It’s hard to remember a time with as much high-profile action on the August trade market as we saw this MLB season. Justin Upton and Justin Verlander headlined the pieces on the move. We saw the Los Angeles Angels become buyers after selling at the non-waiver trade deadline and the Houston Astros reinforce their rotation after the Cleveland Indians appeared to take over as the AL favorites. With the Astros locked and loaded, the Indians ready for another run and the Boston Red Sox making a strong push, the American League could be interesting come October. For this month, most of the excitement comes from the mediocrity in the Wild Card hunt.
While the high-profile August moves stayed mostly in the AL, the National League cannot be outdone. The Los Angeles Dodgers are still the heavy World Series favorites. The Dodgers, however, were just swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who will be a dangerous October team out of the Wild Card spot. The Washington Nationals are starting to get some of their injured players back in the fold just in time to polish them up for the playoffs. The season is wearing down, but a number of teams still have plenty to play for and, because of that, we have several great matchups in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests this week.
MLB Pick for Monday, September 4: Baltimore Orioles over New York Yankees
The Yankees are sliding down toward the rest of the pack in the AL Wild Card race and are only a couple games up on the teams vying for the second spot. The Yanks are happy to see September roll in and August roll out. They suffered a losing month in August, going 14-15.
In their first 12 head-to-head meetings this year, the Baltimore Orioles are 7-5 against the Yankees and have outscored the Bronx Bombers by 38 runs. In general, the O’s have held their own against the AL East and have played well of late. They had a seven-game winning streak halted last Thursday, but they still managed to go 17-12 in August.
For the Orioles, pitching is always an issue. Or, more concisely, starting pitching is always an issue. The team is still giving Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman starts with little to no positive return.
While the pitching may be the ultimate downfall of this team, the one bright spot in the rotation has been Dylan Bundy. The young right-hander is 13-8 with a 3.94 ERA. He’s the only Baltimore starter with an ERA+ over 100. He’s the one guy that gives the team some certainty.
The 24-year-old is also coming off a one-hit shutout against the Mariners. He did throw 116 pitches in that start, though, and he is in uncharted territory in innings pitched. While there’s some concern about fatigue, he’s pitched well for five straight games, notching a quality start in each. He’s also recorded quality starts in both appearances against New York this year, allowing five runs in 13 innings of work.
The O’s bats are also red hot right now while the Yankees hitters have been much less productive in the second half. Aaron Judge is, obviously, the most pronounced of the sluggers slumping, but he’s not alone.
On the pitching side, Jaime Garcia is 0-2 with a 5.11 ERA since joining the Yankees five starts ago. The lefty is a serviceable mid-rotation arm, but he has had serious control issues since getting to the Bronx. He’s walked 16 batters and allowed four homers in 24.2 innings. If he continues to groove pitches in, the Birds have power to take advantage. They have six guys with at least 20 homers.
MLB Pick for Wednesday, September 6: Los Angeles Dodgers over Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks swept the Los Angeles Dodgers this past week as Los Angeles dropped five straight games for the first time in 2017.
The Dodgers’ struggles are new. We’ll have to see how they respond to the adversity. We already saw a glimpse of the old Yasiel Puig on Thursday. Is that a sign of things to come or just a mental error?
Given how dominant the Dodgers have been all year, and the fact this series takes place in Los Angeles, we are likely to see a different outcome. The D-Backs have played L.A. tough all year, splitting their first 16 meetings. They may steal another win in Dodger Stadium, but don’t look for it to come on Wednesday.
One player the Dodgers didn’t have in the three games in Arizona was Clayton Kershaw. He starts for LA on Wednesday.
This will only be Kershaw’s second start off the DL, but he looked like his old self in his last rehab appearances. In 21 games, he’s 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. He’s posting a strikeout-to- walk ratio of seven.
Simply put, Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, giving the Dodgers the edge every time he toes the rubber. After all, you’re only as good as your next day’s starter. When that starter is Kershaw, you’re pretty darn good.
Like everyone else, Kershaw has owned Arizona. In his career, he’s 14-8 against the D-Backs with a 2.55 ERA in 26 starts.
The Diamondbacks will counter with Taijuan Walker. He’s not a bad pitcher. In fact, he’s having a great year, holding a 3.55 ERA. He, however, is no Kershaw—nobody is.
MLB Pick for Thursday, September 7: Minnesota Twins over Kansas City Royals
While the last game featured an interesting pitching matchup, this game should be a higher-scoring affair with the better offensive club getting the win. Given the Kansas City Royals’ recent scoreless streak, that’s the Minnesota Twins.
The 45 straight scoreless innings and five-game losing streak may have effectively ended KC’s bid for October. The Royals are still mathematically in the hunt, but with so many teams so close together, long winning or losing streaks are huge. KC has now lost six of seven and has fallen well behind the Twins for the second Wild Card spot.
Head-to-head, the Twinkies are 8-4 against the Royals. However, this series is at Kauffman Stadium, where KC is a much better team. The Royals, however, are still sending out Ian Kennedy to start Thursday.
Kennedy is 4-10 with a 5.47 ERA. He’s been worse than that in his last few games. He’s combined for just 10 innings in his last three contests, allowing 15 runs. His ERA over his last six games is 9.57. He’s 0-4, allowing 40 hits—including nine homers—and 13 walks in 26.1 innings of work.
Minnesota’s starter hasn’t had a good year, either. Kyle Gibson will get the call and is 8-10 with a 5.59 ERA, but he’s at least thrown better lately. While Kennedy’s ERA is on the rise, Gibson’s is down from 6.05 as recently as August 22. In his last two starts, he’s thrown 13.2 innings, allowed 14 hits, three runs and just two walks.