MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Monday, August 21st

By Adam Burke  ( 

August 21, 2023 12:08 PM

MLB schedule today has 9 games

Ten games are on the betting board as we head into a new week’s worth of games. While MLB is the focus here, I must say that I’m excited about the start of the college football season this week and my thoughts on the lines for Week 0 and my first Power Ratings update of the season were posted to the site last night. Seven games are on the Week 0 slate, so read up about those after you check out today’s MLB thoughts.

We’ve got a 4-3-3 format today as there are four games in the NL, three in the AL, and three interleague matchups and we do have a few big favorites on the card, along with a few pitchers that haven’t gotten a lot of reps throughout the course of the season.

For your weekly offense update:

Season: .249/.320/.413, .318 wOBA, .297 BABIP, 22.7% K%, 8.5% BB%, 12.6% HR/FB%

2nd Half: .250/.321/.422, .321 wOBA, .296 BABIP, 22.8% K%, 8.4% BB%, 13.6% HR/FB%

Last week: .254/.324/.424, .324 wOBA, .300 BABIP, 22.2% K%, 8.3% BB%, 13.8% HR/FB%

It appears that it was a good week for offense. We saw gains of 5/4/9 in the slash line compared to the full season and 4/3/2 compared to the second half. It was largely just a byproduct of that K% decrease to 22.2%. A lower K% the rest of the way might be a possibility with pitchers getting tired and more minor league call-ups for spot starts. However, it may also just be the way that starters fell, with aces maybe only going once last week and then twice this week.

Sometimes I just look at the last seven days to show the variance and volatility of baseball in smaller sample sizes.

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Here are some thoughts on the August 21 card (odds from DraftKings):

San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies (-142, 8.5)

It will be opener Scott Alexander for the Giants and full-fledged starter Aaron Nola for the Phillies as the teams kick off a weekend set at Citizens Bank Park. Two options are available after Alexander, as Sean Manaea hasn’t pitched since Tuesday when he threw 57 pitches and Sean Hjelle, who was recently recalled from Triple-A. 

Alexander has a 4.06 ERA with a 3.32 FIP in 37.2 innings of work. He’s been the opener six times thus far and has allowed five runs on six hits in that role. His last start was a shutout inning against the Rangers on August 11, but he allowed three runs on three hits and didn’t record an out against the Angels on August 8. He’s had back-to-back scoreless appearances, but allowed two runs on three hits in 1.2 innings against the Rays on August 14.

Manaea is expected to bulk here with a 4.89 ERA and a 3.51 FIP over 81 innings of work. He’s allowed one run on two hits with 11 strikeouts in his last 7.1 innings as a bulker on August 9 and 15. He has only allowed that one run over his last six appearances. Hjelle last worked at the MLB level on June 21, but is stretched out to bulk soon if necessary. He has allowed 20 runs in his last 12.1 innings at the Triple-A level, though, so buyer beware with him.

Nola has a 4.58 ERA with a 3.87 xERA and a 4.25 FIP in 153.1 innings pitched this season. He has allowed way too many homers with a K% drop and a big downturn in LOB%, so a lot of things are going wrong for him in a contract year. He’s allowed 27 homers, which ties the career-high he set in the juiced-ball season of 2019. His K% is down to 25.4%, which is the lowest one he’s had since 2016.

The Giants won yesterday, but it has been a struggle in the second half on offense. Their .275 wOBA is the lowest by 17 points and their 72 wRC+ is the lowest by nine points. The Giants have a .254 wOBA and a 58 wRC+ in August against righties. This would seem to be a pretty good matchup for Nola and a rested Phillies bullpen.

The Phillies have a .345 wOBA and a 116 wRC+ against lefties in the month of August and have been a top-10 group overall in the second half with a .332 wOBA and a 107 wRC+. Also, for whatever reason, Nola’s been way better at home. He’s allowed 19 of his 27 homers on the road in 90.2 innings compared to 62.2 innings at home, where his wOBA against is 50 points lower and his ERA is 1.7 runs lower. His home FIP is 3.44 and his road FIP is 4.81.

