We’ve got eight games on the card for Thursday, as nearly half of the league gets a much needed day off. You’ve probably heard this part of the season referred to as the dog days of summer, even though summer just technically started nine days ago. A lot of teams have been playing catch up on the season with limited off days and some doubleheaders, so these are days for them to savor.
But, our focus is on the 16 teams that are playing today. There’s only one day game and it features my Guardians against the Twins in a key rubber match for the five-game series. Otherwise, we’ve got seven late games and a lot to discuss in those.
Padres/Diamondbacks: The Mike Clevinger trade hasn’t really worked out all that well for the Padres, but we saw shades of promise from him yesterday with six shutout innings and only one hit allowed against the Diamondbacks. San Diego won 4-0 heading into a huge series against the Dodgers and Nick Martinez threw the game’s final three innings, so the bullpen is in good shape heading into the series.
Braves/Phillies: The over never had a chance yesterday as the picks split, with this game staying well under the total. Kyle Wright located better and the Braves waiting until the seventh to widen the gap against Ranger Suarez, who had seven strikeouts and 11 whiffs in 47 swings. The Braves still swing and miss a lot, but their contact quality when they make it remains high.
The Phillies only managed four hits against Wright and the bullpen. They called up Darick Hall in hopes of replacing some of Bryce Harper’s lost offense. Hall was slashing .269/.346/.548 with 20 HR in 315 PA at Triple-A.
Marlins/Cardinals: Fun game here, at least for Sandy Alcantara fans and Marlins backers. Avisail Garcia hit a two-run homer in the ninth and manager Don Mattingly let Alcantara finish what he started. He only struck out three and only had nine whiffs in 56 swings, but finished off the 117-pitch complete game.
On the other side, Andre Pallante gave up 12 hard-hit balls, but only five hits and two runs over seven innings. The rare Ryan Helsley blown save bumped his ERA to 0.88, as he was used back-to-back days for just the third time this season.
Reds/Cubs: The winner was a chalky favorite, but a winner nonetheless. The handicap worked out perfectly, as Justin Steele gave up one run over five innings and Hunter Greene only lasted four innings with three runs allowed. The bullpen almost immediately gave up four insurance markers for the Cubs. This is an angle we’ll have to keep in mind with fading the Reds on the road against lefties.
Dodgers/Rockies: Another ugly start from German Marquez, who allowed five runs on five hits in just 3.1 innings. The Rockies also did well against Julio Urias with three runs on six hits in 5.1 innings. I really gave strong consideration to the over here, as the Rockies did a number on three good lefties in this series. Against Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson, the Rockies scored 13 runs on 25 hits in 15.1 innings. They hit lefties at home and on the road, but they’ve been exceptional in the hitter-friendly conditions at Coors. Hitting bullpens is tougher for them, so 1st 5 overs against a LHSP might be a really strong play.
A’s/Yankees: Cole Irvin had 17 whiffs in 52 swings, which is the strangest thing about New York’s series sweep of the A’s. Beating up on Oakland is a given with how the A’s are running, though the Yankees did dig some early holes. Maybe the rotation is starting to show some cracks. Jameson Taillon failed to pitch at least six innings for the fifth straight start and allowed 17 runs on 40 hits in 33.1 innings in June. He’s kind of teetering on the brink. I wish he was facing the Astros again this weekend, as I’d have bet against him.
I may fade him in some way against the Pirates on 7/5, but will definitely look to on July 10 against Boston if he’s still lined up there.
Rangers/Royals: Apparently the Rangers are allergic to .500. They’ve only been .500 once (24-24) and have not had a winning record at any point this season. They lost 2-1 in a game that took 2:18 yesterday at Kauffman Stadium. I guess both teams were excited about the off day. They had a 2:07 game on June 8 against Cleveland in advance of an off day. Maybe they’re a getaway day off day under team.
Red Sox/Blue Jays: What an odd game this was. We had some peacocking from both teams as the benches briefly cleared and tensions rose when Nick Pivetta hit Alejandro Kirk. The Blue jays hit Pivetta hard with 11 hard-hit balls in six innings, but he somehow only allowed two runs on five hits. The Jays were 5-for-15 with RISP, but came up on the short end 6-5, even though the Red Sox were only 1-for-11 with RISP.
Pivetta’s Hard Hit% is now 48.9% in his last five starts with nine barrels allowed. Might be in line for a blow-up start here soon with that kind of command. Like Taillon on July 10, Pivetta also goes in that Yankees/Red Sox game. Looks like an over on Sunday Night Baseball to me.
Twins/Guardians: That was the one of the most improbable Guardians wins I’ve ever seen. I cannot believe Rocco Baldelli brought Emilio Pagan in with a three-run lead after what we saw from him earlier in the series. Then, I’d have probably walked Josh Naylor to face Franmil Reyes, even if it put the winning run on base. Reyes looks totally lost at the dish.
That was a huge win for a Guardians team that has been dragging ass for a while now. I’ve written about it a lot, but they’re in a stretch with more games than calendar days. They needed that. We’ll see if it carries over into Shane Bieber’s getaway day start today.
White Sox/Angels: I guess the Shohei Ohtani money was right. He dazzled again with 24 whiffs on 56 swings and 11 strikeouts in 5.2 scoreless innings. More importantly for betting purposes, Michael Kopech struggled again. Kopech’s BB% is up to 11.4% and he finishes June with a 5.19 ERA and allowed 32 hard-hit balls in six starts. His velocity has also been down in two of his last three starts. Looks like the dog days of summer are getting to him.
