Road teams a hit -- except for D-backs

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

Back-to-back ninth inning homers lead the Cubs past the D-backs...road teams cash ticket after ticket in Thursday night action…plus, Johnny Manziel DOESN’T debut in Montreal after all. His coach sacre’ bleu it! Time to close out the week in VSiN City.

MLB Thursday: Busy Cubs rally to shock D-backs, then acquire Cole Hamels!

Thursday July 26 is a day baseball will long remember if the Chicago Cubs go on to win the 2018 World Series. Down 6-1 in the fifth inning, and 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cubs pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

Bottom of the Ninth

*Ben Zobrist Walked

*Javier Baez flew out

*David Bote hit a two-run homer to tie the game

*Anthony Rizzo hit a solo walk-off shot to win it

A closer look at the game numbers will drive home how unlikely a victory this was…

Chicago Cubs (pick-em) 7, Arizona 6 

Total Bases Plus Walks: Arizona 25, Chicago 18

Starting Pitchers: Godley 5.2 IP, 4 ER, Chatwood 4.2 IP, 4 ER

Bullpen: Arizona 2.2 IP, 3 ER, Chicago 4.1 IP, 2 ER

Arizona led Total Bases Plus Walks 25-9 entering the bottom of the ninth inning! D-backs still ended with enough production to pull off a 6-4 type win. Clutch performance for the Cubs as they get win #60, best in the National League. Arizona falls to 56-48. A four-game split has to feel like a gut punch after the D-backs won the first two games. 

Later Thursday, the Cubs acquired Cole Hamels in a trade with the Texas Rangers. Hamels had a horrific July with an ERA of 11.12. And you can’t blame hitting paradise Arlington for all of that. Hamels allowed seven earned runs in seven innings in two road starts against the anemic offenses of Baltimore and Detroit. Cubs are hoping he’ll return to prior norms. Can’t ever have enough pitching!

Note that Thursday’s starter, Tyler Chatwood, has astonishingly bad WHIP of 1.78 this season. Shouldn’t even be possible this close to August for a full-time rotation starter. The Cubs would like to avoid starting him in a playoff game. 

Thursday night’s NL card featured a pairing of teams that might end up seeing the Cubs come October…

LA Dodgers (-130) 8, Atlanta 2

Total Bases Plus Walks: Los Angeles 20, Atlanta 12

Starting Pitchers: Hill 7 IP, 0 ER, Sanchez 6.1 IP, 4 ER

Bullpen: Los Angeles 2 IP, 2 ER, Atlanta 2.1 IP, 3 ER

Dodgers were a bit fortunate to win THAT big. More like a 5-3 game in terms of what’s normal for those offensive base counts. Braves continue to regress back toward earlier expectations. Now 5-11 their last 16 under pennant race pressure. But, 54-45 for the season keeps them in the hunt. The Dodgers move to 57-46 as they try to chase down the Cubs for #1 seed. That’s 41-20 the last 61 games, 14-7 the last 21 for LAD. 

Some notes from other games…

*The NY Mets won at Pittsburgh 12-6. Another huge offensive game on the road for the Mets. We’ve mentioned to you a few times this season (and along the way in our New York Post articles) that the Mets’ offense has been much better than its reputation outside of Citi Field. NYM has quietly won six of its last nine games. Pittsburgh’s lost two in a row after an 11-game winning streak. 

*Philadelphia won at Cincinnati 9-4. Ranger Suarez wasn’t getting much market respect in his Major League debut for the Phillies. Phils cash here at plus 120 or so. Ranger didn’t exactly rock, allowing four earned runs in five innings. But, plenty of run support got him a win in his debut. Surprisingly hot Phillies are now 26-14 their last 40 games. That puts them 2.5 games ahead of the Braves in the NL East. Cincinnati is 2-5 since the All-Star Break, cooling way off after a stunning multi-week run. 

*Washington won at Miami 10-3. Nats back to the .500 mark at 51-51. Running out of time to find a higher gear. Miami actually has the better record the past 45 games even with this loss. 

*Tampa Bay won Baltimore 4-3. Ryan Yarbrough pitched 4.1 innings as the second arm on the hill in the Rays creative pitching experiment. So far, it looks like he’s really benefitted from this potential evolutionary tick. He’s only allowed eight earned runs in his last 29.2 innings in 10 appearances dating back to mid-June. That’s an ERA of 2.42. It had been 4.21 prior. 

Tampa Bay is now 50-38 since starting the season 3-12. Baltimore has been horrible from the get-go. But, more recently, 6-21 its last 27, and 10-33 its last 43. Rays were only -130 on the money line Thursday because the market just won’t buy what’s obviously working. 

*The New York Yankees buried Kansas City 7-2, while Boston was upset by Minnesota 2-1.

We want to talk about these in tandem because handicappers will have to deal with the AL East powers laying huge prices to AL Central cupcakes a lot in the coming weeks. Money lines are going to get ridiculously high (wait until you see Luis Severino’s number on Saturday!). Even laying -1.5 runs is going to be pricey. If you’re a chalk lover, be sure you think through the dangers fully. 

Oh, the Yankees pull back within 4.5 games of first place in the AL East with Thursday’s turn of events. 

*Oakland won at Texas 7-6. Incredible night for road teams across MLB! Imagine if Oakland got to hit in this ballpark all season. More on the amazing road offense of the A’s in a moment. Oakland is now 61-43 on the season, and a sizzling 27-7 its last 34 games. Wilting Texas is 4-16 its last 20. 

MLB Stats: Road offense stats a great indicator for real quality

Last week on “A Numbers Game,” Jonathan Von Tobel and I talked about how using offensive stats from ROAD games helps you get the most accurate read on a team’s true scoring ability. No pollution from home parks. This deep into the season, there’s plenty of sample size.