Add it all up and I’ll lay the Phillies price tonight.

Pick: Phillies -142

St. Louis Cardinals (-125, 10) at Pittsburgh Pirates

Two teams had not yet named a starter for Monday’s action and one was the Pirates, who sent Quinn Priester down to the minors recently. It looks like Bailey Falter will get the call here, as he’s the only guy rested enough to start. He’s got a 4.86 ERA with a 4.94 FIP on the season, but did have a good start last time out with one run on four hits over 5.1 innings against the Mets.

In three starts with the Pirates, Falter has allowed six runs on 18 hits in 13.1 innings with a 10/4 K/BB ratio. Osvaldo Bido went 69 pitches yesterday as the bulker for the Buccos, which leaves Yohan Ramirez as the freshest guy behind Falter if he gets in trouble early.

St. Louis will send out 23-year-old Drew Rom for his MLB debut. Rom was acquired from Baltimore in the Jack Flaherty trade and made two starts for the Redbirds’ Triple-A affiliate with one earned run on just two hits in 11 innings with an 18/4 K/BB ratio. As a member of Baltimore’s Triple-A team, he had a 5.34 ERA with a 4.21 FIP. Rom has had massive K% marks in the minors, but has also had issues with his control.

We’ve seen a lot of minor leagues with walk rate concerns come up this season, as the automated strike zone in Triple-A is less forgiving than the big league zone, especially from umpire to umpire. Eric Longenhagen said of Rom at the Trade Deadline that he’s a spot starter with a low-90s fastball, sweeper slider, above average command, and a funky delivery. ( Deception would certainly explain the high K%. Rom was the 29th-ranked prospect in the O’s system coming into the season, but that is a LOADED farm system.

Longenhagen’s longer report prior to the season was not as encouraging, as he slapped a 30 grade on the fastball, which is really bad on the 20-80 grading scale. The left-hander is a major wild card heading into tonight’s game.

New York Mets at Atlanta Braves (-218, 10.5)

Faith in David Peterson is quite low tonight as the Braves and Mets do battle. Atlanta will counter with rookie Allan Winans, who has already been a large favorite more than once in his short MLB career. This will be the third MLB start for Winans, who has allowed two runs on nine hits with a 14/3 K/BB ratio in starts against the Brewers and Mets.

He faced the Mets back on August 12 and threw seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts, so that was a phenomenal outing for the rookie right-hander. He owns a 2.79 ERA with a 3.92 FIP in 113 innings at Triple-A with solid peripherals.

Peterson has a 5.45 ERA with a 5.05 xERA and a 4.71 FIP over 72.2 innings pitched. He’s got a really solid K% at 24.2%, but has accompanied it with an 11% BB% and a .371 BABIP against. Peterson has also allowed 11 homers in just 20 appearances. Since rejoining the rotation, he’s allowed three runs on eight hits over 11.1 innings of work versus the Pirates, Cubs, and Orioles.

The Braves have a .407 wOBA against lefties and a 156 wRC+ in the month of August. They have the best offense in baseball in the second half with a .372 wOBA. It’s hard to find reasons to go against them and I certainly don’t have any today.

Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres (-192, 8.5)

Both teams had an unscheduled day off yesterday as Tropical Storm Hilary dropped immense amounts of rain in Southern California, including over an inch and a half in San Diego. The Marlins were able to get out of LA and batten down the hatches at their San Diego hotel in advance of the start of the series and it will begin as scheduled with Michael Wacha for the Padres and Ryan Weathers for the Marlins.

Weathers was recently acquired by Miami from San Diego, so this will be an interesting start for the 23-year-old left-hander. Weathers allowed six runs on six hits in 3.2 innings in his first appearance for the Marlins, but then got sent down to work on some things at Triple-A. In his two Triple-A starts, he went six innings in each with one run in the first and two runs in the second, plus 15 strikeouts against three walks. So, now he’s back at the MLB level.

