eight or nine righties at Bumgarner here, who has allowed a .260/.324/.461 slash and a .341 wOBA to righties on the season. He’s also allowed a ton of pull-side contact to RHB, which is why they’ve been able to post such a high SLG. Of Bumgarner’s 122 hard-hit balls, 99 have been from right-handed batters in 205 batted ball events for a 48.3% Hard Hit%. Bumgarner has a 4.78 ERA with a 4.76 FIP in his last 49 innings with a 48.5% Hard Hit% overall.
Given that the Rockies perform well in that split, their offense should have a pretty good projection today, even with the team on the road. Arizona, meanwhile, ranks 25th in wOBA against LHP at .296 and has an 87 wRC + in that split. If we look specifically at Chase Field, the Diamondbacks have just a .285 wOBA against lefties with minimal contact quality.
Both of these bullpens are pretty taxed, so I’d rather not mess with those two groups today. I do think Freeland has an advantage over Bumgarner and the Rockies offense should have an advantage in this split as well. I’ll take the Rockies 1st 5 here.
Angels/Orioles 1st 5 Under 4.5 (-115): I’m a big Patrick Sandoval guy. The Angels southpaw does so many things well, but doesn’t really get talked about much. He’s struck out over a batter per inning in his 70 innings and induces ground balls at a 46% clip. He has a 3.09 ERA with a 3.19 FIP because he keeps the ball in the park for the most part. He has allowed four home runs, all in his last four starts, but he had a string of four straight starts with two or fewer runs allowed before running into Houston last time out. He still struck out nine over five innings, but had some bad sequencing luck.
Sandoval’s Hard Hit% for the season is 32.5%. He’s also only allowed 14 barrels, most of them coming from a four-seam fastball that he is throwing less often. Opposing batters own a .422 BA and a .594 SLG on his fastball, but he’s gradually replacing that with a sinker. Hitters only have a .172 BA and a .241 SLG on his slider and a .183 BA with a .232 SLG on his changeup. Last start, Sandoval only threw 12 four-seam fastballs, but gave up a double and a homer. That was also against an Astros team that knows him well.
The Orioles haven’t really seen Sandoval and rank 24th in wOBA against LHP. They also have a 25.4% K% that is the third-highest against southpaws. This should be a good matchup for him in what has become a good pitcher’s park, especially for lefties. Collectively, batters against lefties at Oriole Park have a .220 BA with a .330 SLG and a .271 wOBA.
Dean Kremer gets the call for the Orioles here against the struggling Angels offense. Kremer has has allowed 10 runs on 33 hits in 32.2 innings of work with a 23/9 K/BB ratio. He’s only allowed two homers on the season and has been excellent the first two times through the lineup. In 108 PA the first or second time through the order, opposing batters only have 26 hits, eight walks and only three extra-base hits. He’s struck out 22 in that span, holding batters to a .244 wOBA the first time through and a .284 wOBA the second time through.
Kremer isn’t a high K% guy, but he’s gotten hitters to chase and has a 10% SwStr%, which is just below league average. Against an Angels lineup that has the highest K% in baseball against RHP at 26.7%, I like this matchup for him as well. As a result, I’m on the 1st 5 Under 4.5 at Oriole Park.
Mariners (+ 110) over Blue Jays: The Mariners seem to have cracked the code with Robbie Ray. He’s allowed just three runs on 15 hits over his last five starts covering 33.2 innings of work. More importantly, he’s only walked nine batters in that span against 40 strikeouts. The Blue Jays have ample power, but they don’t walk and are a very impatient lineup that likes to expand the zone. That should play well into what Ray does.
It obviously doesn’t hurt that Ray is pitching at home either. He’s allowed a .175/.230/.311 slash with a .239 wOBA in 58 innings at home this season. The road has been less kind, but he’s coming off of a dominant June and is off to a nice start in July. The Blue Jays are also just tired. Over the last week, they’re batting .258/.303/.366 with just a .295 wOBA. Their last off day was June 23 and they’ve played a doubleheader since, so they’ve played the same number of games as calendar days. Their last off day prior to that was June 9, so they’ve basically played a game per day for a month.
Alek Manoah is obviously very good, but there are some concerning signs right now. He’s allowed 12 barrels all season, but six have come in the last three starts. He’s allowed nine homers all season, but four in his last three starts. Last time out against the A’s, Manoah’s fastball velocity was 92.2 mph, down from his season average of 93.7 mph. This is his fourth straight start on four days rest and I can’t help but wonder if he’s wearing down a bit as well. He only threw 35 innings as a pro in the minors before getting the call and missed the whole 2020 season with no minor league ball. He’s only 11.1 innings away from matching last year’s total. He might just be hitting a bit of a flat spot.
Over the last 30 days, the Blue Jays pen has a 4.89 ERA with a 4.66 FIP. The Mariners pen has a 2.59 ERA with a 3.62 FIP. Toronto’s relievers have not gotten any days off during this rough stretch.
We’ve got two teams going in opposite directions, as the Mariners seem to be galvanized by the brawl in Anaheim and are over .500 for the first time since May 2. The Blue Jays are just trying desperately to hang on and just played a four-hour game last night. I’ll take the Mariners at plus-money tonight.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.