We’ve got an unusually busy Thursday card in MLB with a doubleheader in St. Louis and 11 other matchups. Some new faces make their debuts in new places and some rotation fixtures look to keep rolling right along for their respective teams. It looks like a fun day on the diamond, with four day games on the card and the rest at night.
Let’s go ahead and get to all the action.
Phillies/Braves: A nice win for the Phils behind Zack Wheeler and some solid relief work yesterday. The Phillies have watched teams come back against their bullpen all season, but they did it to Atlanta yesterday with a 3-1 win. Both Zack Wheeler and Charlie Morton were solid on getaway day, but Philly’s pen was better than Atlanta’s and David Robertson was very sharp in his Phillies debut.
The Braves may have been looking ahead a tad to this five-game series with the Mets that starts today.
Reds/Marlins: Sandy Alcantara worked around 14 hard-hit balls in a complete game shutout of the Reds. He only had three strikeouts, so this wasn’t some sort of dominant performance, but it will certainly help his Cy Young case. It was the second straight start with a Hard Hit% of 50% or higher and his third in four starts. For the season, his HH% is 38.8%, but it’s 44.8% over his last nine starts, though four of them have been against the Mets. The others have been the Cardinals, Angels, Phillies, Pirates and Reds.
I’m not saying we’ll get rich fading Alcantara, but I think better lineups will get him with the way he’s locating. I have some concerns. His 158.1 innings are 19.1 IP more than anybody else in baseball (Aaron Nola). If he doesn’t wear down this season, I’d look for an injury next year.
Brewers/Pirates: A slugfest in Pittsburgh fell the way of the underdog Pirates again, as they walked off against Devin Williams in an 8-7 win. Freddy Peralta wasn’t terribly sharp in his 3.2 innings and newcomers Jake McGee and Matt Bush each allowed two runs. Milwaukee’s offense battled back, but Bryan Reynolds hit Williams’ third pitch out of the park. It’ll take some time for the new pitchers to settle in for Milwaukee. I’m not terribly concerned.
Rockies/Padres: I said if we got one run from the Rockies, I’d be pretty optimistic about yesterday’s 1st 5 over. We did get one run from Colorado, but after the Padres hit the 1st 5 over in the first inning. Brandon Drury’s first-pitch grand slam made it a 5-0 game and the party raged on in Gaslamp Quarter. It’s the Rockies, but we saw how Josh Bell and Juan Soto lengthen the lineup with two walks each. We’ll see if the bullpen holds up, but the Padres look like a lot of fun and face the Dodgers after one more with the Rockies.
Dodgers/Giants: Another day, another loss for the Giants. San Francisco was shut out by Julio Urias and the Dodgers pen. Urias had 19 whiffs in his six innings. Alex Cobb had 16 in his 6.1 innings and pitched well, but got no offensive support. I can’t believe how far this Giants team has fallen. I really liked them to keep the positive vibes rolling this season, but they may end up a punching bag for the Dodgers and Padres and I’m curious how invested they’ll be the rest of the way.
Blue Jays/Rays: Wednesday’s game was a strange one for the Blue Jays, as they faced opener Jalen Beeks and bulker Ryan Yarbrough. Toronto only had six hard-hit balls in the game and managed just two runs on four hits in the 3-2 loss. Yusei Kikuchi threw four decent innings, so that was a win for Toronto anyway. The Rays lineup looks like something out of a horror movie these days, but they still find ways to be competitive and win games. It’s really impressive.
Mariners/Yankees: Luis Castillo went up against Gerrit Cole in his Mariners debut and got staked to a 6-0 lead before he even threw a pitch. The Mariners jumped on Gerrit Cole for six first-inning runs (the only runs they’d score off Cole) and gave Castillo a nice cushion to put him at ease a bit. He was great for six innings before giving up a couple runs in the seventh.
This was a hugely impressive series win for Seattle without Julio Rodriguez and Ty France. I still have concerns about Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen, but Castillo is a guy I love and this is a pretty good defensive team with a quality offense and a great bullpen.
Orioles/Rangers: The Orioles had yet another underdog cash on Wednesday with a 6-3 win over the Rangers. Had this been a later game, Baltimore would have been an article play, but I try to give lead time on the games and I got the article up just an hour before this game started. Their bullpen is too good and their pregame scouting and planning are too advantageous against other teams to be priced like this against bad teams.
