MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, August 18th

By Adam Burke  ( 

August 18, 2023 12:59 PM

MLB schedule today has 16 games

After a very light day on the diamond yesterday, we’ve got the full slate plus one on Friday. Sixteen games are on the docket with a doubleheader in Cleveland between the Guardians and Tigers as we head into the weekend. It would’ve been a 5-5-5 card, but now it’s a 5-6-5 card thanks to the twin bill in the Buckeye State, but we’ve got a lot of interesting names taking the mound and a lot of ground to cover.

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Here are some thoughts on the August 18 card (odds from DraftKings):

Philadelphia Phillies (-175, 9) at Washington Nationals

We start with a complicated and complex handicap right out of the chute. It was a very emotional second start in a Phillies uniform for Michael Lorenzen, as he threw a no-hitter just days after the seven-year anniversary of his father’s passing. It took him 124 pitches to make history, but he did and now he’ll face the same team nine days later.

Lorenzen has been locked in of late and has a 3.23 ERA with a 4.09 xERA and a 3.85 FIP in 122.2 innings this season. The right-hander was acquired from the Tigers at the Trade Deadline and has allowed two runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts and five walks in two starts. If we look back to July 6, though, Lorenzen allowed just three runs on 13 hits in his final four starts with Detroit. So, he’s got a 1.11 ERA with a 2.94 FIP in his last 40.2 innings pitched. His .176 BABIP is not at all sustainable and neither is an 87.8% LOB%, but he’s riding a high right now. He has allowed a 41.7% Hard Hit% in that span, but only four barrels.

Joan Adon makes his fifth appearance of the season for Washington with 14 innings to his name. He’s allowed eight runs on eight hits, including three homers, with a 14/4 K/BB ratio. In 87.2 innings at Triple-A, Adon had a 4.62 ERA with a 4.69 FIP in 17 starts. He is widely-regarded as one of the league’s pitchers based off of last season’s sample in which he walked a ton of guys and gave up a bunch of runs with a 7.10 ERA, 6.01 xERA, and a 5.11 FIP.

I know some will fade Lorenzen off the no-no and off of the big workload. I’m curious to see if the eight days between starts throws him out of rhythm a bit as well. There’s a case to be made for the over here if you think Lorenzen won’t be all that sharp since the Phillies should score runs against Adon. I’m not as trusting of the Washington offense, especially against a righty, so I’m out on this one.

San Francisco Giants at Atlanta Braves (-230, 9)

The Giants are on the road and will get to escape the weather system heading up the California coast, but it could provide a bit of a distraction as the road trip goes along while worrying about friends and family. The bigger distraction until the storm hits is probably their offensive woes, as they are batting just .209 in the second half with a .273 wOBA and a league-low 71 wRC+. That seems bad going into a matchup with Spencer Strider.

Strider has a 3.75 ERA with a 3.08 xERA and a 2.95 FIP in his 139.1 innings of work. I know people have been fixated on his ERA, but I don’t really see any signs in the profile as to why it should be that high. His 37.9% K% is beyond elite. His 7.9% BB% is above average. His 34.3% Hard Hit% ranks in the 78th percentile. He does have a 23rd percentile Barrel% at 9.6%, but his expected metrics like xSLG, xBA, and xERA/xwOBA are all in the 82nd to 90th percentile. He’s just gotten unlucky at times.

He’s been unlucky a few times since the Break with a 4.67 ERA and a 3.32 FIP, so we’ll see if he can string a better start together here. He threw seven shutout innings against the Mets last time out, but only had six strikeouts against four walks, even though he had a 15.2% SwStr% and a solid Chase Rate.

Alex Cobb should profile as the type of guy who has a chance against the Braves. He’s an extreme ground ball guy with a 56.6% GB% and the Braves are a little less dangerous when they can’t elevate the baseball as much. Cobb has seen a K% drop this season to 21.2%, down from the 23.9% last season and the 24.9% two seasons ago, but he’s still performed well with a 3.62 ERA, 4.69 xERA, and a 3.84 FIP. The high xERA is the byproduct of that below average K% and a 44.1% Hard Hit%.

