Onward we go into a June 2 card that features 12 games because of a doubleheader in the Bronx. Because the Dodgers are done playing the Pirates, we only have one favorite that is close to touching -200 on the board today. Of course, the Pirates also just swept the Dodgers in a three-game series at Dodger Stadium to remind us that anything is possible on any given day and that variance is a very real, very omnipresent thing in MLB.
Nationals/Mets: Hitters slump all the time, but Juan Soto is mired in a .138/.315/.259 slump over his last 73 plate appearances. He only has eight hits (four 2B and a HR, though) and has scored just three runs in the last 17 games. We know the pitching isn’t any good. The offense was pretty decent for a while, but that has stopped. The Nationals have played more games than most teams, but have the most losses in baseball with 34.
Padres/Cardinals: The Cardinals finally got to Yu Darvish late in the game and came away with a 5-2 victory over a Padres team that I need to be fading more aggressively. Dakota Hudson’s signs of regression are almost always there with a low ERA and a high FIP, but he’s made a career out of doing that and allowed just one run on four hits over seven innings. The Padres did not make a lot of solid contact in this series and their offense is really starting to stand out as not being very good.
Marlins/Rockies: Both games of the doubleheader flew over the total yesterday. Edward Cabrera pitched well in Game 1, while Antonio Senzatela did not. Neither starter pitched well in the 13-12 nightcap, which was almost 2.5 times higher than the 10.5 total. German Marquez was awful again with seven runs allowed on seven hits, including three homers, in five innings. I would have faded him if not for the doubleheader considerations. Hopefully we get opportunities soon because he’s not right.
Braves/Diamondbacks: The 1st 5 over was one of yesterday’s two losers, as the -2.25 day was my worst of the season. It’s been a real struggle lately. The Braves left men on second and third in the first, second in the second, second in the third and first and second in the fourth, so they left five men in scoring position in the first four innings.
Arizona left two on in the third, had a guy thrown out on a ground ball to SS on a leadoff double in the fourth before getting two more guys on and had two on in the fifth before an inning-ending double play. Baseball is a game of variance. A game of timing. Of sequencing. Of frustration. We’re at the mercy of when hits happen and when they don’t and they didn’t happen at the right times here, but we had enough traffic to win this bet.
Giants/Phillies: I thought long and hard about taking the Phillies yesterday, but betting on their bullpen is the ultimate trust fall. Well, their bullpen held for a 6-5 win after the offense put up a four-spot in the sixth to answer San Francisco’s five-run outburst. Jean Segura is out for a while and Bryce Harper hasn’t played the last two days, so the Phillies have more problems than just the pitching staff, but at least they finally held on to one.
Brewers/Cubs: The Cubs bullpen fired five shutout innings with 10 strikeouts yesterday to help Chicago to a 4-3 win in extras. This bullpen has really been good for the last few weeks now and ranks eighth in fWAR. The Cubs are 21-29, but 13 of their losses have come in one-run games. They’re not as uncompetitive as the record makes them look. Of their 11 losses since May 9, only two of them have been by more than two runs. Maybe there’s a little bit of intrigue in backing this team right now.
Pirates/Dodgers: LOL. I’m not sure what’s funnier, that five of the Dodgers’ 17 losses have been against the Pirates or that five of the Pirates’ 22 wins have been against the Dodgers. That’s just baseball in a nutshell. When the Pirates lose, it has been really ugly, as 10 of their 27 losses have been by five or more runs, but they’re kind of a spunky team now that they have some real leadership. Pittsburgh is 0-11 against Milwaukee and St. Louis and 22-16 against everybody else.
Royals/Guardians: The YouTube broadcast was a little bit refreshing for the Royals/Guardians game yesterday. I actually heard ERA + cited on a broadcast, which was very exciting. It was also exciting that the Guardians swept the Royals. Konnor Pilkington had 17 whiffs and an enormous uptick in velocity, which could be huge for Cleveland with their pitching issues. Eli Morgan also looks like a legit bullpen weapon.
Moving forward, my strategy with Cleveland is to play on them against equal or inferior teams and fade them when the price is right against good teams.
Astros/A’s: A bullpen melt from Oakland saved the Astros from losing a game in which Justin Verlander flirted with a no-hitter. JV gave up three runs in the seventh and Houston actually trailed 3-1 before a four-run outburst in the ninth. Bad teams find ways to lose games and the A’s are a bad team. Good teams find ways to win them. Houston remains a really good one.
