By: Al Walsh – Follow him on Twitter @14AdotWalsh
* 2019 MLB Record: 82-64-4 (56.2%) * <— includes Monday’s KC/CHW continuation game
[7:10 p.m. EST] Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays (1.5-run line: -124)
TOR: Trent Thornton – R (1-4, 4.42 ERA/1.27 WHIP)
TB: Blake Snell – L (3-4, 3.07 ERA/1.01 WHIP)
The Rays are massive favorites tonight and it comes with plenty of good reasoning. So much, in fact, that their 1.5-run line odds are the highest SK Trend Confidence rating of the evening. Tampa comes in winning five of its last six games, with all of the victories coming by two runs or more.
Blake Snell takes the mound for the Rays and he’s been outstanding of late, allowing a total of four runs and striking out 37 batters over his last 24 1/3 innings of work. That’s bad news for the Blue Jays, who own the third-worst wOBA (.275) and ninth-worst K-rate (25.2%) against left-handed pitching. Snell faced Toronto already once this season and allowed only one hit and one walk while striking out nine over six innings. The current Blue Jays’ roster also has a microscopic .145 batting average and .217 on-base percentage in 68 plate appearances against Snell.
No surprise at all that Toronto has the lowest IRT (2.9) on tonight’s slate, considering their .234 wOBA and .118 ISO marks against left-handed pitching over the last 14 days.
Trent Thornton takes the mound for the Blue Jays and he’ll have a tough task as the Rays rank fourth in wRC+ (116) and seventh in wOBA (.340) against right-handed pitching this season. Control has been an issue for Thornton of late, with nine of them issued in his last 17 2/3 innings of work. Back on April 12, the Rays rocked him in Tampa for eight hits and five runs (three homers) over three innings.
It’s a massive mismatch of starting pitchers at Tropicana Field, so look for the Rays to take the early lead and coast to victory tonight.
* Final Score Prediction: Tampa Bay Rays: 6 – Toronto Blue Jays: 0 *
[7:20 p.m. EST] Over 10.5 (-106) – Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (1.5-run line: +120)
WSH: Anibal Sanchez – R (0-6, 5.10 ERA/1.68 WHIP)
ATL: Kevin Gausman – R (2-3, 4.33 ERA/1.22 WHIP)
We just talked about the team with the lowest IRT of the night, so it’s only right to gloat about the team with the highest of the night. Atlanta’s 6.0 IRT tops them all and we get even better news since it increased +0.8 from the 5.2-mark initially set, while they also have the highest moneyline increase of the night.
Folks, I start putting down-payments on yachts when I see movement like this! Sure, the moneyline sounds fun, but getting plus-money on the 1.5-run line here is the Woodstock of sports betting.
Anibal Sanchez gets the ball fresh off the injured list, and that’s good news for the Braves. The aging righty has yet to win a game and the Nats have lost seven of his nine starts this season. I talk about it in this space all the time, but Washington’s bullpen is absolutely terrible and there’s a good chance we’ll see plenty of them tonight.
While Sanchez might not give up a ton of homers, the Braves will likely put plenty of guys on base tonight. Atlanta is tied for eighth in MLB with a .334 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching and Sanchez has allowed more hits (46) than innings pitched (42 1/3), and his 25 walks won’t help either.
Kevin Gausman had some rough outings to close out April, but this is a new month. The veteran righty has three consecutive quality starts and hasn’t allowed one homer since the calendar flipped to May. I’m not expecting a career-defining performance from Gausman tonight but certainly one that’ll give the Braves some breathing room throughout the game.
* Final Score Prediction: Atlanta Braves: 10 – Washington Nationals: 4 *
[8:10 p.m. EST] Under 9 – Chicago Cubs (ML: -108) at Houston Astros
CHC: Kyle Hendricks – R (4-4, 3.34 ERA/1.18 WHIP)
HOU: Wade Miley – L (5-2, 3.32 ERA/1.16 WHIP)
The Astros suffered yet another devastating injury with the loss of Carlos Correa – he’ll join Jose Altuve and George Springer on the injured list. While they’ve done a fine job of navigating without the latter two, this one might be too much to overcome. Vegas knows the deal, and that’s why Houston’s IRT decreased a whopping -0.6 (5.1 to 4.5) for tonight’s game.
When we look at the two starting pitchers for this game, we might not expect much. But that’s a big mistake.
Kyle Hendricks is the homeless man’s Greg Maddux, in that he’s able to get the job done without ever reaching 90 mph on the radar gun. With a depleted Astros’ lineup, look for them to struggle against getting into a rhythm with this crafty right-hander.
Wade Miley is basically the left-handed version of Hendricks, and he’s coming off a season-high eight-strikeout performance against the Red Sox. The Cubs have top-10 advanced metrics against lefties this season, but Miley has only allowed more than three runs once in his 11 starts.
At the end of the day, I like the Cubs to play some desperate baseball and avoid the sweep with their better top-to-bottom lineup. But it won’t be a high-scoring affair.
* Final Score Prediction: Chicago Cubs: 4 – Houston Astros: 2 *