MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Tuesday, September 26th

By Adam Burke  ( Managing Editor) 

September 26, 2023 11:59 AM

MLB schedule today has 16 games

Only eight teams were in action yesterday around Major League Baseball, but all 30 will take the field tonight. We’ve got a doubleheader in Colorado, which gives us seven games in the NL, six in the AL, and three interleague matchups.

As I wrote about yesterday and talked about on VSiN Daily Baseball Bets, the last week of the regular season needs to be treated with a lot of caution. Premiums are being paid on teams with incentive to win and it can be tough to guess whether or not the bad teams are still invested on any level. Individual players might be, especially those looking at free agency or arbitration, but the team as a whole may not fully be there.

That brings me to one other point this week in the player prop markets. Look for guys who are approaching round numbers. Hitting 30 homers looks better than hitting 29. Batting .300 looks better than batting .297. Those are guys that are still invested. A guy like Bo Bichette (.303 AVG) will do everything he can to stay at .300 or higher. Mookie Betts (39 HR) will aim for 40 sooner rather than later. Luis Robert Jr. will be swinging for the fences with regularity to try and hit 39 and 40 this week. These are especially true of players on teams that aren’t really playing for much of anything - hitters will get a little more selfish.

So, I think you can find some player prop angles throughout the week on these types of guys. Five guys have 29 homers - Nick Castellanos, Kyle Tucker, Brent Rooker, Bobby Witt Jr. (also 48 SB), and Spencer Torkelson. You know the latter three will be looking for 30 since they aren’t as concerned about wins.

The same applies to pitchers looking for round numbers with wins, strikeouts, ERA, etc.

Alright, with that in mind, let’s see what’s out there for today.

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Here are some thoughts on the September 26 card (odds from DraftKings):

Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies (-166, 7.5)

Skipping over the Dodgers (TBD/Anderson) and Rockies (Miller/Feltner) doubleheader…

The Pirates and Phillies meet up today, as the Phillies’ Magic Number is down to 1. Aaron Nola and Mitch Keller are the listed starters here, as the Phillies are hoping to have a party this evening at Citizens Bank Park. They are five games up on the Diamondbacks and Cubs and six games up on the Marlins.

The greater concern is Nola, who has a 4.57 ERA with a 4.08 FIP in 187 innings of work. He allowed two runs on six hits last time out, but he failed to get through five innings in his previous start and allowed 11 runs in nine innings over his previous two starts. It will be very tough in the postseason for the Phillies if Nola doesn’t figure things out.

It is Mitch Keller’s turn in the rotation for the Pirates, as he allowed seven runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings last time out against the Cubs. He did record his 200th strikeout of the season, but also gave up a grand slam in the fifth inning. Fortunately for him (and for us), the Pirates gave him a whole lot of run support against Justin Steele in that outing.

Keller has now allowed 15 runs over his last three starts, yet has eight shutout innings against the Nationals in between giving up eight runs to the Braves and that start against the Cubs. I don’t have anything here, as I have no idea which version of Keller we get. A bad start against the Braves is understandable and he had only allowed four earned runs over his previous four starts prior to that, but he’s allowed seven or more runs three times since the start of August and he faces a hyper-motivated Phillies team tonight.

Weather is also a factor here with wind blowing in and rain in the area.

Miami Marlins (-135, 7.5) at New York Mets

Braxton Garrett and Joey Lucchesi are slated for the Marlins and Mets, as Miami has a lot of importance on this week’s action. The Mets do not and are just playing out the remainder of the season, but like I’ve talked about before, their sheer talent level makes them dangerous on any given night.

Garrett has been exceptional of late, allowing just two earned runs over his last 21.2 innings of work. He hasn’t allowed a homer in four starts and is pitching on some extra rest here. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since July 21 and has a 2.10 ERA with a 3.28 FIP in his last 10 starts covering 55.2 innings of work. Unlike some of his rotation mates, Garrett has actually been better on the road and he’ll have premium pitching conditions tonight at Citi Field on a damp, chilly night.