Mariners/Orioles: We got vintage Robbie Ray against the O’s with four runs allowed on six hits over five innings with six strikeouts, three walks and a home run. Sergio Romo gave up five to give the Orioles some cushion. I like this Baltimore team. They’re feisty and pitch really well. If they could ever get consistent offense, they’ll be a lot of fun.
In other news, star prospect Grayson Rodriguez left his start in the sixth yesterday at Triple-A Norfolk. Initial reports say it was a cramp in the back/lat area, but he’ll have more testing today. At least it’s not arm-related, though lat injuries can be tricky and may delay his MLB debut until late July or early August.
White Sox/Blue Jays: Toronto’s offense stayed hot by knocking around Michael Kopech, but the pitching staff took another hit with the loss of Hyun Jin Ryu to forearm discomfort. Once the left-hander Ryu left the game, the White Sox offense went into a shell and didn’t score again. Ryu’s fastball velocity was down 2 mph from his season average. Could be a prolonged IL stint.
Twins/Tigers: Tarik Skubal was dominant and the Twins gave up five in the loss to the Tigers. Minnesota managed just two hits on two weakly-hit balls with a lineup that wound up being really unfortunate for us. Byron Buxton, Luis Arraez and Max Kepler all got days off, so the Twins had a brand-new top of the order. It isn’t surprising that they scored zero runs on two hits. That’s the chance you take putting bets in early. It wasn’t why the bet lost, but it didn’t help and caused a line move in the other direction.
Weather: Weather worries are minimal today. Storms do threaten both games of the Angels/Yankees doubleheader and games in the Bronx have been very quick to cancel at the threat of rain. Mariners/Orioles could also be impacted by rain. No wind to really speak of for Thursday.
Injuries: We’re seeing a lot more injuries these days. A lot of position players and pitchers are dealing with soft tissue things. Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Padres (-105, 8.5) at Brewers: After opening a clear favorite, the Brewers find themselves a dog at some books, as Sean Manaea has taken a nice helping of wagers and Adrian Houser has not. Houser’s low strikeout/high walk rate peripherals don’t garner much favor on the betting board and he has a 3.69 ERA with a 4.56 xERA. Manaea, meanwhile, shows some promising signs with a 4.02 ERA and a 3.58 xERA.
Twins (-135, 8.5) at Tigers: Pick your poison here, I guess. Regular readers know I’m not a Chris Archer fan, but he and the Twins are taking the money here against Alex Faedo. I was impressed with Faedo’s stuff when I watched him pitch against the Guardians, but he has a 3.00 ERA with a 5.79 xERA, a 4.29 FIP and a 4.52 xFIP. Archer’s profile is basically just as ugly, but with Buxton and Arraez back in the lineup, Minnesota gets a boost.
Rays (-135, 8.5) at Rangers: We saw money bet against Taylor Hearn last time out for his start against the A’s. We’re seeing it again here, but it makes a lot more sense against the Rays and Corey Kluber. Hearn has a 5.36 ERA with a 6.44 xERA and a high walk rate. A lot of pitchers get bet against for high walk rates if they aren’t accompanied by decent strikeout rates. Kluber doesn’t really walk anybody.
Mariners at Orioles (-105, 9): I’ve talked about this before, but I notice when pitchers that the market generally distrusts take money. Jordan Lyles is one of them, but we’ve seen the Orioles swing into a virtual pick ‘em today against the Mariners and Chris Flexen. Lyles has actually been pretty decent with a 4.26 ERA and a 4.06 FIP. Flexen has struggled with a 4.47 ERA, a 5.68 xERA and a 5.07 FIP, so there are some regression signs in his profile. Sharp bettors have spoken loudly here.
What I’ll Be Watching
Ian Anderson: I still think there’s a lot of hope for the 24-year-old right-hander, but he needs to really cut down on the walks. Anderson’s 11.3% BB% is way too high, especially with the drop of almost 6% in K% that he has experienced this season. Anderson’s Hard Hit% is also up over 41%, due in large part to pitching behind in the count because of his poor control. Anderson also gets very few chases outside the zone and has seen a velocity decrease this season. Up until his last two starts, he had a string of six straight outings allowing three earned runs or less, but allowed four in both starts against the Marlins. Coors Field can be a tough park and Anderson may be up against it today.
Jordan Lyles: The 31-year-old Lyles made his debut all the way back in 2011, so it’s hard to believe that he’s just on the plus side of 30. His current 4.06 FIP would be his best showing since 2015, when he only worked 49 innings with the Rockies. He had a 4.09 FIP being used primarily as a reliever in 2018. His start to the season has been impressive, given that he’s running a .335 BABIP, but has been able to minimize the damage. Bettors have changed their tunes a bit on him, as his K% has gone up and his BB% has gone down, along with more ground balls. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen and his improvements are a testament to what the Orioles are doing well on the pitching side.
