MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Saturday, September 23rd

By Adam Burke  ( Managing Editor) 

September 23, 2023 11:12 AM

MLB schedule today has 13 games

We’re down to 13 games for Saturday, as Tropical Storm Ophelia has brought some ugly weather to the Eastern seaboard, with rain and wind knocking out Braves/Nationals and Diamondbacks/Yankees. The forecast in the Bronx doesn’t look much better tomorrow, so that game may not be played unless Arizona needs it for the playoffs. The Braves and Nats have announced a double dip tomorrow. 

With day games on the board, let’s get going with today’s card.

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Here are some thoughts on the September 23 card (odds from DraftKings):

Milwaukee Brewers (-120, 7) at Miami Marlins

Skipping over Rockies (Flexen) and Cubs (Stroman) and Mets (Quintana) and Phillies (Wheeler) (likely PPD)

Brandon Woodruff and Jesus Luzardo are the listed starters here, as the Brewers rode a 12-run second inning to a laugher on Friday night to clinch a playoff spot. A win or a Cubs loss today and a party will commence on South Beach somewhere tonight for the NL Central champs.

Woodruff has a 1.89 ERA with a 3.52 FIP over 62 innings this season. He’s allowed 12 runs in eight starts since returning on August 6. He’s only allowed four runs over his last five starts with 38 strikeouts against seven walks in 34 innings. It took him a little time to settle in, but he’s looked like an ace and the 1-2 punch of Woodruff and Burnes should make the Brewers a tricky out in the postseason.

Every time I think Luzardo is ready to fall apart, he bounces back. He allowed 21 runs in a four-start stretch from July 30 to August 16 and then had three starts of six innings each with two runs allowed in total. Then he gave up six runs on 10 hits to the Brewers. Then he threw six shutout against the Braves. So, I don’t know, but I do know that 30 starts and over 166 innings is a massive workload for him. He’s worked 66 more innings than he worked last season, so I really would have expected him to struggle more than he has.

The other thing about this start is that Luzardo’s home numbers are way better than his road numbers. His ERA is nearly two runs lower, his wOBA is 72 points better, and his slash line is better by 69/58/121 points.

Nothing from me here, but what a great pitching matchup.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds (-142, 9.5)

Apparently the Pirates got together for a team meeting and decided to “treat every game like a playoff game to practice for when they get there”. Well, whatever it is, they’ve won three in a row and seven of 10 while having the ability to play the role of spoiler. They beat the Reds last night and will look for another victory today with Bailey Falter on the hill against Connor Phillips.

Falter only went one inning last time out with two runs allowed on a hit with two walks. That start was on the 19th and he had gone six innings in his previous start, so I guess there was a plan to use Quinn Priester in bulk? Maybe Falter had an injury issue? I couldn’t find any updates, but he gets the ball today.

The Pirates used six relievers yesterday, so the pen is a little bit dicey in support of Falter. We’ll see if the Reds can take advantage and also see if they get another big start from Phillips, who allowed two runs on three hits with seven strikeouts over seven excellent innings five days ago for his first MLB win.

Not a great betting spot here, as the Reds haven’t really been trustworthy in these chalky roles, but I don’t want to take the Pirates with Falter.

St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres (-180, 8.5)

The dream is far from dead in San Diego. Last night’s win was the eighth in a row for the Friars, but they’re still four games back in the Wild Card chase. They’ve got eight games left, so they’re going to need an absurd amount of help, but they have two more left with the Cardinals, followed by the Giants and White Sox. They probably have to win out, but that’s certainly what they’re working on doing.

They’re a huge favorite again today with Nick Martinez on the bump against Jake Woodford. Martinez has a 3.73 ERA with a 4.05 FIP in his last 101.1 innings of work. He went three scoreless in his first start since August 8 last time out, when he also went three scoreless. Martinez has a 2.78 ERA with a .258 wOBA against at home compared to a 5.02 ERA with a .354 wOBA against on the road.

Woodford has only made one MLB appearance since June 29 and went 2.2 scoreless innings in relief against the Brewers. He has a 5.31 ERA with a 5.96 FIP in 42.1 MLB innings this season and a 2.83 ERA in 28.2 innings in the minors. In his most recent MiLB stint, he allowed six earned runs on 12 hits in 20.2 innings with 28 strikeouts against nine walks.

