Plenty of day games are on the docket today, as the MLB card is spread out across the afternoon and evening hours. We’ve got several interesting pitching matchups on the card and a lot of angles to discuss. I’ll be stopping by the South Point Studio for “The Run Line South” as Ben Wilson and I have dubbed it for my weekly spot on Betting Across America at 3 p.m. ET, as Ben pinch-hits for Mike Pritchard and Josh Appelbaum joins from Boston.
Perhaps I’ll be asked about my thoughts on the ESPN puff piece about Rob Manfred that went up today. Here’s a cliff notes version of my thoughts on Twitter, but to elaborate a bit, Manfred is lining owners’ pockets and making the league heaps of money with TV deals that alienate and exclude lots of fans from watching lots of games because of blackout restrictions. Yet, he’s so obtuse that he still feels like pace of play is the game’s biggest issue.
It isn’t the inconsistency of the baseballs. It isn’t the lack of approaching a younger fan base. It isn’t the salary suppression (I mean, how could it be?!). It isn’t the usual suspects behind the plate that can’t do their jobs. It isn’t the ghost runner, the three-batter minimum, the banning of the shift, the minor league infrastructure or any of baseball’s other ills. It’s the fact that games maybe take 15 minutes too long.
And now, for a couple thousand words on the sport Rob Manfred hates.
Pirates/Nationals: Patrick Corbin dazzled with 12 strikeouts over eight magnificent innings with 19 whiffs as the Nationals beat the Pirates 3-1. Both Corbin and Jose Quintana pitched really well in the contest, as Quintana lowered his ERA to 3.43 with six innings of one-run ball. Not really the pitcher’s duel that we expected, but Corbin seemed to tap into the “Blind Squirrel Theory” and found a nut. I’m not sure this was anything more than an outlier, though he did have 14 whiffs on 19 swings against his slider, which he threw a season-high 45.1% of the time. If that’s the new Corbin, he’s at least semi-interesting.
Marlins/Cardinals: It took until the fifth, but the Cardinals ultimately got to Braxton Garrett and relied on the bullpen for a 5-3 win. We didn’t get multiples from Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley, but the latter struck out the side in the ninth to secure the win. This is a big handicapping factor with the Cardinals in games where they are expected to lead. As long as Gallegos and Helsley are available, you can bet with confidence. If not, stay away.
Reds/Cubs: Somebody is going to have to explain to me why Luis Castillo threw 123 pitches for Cincinnati last night. It marked Castillo’s sixth straight start topping the century mark. The Reds aren’t going anywhere and Castillo is going to be a prized piece on the trade market. He threw six incredible shutout innings with 11 punchies, but I’m not sure I understand the thought process here. Sure, Joel Kuhnel immediately came in and allowed three runs, but it seems like maybe Castillo should be protected, not extended that deep. His next start is Sunday at home against Atlanta on regular rest. That seems like a dicey spot, even with his swing-and-miss upside.
Dodgers/Rockies: Guess Clayton Kershaw was too worried about Freddie Freeman to focus on the task at hand, as he allowed six runs on nine hits in four innings and walked four against the Rockies last night. Colorado continued to punish left-handed pitching at home and coasted to a 7-4 win. The Dodgers are now a .500 team in June. It happens, but, man, there’s way too much talent here for this to continue. I guess the bigger angle is that the Rockies have cashed two big underdog tickets against LHP in this series. It’s not an auto-bet, but it seems compelling.
Padres/Diamondbacks: Not sure anybody expected 7-6 in this one, but what an odd game. The Padres scored all six runs in the fifth, while the Diamondbacks scored all seven runs in the seventh inning or later and walked it off. More importantly for me, Zac Gallen’s velocity was down across the board and really fell off in the fifth inning. I’m not sure why nobody noticed and tried to stop the bleeding, but I’d be concerned about a hangover effect in his next start. He also threw 61% fastballs, which is well above his season average of 48%. Something was really off in this start, particularly in that ugly fifth inning.