Even though today is Blake Snell’s turn in the rotation, he’ll slot back to Wednesday and Wacha will get the call today. He’s making his second start since returning from the IL. He worked five shutout innings against the Orioles six days ago, but was staked to an early 5-0 lead and got to put it in cruise control as he came back from missing six weeks.

He’s got a 2.68 ERA with a 3.65 FIP and a 4.09 xERA, so there are regression signs in the profile, namely with his 82% LOB%, but he’s been able to stave those off pretty much all year. His HR/FB% of 6.8% is also well below his 12.5% mark, but pitching at Petco Park has certainly helped.

The Marlins are probably priced a little bit high here, but I’m not all that interested in taking them against a righty like Wacha, who has a 1.10 ERA over his last 11 starts, even if I am concerned a little coming back from injury.

Seattle Mariners (-185, 8.5) at Chicago White Sox

A couple right-handers square off here between Luis Castillo and Touki Toussaint as the surging Mariners ride the high of a road sweep of the Astros into this series on the South Side. The M’s are massive road favorites here, even though Castillo’s road numbers do leave something to be desired. 

For the full season, Castillo has a 3.23 ERA with a 3.81 xERA and a 3.87 FIP in 150.1 innings pitched. However, he’s worked 67 innings on the road and has a 3.90 ERA compared to a 2.70 ERA at home in 83.1 innings. By slash line, he’s +56/+51/+91 on the road in terms of BA/OBP/SLG compared to at home and his wOBA is 55 points higher. His K% goes from 31.6% to 22.3% and his FIP goes from 3.43 to 4.40.

It is still the White Sox, though, so maybe Castillo’s road splits aren’t as impactful. Chicago is 25th in wOBA against righties this month with a .299 mark and a 88 wRC+. The White Sox have only walked 5.8% of the time with a 23.9% K%, but have hit for a little bit of power relative to their other numbers with a .396 SLG. Overall in the second half, though, this is a team with a .292 wOBA and an 83 wRC+ to rank 29th and 28th, respectively, in those two categories.

Seattle is rolling offensively and draws an interesting matchup with Toussaint, who has a 4.47 ERA with a 4.95 xERA and a 5.17 FIP in 50.1 innings. He’s had some good loutings with the White Sox, but has allowed 11 runs on 14 hits in his last 14.1 innings pitched with 22 strikeouts, but also 14 walks. The Mariners have cut down on the strikeouts a bit to level up offensively, but will still swing and miss a lot.

This is a tough handicap. The weather seems pretty standard for Chicago at this time of year, so I don’t see a big boost for the bats or anything. The Mariners pen has been used very extensively of late and seven relievers were needed yesterday. Nothing from me here.

Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros (-130, 9)

James Paxton and Cristian Javier meet here at Minute Maid Park, as the Astros lick their wounds from the series against the Mariners. The Red Sox come in on a high after sweeping the Yankees, including a very emotional 6-5 win yesterday to send New York to an eighth straight loss. Boston is still three games back in the Wild Card race and is chasing Houston, who would be the No. 5 seed if the playoffs started today.

Javier still isn’t right. He has a 4.94 ERA with a 5.78 FIP in 31 innings over six starts since the All-Star Break. He’s allowed 18 runs on 22 hits, including six homers. He does have 30 strikeouts, but also has issued 17 walks. He’s become even more extreme of a fly ball guy in this stretch, leading to a .211 BABIP, but there are so many other areas where he has struggled. He’s simply not trustworthy and the Astros need him to figure it out if they have hopes of repeating as champions.

Paxton has had a couple of hiccups here in the second half and has struggled primarily against lineups that hit lefties well. He went six innings of two-run ball against the Nationals last time out, but both runs scored via the long ball. He allowed four runs to the Jays on August 4 with three of the nine hits leaving the yard. He allowed six runs to the Cubs on July 15 and they’ve been a good offense in the second half.

The Astros were shut down by a bunch of right-handed starters by the Mariners, but Paxton is a lefty and Houston has a .413 wOBA with a 169 wRC+ in 217 PA against lefties this month. Paxton has allowed a 43.6% Hard Hit% in six second-half starts. This could be a spot for the Astros offense to come alive.