Thursday Best Bets
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VEGAS LINES | ODDS BY STATE | MLB MATCHUPS
Braves/Rockies Over 11.5 (-120): This is a very big total for the game at Coors Field, but we should have lots of balls in play and lots of run-scoring chances in this one. While I screwed up and took the 1st 5 over instead of the Braves yesterday, they scored six runs in another favorable matchup against a low-strikeout pitcher and a bullpen that doesn’t miss a lot of bats. They get another low-strikeout pitcher today in Austin Gomber.
Gomber has a 17.9% K% this season and, more importantly, has a 21.3% CSW%, which is Called Swinging Strike Percentage. Gomber’s CStr% is one of the lowest in the league at 12.9%. He pitches behind in the count a lot, doesn’t get a lot of chases and also doesn’t get many swings and misses. That should allow the Braves to put a lot of balls in play. Not to mention, their fly ball style should be conducive to playing a game at Coors Field. It isn’t even just about the carry, but also about how Colorado is one of the league’s worst defensive teams and that is a very spacious outfield in Denver.
I thought about taking the Rockies as a means of fading Ian Anderson, but ultimately decided on the over. Anderson, like Gomber, has a low strikeout rate and can have the propensity to walk guys. He has control issues and those can often be exacerbated in Colorado where pitches don’t really move as much or won’t do what they’re expected to do. Guys with control issues go in there and suddenly start leaving a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate. As it is, Anderson has a 41.4% Hard Hit% anyway and has also not gotten a lot of swings outside the zone. His CStr% is about as low as Gomber’s at 13.1%.
The Rockies had to use eight relievers yesterday and seven of them threw at least 15 pitches with the doubleheader. Atlanta’s bullpen features a lot of fly ball guys that could have some difficulty. It’s a big total, but I’m looking for runs in Denver tonight.
Rays (-130) over Rangers: I know this is a quick start from a lead time standpoint, but I like Tampa in today’s game. Taylor Hearn’s BB% against right-handed batters is 11.7% and he’s getting eight righties from the Rays in this one. Tampa Bay is lagging offensively in performance against LHP because of a lack of power and home runs, but Hearn has a career 13.7% HR/FB% and a 16.3% HR/FB% mark this season. He gives up a ton of hard contact with a 46.9% Hard Hit%.
Corey Kluber has made nine starts and allowed eight of his 20 earned runs in one blow-up against the Angels on May 10. Otherwise, he allowed four runs to Boston on April 22 and hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any other start. He has 42 strikeouts against eight walks, so he should limit traffic and baserunners, whereas I think the Rays should get plenty of scoring chances against Hearn. Corey Seager is also getting a day off for Texas, so one of their better bats will only be used in a pinch-hit situation.
If this does become a battle of the bullpens, the Rangers have three guys (Bush, King, Santana) that have pitched three of the last four days. The Rays pen has been able to stretch the workload out a bit more, so even though six relievers were used yesterday, only one pitched on Tuesday.
As a result, I’ll lay it with the Rays today in the early start.
Orioles (-105) over Mariners: Road Chris Flexen remains an issue for Seattle and he’ll make a road start here against Baltimore. Flexen has a .376 wOBA against in his 112 plate appearances on the road this season, where he has allowed 14 runs in just 25.1 innings of work. Last season, Flexen had a 4.06 ERA on the road with major upticks in BA, OBP, SLG and wOBA between his home starts and his starts away from home.
Flexen’s Hard Hit% is up to 43.8% this season and his average exit velocity is over 91 mph. His Barrel% is also up nearly 5%. His 5.68 xERA and 5.07 FIP tell more of a story than his 4.47 ERA, which has been helped by a 79.1% LOB%. He’s actually overperforming to have a 4.47 ERA, which is not a very good sign.
One of the hallmarks of a smart team is how pitchers evolve during the season. In April, Lyles allowed a .392 wOBA with 15 strikeouts in 20 innings and allowed four home runs. Even as offense picked up in May, Lyles allowed a .318 wOBA, struck out 36 over 37 innings and gave up only three long balls. The improved K/BB marks and lower home run rates helped Lyles tremendously, despite a .336 BABIP. He is evolving and improving.
Meanwhile, Flexen had a .390 wOBA against in his 26.1 innings in May, as he went from two homers allowed to seven with the offensive increase around the league. Lyles has the upper hand here and the Orioles have the better bullpen between the two teams. We’ve lost some value with the line move, but Baltimore remains the right side in my opinion.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.