Twins/Guardians: Cleveland’s recent offensive slump continued, as they scored three runs over 17 innings in yesterday’s doubleheader. They salvaged a split with two in the eighth in Game 1, but it was not a pleasant day of baseball. Cleveland has lost six of seven and has not scored more than three runs in any of the seven games. In this span, Cleveland is 5-for-57 with RISP. Remember the Regression Report talking about their performance with RISP? Yeah...
Red Sox/Blue Jays: There were 35 hard-hit balls in this 6-5 Toronto win, as Michael Wacha gave up 13 of them over five innings. He managed to only allow four runs, but it wasn’t the best of looks for him. Both bullpens had some issues as well, but the focus to me is Ross Stripling. It is a little hyperbolic to say that Stripling saved the season for such a good team, but he’s made five starts since returning to the rotation and has only allowed five runs in 25.2 innings of work. He’s been huge.
Rangers/Royals: The Rangers are one game away from .500 after last night’s 8-3 win. Marcus Semien homered and drove in four, as the Rangers jumped on Jon Heasley for seven runs on nine hits in 3.2 innings of work. Jon Gray was spectacular over seven innings. Maybe getting out of Colorado was just what the doctor ordered for him. Quietly, after a 7-14 start, the Rangers are 29-23. This is a team that is 4-12 in one-run games as well and + 14 in run differential.
One key to the season is picking up on the afterthoughts like the Rangers and the Orioles that are actually good and priced reasonably, yet nobody really knows it. I might need to find more spots to back them.
White Sox/Angels: Shohei Ohtani was 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBI. Mike Trout hit a solo HR as part of a three-run third inning. The Angels lost 11-4. This is a comedy at this point. The Angels might have two of the three best baseball players in the world and they are 36-41. Trout is pointing out how one of his relievers is tipping his pitches from center field. Phil Nevin sparked a brawl that resulted in Archie Bradley suffering a fractured elbow. What a trainwreck. You can say that Trout didn’t have to stay, but damnit, he deserves better.
Brewers/Rays: Brandon Woodruff looked great in his return for the Brewers with 10 strikeouts in five innings and just 76 pitches. That is a sickeningly efficient stat line. He allowed one run on just two hits and one hard-hit ball. Seems like that could be a huge lift for Milwaukee.
Astros/Mets: I wish they could all be this easy. The Astros scored four in the first and four more in the fifth to cash the 1st 5 by a 9-0 score. I wish it didn’t come at the expense of Carlos Carrasco, but he allowed six runs on six hits in 4.1 innings and struggled to locate. The velocity did go back up and the spin rates were better, but he still wasn’t sharp and has now allowed 19 runs in his last four starts.
Weather: This is irrelevant to the MLB card, but it actually rained in Vegas yesterday. I think that’s the first time I’ve had my windshield wipers on since I moved here in September. Monsoon season is interesting. Anyway, rain is not much of a factor for today’s MLB card. It’s warm and winds are helping in the Bronx, D.C. and Kansas City, but that’s about it.
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.
Reds at Cubs (-135, 7.5): It’s only about a 10-cent move, but this is a pretty big favorite role for a Cubs team that hasn’t exactly inspired much confidence in the betting markets. The investment community seems to be out on Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene and we’ll probably see even bigger fades when he returns back home to pitch in that hitter’s haven.
Dodgers (-200, 11.5) at Rockies: Colorado gets a third straight southpaw here, but this one is taking money, as Julio Urias has been bet up to a $2 favorite. German Marquez has been pretty awful this season for Colorado.
Red Sox at Blue Jays (-160, 8.5): Alek Manoah is getting quite a bit of love today to have this price driven up into the 160s. The Red Sox are missing the unvaccinated Jarren Duran at the top of the order, but still. Nick Pivetta’s been pretty good this season, but this line just keeps running.
White Sox at Angels (-190, 7.5): We’ve seen a 25-30 cent move on Shohei Ohtani and the Angels today. Michael Kopech has been really good, but bettors are all about Ohtani for this one. He’s allowed one run in 21 innings in his last three starts.
What I’ll Be Watching
Alex Wood: Wood was part of this week’s edition of the Regression Report, so obviously I’m following closely. Wood draws a pretty bad Tigers lineup in a getaway start here, so this should be a chance for him to get on track, especially with some of the RISP stats that have hurt him this season. That being said, his velocity has been up and down this year and hopefully he can maintain that with a day game and some warmer conditions today. Sometimes you just want to see a guy dominate when he should. If he doesn’t, that can be a bigger red flag than most anything else.