Fading the Braves seems ill-advised, though, as they could go off against anybody at any time. Cobb has also allowed 14 runs and six homers in 15.2 innings in the month of August, so it’s not like he’s in great form.

New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals (-142, 9.5)

Joey Lucchesi is a name that we haven’t heard in a while and he will get the start for the Mets in this one. It will be his sixth MLB start of the season, where he has a 4.43 ERA to go with a 6.88 xERA and a 5.14 FIP in 22.1 innings. Lucchesi had one awesome start against the Giants, which I was on, and then struggled through his other four appearances to allow 11 runs on 18 hits in 15.1 innings before getting sent down. He had seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts against the Giants, but that high was short-lived.

He’s got a 3.69 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 75.2 innings in the minors this season. He’s allowed one run on five hits over his last two starts at High-A covering eight innings as he works his way back from a knee injury. He had allowed 17 runs in a three-start stretch from June 30-July 15 and now makes his return to the big leagues after those two High-A outings.

I can’t say I’m very optimistic about him here against a Cardinals crew that historically hits lefties well and has a .351 wOBA with a 125 wRC+ in the second half against southpaws with a .278/.357/.458 slash. 

I also cannot say that I am too optimistic about Zack Thompson, who slots into the rotation in place of Steven Matz. Matz hit the IL with a lat strain, so enter Thompson, who has a 3.96 ERA with a 3.73 xERA and a 3.02 FIP in 25 innings at the MLB level, but only one start and 16 relief outings. Thompson had an 8.65 ERA over 34.1 innings in the minors while trying to be stretched out as a starter. He had a 41/39 K/BB ratio in that span. 

He got recalled on July 19 and made three appearances before getting sent down again. Now he’s back up and he’s actually thrown the ball well with two runs allowed on six hits in his last eight innings with a 13/1 K/BB ratio. While he’s had good results, he’s allowed a 47.1% Hard Hit% in those last two efforts.

It won’t be the best hitting weather we’ve seen in Busch Stadium this year, but it won’t be bad either. I’m going to stay away with this one, but I can’t fault anybody for hoping to see double digits on the scoreboard.

Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres (-175, 8.5)

Somebody named Justin Martinez worked 1.1 innings to get the save yesterday for the Diamondbacks in a 3-1 win over the Padres. It wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows, as Zac Gallen had the luckiest start of the season with a .510 xwOBA and a .179 actual wOBA against. The Padres had a xBA of .334 and Gallen only had three whiffs in 42 swings. He allowed an average exit velocity of 97.3 mph and 14 hard-hit balls. Again, baseball makes no sense.

Brandon Pfaadt gets the call today in what will be his sixth start since getting recalled. Pitching coach Brent Strom moved him to the other side of the rubber and his results have been better than his first two MLB stints. Since that July 22 recall, Pfaadt has a 4.34 ERA with a 4.23 FIP. Prior to that, he had a 9.82 ERA with a 7.47 FIP, so definitely an upgrade.

The Padres will counter with Seth Lugo, who has a 4.16 ERA with a 4.35 xERA and a 3.94 FIP in 97.1 innings of work. Lugo had a major blow-up against the Dodgers on August 7 with eight runs allowed over 3.1 innings of work. Sample sizes are pretty good by this point, but Lugo had a 3.54 ERA with a 3.74 FIP prior to that start. Add that start and he jumped to a 4.19 ERA with a 3.89 FIP. 

That being said, Lugo has made some of his own issues. He’s allowed a homer in six straight starts and eight total in that span. He’s allowed a 46.2% Hard Hit% and a 9.2% Barrel% in his last eight starts over 130 batted ball events, including a 52.2% mark over his last three starts.

If the Arizona pen was in better shape, I’d take a shot on the D-Backs here. Pfaadt and Lugo could very well cancel out here and the volatility of bullpens would make me think long and hard about this one at an elevated dog price, but Arizona used a 22-year-old called up from Triple-A that day close out the game yesterday. (To be fair, his stuff is seriously filthy)

The Diamondbacks finally have some good vibes rolling again, while the Padres just keep stacking up frustration. I keep trying to talk myself into this, but the numbers don’t line up as much as my emotional appeals wish they did.