The Mets have gotten good work from Lucchesi since he was recalled. He’s allowed two earned runs (four total) in two starts over 12.2 innings of work. He’s only struck out seven of 53 batters, so that concerns me, plus he’s facing the Marlins for the second straight time. Of course, that’s also true of Garrett facing the Mets again, but Garrett has more upside.

I’m just not sure if that upside is big enough to lay -135 here in a game where runs look to be at a premium and this one may come down to late-inning shenanigans. I do trust the Marlins pen more, but not sure -135 is the play.

Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves (-148, 9)

Justin Steele and Bryce Elder are the listed pitchers for this one, as both guys look to bounce back from bad starts. Steele sailed through three innings against the Pirates before giving up six runs in the fourth inning without recording an out. It was his second straight start with six runs allowed, but he at least went six innings in the first one. Steele has now allowed 12 runs in two starts after allowing 18 earned runs in 11 starts to start the second half.

While allowing 12 runs in the last two starts, Steele has allowed 10 hard-hit balls in 31 batted ball events for just a 32.3% Hard Hit%. He only allowed three hard-hit balls against the Pirates, so he really fell on the wrong side of variance in that fourth inning. He’s not getting hit hard, but sometimes you don’t have to be in this cruel game.

Elder only went 3.2 innings against the Phillies last time out and allowed four runs on three hits, but it could’ve been a lot worse. He walked five without a strikeout and gave up two homers out of the three hits. He has a 3.63 ERA and a 4.40 FIP, so he remains a negative regression candidate and he has allowed a 53.8% Hard Hit% in the month of September over four starts.

The Braves won their 100th game on Sunday. They’re up 3.5 games on the Dodgers for the No. 1 overall seed, but the doubleheader for LAD today features the game they have in hand. I lean with Chicago here because I don’t trust Elder as a favorite of this size, but I don’t think I can take the Cubs. It’s been a struggle lately, even with the current three-game winning streak.

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers (-170, 8.5)

The Cardinals and Brewers battle it out as Milwaukee looks to close out the NL Central Division. The Brewers failed on two chances over the weekend and the Cubs were winning ballgames, so the Magic Number has been 1 for a little while. They can lock it up tonight against the Cardinals in a matchup between Adrian Houser and Zack Thompson.

Houser will face the Cardinals for a second straight time after throwing six innings of one-run ball last time out. He’s allowed three runs on nine hits in 11 innings since returning from the IL. He’s got a 9/2 K/BB ratio and hasn’t allowed a homer against the Marlins and Redbirds. Houser has a 4.35 ERA with a 4.02 FIP for the season and hasn’t been great, but he’s been plenty good enough and this is a very strong bullpen.

Thompson joined the rotation full-time on August 18 and has a 5.00 ERA with a 4.67 FIP in that span. He’s allowed four runs in each of his last two starts and the league seems to have completely caught up with him. He has a 45% Hard Hit% and a 10.1% Barrel% in his seven starts in that span. 

The Cardinals have dropped five of six and seven of 10. I just don’t think they’re invested anymore, as this is a team that has no business being 20 games under .500 in late September. The Cardinals haven’t lost 90 games since 1990, but that will be the case this season.

I know the Brewers are at home, but after a day off and a lot of time to sit and think about clinching this division, I think today is the day. I like the run line with Milwaukee here. The Cardinals lineup is decimated by injuries and I think Thompson is leaking oil, while Houser seems refreshed from his IL stint.

Pick: Brewers -1.5 (+124)


San Diego Padres (-125, 8.5) at San Francisco Giants

The dream is officially dead for the Padres. After last night’s 2-1 loss to squander another gem from Blake Snell, the Padres aren’t entirely mathematically eliminated, but could be by the time they have first pitch in this one tonight. I would love, love, love to fade the Friars tonight, but Kyle Harrison is on the mound for the Giants and that makes it tough.