We could get the same from Boston against Javier, but Minute Maid Park can be stingy, especially with the roof closed. I think it’s a bit of a tricky spot for Boston coming off of the sweep of New York and with Houston coming off of a really troubling series. All in all, I don’t have a strong play that I like.

Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics (-130, 8.5)

The instability in the air left by Tropical Storm Hilary does give this game a bit of a rain threat, which is pretty rare in Oakland, but it is the case today, so we could see this one delayed or maybe even postponed. It will be Tucker Davidson and Paul Blackburn in a battle of the AL’s two worst teams.

Davidson has been used exclusively out of the pen for the Royals and will open for Alec Marsh. Davidson has a 6.39 ERA with a 4.72 xERA and a 3.61 FIP in 38 innings pitched this season, including four earned runs on seven hits over 6.1 innings with Kansas City. He could attempt to go multiple innings here and has gotten four outs in each of his last two appearances. He pitched two days ago, so I don’t think he’ll go too long here before turning it over to Marsh.

The rookie right-hander has a 5.68 ERA with a 5.65 xERA and a 6.82 FIP in 38 innings of work. He’s allowed six runs on 16 hits in his last 14 innings with 13 strikeouts against nine walks. He’s struck out 41 batters in those 38 innings, but also issued 24 walks. He’s allowed 10 homers, but only one in his previous four appearances.

Blackburn has a 4.09 ERA with a 3.87 xERA and a 3.50 FIP in 72.2 innings pitched on the season. He’s struck out over a batter per inning and has good peripherals aside from a .360 BABIP against. He just fired seven shutout innings against the Cardinals with eight strikeouts on the heels of allowing four runs on eight hits to the Nationals in 5.2 innings. He threw six shutout innings against the Giants prior to that, so it’s tough to know what you’re going to get.

I probably won’t have much interest in this series at all. The Royals are playing a bit better of late and have found some more offense, but the A’s offense hasn’t been as bad, especially with Zach Gelof injecting some life into the ballclub.

Chicago Cubs (-122, 9) at Detroit Tigers

Javier Assad and Alex Faedo are the listed starters here, as the rolling Tigers have won four of their last five, including three out of four against the Guardians. Faedo comes into this one with a 5.16 ERA, 4.06 xERA and a 4.83 FIP over his 45.1 innings of work, while Assad has a 3.11 ERA with a 4.54 xERA and a 4.42 FIP. 

The Tigers - yes, those Tigers - are actually a top-10 offense against righties in the month of August with a .339 wOBA and a 118 wRC+. The Cubs are a top-five offense in that split with a .368 wOBA and a 132 wRC+. The Tigers are riding the wave of a .327 BABIP to get there, as their 24.4% K% is still the ninth-highest of the month, but they’re getting good contributions from guys like Kerry Carpenter and Spencer Torkelson, which is a real breath of fresh air for the team.

Faedo has made two starts since coming off of the IL and allowed three runs on five hits with an 11/3 K/BB ratio. I was a start early on him when I liked the Under 8.5 against the Twins on August 9 and he allowed three runs on four hits in just 4.2 innings. He faced the same lineup six days later and allowed one hit over five innings. There are some underlying numbers that support Faedo, like a 35.9% Hard Hit% and a really good 6.1% BB%.

Assad has allowed five earned runs on 13 hits in 16.2 innings of work over his last three starts since joining the Cubs rotation. He’s only struck out nine batters against five walks, so I’m definitely concerned about that, as well as all of the regression signs in his profile. He only has a 38.1% Hard Hit% and a 7.7% Barrel%, so the contact management skills have been solid and he’s done well in his last two starts with 13 hard-hit balls in 40 batted ball events.

This is a tricky handicap. I did expect the Tigers to be better this season and that’s coming to fruition with how they’re playing lately, but Cleveland stinks and the lineup is awful at this point in time. The Cubs are playing way better ball. The Cubs have also used Adbert Alzolay, Mark Leiter Jr., and Julian Merryweather in three straight games. The Tigers pen is also up against it a bit, as four relievers have worked two of the last three days.

