Saturday is an exciting day on the mound, as Clayton Kershaw and Shane Baz are set to make highly anticipated returns. While it’d be great to see the future Hall of Famer and burgeoning ace dominate, consider watching their comebacks from a distance before putting any money on the line.
The day’s probable starters run the gamut in terms of age. Charlie Morton, Adam Wainwright, Patrick Corbin, and Madison Bumgarner will all look to prove they have something left, while Hunter Greene, MacKenzie Gore, and George Kirby have another chance to showcase sky-high ceilings.
Two of the following three wagers come at the expense of those grizzled veterans, whose fortunes could run out soon.
Phillies at Diamondbacks: Run Line
I typically steer clear of MLB run lines, especially on a favorite not offering a substantial return. Yet, all things considered, -118 might be generous for this afternoon’s matchup at Arizona.
Perhaps temporarily jolted into action by Joe Girardi’s firing, the Phillies have won eight straight games while outscoring opponents 60-24. That’s only taken them to 29-29, but they carry a plus-36 run differential. After suffering some misfortune against a brutal schedule, they get an easier adversary in the Diamondbacks. Despite their similar 28-32 record, they have conversely overperformed on a minus-44 scoring margin.
Philadelphia sends a cruising Zack Wheeler to the mound. Shoulder soreness and an illness sent his spring prep into disarray, but the righty has recovered in a resounding fashion. His ERA now stands at 3.14 with seven consecutive quality starts. During that stretch, he’s compiled 56 strikeouts in 44.2 innings despite making difficult road outings against the Mets, Dodgers, and Atlanta. The ace will bring a 2.30 FIP into Chase Field, where the Diamondbacks are batting .210/.301/.350.
On the flip side, Bumgarner has mustered a 3.64 ERA despite some troubling metrics. His current 8.4% K-BB rate would represent the worst mark of the lefty’s decorated 14-year career. He’s already served up 16 barrels in 12 starts, and a 7.1% swinging-strike rate is the fifth-lowest among 87 starting pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.
The Phillies are the better team with the far superior pitching matchup. They should stay hot with another decisive win as long as their troubling defense and bullpen don’t interfere too much.
Pick: Phillies -1.5 ( -118 on FanDuel, -120 on DraftKings)
Cincinnati Reds: Team Total Runs
The Reds got shut out for the second time in their last three games Friday. They’ve tallied an NL-low 20 wins entering Saturday’s showdown against Wainwright, who’s maintained last year’s success with a 2.73 ERA.
I’m not endorsing an upset, but four runs isn’t a major hurdle.
Despite their doldrums, the Reds are averaging 4.3 runs per contest. Furthermore, they’ve offered league-average offense with a 100 wRC+ over the last 30 days. Since returning from the IL on May 20, Joey Votto has batted .312/.432/.701 in 20 games. Kyle Farmer has a 183 wRC+ during that same time frame, and Tommy Pham’s hard contact (on baseballs) is starting to yield more results.
Wainwright continues to excel with a high-80s heater, but he’s not quite as sharp as last season. The 40-year-old’s K-BB rate has declined from 15.0 to 9.7%. While he’s still stellar at limiting hard contact, his 85.4% contact rate matches Cal Quantrill for the highest contact rate of any qualified starter. No starter has generated fewer swinging strikes.
While he’s relinquished eight runs in his last six starts, Wainwright surrendered four runs at Cincinnati in April. Giovanny Gallegos also likely won’t be available in relief after throwing 33 pitches yesterday. There’s a notable discrepancy on the Reds’ run total, so go to FanDuel for a better line.
Pick: Over 3.5 (+104 on FanDuel, -110 on DraftKings)
Framber Valdez to Record a Win
You might say betting on a pitcher to win is risky. You might be saying far meaner things to your screen right now. You’re probably right. Everyone reading Pitcher List should know this is a silly stat that’s virtually impossible to predict. Case in point: Framber Valdez has won each of his last five starts after going the previous five turns without a victory.
But if there’s ever a time to bite, it’s here.
The oddsmakers obviously expect the Astros to defeat the Marlins at home. They’re -275 favorites on DraftKings, and even the -1.5 run line only carries -130 odds. There’s no use in touching either of those bets. Miami possesses baseball’s lowest wRC+ (74) and highest strikeout rate (29.2%) against lefties. DraftKings recognizes these trends by setting his strikeout prop at 5.5, with the over only netting a -160 payout despite the 28-year-old averaging just 5.0 punchouts per contest. To bet his outs recorded prop, you’ll have to trust him retiring a batter beyond the sixth inning.
In other words, there’s a good chance of Valdez leaving this game in good shape. He’s thrown eight consecutive quality starts, averaging seven innings per turn with only 13 combined runs surrendered. The southpaw has lowered his season ERA to 2.61 with a 3.32 FIP and an MLB-leading 65.5% ground-ball rate.
Meanwhile, the first-place Astros will take hacks against Braxton Garrett, who allowed four runs in 3.1 during his first big-league outing this season. There’s a good chance Valdez hands a lead to the back end of his bullpen, which currently boasts baseball’s best ERA (2.65). Wagering on a win is an unconventional, but warranted method of getting exposure to this savory matchup.
Pick: Yes (+100 on DraftKings)
Andrew Gould Overall Record: 12-14-1
Net Money (Assuming all wagers are $100): -$154.82
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)