Harrison was better last time out against the Dodgers with two runs allowed on three hits in 5.1 innings, but he only struck out two. For a kid that had enormous K% marks in the minors, the fact that he’s only struck out five of the last 41 batters faced is a red flag. He also has a 4.85 ERA with a 5.68 FIP in 29.2 innings of work. He’s allowed 17 runs over his last four starts, including four homers allowed to the Padres on September 2.

Seth Lugo has a player option for next season, so it will be interesting to see if he exercises it after his best season as a starter. The 33-year-old has a 3.79 ERA with a 3.90 FIP in 137.2 innings of work. He made 25 starts after making seven in 2020, five in 2018, 18 in 2017, and eight in 2016, so it was a big season for him from a workload standpoint.

Lugo has allowed five runs on 12 hits in his last two starts after getting hammered by the Astros to the tune of six runs in 4.1 innings on September 9. There are some modest regression signs in the profile, but I can’t take the Giants today with Harrison’s wide range of outcomes, even if I think it’s a good spot to take them since the Padres won’t be going past October 1.

New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays (-162, 7)

Skipping over Royals (Greinke) at Tigers (TBD - Olson start/bulk)

There were only four games yesterday, but the most impressive win of the day belonged to the Yankees. They had no business being interested in that game on a dreary day in the Bronx, but they beat the Diamondbacks 6-4 and battled back in the eighth inning to do so. It was also the day after they were eliminated from playoff contention and realized that they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Michael King and Kevin Gausman are today’s starters. King just faced the Blue Jays and had his best start ever with 13 strikeouts over seven one-run innings. He allowed five hits and didn’t walk a batter. He’s been a revelation for the Yankees and has 30 strikeouts in his last three starts. Since joining the rotation full-time on August 24, he has allowed a total of four earned runs.

Gausman has a 3.29 ERA with a 3.81 xERA and a 2.98 FIP in 178 innings. He faced the Yankees last time out and worked six shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, so he was as locked in as he can get, especially after a terrible start against Texas with six walks and four runs allowed in 4.2 innings of work.

I’d love to take King today, especially since the Yankees are showing some fight, but they’ve been awful against righties in the second half and this game has a really low-scoring expectation, so it’ll likely come down to the bullpens. Toronto didn’t play yesterday. New York did. So the Yankees pen is in better shape. The 1st 5 price is chopped down for the Yankees as well at +125.

Tampa Bay Rays (-130, 8) at Boston Red Sox

Zach Eflin and Tanner Houck are set for this one at Fenway Park, as the weather in the northeast will be a story in several games today. Eflin comes in with a 3.44 ERA, 3.01 xERA, and a 2.97 FIP in 172.2 innings of work. The Red Sox have cratered lately, as injuries have caught up with them and they’ve lost eight of 10. Their only motivation is to avoid a losing season, but there are definitely some questions about the direction of the organization right now.

Eflin has not allowed more than three runs in a start since August 13 against Cleveland. He has a 2.68 ERA with a 2.59 FIP in 40.1 innings with a 50/6 K/BB ratio in that span, so he’s been throwing the ball well and should end the regular season on a high note.

Houck has a 4.92 ERA with a 4.45 FIP for the season and a 4.60 ERA with a 5.03 FIP in his last six starts since coming off the IL. He has only allowed two runs on seven hits in his last 10 innings, but he’s walked seven and just hasn’t shown the same measure of consistency as Eflin.

This price looks cheap for Tampa Bay. Boston seems checked out on the season and every game is meaningful for the Rays. Eflin should set the tone on a good night for pitchers at Fenway and a rested Rays pen should be a weapon.

Pick: Rays -130

Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners (-130, 7.5)

Skipping over A’s/Twins (TBD/Ober) and Rangers/Angels (Bradford/Detmers)...

