Even Dodgers’ Kershaw Won’t Scare Cardinals on Thursday

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 5:05 PM UTC

Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2018 5:05 PM UTC

St. Louis hosts Los Angeles on Thursday evening on MLB Network. A pair of southpaws face off, the perennial Kershaw and the relative nobody who will emerge as the victor.

Los Angeles Dodgers at St. LouisThursday, 7:15 p.m. ET (MLB Network)Free MLB Pick: Cardinals MLBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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L.A.’s Clayton Kershaw (7-5, 2.42 ERA) seems to be doing very well, and in a sense he is — he has allowed two runs or fewer in nine consecutive starts. But his form is deeply troubling in another sense that makes him a very bad matchup for the Cards. Kershaw has allowed four homers in his last three starts. His increased opposing home run rate corresponds to a higher opposing fly ball rate. His last three opponents have flied out at a rate significantly higher than his season average. This tendency is meaningful because the Cardinals are notoriously home-run dependent. They rank 12th in runs per game but sixth in homers per game. The Cards are the perfect team to exploit Kershaw’s increased vulnerability to batters elevating his pitches,

Kershaw’s fastball usage has been steadily declining every month. But it’s still his second-favorite pitch. He throws it with 40 percent frequency. His favorite pitch is his slider, which he throws with 41 percent frequency. He relies on his fastball especially to start the count, although he’s able to work backwards and finish off batters with it. Throughout his career, his fastball velocity has steadily been declining and so has its horizontal movement, transforming from glove-side to arm-side horizontal movement. Opponents have exploited its lack of quality, especially lately. His last three opponents slugged over .600 against it.

His slider velocity has, like his fastball velocity, wavered throughout the year as he has dealt with different injuries. Lately, it’s consistently clocked at a solid 88 mph. Its movement is very unique, characterized by strong and negative vertical and arm-side movement. He concentrates it with 45 percent frequency in the lowest row of the zone. These ingredients combine to make it a consistently effective pitch. But problematically, its his favorite two-strike pitch and the stuff that he relies on before getting the batter to two strikes has been yielding consistently negative results.

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St. Louis’ Austin Gomber (5-0, 2.93 ERA) has yielded an FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) under 2.75 in his last three starts. Gomber has been a hidden gem for bettors, yielding +6.6 units because the Cards are 7-1 when he starts.

The southpaw Gomber throws his fastball with 51 percent frequency. He relies on it most in all scenarios except when he’s ahead of the count and when he’s pitching with two strikes, in which case he features his famous curveball. Batters are hitting .177 against his curve because of its intensely tricky, strong negative vertical and arm-side movement. He’s also able to stay unpredictable with it by concentrating its location with 44 percent frequency in the lowest row of the strike zone but also varying its location by elevating it in different parts of the zone. His slider is his other favorite breaking pitch. It boasts strong 88 mph velo and funkily combines arm-side and vertical movement. He places it with 39 percent frequency in the three lowest-left spots in the strike zone. These ingredients allow opponents to hit only .234 against it. His fastball has respectable velocity and arm-side movement and he commands it well in all parts of the plate. It’s not as vulnerable to slugging as Kershaw’s and yet he also has two strong breaking pitches to get him out of any trouble.

L.A. batters haven’t seen much of Gomber and his unique stuff. At most, Matt Kemp has three at-bats. They rank below average in slugging against his three favorite pitches from lefties and are doing even more poorly in the category in September. Thus, the Cardinals' ML looks attractive on the MLB odds board. Bet on the Cards to maintain their winning ways for an MLB pick.

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