Astros/Yankees: There was a really scary moment in the eighth inning when Jeremy Pena and Yordan Alvarez collided on a pop up, with both guys leaving the game. Both guys are in concussion protocol and will probably miss today’s oddly-scheduled make-up game against New York. The Yankees actually play Cleveland this weekend and Houston hosts the Angels.
Weather: Nada. Winds blowing out a little in Philly and Chicago, with warm weather up and down the card except for Los Angeles and the three dome games.
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.
Braves at Phillies (-150, 8.5): I’ve mentioned before that Ian Anderson is not really held in high regard by the betting market. We’ve seen a line move upwards of 25-30 cents at some shops on Aaron Nola and the Phillies today. Others that opened later have still moved 10-15 cents.
Padres at Dodgers (-130, 8): I don’t think the line move to bump the Dodgers up 10 or so cents is any sort of indictment on Joe Musgrove. I think it’s just the projection of the Padres offense, especially if Manny Machado isn’t ready to go yet. The Padres have been playing a man short with Machado out because they opted not to put him on the IL
Twins at Guardians (-150, 8.5): We’re seeing some books touch 9 with this total on a hot day in Cleveland. Shane Bieber has allowed some hard contact this season and you know my thoughts on Chris Archer. The concern I’d have for Minnesota today is that Archer doesn’t work deep into games and their bullpen is up against it, especially with Jhoan Duran unavailable.
What I’ll Be Watching
Yusei Kikuchi: The Rays offense has been in the tank for about a month now. Wander Franco did just return, but several key pieces have been missing. However, Tampa gets a really nice draw today in Kikuchi, who has a 5.08 ERA with a 6.76 xERA and a 5.85 FIP. He’s been especially bad in his last five starts with a 9.39 ERA and a 10.63 FIP, allowing nine home runs in that span and 19 runs on 23 hits in 15.1 innings. He actually gave up three unearned runs last start, but his Hard Hit% is 58.1% in that span with 14 (!!) barrels allowed. There are 12 qualified pitchers that haven’t allowed 14 barrels all season and he’s done it in five starts.
FYI: On the Tampa side, Jeffrey Springs is in line to start, but Matt Wisler will open. The Rays are missing Brooks Raley and Ryan Thompson for this series in Toronto, as they are unvaccinated.
Mitch White: White will make his sixth start of the season for the Dodgers, who are just trying to get by in the fifth spot while Walker Buehler and Dustin May recover from injury. White has a 4.25 ERA with a 4.07 FIP overall, but a 3.98 ERA and a 4.36 FIP in his 20.1 innings as a starter. He’s alternated good start and bad start and if that pattern continues, he’s in line for a good line. White has allowed three runs in three starts and zero runs in two starts, holding the White Sox and Diamondbacks at bay, while struggling against the Braves, Pirates and Phillies. The Dodgers have had some issues in middle relief this season, which White starts can expose. The Padres don’t have a high offensive projection and have hit lefties better than righties, so let’s see what we get here from White.
Thursday Best Bets
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Reds/Cubs 1st 5 Under 5.5 (-115): Graham Ashcraft and Kyle Hendricks are the listed hurlers in this one. The total is up to 10 because it’s a warm night in Chicago with a little bit of a breeze blowing out, but it isn’t that significant of one.
Ashcraft really interests me. He has a 3.27 ERA with a 3.23 xERA and a 3.73 FIP in his 41.1 innings of work. The right-hander throws hard with a sharp cutter that has generated a high ground ball rate and minimal hard contact. He allowed a 40% Hard Hit% against Toronto in his MLB debut, but has not allowed a Hard Hit% that high since. He sits at 34.8% for the season and has a 4.4% Barrel% in 135 batted balls. He carried higher strikeout rates in the minors, so I would anticipate that his K% could be on the rise moving forward.
We may have even seen a glimpse of it last time out, as Ashcraft struck out eight over eight innings against the Giants. He actually changed his pitch usage in that start, throwing his 97 mph cutter over 65% of the time at the expense of his slider. The slider has actually generated a higher Whiff%, but both pitches are highly effective.
Admittedly, Hendricks is a box of chocolates and you never know what you are going to get. In six of his 14 starts, he’s allowed one or zero runs. In four starts, he’s allowed at least six runs. There is no rhyme or reason to it, as he gave up six runs two starts ago to the Braves, but his other blow-ups have been against the Diamondbacks, Brewers and Pirates.
Hendricks did walk nine batters in his first three starts, but has only walked 12 batters in 11 starts since. He clusters his home runs, so he has allowed 13, but 11 of them have come in four starts. The Reds are 26th in road wOBA against RHP at .279 and only have a .344 SLG in that split. I’m hoping those numbers hold true here in this one and Hendricks can have some success. We know that Kyle’s bread-and-butter pitch is the changeup and the Reds rank 23rd in batting average and 20th in SLG against right-handed changeups. This looks like a decent matchup for him and I really like Ashcraft, so the Under 5.5 for the 1st 5 is the lone play today, as I'll do anything to avoid the Reds bullpen. The vig is anywhere from -110 to -120, so I’ll split the gap for tracking purposes, but get the best line you can.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.