Thursday’s MLB card is scaled down a little bit, as 12 teams enjoy a day off heading towards the weekend. That also means that 18 teams are in action across nine games, four of which have early starts. Only three of today’s games represent the start of a new series, with Phillies vs. Nationals, Rangers vs. Tigers and Angels vs. Mariners.
One growing trend we’ve seen of late is that the bad teams have been really bad. The Cubs have lost nine in a row. The Pirates just ended a prolonged losing streak. The A’s have lost nine of 10. The Nationals have dropped four straight and seven of 10. Not to mention some of the much longer streaks of futility we’ve seen lately. That’s not really a big surprise. The first 3-4 weeks of the season are typically when underdogs perform well. As the season goes along, however, the better teams with more depth and more talent ultimately start to show themselves.
Lots of notes today with some good short-term and long-term thoughts.
Marlins/Phillies: The Marlins must lead the league in devastating losses this season. Yesterday’s came via a Garrett Stubbs walk-off three-run homer in the ninth, as the Phillies won 3-1 to stay on their torrid pace. All the steam was on Philly yesterday with spot starter Daniel Castano for Miami. He threw 6.2 shutout innings, but Tanner Scott, working back-to-back days, blew the save and the game.
If the Phillies beat the Nationals on Thursday, they’ll be two games over .500 for the first time since April 11 at 3-1.
Reds/Diamondbacks: Another day, another bullpen melt for the Reds. Both Luis Castillo and Zac Gallen pitched well, but Art Warren did not and the D-Backs came away with a 7-4 win. Castillo threw 110 pitches and had a velocity uptick that he maintained throughout his start. At least he’s a bright spot once again for the Reds. Let’s see if they put him on the trade market or extend him and try to build around him. He’s a free agent after the 2023 season, so scouts are watching his starts closely.
Braves/Nationals: Another day, another offensive explosion for the Braves. Atlanta scored eight runs off of Erick Fedde and the bullpen, while Spencer Strider fired another gem in a starting capacity. His raw stuff is pretty elite and I’ll be curious to see how he’s priced against better teams. Strider is stretched out now, throwing 106 pitches with 24 whiffs over 5.2 innings with 11 strikeouts.
Juan Soto has missed each of the last two games with some knee discomfort. The Nationals are bad enough without their superstar, who will absolutely err on the side of caution with a bad team and maybe the game’s first $450 million contract.
Brewers/Mets: Milwaukee snapped out of an offensive funk in support of Corbin Burnes for a big 10-2 win over the Mets. I’ve had the Mets in my sights a lot with this ramped-up schedule and they are now 6-5 in this stretch with the Dodgers, Padres, Angels and Brewers, though they did get very fortunate to catch the latter two in slumps. After today’s game, seven of the next nine are across the Marlins, with the Astros in between and after, so it’s still a fairly tricky road until the start of July.
Pirates/Cardinals: Jack Flaherty fell victim to some bad luck in his start against the Pirates. He allowed four runs (two earned) on just three hits in his three innings. The Pirates only hit two balls hard, but got hits at the right time. On the flip side, Roansy Contreras allowed four runs (three earned) over 4.1 innings and allowed a bunch of hard contact. Credit to Derek Shelton for riding David Bednar eight outs for the save. He only needed 43 pitches and struck out four of the 10 batters he faced. I wish more managers were aggressive like that, especially with an off day on Thursday.
Padres/Cubs: Hot and humid conditions with a wind blowing out did wonders for offense in this series. The Padres scored 19 runs to send the hapless Cubs to their ninth straight loss. The Cubs bullpen has completely fallen apart once again and the offense has been very hit or miss. San Diego’s offensive profile on the road has really got a boost from this series and it appears like another incredible day for offense on Thursday with winds blowing out at 16-18 mph and temps in the 90s.
White Sox/Tigers: The White Sox blasted the Tigers and completed the much needed sweep by a combined score of 27-6. Over the next three weeks, the White Sox play @ HOU, TOR, BAL, @ LAA, @ SF, MIN, so we’ve hit another tough patch in the schedule with even more injuries. Let’s see how they do with it.
Astros/Rangers: Not much to say here, other than some history being made. Luis Garcia and Phil Maton became the first teammates in recorded history to throw immaculate innings in the same game. An immaculate inning is nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts and has only happened 106 times in MLB history. Garcia and Maton also struck out the same three batters, so we’ll see how long that record lasts.
