We have to be better than this, Cubs. I have to be better than this. Thankfully, we didn’t get crushed due to the plays being half-unit sprinkles, but still, 0-3 is terrible. The under in the Rangers vs. Tigers game was such a good spot, in my opinion. The total closed at 7.5, a full run and a half difference from where we got it at +100. It lost. I would easily play both the Cubs and that under again.
The Diamondbacks was a different story. It was a gamble on a young pitcher who I had continued faith in after he showed more promise in his stint in the minors. He just can’t put it together at the big-league level yet, so that one is definitely on me.
Regardless, we are back in the saddle today with a few totals I really like for Friday’s slate.
2023 Straight Plays Record: 98-94 (+2.00 U)
I’m using BetMGM lines only this year. Here’s a link to get started with a risk-free $1000 bet.
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All Bullpen Screenshots are courtesy of Rotowire.
Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers @ 8:05 PM EST
Pitching Matchup: Ronel Blanco vs. Jon Gray
I’m willing to be hurt again. This is a classic spot to bet the under. The Astros are coming off 14 runs, and the Rangers just played in a game that ended with 13 runs. It’s a divisional game, and an important one at that, before the All-Star break. The Astros sit just five games back, so if they can take control of this series, they are putting themselves in a great spot to win the division. If the Rangers control this series, they lengthen their lead and establish themselves as the true front-runners going into the break. It’s what originally led me to the under in the first place, I think this opening game is very competitive, but more on the pitching side.
Jon Gray is not really a pitcher I’m looking to back in the second half. His 4.19 xERA and 4.39 SIERA tell us he’s more of a league-average pitcher rather than a high-end number two, as his 2.89 ERA would tell us. However, he does have a good matchup today, and I don’t think it’s this Astros team that’s going to start the regression train.
The Astros are still without Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley, so they don’t have any left-handed hitters outside of Kyle Tucker and Bligh Madris. You must stack left-handed hitters against Jon Gray, as they have always given him issues. Without left-handers, Gray can be extremely effective. Funny enough, the lone left-hander, Kyle Tucker, is 0-10 with five strikeouts against Gray. Gray has pretty solid stats against the Astros’ current roster, but they look like his normal peripherals. His opponent’s wOBA is a tiny .260 over 50 PA, but the xwOBA is .339.
A big factor in this is the Astros putting up 24 runs in the past two games. They scored 10+ in back-to-back games, mostly against Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright, and then a huge inning against Giovanny Gallegos. Jon Gray is a better arm than those starters and should be effective today with the Astros traveling in.
On the flip side, we have Ronel Blanco. Blanco is a back-of-the-rotation arm, with ERA estimators putting him in the high 4s to low 5s and his ERA sitting in the mid 4s. He’s nothing special, but he has a combination of pitches that could be effective.
The Rangers aren’t as good against fastballs as I thought they’d be. They are clearly good, but Corey Seager and Marcus Semien do have negative run values against fastballs. Blanco’s fastball is below average but could get away with it today. The biggest matchup to watch is these Rangers hitters against Blanco’s slider. It’s his most used pitch at 52% and an extremely good slider. He’s posted a 47% whiff rate and a .263 xwOBA against it. The Rangers can really hit sliders, but this is one of the better sliders in the league. I think he has a fine outing today over 4-5 innings.
The Astros have the clear bullpen advantage here, but as long as Gray can give them six innings, the Rangers should be fine in the back end. The Astros’ top five arms are all of those you see at the bottom. Fully rested and ready to go following Blanco. They can mix and match as they please with some high-level talent.
The Rangers will have their three best, Brock Burke, Josh Sborz, and Will Smith, ready to go.
9.5 is too many runs. The model has this game capped at 8.5, which is what I think the line would be if the last two days didn’t happen. Play to 9 at -110; anything lower than that, I would lower your unit size.
The Pick: Astros vs. Rangers Under 9.5 (-125) 1 U to win 0.8 U
Minnesota Twins vs. Baltimore Orioles @ 7:05 PM EST
Pitching Matchup: Pablo Lopez vs. Deam Kremer
We’ve spoken about the humidity in Baltimore right now, which is making hitting the baseball that much easier. We took the over in two of the games with the Reds and Orioles, both hitting with ease. The one time we didn’t was when ace-level pitchers were squaring off. With similar weather conditions and a lack of ace pitching, the over is the play once again.
Pablo Lopez is a very solid pitcher who’s had plenty of success on the road this season, but I wouldn’t want to face the Orioles right now. Especially at home against righties, where they have a 143 wRC+ and a .872 OPS, both ranked third in June. Lopez also has issues against left-handed hitters historically; left-handed hitters have an above-average wRC+ and OPS against him. The Orioles can fill their lineup with left-handed bats; Mullins, Rutschman, O’Hearn, Santander, Gunnar, Hicks, and Frazier.
For example, if Jon Gray faced the Orioles, I would be fading him. The Astros might only have one left-handed hitter today, while the Orioles can stack seven against Lopez.
On the other side, we have Deam Kremer. Kremer is another back-of-the-rotation arm with an alarming xERA of 5.73, placing him in the ninth percentile. I rarely will ever back the Twins, but in this matchup, they should succeed against a fly-ball pitcher like Dean Kremer. The Twins are a league-average offense against right-handed pitching since May, with a 99 wRC+, but their big issue is the strikeouts. They strike out way too much, and it stalls runs.
Luckily, Kremer isn’t a strikeout guy, posting a below average strikeout rate sitting in the 32nd percentile. Kremer fills the zone with below-average stuff, which should end up helping the Twins. Kremer is also far worse against lefties, posting a .894 OPS. The Twins can put out; Julien, Kirloff, Kepler, Gallo, and Castro. Those are some solid left-handers with all better splits against righties.
The Twins’ bullpen is ready to go, but it’s barren at the moment. Jorge Lopez and Brock Stewart, two of their best, are on the IL. Johan Duran and Griffin Jax will be available, but beyond that, it’s a bunch of below-average bullpen arms. As good as Duran and Jax have been, I have no reason to believe that the Orioles can’t hit them; they are elite against righties.
The Orioles bullpen has different issues. They are fantastic but not well-rested. After going deep into games against the Reds and dealing with multiple rain delays, plenty of the best arms got a lot of use. They are still good but aren’t as lethal as they would be with rest.
I bet this because I would have bet it at nine. This should be at nine, and the line is headed there. The model has this game capped closer to 9, so this is less of a model value play and more on my evaluation of the game. I like at least nine runs, but I think this has the potential of a 6-5 type of game.