I’d be surprised for any outcome other than a Padres win. Not only are the Cardinals playing out the string, but they’re missing Willson Contreas, Nolan Gorman, Nolan Arenado, Brendan Donovan, Alec Burleson, Dylan Carlson, and Tyler O’Neill. That’s a legitimate MLB lineup on the IL.

The Padres will likely turn to Pedro Avila in a piggyback after Martinez. That’s better than what the Cardinals are likely to do, as they’ll end up going full Johnny Wholestaff. St. Louis has lost four in a row, all on the run line. I think they’ll make it five in a row tonight. I know San Diego would only bat eight times, but I think that’s all they’ll need. The Cardinals have scored eight runs in the last five games.

Pick: Padres -1.5 (+110)

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers (-225, 8.5)

I’m mentioning this game because it popped up that this could be Clayton Kershaw’s last home start in the regular season at Dodger Stadium. Speculation seems to be running that Kershaw, whose shoulder injury is beyond repair, may call it quits after the season. Maybe Kershaw runs it back in hopes of getting 66 more strikeouts to have 3,000, but he got his 200th win earlier this season and really has nothing else to prove. He’s got a ring, even if people don’t really believe in it since it came from the 2020 COVID season.

The Giants haven’t named a starter for today yet, so no bets from me here, but I just wanted to mention that possibility with Kershaw, who likely gets a playoff start in Chavez Ravine, but this may be an emotional day for him and his teammates, whether we know it publicly or not.

Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins (-205, 7.5)

The Twins had quite a celebration last night after clinching the AL Central. We’re likely to get the ultimate hangover lineup here, as the Twins do have an outside shot at the No. 2 seed, but they are 3.5 games back of the Rangers in that department.

Beers were FLOWING in the clubhouse after last night, as the Twins head back to the postseason for the first time since 2020. They have not won a playoff game since 2004 and have not won a playoff series since 2002. They are 0-15 in that span in playoff games and 0-6 in series.

They have much bigger pictures in mind and maybe that keeps them focused today against Kenny Rosenburg and the Angels. Sonny Gray gets the call for the Twins, but he didn’t really look much like a guy who would be ready for a 1:10 p.m. local time start during last night’s festivities. 

I don’t really need to go in deeper detail than that on this game. It’s an early start, so lead time is limited and Rosenburg and the Angels aren’t really worth backing in any capacity. But, don’t be surprised if the Twins are hungover as hell.

Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays (-130, 8)

Skipping over Tigers (Wentz) at Athletics (Boyle)...

The Blue Jays scored a really nice win in the series opener yesterday, as Chris Bassitt pitched well and the Rays maybe lost more than a game. On what was a pretty joyous day for the organization with the announcement of a new ballpark, Randy Arozarena left hurt with groin tightness. This was on a day where the team found out that Brandon Lowe would miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured knee and reliever Jason Adam suffered another setback in his first game off the IL.

There’s a lot happening with the Rays as they send out Zack Littell against Hyun Jin Ryu. Littell comes in with a 4.12 ERA, 4.20 xERA, and a 4.08 FIP in 83 innings of work. After struggling through three outings where I, again, assumed the worst, he’s allowed five runs over his last three starts covering 19.2 innings.

Ryu allowed four runs in his first start back, but has only allowed nine runs in his last eight starts. He only went 4.2 innings last time out, as his pitch efficiency has sometimes been an issue and the Jays haven’t pushed him too far, but he’s performed at a very high level. The Jays pen is in pretty good shape if you want to back the dog, as only Jordan Hicks appears to be unavailable.

Me? I’m staying away. I feel like I haven’t had a good pulse on Toronto all season.

Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox (-148, 8.5)

Dylan Cease and Nick Pivetta are the listed starters here, as Cease tries to salvage something from a lost season. He’s got a 4.85 ERA and a 3.95 FIP in 165 innings, so the advanced metrics look better than the traditional ones. He’s allowed four runs on eight hits over 11.1 innings in his last two starts after giving up 24 runs in a four-start stretch from August 20-September 5.