Miami Marlins at Los Angeles Dodgers (-142, 8.5)

Here’s a big test for the Dodgers’ 11-game winning streak. It will be Sandy Alcantara for the visiting Marlins and Tony Gonsolin for the host Dodgers as LA looks to give themselves a chance at a fourth consecutive sweep. The Dodgers have not allowed more than three runs in a game since August 8 and have only allowed three runs once in sweeping the Rockies and Brewers. They also swept a two-game set from the D-Backs as part of this run.

Not only have they won 11 in a row, but they’ve won 15 of 16 in August. Gonsolin would seem to be the weak link of the rotation, though, as he has a 4.24 ERA with a 5.29 xERA and a 4.78 FIP in 99.2 innings of work. The right-hander’s peripherals are all pretty ugly, as his K% is down to 19.4% and his BB% is up to 8.7%. 

Since June 18, Gonsolin has a 6.28 ERA with a 5.24 FIP in 10 starts. He’s allowed four or more runs in seven of those 10 games, with one run allowed against the Mets, A’s, and Rockies in that span. The Marlins are not great against righties, but Gonsolin has struggled against a variety of lineups in this span. He’s allowed a 46.2% Hard Hit% and a 13.3% Barrel%. It’s actually getting worse, too, as he’s allowed a 54.9% Hard Hit% and a 16.5% Barrel% since the All-Star Break in six starts. He’s lucky to have a 5.06 ERA and a 5.10 FIP with those contact management numbers.

But, the question is whether or not it is smart to actually go against the Dodgers. Alcantara has a 4.09 ERA with a 4.09 xERA and a 3.79 FIP, so he isn’t the same guy he’s been over the last four seasons. He’s shown flashes. He threw a complete game with 10 strikeouts against the Yankees last time out. But, he also allowed five runs on six hits in six innings to the Rangers the start prior with three homers allowed.

He’s also a guy with some home/road splits. His slash line is higher on the road by 38/24/132 points and his wOBA against is 57 points higher. His ERA is nearly a run higher. He’s given up 13 of his 17 homers. 

As much as I want to fade Gonsolin, I don’t know if today is the day. Hopefully a good opportunity will come soon.

Boston Red Sox (-125, 9.5) at New York Yankees

The Red Sox sit 3.5 games back in the Wild Card chase and the Yankees are 6.5 back as this installment of the heated rivalry commences at Yankee Stadium this weekend. The Yankees are under .500 and have lost five straight as the world is crumbling for the fan base. New York hasn’t been under .500 this far into a season since 1995. A win here and they’ll be back to .500.

They’ll have to beat Brayan Bello to do it. Bello has a 3.81 ERA with a 4.20 xERA and a 4.44 FIP in his 113.1 innings of work. The 24-year-old has not been sharp since the All-Star Break with a 5.67 ERA, 6.11 FIP, and nine homers allowed in 33.1 innings pitched. Bello had a kid just after the Break and hasn’t really settled into his new lifestyle. He’s allowed at least three runs in five of his six starts and has allowed a 50.5% Hard Hit%. Hard-hit contact has been an issue all season long, but this has taken it to another level.

Since returning from a few days on the paternity list, Bello has allowed HH% marks of 58.8%, 61.1%, 52.2%, and 56.3%. Those are not numbers you want to see, even if he is still inducing a lot of ground balls in that stretch.

 Jhony Brito will start here after a delay in announcing that. Brito has a 4.76 ERA with a 5.29 xERA and a 5.51 FIP in 62.1 innings of work. He also has a 5.45 ERA and a 6.05 FIP in 36.1 innings at Triple-A, so he’s given up a lot of runs this season. Specifically, he’s given up a lot of home runs with 20 between the two levels in 98.2 innings.

I can’t advocate anything here with no starter listed for the Yankees, but can tell you that a pretty stiff breeze will be blowing out to dead center here. Brito has a 44.6% GB% on the season, so Bello should have the advantage with all his grounders, but his command has been poor recently.

Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Guardians (-125, 7) Game 1

Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Guardians (-142, 8) Game 2

It barely rained in Cleveland last night according to reports from friends and family, but the game was still postponed. With Gavin Williams starting Game 1 against Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning now lined up against Xzavion Curry in Game 2, the Guardians streak is back intact of not being a home underdog against the Tigers since 2015. Unless we get some really significant betting action, Cleveland avoided making history.

Maybe that’s why the game was rained out last night. How could the organization handle the shame of being a home underdog to the Tigers the day before a Fanatics Sportsbook opened at the ballpark?!

That opens tonight, by the way, so those ripping cheap Coors Lights in The Corner can now go place bets right at the stadium!

Anyway, let’s look at the two games.

Game 1

Skubal and Williams is quite a good pitching matchup for Game 1 and this one could be over in under two hours. The total of 7 implies how low-scoring the run environment could be, as the Guardians are the worst offense on the planet against lefties and Williams has a 2.80 ERA with a 3.89 xERA and a 3.66 FIP over 54.2 innings of work. Williams seems to have found his stride at the MLB level with 22 strikeouts in his last 12 innings and one run allowed on six hits against the Rays and Jays.

Skubal has a 4.18 ERA with a 2.70 xERA and a 2.09 FIP in seven starts over 32.1 innings of work. He’s actually allowed seven, four, and four earned runs in three of his starts and zero earned runs in his other four starts. I wish there was an over/under length of game prop on this one. With a second game to play later, I think they fly through this one.

Game 2

Manning and Curry is not on the same level. Manning has a 4.60 ERA with a 5.32 xERA and a 5.24 FIP in 58.2 innings of work. Curry has a 3.39 ERA with a 5.15 xERA and a 4.30 FIP in 69 innings of work. Curry allowed five runs on six hits in five innings to the Rays on August 11 in his worst outing of the season. Manning had allowed 19 runs on 24 hits in his previous three starts before allowing an unearned run on two hits to Boston last time out.

This game could go a lot of different ways. The bullpen usage of Game 1 will be interesting as well. Williams and Skubal are both prized pieces with some injury history, so I’m not sure how deep either guy will go, even though both have a good chance at being great. That could dictate Game 2.

Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros (-155, 8.5)

Bryce Miller and JP France are both rookies, albeit 3.5 years apart in age. They’ll square off tonight as the Mariners and Astros meet in a big series for both teams. Houston is trying to keep pace with the white-hot Rangers, while the Mariners are trying to maintain their standing in the Wild Card chase. It’s been a bit of a tall order with some too-close-for-comfort games against the Royals, but they mostly survived and now step up in class.

Miller comes in with a 4.04 ERA, 4.26 xERA, and a 3.93 FIP in his 17 starts over 91.1 innings. He was promoted straight from Double-A and has mostly held his own. He’s allowed six or more runs four times in his 17 starts and those are the reasons why his ERA sits where it does. He had back-to-back six-run outings against the Twins and Red Sox on July 26 and August 1, but has allowed two earned runs on 10 hits in 10.2 innings in his last two starts with 12 strikeouts against two walks.

It’s not the most trustworthy profile to bet into, especially when you look at the contact management numbers. He’s allowed a 43.2% Hard Hit% with a 10.4% Barrel%. Since July 16, he’s allowed a 48.5% HH% and a 12.4% Barrel% in his six starts and that includes a 23.8% HH% last time out against the Orioles. So, I’m not terribly fond of this matchup for him. The Astros are 10th in wOBA at .330 and have a 112 wRC+ in the second half against righties.

That being said, I’m not enamored with France at this price point either. The Mariners are eighth in wOBA at 340 with a 122 wRC+ in the second half against righties. France is also a noticeable regression candidate with a 2.74 ERA, 4.23 xERA, and a 4.02 FIP in 102 innings of work. He only has a 17.4% K%, but has run an 80% LOB%. He’s got a .272 BABIP against, but that at least has some staying power with a 36.5% Hard Hit%.

For France, it’s the fact that he's allowed a .315 wOBA with the bases empty and a .249 wOBA with men on base. Eight of his 10 homers have been solo shots. So, there should be some tough times ahead, but I don’t know how tough they need to be if Miller struggles.