Their bullpen has an advantage in just about every game, so it’s just a matter of keeping it close, which is what Kyle Bradish did over five innings against Martin Perez. Baltimore outscored Texas 5-2 over the final three innings for the win.
Royals/White Sox: I’m not surprised that Tony La Russa brought Lance Lynn back out after the one-hour rain delay in the second, but I am surprised that Mike Matheny brought Brady Singer back out. Singer gave up a three-run homer in the third and that was all the White Sox needed. I’m not sure I’d have brought back a prized young arm like that. His velo was down 1.2 mph from his season average and his spin rates were all down a little. It feels irresponsible to me. We’ll see if he has any hangover in next start.
By the way, that’s why I mention weather and the potential for delays. Had Singer not come back out, getting only two innings from him would have dramatically altered the handicap.
Red Sox/Astros: Rich Hill’s return was not great, as he allowed four runs on six hits over 58 pitches. Jose Urquidy struck out 10 over seven strong innings and The Astros coasted to a win. From a live betting standpoint, when you have a getaway day and a team that won the series already gets down early, you can usually live bet an under in that spot. The full game stayed under here, but a live under after the second would’ve been an astute wager.
Athletics/Angels: Shohei Ohtani gave up a two-run homer to Sean Murphy in the sixth and that was more runs than the Angels scored over nine innings. Ohtani was pinch hit for late in the game with a “mild forearm cramp”. Ohtani threw 62% sliders yesterday, which is kind of ridiculous in a lost season. I just hope he stays healthy.
Weather: Some weather concerns are present in the Midwest and Great Lakes today, with Rays/Tigers the most impacted. Cleveland and St. Louis have small rain chances, but we could also see some on the East Coast. The humidity has ramped up in most places, creating more unstable weather than what we had late last week and on Monday.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Rockies at Padres (-290, 7.5): Credit to the sportsbooks, who seem to have made the right line adjustments with Soto and Bell in the fray for the Friars. We haven’t seen much movement at all on today’s getaway day game, so it seems like the additions have been priced accordingly.
Cubs at Cardinals (-180, 8.5): We’ve got a lot happening here, as Jose Quintana makes his Cardinals debut against his former team. We’ve got a lefty in Sean Newcomb on the hill for the Cubs, which is enough to warrant a move on St. Louis. We’ve also got a total that is all over the board, ranging from 7.5 to 8.5. Not touching this game, but the line and movement are interesting.
Astros (-190, 8) at Guardians: The total has moved from 7.5 to 8 on this game with another sultry day in Cleveland. The ball carries really well on hot days there. The lake breeze sometimes suppresses offense at night, even when it’s hot, but bettors have pushed this total up. As ugly as the numbers look for Plesac with a 2-9 record and a 4.33 ERA, he actually has a 3.56 ERA with a 3.78 FIP in his last 11 starts, but has also allowed 17 runs in his last 18.2 innings, so it seems like the shine is coming off again.
Blue Jays (-120, 8) at Twins: We’ve got a weather-related move here as well, as we’ve seen this line go from 7.5 to as high as 8.5 in the market. Most books are sitting on 8 with over juice. The side hasn’t moved much in this one, but a totals move with Alek Manoah and Sonny Gray towards the over certainly caught my attention.
What I’ll Be Watching
Carlos Carrasco: Carrasco has fired 12.2 scoreless innings since the All-Star Break, but only has eight strikeouts out of 47 batters faced. He’s actually only allowed three runs in five starts in the month of July after giving up 19 runs over a four-start stretch from June 11-28. Generating swing and miss against the Braves is of the utmost importance because they make a lot of violent contact when they’re able to put bat to ball.
Pitcher vs. team stats aren’t relevant sample sizes, but what I think is interesting here is that Carrasco has only run into the Braves one time and it was back on May 3, so it has been a long time. He’s been good of late against lackluster offenses (Padres pre-Soto deal, Marlins 2x, Cubs, Rangers), so let’s see what he does here against one of baseball’s best.