As a side note, watch Maton’s inning on Pitching Ninja. Note all of the “top-shelf” fastballs up in the zone and the late swings. The Astros have mastered the high fastball and it’s why they’re so effective year in and year out.
Twins/Mariners: Sonny Gray threw five shutout innings on 65 pitches in his return from injury as the Twins won 5-0. Keep an eye on the Twins pitching staff in the second half. They’re trying to stretch Gray and Joe Ryan back out, but they’re effectively missing a starting five with Randy Dobnak, Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack and Josh Winder all out. There are also four relievers on the IL right now.
I’m a huge Rocco Baldelli fan, but this team is third in relief innings this season and puts a lot of strain on that group on a regular basis. I’m still concerned about their viability as a division leader moving forward.
Rays/Yankees: The Rays defense continues to be a major problem. Shane McClanahan only allowed three hard-hit balls, but gave up four runs (one earned) on three hits. The two runs the Yankees scored on Tuesday were a result of shoddy defense. This is uncharacteristic of the Rays and something that I’m sure they’ll fix, but it’s costing them important games.
Orioles/Blue Jays: This one worked out according to plan, as Bruce Zimmermann continued to throw glorified BP and the Orioles got us a couple of runs to get the 1st 5 over. Baltimore actually trailed 6-2, but battled back to force extra before losing in the 10th. That quality bullpen is such a huge deal. I really like where this team is heading long-term and even later this season, assuming Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall replace some of the stiffs in the rotation.
A’s/Red Sox: The A’s have scored two or fewer runs in 32 of their 63 games this season. They lost again on the run line in yesterday’s 10-1 drubbing. It’s hard to believe this team was 10-9 at one point. They’re 11-34 since and 32 of their 43 losses have been on the run line. They’ve lost 16 of 18 going into today’s game.
Royals/Giants: Jon Heasley has not allowed more than three runs in any of his seven starts this season, as the Royals upset the Giants. Heasley has a 3.72 ERA, but a 5.32 FIP and a 5.49 xFIP. His 44.1% Hard Hit% does not support a .245 BABIP and his low strikeout rate does not support an 82.6% LOB%. He’s a premier regression candidate moving forward.
Guardians/Rockies: The 1st 5 over got there in this one as well, though some shoddy defense helped. I hope the Guardians complete the sweep on Thursday. I like this team a lot as a fan and they’re much more interesting and exciting than expected. That said, they’ve been beating up on bums for quite a while now and better teams are coming down the pike. I’ll be curious to see how oddsmakers price them with the Dodgers, Twins, Red Sox, Twins again and Yankees for the next 17 games after Thursday.
Angels/Dodgers: I was really curious to see what would happen with Reid Detmers here and came away unimpressed. Detmers only threw five changeups in 83 pitches, choosing to attack with the fastball and slider. He got some swings and misses, but also walked three and allowed a couple homers. But, the story of the night was Tyler Anderson, who came within two outs of a no-hitter just one day after Miles Mikolas came within one strike of a no-no.
Anderson threw 123 pitches. Mikolas threw 129. A place in the history books is worth the risk, but let’s see the cost for those two guys in their next starts.
Weather: As mentioned, we’ll have premium hitting conditions at Wrigley Field for the getaway day game this afternoon. Winds will also be blowing out to LF at Fenway Park for A’s/Sox. It will be hot and a little humid in Detroit for Rangers/Tigers and winds will be blowing out at Citi Field for the Brewers/Mets conclusion. It’ll be quite humid in D.C., which should help offense.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Padres (-175, 11) at Cubs: Sweep avoidance is about the only justification that I can come up with for this game between the Padres and Cubs. Joe Musgrove is vastly superior to Matt Swarmer and the Padres offense has been vastly superior to the Cubs offense in this series. The line has come down about a quarter on the Padres, with underdog Chicago bets on the board.
What I’ll Be Watching
Martin Perez: We finally got the dud from Perez that most people were waiting for. He allowed seven runs on 12 hits over five innings against the White Sox last time out. Chicago boasts the best lineup in baseball against lefties, so we can reasonably assume that it was a one-off as he goes into facing the Tigers. It was his second-worst start by Hard Hit% and the second time this season he allowed two barrels (Red Sox 5/15). The Tigers are obviously a light-hitting lineup, so the chances are good that Perez bounces back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if bettors overreact to that bad outing.