Tough card today I guess.

Tampa Bay Rays at Los Angeles Angels (-110, 9.5)

Erasmo Ramirez is starting a SECOND game for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2023. If that isn’t an indicator of where this pitching staff is from a health standpoint, I don’t know what is. A one-off? Sure. Ish happens. A second start on purpose? Damn, man.

Ramirez has allowed six runs on 19 hits with an 8/1 K/BB ratio in 12.1 innings for the Rays thus far. He was decidedly worse with the Nationals in 27 innings with a 6.33 ERA and four homers allowed in 27 innings. Ramirez gave up two runs over an inning three days ago. He’s allowed runs in three straight appearances. I don’t even know what to do about him starting today.

The Rays will draw a southpaw in Tyler Anderson, who has a 5.28 ERA with a 4.78 xERA and a 4.41 FIP in 109 innings on the season. The Rays are 29th in wOBA at .261 with a 69 wRC+ against lefties in the second half. They only have 199 plate appearances, so there is some sample size bias in the equation here, but those are really bad numbers.

Anderson gave up seven runs on six hits in 4.2 innings last time out against Houston. The veteran lefty had a 3.54 ERA with a 3.31 FIP in his previous seven starts with 41 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. He’s become a fly ball pitcher this season and a pretty extreme one at that recently.

The Angels are a tough team to bet these days. They’ve lost 11 of 15 in August. The Rays are 8-6, but they have a bevy of problems of their own. I can’t really justify a play on either side here.

Baltimore Orioles (-185, 8.5) at Oakland Athletics

The AL portion wraps up with Kyle Gibson and Luis Medina (who is supposed to start, but hasn't officially been named), as the O’s head to the Bay Area. Keep an eye on all the California series this weekend with the rain coming, as we could see some doubleheaders pop up for Saturday.

Gibson is coming off of a disaster of a start that pushed his ERA up to 4.89. His xERA is 4.50 and his FIP is 3.97, both byproducts of a low home run rate and a good Barrel% of 7.4%, but he’s allowed a lot of hard contact and really struggles to miss bats consistently. He allowed four barrels and 14 hard-hit balls against the Mariners last time out in allowing nine runs on 12 hits in 5.1 innings. His velo was down in that game, but I think it’s just because he had so many long innings to contend with.

I’m not sure what he’ll do today against the A’s, who are 20th in wOBA against righties in the second half at .313 with a 103 wRC+. If Oakland gets some run support for Luis Medina, things could be interesting here. Medina has a 5.31 ERA with a 4.84 FIP for the season over 83 innings, but he’s got a 3.71 ERA with a 3.47 FIP in his last 53.1 innings. His season started out very ugly, but he’s only allowed two homers in his last 11 appearances and has 57 strikeouts in that span against 29 walks. Seventeen of the 29 walks have come in three of the eight starts.

The Baltimore bullpen is back on track from a rest standpoint. Yennier Cano hasn’t pitched since Sunday and Felix Bautista hasn’t pitched since Monday, so the top guys are in fine shape. That’ll be something to keep in mind in this series.

I gave some thought to Oakland +1.5 at -115 since Medina’s been pretty good and this is a park that often suppresses power and compresses the game. I’m just worried that the A’s are unlikely to score off the bullpen if I need them to get any runs late or maybe add on to a lead, if they can get one. Also, maybe teams like Oakland just aren’t worth betting on.

Kansas City Royals at Chicago Cubs (-180, 8.5)

Cole Ragans is one of the most interesting guys to watch the rest of the way and he’ll make his fifth start with the Royals in this one. Ragans has allowed six earned runs on 22 hits in 22.2 innings with a 27/8 K/BB ratio to this point. He had a bit of a rough outing against the Cardinals last time out with four runs on seven hits in five innings. It was the four walks that were a real problem, given that he only walked four in his previous three starts.

He still has a 2.38 ERA with a 2.51 FIP as a Royal since being part of the Aroldis Chapman deal. While the Cubs are the best offense in baseball in the second half against righties, they are 17th against lefties at .306 with a 91 wRC+. Ragans has only allowed a 32.2% Hard Hit% in these four starts and a 6.8% Barrel%, so I’ll be curious to see how he fares against a pretty strong offensive club.

