The Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians have been the talk of baseball the last couple of weeks because of their respective winning streaks, and one is still going strong. While the positive news is always more fun, the negative is just as important to bettors. That brings us to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s amazing just how far the mighty have fallen. While the Dodgers are still a mortal lock for the NL West and the best record in baseball, they look mighty vulnerable down the stretch. They are no longer the near-locks they once were. In fact, they’re now getting some very favorable lines that you can take advantage of when this team turns it back around.
With the rollercoaster ups-and-downs in full effect through the first part of September, we’ve seen a ton of great matchups already earn savvy bettors a great deal of cash. September is always a volatile time in baseball given the expanded rosters and the haves versus have-nots. The season is wearing down and the playoff picture is getting clearer and clearer by the minutes. We effectively know all but one of the NL playoff teams, leaving the last Wild Card the only open item. The New York Yankees could, in theory, catch the Boston Red Sox, but the other divisions are wrapped up. The AL, like the NL, essentially boils down to the second Wild Card.
While the teams still playing for their postseason lives have been limited, several great matchups remain for this week in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests.
MLB Pick for Tuesday, September 12: Houston Astros over Los Angeles Angels
Houston’s newfound ace gets his second start for his new club on Tuesday after a strong debut against Seattle, allowing one run on six hits in six innings. He struck out seven. In an interesting pairing, he’ll match up against Angels ace Garrett Richards, who is making only his third start of the season.
In 2014, Richards broke out as one of the better starters in the AL, but he’s been unable to sustain that distinction since due to injuries. His 2017 season bears that out. In his two starts, he’s totaled eight innings and allowed one run. He’s thrown the ball well as the pitch count ramps up, but he’s just not on the mound enough.
We’ll see how Richards does on Tuesday. He only threw 3.1 innings in his last start, as the team pulled him when he started to get into trouble after only 52 pitches. His leash will continue to be short given the reinforced bullpen. Verlander’s leash will continue to be long and rightfully so. He’s with the Astros to put up innings and lead the staff to the World Series.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Angels are surely better than when they faced the Astros at the end of last month. They’ve added Brandon Phillips and Justin Upton, two of their top three hitters in the lineup. That gives Mike Trout some added protection while easing the pressure on C.J. Cron and Kole Calhoun.
Even with the upgrade, however, Houston’s lineup remains deeper. They don’t have Trout, but they have Jose Altuve. They also have Carlos Correa, George Springer and the ever-versatile Marwin Gonzalez. The Houston ‘pen is also deeper and much more proven. That supports the 8-5 series record in favor of the Astros in 2017. Now, Houston will send a former Cy Young Award winner and MVP against the team from Anaheim.
MLB Pick for Wednesday, September 13: Los Angeles Dodgers over San Francisco Giants
It’s not quite the famed Clayton Kershaw versus Madison Bumgarner pitching matchup that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing a few times per year, but Johnny Cueto—when he’s on—is a solid substitute. He’s had a rough year, but there’s a reason he was the NL’s All-Star game starter in 2016. The dude has good stuff. It just hasn’t always been there in 2017. In fact, he hasn’t thrown a quality start since June 24.
That last statement, though, does minimize how he’s pitched the last couple months. He was injured all of August and has only five starts in that span. He’s also allowed just three runs in 10.1 innings over his last two starts, missing out on the distinction based on quantity rather than quality of innings.
On the year, Cueto has pitched a bit better at home than on the road, so that’s at least one point in his favor. He’s also thrown well against the Dodgers in his career, but there’s a bigger factor to the outcome of this game than all of that. His name is Clayton Kershaw.
He is the best pitcher in baseball, and a team is only as good as its next-day starter. While Los Angeles has really slumped lately, the Dodgers had won 16 straight starts of the southpaw before he struggled to shut down the Rockies in his latest start, failing to go four frames.
That bad game shouldn’t be looked at as anything more. Kershaw has been too consistent for too long. Besides, he thrives in this heated rivalry. Lifetime, he’s 20-9 with a 1.62 ERA.
The pitching advantage in this game is straight forward. San Fran’s lack of a proven bullpen compared to the Dodgers’ NL-best ‘pen just exacerbates the issues. Kershaw will go deep in the game, but having them back there just in case is nice. Having Kenley Jansen to slam the door is even nicer.
When you factor in the offensive side of things, the Dodgers have a ton more threats to consider even though they are slumping. LA is still in better position than the Buster Posey-or-bust Giants.
MLB Pick for Thursday, September 14: Cleveland Indians over Kansas City Royals
Cleveland’s run is simply mind-boggling. Heading into Saturday’s action, the team had won 16 consecutive games, effectively burying any fringe competitors from that division, including the Minnesota Twins and these very same Kansas City Royals.
On the year, Cleveland owns the 9-6 advantage head-to-head, making the series much closer than one might expect given each team’s place in the standings.
Josh Tomlin is scheduled to start for the Tribe on Thursday. He’s pitched better in his last few outings after a very rough start. Tomlin is one of those pitchers who thrives on location and command. He doesn’t walk anybody, making the batters work their way on. Sometimes that backfires, as he can get too much of the plate. That’s plagued him from time to time, but when he’s putting the ball where he wants to, he can be as good as anyone. We saw that in the postseason last year.
Jakob Junis has had the better season overall. He’s 7-2 with a 4.47 ERA. He’s provided quality outings and given KC a chance to win more often than not. The Royals have done just that with him on the bump, which is reflected in his record.
Junis is a serviceable arm, but he struggled in his only appearance against the Indians, allowing four runs in 2.1 innings in relief.
Offensively, we saw the Royals bats choke for an epic scoreless stretch earlier this year. Some bats have heated up but not enough to make KC a top-end offensive club.
Lastly, what made the Royals great in years past were: a lockdown bullpen, great team speed and a high contact rate at the plate. The Royals are still good at putting the ball in play, but the ‘pen isn’t as deep as Cleveland’s nor is the team speed much of an advantage.
Tomlin is throwing well right now, and the Indians are finding new ways to win every night. Right now, the trends are very much in Cleveland’s favor for Thursday.