George Kirby: I successfully faded Kirby with an over bet in his last start on June 11, as he faced the Red Sox for the second time this season. Kirby does not have a deep arsenal. He throws hard in the 95-97 range, but primarily throws a fastball or slider about 80% of the time, which makes him an easier matchup the second time around. The Angels are seeing him for the first time, so I think he has a better shot at success here. The total of 7 seems to imply that as well.
Thursday 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
Phillies Run Line (-1.5) (-130) over Nationals: The Phillies have huge pitching and hitting advantages in tonight’s game. Let’s start on the mound, where we’ve got Zack Wheeler vs. Patrick Corbin. Wheeler has a 2.84 ERA with a 2.13 FIP and a 2.87 xFIP on the season. He allowed 12 earned runs over his first three starts and has allowed just eight earned runs in his eight starts since. He’s actually thrown six or more shutout innings in four of those eight as well.
On the other side, we’ve got Corbin, who has a 6.65 ERA with a 6.02 xERA and a 4.56 FIP. Wheeler’s Hard Hit% is 33.3% with a 4.3% Barrel%. Corbin’s Hard Hit% is 44.3% with a 10% Barrel%. Corbin has allowed at least five runs in six of his 13 starts and draws a Phillies lineup that ranks fourth in wOBA against left-handed pitching. Washington’s lineup is 18th in wOBA against righties and not all righties are created like Wheeler.
It’ll be warm and humid at Nationals Park today, which should favor the better offensive ballclub, which is the Phillies. Wheeler’s high strikeout rate of 29.2% should also limit the number of balls in play on a good day for hitting.
As bad as the Phillies bullpen has been, Washington’s ranks 30th in fWAR over the last 30 days with a 5.32 ERA and a 5.44 FIP. The Phillies are sitting 20th in fWAR with a 4.04 ERA and a 4.36 FIP. Dare I say that the bullpen could actually be a strength in this situation, particularly with more Nationals relievers likely to be needed because Corbin probably won’t work as deep into the game as Wheeler.
The Nationals bullpen has allowed 23 home runs over the last 30 days, second to the Cubs. You could also take the 1st 5 run line at -150 and save yourself the potential heartache of the Phillies pen, but it looks like the Phillies have advantages all over the place in this game and the weather conditions really favor them over a Nationals lineup that ranks second in MLB in GB% at 47.1% and 30th in FB% at 31.2%. Also, maybe we get lucky and Juan Soto’s out again.
Even if not, I like the Phillies here and see tons of advantages in this game for the -130 Run Line.
Athletics/Red Sox Under 9.5 (+ 100): The A’s finish up a miserable nine-game road trip with this early-afternoon matinee against the Red Sox. It will be Paul Blackburn and Rich Hill in this matchup, as the A’s look to head home and face a Kansas City Royals team with a record almost as bad as theirs. The Red Sox stay home to face the Cardinals.
This feels like a standard-issue getaway day game with a lot of early swings and a game virtually played like it’s on a time limit. Blackburn pounds the strike zone and pitches to contact, which has been effective for him with a 2.31 ERA, a 3.35 xERA and a 3.13 FIP in his 66.1 innings of work. He’s a ground ball guy with a 51.3% GB% and only three home runs allowed and a terrific Barrel% of 3.6%. Righties are only batting .185/.235/.290 with a .234 wOBA against him and he’s held lefties to a wOBA under .300 as well.
Hill continues to be pretty effective in his old age with a 4.38 ERA, a 4.33 xERA and a 4.28 FIP in 49.1 innings of work. He gave up seven runs in 9.1 innings in his first two appearances and had a rough outing against Baltimore on May 30. Otherwise, he’s allowed 11 earned runs over his other eight starts, so he’s been very effective more often than not, including six innings of one-run ball against Oakland 11 days ago.
The Red Sox bullpen is in great shape with very light workloads the last four days. Oakland’s bullpen is never really in great shape because it’s just a subpar group, but the Red Sox could very well be in “win and get out” mode, which means getting a lead against Blackburn and coasting against a lifeless foe. I know the weather is conducive to hitting with breezes blowing out, but Blackburn has effectively kept the ball in the park and Oakland ranks 26th in road wOBA.
We may ultimately see a 10 before first pitch, but I’m good with Under 9.5 at even money.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.