With the abbreviated sports schedule Thursday evening, we have room to update the numbers for all teams. As we did last week on the show, we’ll focus on runs-scored-per-game and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). 

Let’s start in the senior circuit. Stats are through Wednesday night's games because of publication deadlines...

National League (through Wednesday)

Los Angeles 5.2 runs, .767 OPS

Atlanta 5.1 runs, .784 OPS

Chicago 5.0 runs, .749 OPS

St. Louis 4.8 runs, .748 OPS

NY Mets 4.8 runs, .748 OPS

Cincinnati 4.7 runs, .744 OPS

Pittsburgh 4.6 runs, .736 OPS

We want to stop right here. Almost half the league is above the 4.5 benchmark. A lot of 2018 narratives are “explained” in this data. 

*You see the current market favorites to win the National League near the top…Los Angeles and Chicago. Both are offensive juggernauts. 

*You understand why Atlanta has been such a pleasant surprise in the NL East. 

*You get a sense of why St. Louis fired its manager. The offense was producing. But, former catcher Mike Metheny wasn’t doing enough with the pitching staff to stay near the top of the NL Central. 

*You’re reminded that the Mets have been shockingly successful on offense when not stuck in the pitching paradise of Citi Field. 

*You see why teams like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh can get hot in good scoring conditions or whenever they get any pitching. 

Let’s finish out the NL with the stragglers. 

Milwaukee 4.3 runs, .716 OPS

Colorado 4.3 runs, .694 OPS

Arizona 4.2 runs, .691 OPS

Washington 4.1 runs, .700 OPS

Miami 4.1 runs, .699 OPS

Philadelphia 4.1 runs, .691 OPS

San Francisco 3.5 runs, .674 OPS

San Diego 3.5 runs, .636 OPS

Plenty of contenders on this second list too. So many teams in the NL are contenders! But you can see what kind of trouble teams like Milwaukee, Arizona, or Philadelphia would have in the postseason if they run into the Cubs or Dodgers. Clearly inferior offenses compared to championship standards. Of course, you also see why Washington has been such a big disappointment to fans and bettors. 

Moving to the American League…

American League (through Wednesday)

Oakland 5.7 runs, .807 OPS

Houston 5.6 runs, .793 OPS

Boston 4.9 runs, .752 OPS

NY Yankees 4.8 runs, .754 OPS

LA Angels 4.7 runs, .746 OPS

Seattle 4.6 runs, .739 OPS

Minnesota 4.6 runs, .696 OPS

Let’s use the same cut-off at 4.5 runs. The leagues are surprisingly in sync this season considering one uses a designated hitter and the other doesn’t. Oakland and Houston are OFF THE CHARTS once you get them out of home parks that are great for pitchers. Fantastic. Boston and the NY Yankees also shine, unsurprisingly. Seattle’s surge to relevance is partly explained (though a great record in one-run games is also in play there). 

Cleveland 4.4 runs, .719 OPS

Toronto 4.4 runs, .708 IPS

Tampa Bay 4.2 runs, .717 OPS

Chicago White Sox 3.9 runs, .689 OPS

Texas 3.8 runs, .666 OPS

Kansas City 3.7 runs, .663 OPS

Detroit 3.5 runs, .652 OPS

Baltimore 3.4 runs, .647 OPS

Teams focused on “rebuilding” are clearly putting lineups on the field that aren’t going to score a lot of runs. That’s the bottom five in a nutshell. Don’t forget that Texas gets to play home games in a great scoring park. It’s not a good offensive team in terms of skill sets. 

Tampa Bay has to win pitchers’ duels with those low numbers. Cleveland can coast for six months before taking the playoffs seriously. Hard to know how much of 4.4 runs and a .719 OPS is “coasting,” or skill set deficiencies. 

As you handicap games this weekend, we strongly encourage you to use these “road only” numbers to evaluate offenses. 

CFL: Johnny Football doesn’t debut in Montreal after all

Even with extended garbage time, the Montreal Alouettes decided not to put Johnny Manziel on the field in Thursday night’s blowout loss to the Edmonton Eskimos. Head coach Mike Sherman had told media earlier this week Manziel would see action. Instead, starter Vernon Adams played, and mostly struggled the whole way. 

Edmonton (-10) 45 Montreal 23

Total Yardage: Edmonton 513, Montreal 349

Yards-per-Play: Edmonton 9.3, Montreal 7.6

Rushing Yards: Edmonton 98, Montreal 132

Passing Stats: Edmonton 24-32-0-415, Montreal 15-28-1-217

Turnovers: Edmonton 0, Montreal 1

The road team even cashed in the CFL! Montreal picked up some garbage yards and points after falling behind 41-15 in the fourth quarter. Biggest difference was in passing efficiency. Edmonton completed 75% for 415 yards and NO turnovers. Was the Montreal defense even on the field? Alouettes closer to 50% accuracy with lower volume.

We have to assume Sherman believed Manziel wasn’t ready yet. Adams wasn’t having a great game, and a losing result wasn’t in doubt from late in the second quarter on. 

Edmonton moves to 4-2 with the virtual scrimmage victory. Montreal falls to 1-5, hopefully counting down the minutes until Manziel can help make things interesting. 

This weekend’s remaining schedule…

Friday: Toronto (plus 10.5) at Winnipeg

Saturday: Ottawa (plus 6) at Hamilton

Saturday: Calgary (-6.5) at Saskatchewan

Bye: British Columbia

Here’s our latest estimate of “market” Power Ratings based on this weekend’s point spreads…

86: Calgary

84: Hamilton

83: Edmonton, Winnipeg

81: Ottawa

78: British Columbia

77: Saskatchewan

76: Toronto 

70: Montreal

Have a great weekend!

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