It’s a pretty busy Thursday on the diamond with 11 games on the card. We do have some early starts on getaway day, including the conclusion of what has been an interesting Dodgers/Brewers series with the Dodgers in an underdog role at some shops against Corbin Burnes. We also have a great pitching matchup in Atlanta with Jacob deGrom as a slight favorite against Max Fried.
Before I get to that, I wanted to mention that our NFL Betting Guide comes out a week from today. I know most of you reading this are subscribers, but if you like the work that we do and believe it will help a friend, family member, coworker or just some random stranger on social media, pass along the benefits of being a VSiN subscriber. This is a huge time of year for us and we appreciate your support.
This is also the last week of the MLB article, as my focus shifts almost fully to football, but I will write up some stuff on the postseason when that rolls around. September baseball is rather tricky to bet with inflated prices on teams in the playoff hunt, call-ups from the minors and other factors, so it’s a good time to make that shift. Hopefully the last week will be a good one.
Phillies/Reds: In a getaway day du jour, the Reds won 1-0 over a Phillies team that secured the series with an 11-run outburst on Tuesday. I’ve mentioned his name, but Nick Lodolo is really throwing the ball well for the Reds, who are showing some flashes of why so many people were high on their player development system. As for the Phillies, just one of those days where they got stymied by a good lefty that they hadn’t really seen much.
Cubs/Nationals: One of the reasons why betting baseball over the last six or so weeks of the regular season is tough is because of series like this. The Cubs were -140 or better in every game. Sure, they took two of three, but both wins were in one-run fashion and they had some big bullpen melts throughout the series. It can be really challenging to lay uncomfortable numbers with mediocre teams in big favorite roles, but the alternative is to take an awful underdog playing out the string. Both starters pitched well, but the Cubs eked out a 3-2 win.
Padres/Marlins: Pablo Lopez settled in a little bit after giving up five runs in the first, but he still only had two strikeouts and seven whiffs in his 4.2 innings of work. Something is seriously wrong here. The velo and spin rates look fine, but there is something seriously off about the quality of his stuff and his command. He has allowed 24 runs on 38 hits in his last five starts, but he looked iffy long before that. The Marlins may want to consider shutting him down and saving some mileage on that arm.
Meanwhile, Mike Clevinger failed to get through five innings despite being staked to that 5-0 lead before throwing a pitch. He had a velo decrease and walked four in his 4.1 innings of work. His ongoing injury concerns always make me worry about a start like this with subpar control and disappointing velocity.
Mets/Braves: If you had told me that the Mets would give up seven runs in a game started by Max Scherzer, I’d assume my bet went down in flames. Fortunately, the Mets scored nine runs on a weird night in Atlanta that featured a rain delay and a first AB HR from call-up Brett Baty. Scherzer wasn’t as sharp with the delay, as he only had 12 whiffs and walked three, but he did have eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings. The big key was that the Mets did score off of Jake Odorizzi with five runs in five innings and then added on late.
Now the Mets can escape with a split with Jacob deGrom on the bump today, which would be huge. Should be a good one with Max Fried for Atlanta.
Rockies/Cardinals: For the life of me, I still can’t figure out why the Yankees gave up Jordan Montgomery for an injured OF that might play in September. He was solid again with eight strikeouts over 5.2 quality innings in St. Louis’s win over the Rockies. German Marquez threw the bare bones definition of a quality start, but Montgomery followed by Andre Pallante didn’t give Colorado much hope in terms of run support. This is an example of what adding good players can do to a team at the Trade Deadline. Every team is different, but the Cardinals had a clear need in the rotation, filled it and have been one of the league’s better teams over the last 16 days. I see no reason why it should end.
Dodgers/Brewers: Meanwhile, the Brewers are now three back in the division after the tough loss to the Dodgers. Eric Lauer did his part to keep pace with Tony Gonsolin, but the Brewers couldn’t muster a comeback. On the plus side, it was a really good start for Lauer, who gave up just two runs on four hits. Gonsolin fired seven shutout innings as his magical season continued.
The issue with betting on or against the Brewers is that they play a lot of close games. The pitching staff is solid, but the offense leaves a lot to be desired most nights. That leads to a lot of close decisions and those can fall either way with late-game variance. Of the team’s 14 August games, 11 have been decided by two or fewer runs. That’s a tough environment to bet into.
