Just like that, we are now in the dog days of August. This is where the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders.
We’ve already seen the NL playoff picture become rather clear. With the Milwaukee Brewers sliding, we could be down to the final ten teams in short order. As for the AL, the wild card situation is still up in the air.
With September and October inching closer and closer, each game is more magnified. With the added importance down the stretch, we should see our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests filled with great picks.
MLB Pick For Monday, August 7: Baltimore Orioles over Los Angeles Angels
Going into Friday, the Angels and Orioles both sat under .500, but neither are out of the picture in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Kansas City Royals seem to have the edge for that berth, but the O’s did just sweep the Royals while the Angels are also playing good baseball, aided by a nice run against last-place teams.
To kick off the series in Anaheim, the Orioles will turn to their de facto ace, Dylan Bundy. He is 10-8 with a 4.24 ERA and is the only O’s starter with a sub-5 ERA save for Jeremy Hellickson, who has made just one start for Baltimore.
Bundy pitched wonderfully early on but was part of the epic pitching collapse midseason. He’s already eclipsed his innings from last year, and fatigue could start to be a concern. For now, however, he seems to have re-found himself, holding the red-hot Royals offense scoreless on just three hits in eight innings.
Meanwhile, J.C. Ramirez is essentially having the same season as Bundy. He is 10-9 with a 4.03 ERA and is coming off eight scoreless innings against a much easier Philadelphia lineup.
The big difference between these teams right now may be the offense. The Orioles have scored more runs than any other AL team since the All-Star break and has a .806 team OPS. They even showed well after falling behind 7-0 on Thursday, coming back to make it a close game against Detroit.
For the O’s, it’s usually about starting pitching. While they are usually dismal on the road, Bundy threw well last time out. Additionally, the O’s offense is deeper than the Angels, and its bullpen has many more proven quantities.
MLB Pick For Tuesday, August 8: Cleveland Indians over Colorado Rockies
Tuesday marks the first game of a brief two-game interleague series between a pair of mid-market contenders. The Rockies have been one of the bigger surprises this year, but they have faded into the background within the national headlines. They’re buried in the NL West and have such a sizeable lead in the Wild Card standings that there don’t appear to be too many storylines.
Of course, looks can be deceiving. The Rockies have been struggling on the mound for quite some time now as the luster of their talented young rotation has worn off. Now, the rookies are left trying to re-adjust to the league. That includes Tuesday’s starter: Antonio Senzatela. The 22-year old rookie right-hander is 10-4 and got off to a torrid start. His ERA was 3.56 after a quality start against the Indians on June 6. Since then, he’s been in and out of the rotation. He’s also allowed 26 runs in 32 innings, jumping his season ERA to 4.70
The Rockies are also dealing with an injury to closer Greg Holland’s finger, making the end of the game just as big of a question as the start of it. What’s particularly troublesome for this matchup is the Rockies are going against Carlos Carrasco for the Indians in Cleveland. Colorado is truly built for Coors Field, and the team is 29-27 away from home but 33-20 at Coors heading into Friday.
Carrasco will be coming off a no decision against the Red Sox, where he lasted just 1.2 innings and allowed five runs. Still, his 10-4 record matches Senzatela’s, while his 3.89 ERA, strikeout to walk ratio of four and 1.15 WHIP all overshadow Senzatela’s production.
On the mound, there’s no comparison between these two teams provided Carrasco can bounce back from his latest start. His previous two starts were quality outings. Meanwhile, in the pen—even with Andrew Miller on the disabled list—the Indians have more options.
At the plate, Colorado’s been the best offense since the break. In the second half, the team has scored 118 runs and has posted an .891 OPS. Of course, the Coors effect plays into that. Cleveland has scored 18 fewer runs with a .792 OPS.
At Progressive Field in Cleveland, the numbers should even out a bit more. With the Rockies’ young starter showing signs of fatigue while the Tribe goes to one of their aces, Cleveland should come away victorious.
MLB Pick For Thursday, August 10: New York Yankees over Toronto Blue Jays
Last year, the Yankees were the talk of the trade deadline because of the young prospects they acquired. This year, New York stole the show adding a number of pieces, including a big bat and a few key bullpen pieces. The real prize, however, was Sonny Gray. He starts for the Bronx Bombers on Thursday.
It will be Gray’s second start in pinstripes. In his first, he lasted six innings against the Indians in a loss, giving up four runs—two earned—on four hits and three walks. The numbers were far from stellar, but the young right-hander threw better than the numbers suggest. The defense behind him was bad, committing three errors in the first inning.
Gray got out of that inning allowing just two runs, minimizing the damage and threw well before tiring in the sixth. He struck out six in his six frames.
In his career, Gray is 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA in six starts against the Jays. Jose Bautista is the only current Blue Jay with much success against him. He’s batting 6-for-15 with a home run, but his bat has slowed way down this year. Meanwhile, Justin Smoak has the most at-bats against Gray, but he’s just 2-for-20 with nine strikeouts.
Gray has looked very good on the mound the last couple of months. He should continue to produce and can turn the ball over to a strong Yankee bullpen. The reinforcements of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle are already paying off.
The offense is the area of concern for New York right now. Joe Giardi just have Aaron Judge a day off. The slugger has looked more like the flailing prospect that struck out half of his at-bats in 2016 than the dynamic face-of-baseball we saw in the first half. Judge’s slump has trickled down to the rest of the team. One of the best offenses outside of Houston before the break, they’re ranked No. 23 in runs scored since the All-Star break.
Can Marco Estrada take advantage of the Yankees’ offensive woes? He is coming off a strong start against the White Sox, allowing a single run in seven innings. That’s a positive sign for a starter with a 4-7 record and 5.19 ERA, but Chicago is a team that’s been decimated by trades. In Estrada’s five previous starts, he went five innings just once. In his last start against New York, he allowed six runs in 4.2 innings.
This is a great opportunity for Gray to get on the board with his first Yankees win prior to his Yankee Stadium debut.