Jameson Taillon gets the call for the Cubbies here on the heels of a really awful outing. Taillon has a 5.71 ERA with a 4.67 FIP on the season in 104 innings and had been trending in a pretty positive way until giving up eight runs on eight hits to the Blue Jays in his August 13 start. Taillon had allowed a total of nine runs in his five starts since the All-Star Break heading into that one. He wasn’t hit as hard as his final line would indicate with a 43.8% Hard Hit% and two barrels allowed, but it was two extremes. He allowed an average exit velo of just 84.1 mph, which was actually his second-lowest of the season, but the hits were grouped together effectively.

The Royals aren’t really playing like a 39-win team right now and they’ve scored 91 runs in 16 games this month, but Taillon’s one blip isn’t enough to get me to line up with the heavy underdog here. Taillon was locked in a nice groove and I think he may find it again quickly.

Toronto Blue Jays (-148, 10.5) at Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are going to send out 29-year-old right-hander Brett Kennedy, who made his MLB debut back in 2018 with the Padres and waited five years to return. He’s worked seven innings for the Reds this season with a start and a relief appearance to his name and four runs on six hits with a 4/2 K/BB ratio. This seems like a tall task against Toronto at Great American Ball Park, but this number also looks suspiciously short.

Kennedy worked two scoreless innings in relief last time out, but allowed four runs on five hits in his lone start back on July 4. At the minor league level, Kennedy has worked 64 innings this season with a 3.52 ERA in 12 starts and one bulk relief appearance.

Jose Berrios gets the start here for Toronto, as he has a 3.53 ERA with a 4.00 FIP in his 140.1 innings of work. His 4.63 xERA keeps staring at me like that bright, giant X that Elon Musk put on the office building in San Francisco. He gave up six runs (4 ER) on nine hits in four innings last time out against the Cubs. He allowed three runs on six hits to Boston over 5.2 innings in the start prior. He’s not consistently getting hit hard, but there are some underlying metrics that point towards some rocky outings.

I’m not sure if today will be one or not, but the park factor would surely seem to support it. I don’t have a play on this one, but I imagine a lot of people will like Toronto at the short-ish price against a guy nobody’s heard of in Kennedy.

Milwaukee Brewers at Texas Rangers (-120, 8)

Brandon Woodruff’s return was huge for the Brewers and could be even bigger given their recent offensive ineptitude. The Brewers, who are more like a 60-62 by Pythagorean Win-Loss, scored three runs in three games against the Dodgers after scoring 17 runs in the three-game sweep of the White Sox. To open up this series against Texas, they’ll draw Andrew Heaney, who is a tough guy to handicap at this point.

Heaney only went 1.1 innings against the Giants last time out six days ago. He spoke after the game about knowing he had a short leash, but it sure seemed like a remarkably short leash. He’s got a 4.17 ERA with a 4.78 FIP, so I wouldn’t say he’s pitched great, but he had not allowed a run in his previous two starts over 11.2 innings of work. He’s had some really awful starts, but it isn’t like he’s had a prolonged stretch of being bad. It sure seemed like Bruce Bochy pulled the plug very quickly.

Heaney had walked two and allowed three hits to the first nine batters and clearly didn’t have it, but maybe it was motivated by health. Heaney’s average fastball was 91.4 mph, a full mph below his season average. He was reportedly sick during the series in Oakland and didn’t get to throw a bullpen, so the Rangers opted to be proactive in that game. I would assume he’s back to being on his normal rhythm here.

As I’ve mentioned, the Brewers, despite having poor numbers against lefties for the season, have been better here in the second half with a .327 wOBA and a 106 wRC+. They’ll try to provide some run support for Woodruff, who is making his third start since returning from injury. He’s allowed four runs on eight hits in 11.1 innings against the Pirates and White Sox, but his command has been a bit of a concern. He’s allowed three homers and a 48.1% Hard Hit%. 

The Pirates are 13th in wOBA at .318 with a 98 wRC+ against righties in the second half and the White Sox are 28th with a .290 wOBA and an 81 wRC+. The Rangers are fifth with a .353 wOBA and a 126 wRC+. 