It will be Cristian Javier and George Kirby as the Mariners look for a better result with a similar line to what we saw yesterday. Justin Verlander shut Seattle down over eight innings with eight strikeouts and Luis Castillo did not show up in a big spot with two homers allowed, ironically to the two lefties in the lineup for Houston. It cannot be overstated how important Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez are to the Astros.

The Mariners have dropped four in a row and seven of 10 as things are getting tighter in the Wild Card race. If the playoffs started today, Seattle would be out, as they trail the Astros by 1.5 games. This effectively feels like a must-win to take advantage of Javier with Kirby on the hill.

Vintage Javier showed up last time out against the Orioles with 11 strikeouts over five innings. If that happens again, the Astros will be thrilled. He’s allowed three earned runs in his last two starts, but had allowed 18 earned runs over his previous five starts, so I’m not entirely sure what we’ll get from him here. I’m not sure anybody is.

This is also a tough one for the M’s because Kirby looks tired. Since his complete game effort on August 12 against the Orioles, Kirby has allowed 22 runs in 34 innings with a 5.56 ERA and a 4.70 FIP. He still has a 30/4 K/BB ratio, but he’s allowed seven home runs and a 45% Hard Hit%.

The volatility of Javier keeps me from taking the Astros here, but I don’t know if Kirby has it in him to be the ace that the Mariners need. His recent results would tell me no. At least this start is at home, where he’s definitely been better. I feel like I’m going to regret leaving Houston off the card, but I don’t know which version of Javier shows up.

Cincinnati Reds (-112, 7.5) at Cleveland Guardians

Hunter Greene and Lucas Giolito will get this one going in Cleveland, as this is a complicated series to handicap. The Guardians have lost five of seven going into this one, including a sweep at the hands of the lowly Royals. More importantly, this is the final home series for Terry Francona, who will retire at season’s end. He is a beloved figure in Cleveland and it could be pretty emotional over these two games.

Francona is also somebody who hates the spotlight and shies away from attention, so it also creates a pretty weird dynamic. There will undoubtedly be some kind of pregame ceremony on Wednesday and some additional fanfare. Francona and Reds skipper David Bell are extremely good friends as well. The thing about this version of the Guardians is that they are pretty young and I don’t think a lot of these guys have the same rapport with Francona that previous players did, so this could be a really awkward couple of days.

Then there’s Cincinnati, who actually needs to win and there is a lot of pressure to do that with the Wild Card standings. It also seems like Greene is locked in. He’s allowed four earned runs in his last four starts after shaking off a good amount of rust in his first two starts with 14 runs allowed. He’s struck out 35 batters in his last four starts, including 14 Twins in his last start. Cleveland is generally good at strikeout avoidance, but Greene looks sharp right now.

Giolito was atrocious in his first Cleveland start, but has been better in his last three now that the Guardians have made some alterations to his arsenal. He still allowed four runs in 5.1 innings to the Royals last time out. I could certainly see a decent start from Giolito, especially on a good day to pitch in Cleveland, but I’m not sure he’ll dominate. 

If given the choice, I also prefer the Reds pen to the Cleveland pen. I’ll lay the short number here, as I’m just not sure the Guardians are focused on baseball right now.

Pick: Reds -112

Arizona Diamondbacks (-142, 9) at Chicago White Sox

Skipping Nationals (Gray) and Orioles (Bradish)...

Do I dislike Jose Urena enough to lay this big price with the Diamondbacks? Zach Davies gets the start for them and they have way more incentive than the White Sox, who just picked up their first series win since early August against the Red Sox. Chicago’s only incentive is to avoid 100 losses, though, as I mentioned, individual players have incentives.

Luis Robert Jr. is +330 to homer, though the weather looks awful in Chicago tonight. Rain around first pitch threatens this game all the way around. I think it’s just a stay-away game, but Urena is really, really bad.

TL;DR Recap

Brewers -1.5 (+124)

Rays -130

Reds -112

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