The Cubs are a huge upgrade to the Guardians, but Detroit is playing quite a bit better and I have to respect that. Assad also has some negative regression signs in the profile that concern me here.

Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Angels (-130, 9)

Reds/Angels has been postponed, but I wrote about it, so it stays in case this is tomorrow's pitching matchup.

Graham Ashcraft and Lucas Giolito are the slated starters in this one. The Reds need a good start from Ashcraft after Hunter Greene’s return was a dud yesterday in the loss to the Blue Jays. Ashcraft has given them a lot of good starts lately, as he has only allowed 14 runs in his last nine starts. Ashcraft has a 2.17 ERA in that span, but a 4.49 FIP, as he only has 38 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched, but has a .241 BABIP against and a 90.6% LOB%. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start, but a lot of his peripherals point towards regression.

If Ashcraft is good tonight, the primary relievers for the Reds are all in good shape, so they should be able to set the game up the way they’d like. Ashcraft has gone at least seven innings in each of his last three starts.

Giolito comes in with a 4.44 ERA, 4.54 xERA, and a 4.78 FIP in 142 innings pitched. He’s made 25 starts, but only four of them with the Angels and they have not been great. Giolito has an 8.14 ERA with a 6.74 FIP over those 21 innings. He’s only had one quality starts and allowed 19 runs on 24 hits with a 19/9 K/BB ratio. He’s allowed six homers and nine total barrels. He did give up nine runs to Atlanta, so that skews the numbers a bit, but he hasn’t been very sharp since leaving the White Sox.

There was probably some added pressure on the Harvard-Westlake product with the Angels in a playoff race, but with those aspirations all but gone, perhaps he can settle down a little bit.

I’ve got nothing in this one. Fading the Angels has been hugely profitable in August, but Ashcraft’s negative regression signs are really staring me in the face here.

Texas Rangers (-155, 9) at Arizona Diamondbacks

The Astros weren’t the only AL West team to have a big setback this past weekend. The Rangers were swept at home by the Brewers and had a pretty frustrating weekend. They’ll look to get back on track on the road against the Diamondbacks, as Jordan Montgomery takes the hill for the visiting favorites and Slade Cecconi goes for the home underdogs.

Montgomery has been very good since being acquired from the Cardinals at the Trade Deadline. He’s allowed five runs on 19 hits over 18 innings with a 20/2 K/BB ratio. That falls in line with what he’s mostly done for the season with a 3.30 ERA and a 3.62 FIP over 139 innings of work. He has a 10.7% SwStr% for the season, but a 13.1% SwStr% in his three starts for the Rangers.

Despite the lowest K% in the league against lefties in August at 15%, Arizona is still just 17th in wOBA at .320. The contact quality has dropped off for this team throughout the course of the season and their results on the high-velocity contact that they do make have fallen off as well. The Diamondbacks have walked 11.2% of the time in the 206 PA against LHP in August, but Montgomery is very stingy with free passes.

Cecconi has worked 10.1 innings at the MLB level for the Snakes and has allowed four runs on nine hits with a 7/4 K/BB ratio. He had a 6.38 ERA with a 5.95 FIP in 103 innings at Triple-A with 23 homers allowed and 113 hits, even though his stuff was good enough for over a strikeout per inning. Cecconi has faced the Giants, Padres, and Rockies on the road, but this will be a stiff test and a step up in class against Texas.

The Rangers are eighth in wOBA in the second half at .340 with a 117 wRC+. They should also profile well here against Cecconi, who has allowed a 58.1% Hard Hit% in his three appearances with four barrels allowed.

I think Texas has a big starting pitching edge here. I also prefer their bullpen to Arizona’s, especially with the primary relievers rested since the Rangers have been losing games. Texas is guaranteed to bat nine times here and you can find the run line at slight plus money or at least even money. I think Montgomery keeps rolling along and the Rangers are able to get back on track.

Pick: Rangers -1.5 Run Line (+102)

TL;DR Recap

Phillies -142

Rangers -1.5 (+102)

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