As the countdown towards the All-Star break continues, today we have meaningful matchups that baseball handicappers and those working the MLB odds have to be excited about with what could be in store.
For today we will look at hot teams, cold teams and a scintillating matchup in the National League, all from the betting odds perspective and try and determine who might have an edge for sports picks.
Rays vs. Royals: Karns vs. Ventura
If ever a team looked like they needed a break, it is Tampa Bay. Not that many games ago the Rays were in first place in the AL East, but losing 10 of 11 have dropped them from the top spot to fourth, just one game ahead of last place Boston.
Tampa Bay has lost all three encounters in this series in the land of beef and barbeque and among the reasons for this slide is the bullpen. First year manager Kevin Cash was being praised just two weeks ago for his use of the bullpen by spreading out the innings, but the fact remained the Rays pensters were and are the most used in terms of innings and collectively they are worn out.
Why else would Cash leave his star pitcher Chris Archer in for six innings to allow nine runs on 12 hits in last night's defeat? Thus, this afternoon besides needing a win, Cash needs Nathan Karns (4-4, 3.21 ERA) to come up large and be effective and last at least into the seventh inning. Karns has done that just once in his last 10 starts, but might be able to be stretched since he will not be pitching for quite awhile and has a 1.78 ERA and 10.09 strikeouts per nine innings over his last five starts.
Kansas City counter with a laboring Yordano Ventura (3-6, 4.68), who returns from the DL and was 1-6 with a 5.17 ERA over his last 10 starts before taking time off battling something called ulnar neuritis. Whether that caused Ventura to groove too many pitches is unknown, but he and the Royals have tumbled from -140 to -125 home favorites this afternoon. (Wagerweb.ag had K.C. at -121 early this morning) Last year Ventura and Kansas City were 9-0 versus teams who drew three walks or less a game in the second half of the season, let's see if that continues.
Advantage - Ventura and Kansas City
Cardinals vs. Pirates: Martinez vs. Locke
Somehow, someway St. Louis escaped with a split in Chicago last night and they would gladly take the same outcome in Pittsburgh over the next four days. The Pirates are a baseball-best 32-12 since May 22nd and will use Jeff Locke (5-4, 4.15) to hopefully curtail the Cardinals offense. Locke is the weakest link in a very strong Pittsburgh rotation, which has the third-best ERA among starting pitchers.
Carlos Martinez (9-3, 2.70) has been lights out, as the right-hander has a 6-1 record and 1.35 ERA over his last nine starts. He's definitely a big part of the reason why the Redbirds have the best pitching staff in the majors, able to command a fastball in the upper 90's and has effective breaking pitches.
This should be four intense days of baseball in the Steel City and online sportsbooks have St. Louis as slight favorites, anywhere from -106 to -110. With the Bucs 16-3 after five or more consecutive home games and Martinez 11-0 after giving up one or less earned runs in last outing the last two seasons (Cardinals record), not much to choose from. For MLB picks we will ride with the oddsmakers and take the better pitcher and possible carryover from last night's uncanny victory.
Slight Advantage - Martinez and St. Louis
Angels vs. Mariners: Richards vs. Hernandez
We are witnessing a passing of the guard with Garrett Richards (9-5, 3.35) taking over the role of ace of the Angels staff. Richards team is on a 9-1 move and has tied first place Houston with the same amount of losses and he will attempt to prolong this streak with his club +130 road underdog in spite of his off the charts 0.97 ERA in his last five outings against Seattle.
There can only be one answer why this is and we both know who that is, Felix Hernandez (10-5, 3.02). The Mariners dismal season continues with a recent 5-6 record, but Halos hitters have been almost powerless against King Felix, who is 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last nine outings (Mariners 8-1) against Los Angeles. If Richards can match zeros with Hernandez, L.A. has a shot because they have a better overall bullpen that can win this contest late. Very tight contest.
Slight Advantage - Hernandez and Seattle