Despite Low Total in Kershaw-Cueto Showdown, Bet ‘Under’ On May 17

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 6:40 PM UTC

Tuesday, May. 16, 2017 6:40 PM UTC

The best pitching matchup on the MLB schedule Wednesday is clearly a matinee (3:45 ET) from San Francisco as the Dodgers wrap up a three-game series. It’s Clayton Kershaw against Johnny Cueto.

MLB Season Record: 14-9

Los Angeles Dodgers At San Francisco Giants (+173, 6.5)

Los Angeles closes a three-game series in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon and the opening MLB total of 6.5 runs is easily the lowest of the day as it’s a matchup of aces.

The Giants are without one of their better hitters in outfielder Hunter Pence. The injury-prone Pence is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. If recent history is any indication, you can expect him to land on the DL at least one more time this season. Pence underwent surgery on his torn right hamstring last season and played only 106 games after playing 52 in 2015. He is hitting .243 with three homers and 16 RBIs this season. Giants closer Mark Melancon also remains on the DL with an elbow injury but did throw a bullpen session Monday and was eligible to be activated Tuesday. However, the team wants to play it safe so it’s not expected that Melancon will be available for this game.

The Dodgers are without first baseman Adrian Gonzalez due to elbow and back troubles. He was set to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday but should return to the team this weekend. This could be the Dodgers’ best chance in years to win the World Series for the first time since 1988 because the National League looks so wide open. The Giants are way down and not going to be in the playoffs barring a miracle turnaround. The defending NL champion Cubs look like they have regressed. The Washington Nationals have a great offense and good starting pitching but their bullpen is a mess.


Wednesday's Probable Pitchers

Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his era with three Cy Young Awards and four ERA crowns. Thus the bar is set unreasonably high for him. Any other pitcher would be happy to have a 6-2 record, 2.43 ERA (second in NL), 0.95 WHIP (second) and 57 strikeouts (sixth) through eight starts this season, but it’s almost a disappointment for Kershaw.

One issue with Kershaw is that his slider doesn’t has as much movement as in past years. When he used to throw a backdoor slider to a right-handed batter, the pitch darted down and in after it left the hitter’s sight. This year, it’s landing closer to the strike zone. From 2014-16, Kershaw’s slider was his most effective pitch. FanGraphs’ pitch-type run values assessed the slider’s worth at 2.6 runs per 100 pitches, tops in baseball. In 2014, Kershaw’s slider value in runs above average was 21.5. It was 15.7 in 2015 and 24.0 last year. In 2017, it’s -0.1 with batters hitting .254 and slugging .365 off his slider. Last season hitters had a .139 batting average and .193 slugging percentage off it. Kershaw is allowing 7.3 hits per nine innings, his highest rate since his 2008 rookie season. His Fielding Independent Pitching number of 3.03 is his worst since 2010.

All that said, Kershaw’s 2017 fastball grades out at a league-best 10.2. The opposition is hitting .179 against his fastball, which breaks down to them going 15-for-84 with two homers, one triple, four doubles and eight singles. Yet Kershaw is throwing the fastball at a career-low percentage.

The 29-year-old has only faced NL West teams this season and is 1-1 against the Giants with a 2.77 ERA in two starts. Kershaw won at AT&T Park on April 25 in allowing one run and six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts. Expect Giants first baseman Brandon Belt to get Wednesday off. The lefty is just 3-for-51 career off Kershaw with 27 strikeouts. Brandon Crawford isn’t much better, batting .125 with 12 strikeouts in 32 at-bats.

San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto (4-2, 4.15) could be a trade candidate if the Giants keep struggling as Cueto can opt-out of his contract after the season. His ERA has been skewed by two poor starts; Cueto’s other six have all been quality. He beat the visiting Reds last week by allowing two runs in a season-high eight innings.

Cueto is 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA vs. the Dodgers in 2017, allowing three runs in both starts. Justin Turner hits him well, going 9-for-27 with two doubles and a homer. Corey Seager bats .364 off Cueto in 22 at-bats. Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig are both hitting below .100 against him.

A few of my fellow writers here at SBR often jump on the ‘over’ on totals listed below 7, and that does make sense at times. I don’t believe that’s the case here with it being a getaway day game – expect shadows around home plate and a starter or two on each side to sit out -- and two strong pitchers on the mound. The ‘under’ is 15-2-1 in Kershaw’s past 18 at AT&T Park so that’s the MLB pick.

Free MLB Pick: ‘Under’ 6.5Best Line Offered: SportsBetting

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