Diamondbacks/Giants: San Francisco simply cannot afford to lose games like Wednesday’s. Carlos Rodon struck out 11 over six excellent innings, but the Giants only managed two runs and suffered a blown save in the eighth to lose 3-2. It is worth noting that Rodon’s fastball velo was -2 mph from his season average in this start and all of his pitches were down across the board. Obviously it didn’t matter from his stat line, but I’ll be monitoring the situation moving forward.
Royals/Twins: So, uh, the Twins have an ENORMOUS problem. Tyler Mahle, the only starter they acquired to try and help a lackluster rotation, left yesterday’s start after 2.1 innings with an extreme decrease in velocity. Mahle’s fastball was -4.5 mph from his season average and all of his other pitches were noticeably down as well. Mahle is going for a shoulder MRI and while it was reported that there wasn’t any pain, this is a staggering velo drop. His velo was down a tick in his last start against the Angels, but he pitched just fine. Major developing situation to watch here.
Orioles/Blue Jays: The Orioles nearly got perfect gamed by Drew Rasmussen last week and Ross Stripling flirted with one through six innings yesterday. The Blue Jays ultimately won 6-1 as the Orioles had an off day from the bullpen, but Stripling was the story over 72 very efficient pitches coming off of the IL. Austin Voth was a story, too, though, as he fired six shutout frames against the Blue Jays. Voth was awful for the Nationals, but he’s found a home in Baltimore, where the O’s seem to be helping every pitcher improve. Nice win for the Jays, but they still keep failing to impress me.
Rays/Yankees: New York looked completely dormant for five innings again, trailing 4-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth. They scratched out a couple of runs against Corey Kluber and eventually got the game tied. After giving up three runs in the 10th, Josh Donaldson hit a walk-off grand slam to the short porch in right field to give the Yankees a badly-needed win and a horrific beat for Rays backers. Maybe this win kickstarts something. I still have huge concerns. Clay Holmes is now on the IL and Aroldis Chapman doesn’t look ready for leverage innings. The offense is still not terribly impressive. It may have just been bad vibes and a frustrated clubhouse, but I think the narrative will be that this win will get the Yankees going. I’m not so sure.
Athletics/Rangers: Another uncompetitive loss for the Rangers following the firing of manager Chris Woodward. Texas won the first game 2-1 after Woodward’s pink slip came down, but they’ve been beaten 12-3 by the A’s in two games since. Adam Oller now owns a 6.63 ERA after six innings of one-run ball that took just 77 pitches. It seems like the Rangers might be a good fade team the rest of the way.
Astros/White Sox: Houston won 3-2 last night with yet another deep start from Framber Valdez. That was the 20th straight quality start (6 or more IP, 3 or fewer ER) from Valdez, who got very fortunate in this one. He allowed two runs on seven hits with three walks, six strikeouts and 14 hard-hit balls. The White Sox weren’t able to make their hard contact count. Michael Kopech gave up three runs on five hits in six innings with a couple walks and a couple strikeouts. The game was right there for the taking for Chicago, a story we’ve heard too many times this season. The White Sox were 1-for-8 with RISP, while the Astros were just 1-for-2.
Red Sox/Pirates: Roansy Contreras’s return to the big leagues was not exactly memorable, as he allowed four runs on six hits over six innings with four walks. The Red Sox were unable to deal a big blow, but did quickly erase an early 2-0 hole courtesy of Rich Hill. Those were the only two runs that Hill allowed and the Red Sox went on to score some insurance runs late. The Pirates are just 21-44 in their last 65 games.
Weather: A delay is possible again tonight in Mets/Braves and it would be a really interesting spot for Buck Showalter with Jacob deGrom, who spent most of the season injured, if rain does pop up during the game. Max Scherzer wasn’t coming out no matter what. deGrom might be another story.
Otherwise, not much else to worry about for Thursday’s 11 games.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Dodgers at Brewers (-115, 7.5): For the second time in this series, the Dodgers are a dog. This time, it will be with Andrew Heaney on the hill against Corbin Burnes. It isn’t as much of an underdog role this time around, but the Dodgers are still getting plus money across the market going up against last year’s Cy Young Award winner.