The Rangers were off yesterday, while the Brewers lost a 1-0 heartbreaker and landed at DFW at 4:18 a.m. With Heaney back on his regular routine, the Rangers being a step up for Woodruff, and a rested Texas pen, I’ll lay the short Texas price here.

Pick: Rangers -120

Pittsburgh Pirates at Minnesota Twins (-225, 8.5)

Andre Jackson and Pablo Lopez are the listed starters here, as Minnesota takes the field in a very big favorite role. The Twins deserve it, as Lopez has been nails of late and his ERA has been moving towards his advanced metrics for a few starts now. He has a 3.66 ERA, but a 3.10 xERA and a 3.19 FIP over 147.2 innings. His peripherals are all spectacular, but his ERA had been high due to some unfortunate sequencing at times.

That is no longer the case, as Lopez has allowed a total of five runs in his last five starts. He’s working on a 13-inning scoreless streak over his last two starts and hasn’t given up a homer in three straight starts. He’s got 180 K in 147.2 innings and might not be the worst 200/1 bet ever to win the AL Cy Young. He draws Texas in his next start, but if the Twins stay on rotation, I think he’ll get back-to-back starts against Cleveland, followed by the Yankees, White Sox, Reds, A’s, and Rockies. Those are some lineups he can put up numbers against.

He only has eight wins, so the get-off-my-lawn crowd won’t like that, but he has a very good chance of finishing with a FIP under 3, an ERA in the 3.20-3.30 range (he’s lowered it by .78 runs in these last five starts) and 250 strikeouts. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to get 70 more strikeouts in nine starts with the way he’s thrown the ball.

But, it’ll have to start today against Pittsburgh. The Pirates are 13th in wOBA against righties in the second half, but a 9.5% BB% is doing a lot of lifting. They’ve struck out 26.7% of the time, so I don’t like this matchup against Lopez for them at all.

Jackson has a 5.47 ERA with a 5.22 xERA and a 4.78 FIP in his 26.1 innings of work this season. He’s primarily been used as a very low-leverage reliever and now the Pirates are trying to use him as a starter. He went 3.2 innings against the Reds five days ago and allowed three runs on five hits. He’s allowed a 46.2% Hard Hit% and an 11.5% Barrel% on the season. 

The Twins are third in wOBA at .354 against righties in the second half and have a 128 wRC+. The pen is rested and in good shape. This is one of those where the run line price comes at a bit of a discount because the home team and favorite may not bat in the ninth inning, but I don’t think the Twins need the ninth inning to win or win by margin. Lopez should keep rolling and the offense should hit Jackson and whichever middle relievers come along.

Pick: Twins -1.5 Run Line (-105)

Chicago White Sox at Colorado Rockies (-118, 12)

What does the market think of Michael Kopech? Peter Lambert and the Rockies are home favorites in this one. Lambert has a 5.46 ERA with a 4.95 xERA and a 5.49 FIP in his 59.1 innings of work. In five starts, Lambert has allowed 13 runs (12 ER) on 21 hits in 25 innings of work, but only one of the five starts came at Coors Field. This one will and he’s actually allowed 12 runs on 15 hits in his last three starts.

Kopech’s got a 4.58 ERA with a 6.26 FIP on the season and major walk issues, which are never good going into Colorado where pitches are really hard to control and command. He’s also allowed 25 homers, so that’s bad, too. He’s walked at least four batters in five of his last six starts and has also seen a big velocity drop of late. He hasn’t been healthy in a long time and it seems like a few different things are catching up with him.

That being said, I have no interest in backing either team here and won’t be a player in any of the games in this series. These two teams stink and two bad teams often creates a lot of variance because one will simply stink more.

TL;DR Recap

Rangers -120

Twins -1.5 (-105)

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The Lombardi LIne: With several high-profile CFB games this weekend, odds for the Heisman and other futures markets could shift drastically. If you have a strong opinion, bet it now to secure the best number. View more tips.

Frank Betti/Mattress Mack: Texas (-17) at Baylor. View more picks.