Ranger Suarez: This would appear to be a tough assignment for Suarez. He’s coming off of a nice start against the Padres and what was his longest start of the season with 7.1 innings of two-run ball. As I’ve talked about most of the season, you can neutralize the Braves if you can get them to swing and miss. Suarez only has 57 strikeouts in 72.1 innings of work and a K% of 17.9%. His SwStr% is just 7.2% and he’s actually been under 7% in six of his last seven starts, including one against the Braves. His Hard Hit% is low at 30.1%, but the Braves have been making a lot of high-quality contact when they’ve been able to make contact.
Wednesday Best Bets
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Braves/Phillies Over 9 (-105): Something is up with Kyle Wright. Over his last three starts, Wright’s Hard Hit% is 47.2% in starts against the Pirates, Cubs and Giants. Those are not teams known for making hard contact and rank 13th, 16th and 18th in Hard Hit%. While the Phillies will obviously miss Bryce Harper’s services, Wright isn’t locating well right now. Pitchers go through these types of lulls and Wright is not commanding the fastball like he should be.
As I mentioned above, the Braves are a different kind of offense when they don’t have to worry about swinging and missing as much. I wish Ronald Acuna Jr. was in the lineup here, but this is a group that ranks second in Hard Hit% and leads the league in Barrel%. Acuna is a big part of the equation, but he’s not the only one. The Braves have nine guys (minimum 60 PA) that have a Barrel% of 10.3% or higher. When they make contact, it’s typically good contact.
Ranger Suarez will pitch to contact more often than not. He also doesn’t work terribly deep into games, which will push a bad Phillies bullpen out onto the field. The Braves are missing Kenley Jansen right now and some of their primary relievers worked yesterday, so their pen isn’t in the strongest position.
It will be warm and muggy in Philadelphia tonight with temps in the 80s and humidity rising throughout the game. A key hitter is missing for each team, yet we still have a total of 9 here in a game with one starter that has a 3.18 ERA and a 2.90 FIP. We’ve seen a good bit of over money thus far and I tend to agree with it, so Over 9 at -105 is the play in this one.
Cubs (-135) over Reds: The inconsistency from Hunter Greene has to be driving the Reds front office crazy. He actually has a really nice Hard Hit% at 36.2%, but he’s also got a Barrel% of 11.4%. When he gives up contact, it can go a long way, as evidenced by the 20 homers he has allowed in just 70 innings. There are a lot of strikeouts as well, as he’s punched out 88 in 70 innings. Unfortunately, the home runs just won’t go away as a fly ball pitcher.
We all know that Great American Ball Park is a bad place to be a pitcher, however, Greene’s SLG allowed at home (.509) is almost identical to what he has allowed on the road (.503), so this isn’t just a park factor thing. The Cubs offense is one that I’ve been looking for positive regression from with men in scoring position and hopefully that will be something that happens today.
While fading Greene is a popular thing to do, my true fade here is the Cincinnati offense. The Reds are 30th in wOBA and wRC + against left-handed pitching on the road this season. They are slashing .212/.278/.302 with .262 wOBA and a 65 wRC + in 356 plate appearances. As a team, the Reds rank 22nd in BB%, which is a bad sign against Justin Steele.
Steele’s BB% is one of the only big blemishes in his profile. The other has been largely out of his control with a 64.4% LOB%. He has a 4.59 ERA with a 3.59 xERA and a 3.60 FIP, so there are some clear signs of positive regression and when would those seem likelier to happen than against the league’s worst road offense against lefties? Steele’s got elite Hard Hit% and Barrel% numbers, so he should be able to keep the Reds at bay.
Cincinnati’s bullpen has a 7.24 ERA and a 5.64 FIP over the last 14 days. Chicago’s pen has been improved of late with a 3.99 FIP, but a 4.75 ERA. The Cubs have the better matchup offensively, the better starting pitcher and the stronger bullpen. While -135 seems like a steep price to lay, I think the line could be higher. I’m on the Cubbies.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.