Mets (-125, 7) at Braves: The best pitching matchup of the night will be in Atlanta with the aforementioned deGrom vs. Fried showdown. The Mets have taken about 5-10 cents of early line movement in this one, as they’re a clear favorite across the market. Every 7.5 that was on the board has fallen down to 7 and some even have extra juice on the under.
Athletics at Rangers (-190, 8): This looks to be a very big number for a Rangers team that doesn’t have a lot going right now, but the line has moved up for this game. We’ve seen a 10-15 cent move on Texas as bettors look to fade left-hander Zach Logue against a lineup that has fared well against southpaws. Dane Dunning goes for Texas.
Astros (-130, 8.5) at White Sox: The total is 8.5 with under juice or 8 with over juice for the series finale on the South Side. The Astros have taken about 10 cents worth of money, as they’ll send seven righties at Lucas Giolito, who has very extreme reverse platoon splits. Luis Garcia, goes for the Astros as they look for a split.
Blue Jays at Yankees (-145, 8.5): Fresh off of last night’s thrilling win, the Yankees are taking money against the Blue Jays. It doesn’t hurt that Jose Berrios is going for Toronto and he’s allowed a ton of hard contact this season. Frankie Montas gets the call for New York as he looks to right the ship against a Toronto offense that has underperformed for a little while now.
What I’ll Be Watching
Frankie Montas: Montas gave up six runs in his Yankees debut against the Cardinals on August 7 and only lasted three innings. He was better in his second start with two runs allowed on five hits at Fenway Park on August 13. Montas missed 17 days from July 3 to July 21 before returning with just three innings against the Tigers. He was having a great season up until that point and it’s fair to wonder if he’s fully healthy or not. When he’s going good, Montas is an extreme ground ball guy that stays off the barrel and dominates righties. He’s going to get a lot of righties today against the Blue Jays, so this should be a pretty good measuring stick for him.
Max Fried: This will be the first start since August 6 for Fried, who went into concussion protocol after hitting his head on the field trying to make a throw to home plate. The Braves actually let Fried finish his start, but then put him on the concussion IL afterwards. Concussions are such a tough thing to try and figure out and I don’t really know how much Fried had been throwing while sidelined. You also wonder if there will be any residual effects such as dizziness as he gets his heart rate and blood pressure ramped up a bit. I don’t think I could do anything with Fried in a game like this. He’s a great pitcher with a 2.60 ERA and a 2.45 FIP, but this start is an enormous question mark.
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
Red Sox/Pirates Over 8.5 (-110): JT Brubaker has made some changes to his pitch arsenal lately that I’m not very fond of and he’s been struggling as a result. Josh Winckowski is an extreme ground ball guy that pitches to a lot of contact, so batted balls have the chance to find holes. If balls are hit at fielders, especially in high-leverage spots, this bet will not work out. However, there are reasons to believe in a high-scoring start to this one.
Brubaker has allowed 14 runs on 31 hits in 19.1 innings since the All-Star Break. If not for some fortunate sequencing and timely strikeouts, he’d have given up a lot more runs. He’s made a pretty big arsenal change to throw his slider less, his curveball more and his sinker a lot more. The sinker trend is across the rotation for the Pirates, which would make more sense if they weren’t 20th in Outs Above Average around the horn.
Brubaker’s Hard Hit% in these last four starts is 51.6% and he’s also allowed seven barrels in those outings. For the season, his HH% is 39.1% and his Barrel% is 7.6%, so we’re talking about a lot of hard contact and he’s faced the Cubs, Phillies, Orioles and Diamondbacks, so not exactly a gauntlet of opposing offenses. The Red Sox are first in Hard Hit% in August.
Josh Winckowski is a pitch-to-contact guy that allows a lot of hard contact himself. He’s got a 43.6% Hard Hit% against with a 9.6% Barrel%. The Pirates obviously aren’t a gifted offense, but a high strikeout rate has hurt them all season long and they are third in K% in the second half. Fortunately for them, Winckowski only has 34 strikeouts against 20 walks in 55.2 innings of work. That means that the Pirates should put balls in play and at least have a better chance at creating some offense.
These are two bottom-10 bullpens by ERA in the second half with two starters that have had issues working deep into games. With a series coming up against Baltimore, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Red Sox try to push Winckowski, who has allowed a .384 wOBA the second time through and a .381 wOBA the third time through. On a card with limited nighttime options, I think this one has potential to be a high-scoring affair, so I’m on Over 8.5.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.