Noah Syndergaard: Syndergaard draws a pretty easy assignment in his Phillies debut against the stripped-down Nationals, but there are still a lot of things to watch in his start. He’s got a nice swinging strike rate at 10.5%, but has only translated that into an 18.9% K%. Strikeouts are the best way to work around a bad Phillies defense, particularly on the infield, where Syndergaard has a 44.9% GB% this season. I think he’s going to need to try to pitch to more strikeouts if he can. On the other hand, the Angels aren’t a great defensive team and he’s got a 3.83 ERA with a 3.95 FIP.
He hasn’t pitched since July 25, so maybe this start isn’t the best barometer, but we’ll at least get a look at him with his new team.
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
Athletics/Angels Under 8 (-110): Getaway day baseball at the Big A features Paul Blackburn and Janson Junk as this series wraps up. The first two games have finished 3-1 and hopefully we get more of the same in today’s contest. The heat of the day may make the ball carry a bit better, but these are two weak-hitting offenses and the Angels seem like they’d rather be anywhere else most days.
Los Angeles has scored 39 runs in 12 games since the All-Star Break and just 166 runs over the last 54 games (3.07 R/G). This had become a bad offense with Mike Trout, but has been even worse without him and there’s only so much that Shohei Ohtani can do. Ohtani is said to be fine after leaving yesterday’s game with a forearm cramp, but I’m sure his back hurts from trying to carry this sad sack of a team.
Blackburn was pulled after 62 pitches last start because he had been sick between starts, but he threw five shutout innings as he got back on track after a 10-run monster in his first start after the All-Star Break. That blow-up raised his ERA north of 4, but he has a solid 3.80 FIP, doesn’t walk many batters and has a 48.1% GB%, which should help him keep the ball in the yard today. Even with the pitcher-friendly conditions of Oakland Coliseum, Blackburn has been far better on the road, holding opposing batters to a .250 wOBA over 67.1 innings of work.
Junk has had a bit of a weird schedule, which is a concern for me, but it seems like he’s added some more swing and miss since missing time in June with an injury. He allowed two runs on seven hits over 15 innings with 16 strikeouts in his last three minor league starts before making the July 27 start for the Angels with five shutout innings and eight strikeouts.
With the getaway day angle in play, and shadows coming into the equation later in the game, I don’t mind taking the full game here instead of laying -120 on the 1st 5 under or having to take 4 instead of 4.5 to save on the juice. The full game is pretty much 8 and -110 across the board. I don’t think either offense is all that invested today, allowing both starters to work deep and both bullpens to have success. Under 8 at -110 is the play.
White Sox (-130) over Rangers: I really had hopes for the Rangers to figure it out, but it seems like that’s not going to be the case. They’re up against it today with Johnny Cueto on the mound for the White Sox against left-hander Cole Ragans, who is making his MLB debut. The 24-year-old right-hander started the season in Double-A and posted a 2.81 ERA with a 3.91 FIP in 51.1 innings and then got promoted to Triple-A, where he had a 3.32 ERA with a 3.99 FIP in 43.1 innings.
Ragans’ best pitch is a changeup and it has been a neutralizer against right-handed batters in the minors, but the White Sox are eighth in BA and seventh in SLG against left-handed changeups at the MLB level this season. The FanGraphs’ scouting report also called his fastball “vulnerable” from a power standpoint. This is a White Sox bunch that still leads MLB in batting average and ranks fourth in wOBA against left-handed pitching.
The Rangers are also a top-10 offense against lefties, but the problem here is that Cueto throws right-handed. Texas is 26th in wOBA against RHP on the season and is one of four teams with an OBP under .300. Cueto enters this start with a 2.86 ERA. He does have a 4.20 FIP due to a low strikeout rate, but he has only allowed more than three earned runs once in his 13 starts and one relief appearance.
Texas also ranks 28th in wOBA at home against RHP with a .227/.290/.370 slash. It seems like their offensive profile is pretty limited in this matchup, whereas the White Sox have a much higher ceiling. Furthermore, the White Sox pen is in pretty good shape with Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks available tonight, along with most of the rest of the bullpen. Texas’s bullpen has been a mess lately and just traded one of the best relievers in Matt Bush.
I’ll lay the White Sox price tonight, which you can find better than -130, but that’s what I’ll grade it at for the article.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.