Nationals (+130) vs Phillies (-150)
The Philadelphia Phillies will be going for a four-game sweep of the Washington Nationals on Thursday. The Phils have gotten to within a game and a half of first place in the NL East and will try to keep it going against the struggling Nats. The Phillies are -150 road favorites in Thursday’s game while Washington’s moneyline is listed at +130.
Aaron Nola is scheduled to get the start for Philly on Thursday. Nola isn’t having his best season, although he’s 7-6 with a 4.30 ERA over 21 starts. He spent part of July on the IL but has come back strong in his three starts since returning, covering 20 innings while yielding seven runs on just 14 hits. The only caveat is that he tends to have his worst starts on the road, pitching to a 5.29 ERA in his 12 starts away from home this year.
But whether the Nats have a lineup that can take advantage of that remains to be seen. To their credit, Washington’s lineup has produced 14 runs over the first three games of the series despite losing each game. Even after losing a few key pieces at the trade deadline, the Nats are getting unexpected production from players like Carter Kieboom and Yadiel Hernandez. The problem is that Juan Soto has gone cold in recent days, taking away Washington’s best hitter.
On the mound, Joe Ross will get a chance to face the Phillies on Thursday. His 5-9 record in 2021 is a little misleading because Ross has pitched to a solid 4.00 ERA over his 18 starts. Unfortunately for Ross, after a brilliant month of June in which he pitched to a 1.95 ERA, he went on the IL for most of July. He conceded four earned runs on seven hits over 4.1 innings in his last start, making the Nationals a little less sure of what to expect from him moving forward.
To make things worse for Ross, he’ll be facing a Philadelphia lineup that must be operating with a ton of confidence right now. While they ended July on a down note, the Phils have already scored 36 runs over the first four days of August. Everything seems to be clicking into place for the Philadelphia lineup with Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Jean Segura all heating up at the same time. The supporting cast is also contributing lately, giving the Phillies as much lineup depth as they’ve had all year.
Early indications are that the sharps are going along with the Phillies in this game. While the Nats haven’t been that bad swinging the bats lately, the sharps don’t believe that will continue against Nola, at least enough to keep pace with a red-hot Philadelphia lineup. At the trade deadline, the Nationals more or less told the league that they’re throwing in the towel in 2021. Meanwhile, the Phillies look like they’re finally ready to make their move in the NL East. Both the sharps and the betting public are buying into the Phillies right now with a majority of bettors from both parties putting down money on Philly to complete the sweep of Washington on Thursday.
Pick: Phillies -150
Astros (-255) vs Twins (+205)
There is a lopsided matchup on the MLB schedule for Thursday, as the Houston Astros are beginning a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins. The Astros have had a difficult week and just split a pair of games with the Dodgers. But they hope that inviting the Twins to Minute Maid Park can help to get them going. Naturally, Houston is a heavy favorite on Thursday with a moneyline of -255 compared to Minnesota’s moneyline of +205.
Framber Valdez will get his turn to start for the Astros on Thursday. The lefty was on the IL until late May but has quickly made up for lost time. In 12 starts, he’s already won seven games while pitching to a 3.01 ERA, taking another step forward. For what it’s worth, Valdez registered a modest 4.05 ERA over his six starts in July. However, he’s allowed two runs or less in nine of his 12 starts this year, so he almost always gives the potent Houston lineup a chance to win.
Of course, the Minnesota lineup is no pushover despite losing some pieces via trades in July. Over their last eight games, the Twins have averaged 4.9 runs per game. Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez are both red-hot at the moment, taking ownership over the Minnesota lineup. Andrelton Simmons has also come on strong lately while the Twins wait for Max Kepler and Miguel Sano to get going again.
The problem for the Twins is they also traded multiple starters at the deadline, which means rookie Griffin Jax will start on Thursday. In his three starts and four relief appearances this year, Jax has produced a 6.41 ERA. But that ERA is a little misleading if you’ve seen his last two starts. Over his last nine innings, Jax has conceded just two runs on three hits, having his way with both the White Sox and Cardinals.
The obvious caveat is that Jax has never faced a lineup like the one the Astros have. The Dodgers managed to slow down Houston’s lineup a little, but this is still the same lineup that averaged 8.4 runs per game during the last five days of July. Over their last five games, the Astros have hit 11 home runs by eight different players. Michael Brantley is scorching-hot at the moment while Aledmys Diaz is filling in nicely for Alex Bregman, hitting three of those 11 home runs. Kyle Tucker is also someone to watch given the way he’s swung the bat in recent days.
Naturally, most people will flock to pick the Astros to win this game. But with such lopsided moneylines, there is little financial upside to picking Houston to win. The question to ask is whether Jax has a chance to keep the Astros under wraps and give the Minnesota lineup a fighting chance to score enough runs against Valdez and the Houston bullpen to pull off an upset.
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With two months left in the MLB season, we’ve reached the point in the season when every team has played over 100 games. We have more than enough data on all 30 teams to know what every team is all about. What teams are best in what situations and what teams struggle in certain situations. Of course, some of that could change a little after all of the movement during the trade deadline. But we shouldn’t see any drastic changes down the stretch. For example, we have a strong understanding of what teams are just a little bit better than usual against either right-handed or left-handed starters, which can make a big difference for bettors when putting down money on a game.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants have been one of the best teams in baseball all season, in part because of their ability to mash against right-handed pitchers, who they face far more often than left-handed starters. Needless to say, left-handed hitters like Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt having resurgent seasons has been the biggest catalyst in San Francisco’s success against righties. When we say success, we mean a .648 winning percentage against righties compared to a modest .625 winning percentage overall. However, San Francisco’s left-handed heavy outfield with players like Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, and Steven Duggar has also been a big factor in the Giants giving righties headaches. Somehow, the addition of Kris Bryant at the trade deadline isn’t likely to make things any easier.
After looking a little sluggish over the first month or two of the season, the Brewers have seized complete control of the NL Central. One of the team’s biggest keys has been its success against right-handed starters. Overall, the Brew Crew has a .590 winning percentage but a .614 winning percentage against right-handed starters. This makes sense when you remember that former MVP Christian Yelich is anchoring the lineup. But Avisail Garcia, Kolten Wong, Omar Narvaez, Travis Shaw, and Daniel Vogelbach also give Milwaukee a healthy contingent of left-handed hitters. Meanwhile, Luis Urias and Willy Adames have both been far more productive against righties than lefties, which further explains why the Brewers are one of the three best teams to bet on when facing a right-handed starter.
When it comes to facing lefties, nobody does it better than the Mariners. On the season, Seattle has a .533 winning percentage, but that bumps up to .579 when they face a lefty. To be fair, Seattle’s rotation gives them a chance to win virtually every game they play. However, the Seattle lineup is particularly lethal against southpaws. It starts with Mitch Haniger, who is the team’s only hitter with an OPS over .800 on the season. Naturally, he’s even better against lefties. The likes of Ty France, Kyle Seager, Tom Murphy, and Dylan Moore are also better when facing lefties. Finally, catcher Luis Torrens has come on strong lately and is at his best when facing lefties. He’s hit seven of his 12 homers this year against lefties and has an OPS over .900 against them whereas his overall OPS is just .750.
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