It’s hard to say that he’ll pitch well at Fenway Park, but his contact management metrics with a 6.6% Barrel% and a 42.2% Hard Hit% don’t really support the high ERA. He doesn’t get a lot of help from his defense and he’s walked too many batters this season. It’s just a litany of problems for Cease and really for the White Sox as a whole, as they have a long way to go to even be competitive in a terrible division.

Each start for both of these guys is important, though, because they are both arbitration-eligible, so each start is a chance to make money. Pivetta is back in the rotation and has allowed eight runs on 15 hits in three starts against AL East foes. Pivetta had some huge splits last season between AL East opponents and everybody else, so maybe he’ll be in line for a really good outing today against the Pale Hose.

I’m not laying that type of number, though, as neither team is very good right now.

Baltimore Orioles (-142, 8) at Cleveland Guardians

The O’s have dropped both games in this series and their bullpen is starting to smoke a bit. They’ve had two bullpen mishaps in this series and there are a lot of tired arms back there. Kyle Bradish seems to be the only starter truly capable of working deep into games consistently and the other games are requiring heavy workloads.

Yesterday, Dean Kremer fell apart in the middle innings and got bailed out by Tyler Wells, who gave the team a chance to win, but Brandon Hyde made a curious decision to walk Will Brennan in the ninth and put the winning run on base. He promptly scored on a double by David Fry on a batting practice sinker from Yennier Cano.

So, the Orioles will hope that John Means Business today. Cleveland hasn’t hit a left-handed pitcher all season long, so maybe Means has a good chance tonight, but this is just his third start of the season and his fifth in the last two seasons. He’s gone five innings in each with four runs on nine hits and just two strikeouts out of 41 batters faced. This will be another short start for the O’s, so the bullpen will have to shoulder another big workload.

Cleveland’s pen is having major issues as well, as Emmanuel Clase blew yet another save last night. They’ll hope for some length from Cal Quantrill, as the dream of finishing .500 stayed alive last night. In Quantrill’s four starts since coming back, he has a 1.90 ERA, but a 4.40 FIP and a 5.69 xFIP in 23.2 innings of work. He only has 13 strikeouts to go with eight walks, but he’s only allowed five runs on 15 hits. He’s running a .191 BABIP and an 89.6% LOB%.

Quantrill allowed a lot of hard contact last time out against the Royals, but worked around it to allow two runs over 5.2 innings. Regression is very much lurking for him, but I don’t trust Means, even if the Guardians can’t hit lefties. Baltimore is -145 for the 1st 5 and that’s just too steep of a price to pay.

Seattle Mariners at Texas Rangers (-122, 8.5)

With a win and a Houston loss, Texas entered the day back atop the AL West standings. Dane Dunning fell apart in the sixth, but he got through five shutout innings and the offense built up an 8-0 lead by then. Today’s game could be more competitive. It will be Logan Gilbert for the M’s and Jordan Montgomery for the Rangers.

I’ve had long-running concerns about Gilbert, who has a 3.77 ERA with a 3.76 FIP. The numbers look good and I can’t argue with 182 K against just 32 BB. However, he’s running a 45% Hard Hit% and a 9.3% Barrel%. When you throw a lot of strikes  that can happen, but since the All-Star Break, Gilbert has allowed a 54.4% HH%. He’s allowed 19 barrels, including eight over his last four starts. Despite all of this hard-hit contact, he’s running a 3.95 ERA with a 4.24 FIP and has a 76/13 K/BB ratio. He has an 83.1% LOB%. I’m genuinely surprised more teams haven’t made him pay for all of that hard contact.

Maybe it’s catching up with him. He’s allowed 11 runs on 20 hits in his last 17.1 innings with four homers. I hope that’s the case because I like Montgomery, who has a 3.29 ERA with a 3.23 FIP in his last 54.2 innings of work. Those are all of his appearances with the Rangers. He allowed 11 runs over two starts to begin September, but he’s allowed one run on nine hits in his last 14 innings with 11 strikeouts against one walk. As a Ranger, Montgomery has allowed a 37.5% Hard Hit% and a 5.0% Barrel%.

I can trade eight cents and take Texas for the 1st 5 instead of the full game. With the Rangers bullpen situation of late, I’d rather do that.

Pick: Rangers 1st 5 (-130)

The Royals don’t have a starter named, so I have nothing on Royals/Astros.

TL;DR Recap

Padres -1.5 (+110)

Rangers 1st 5 (-130)

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