Some teams are just bad. The Baltimore Orioles are one of those teams. And yesterday when I saw that they were favored against a respectable, yet slumping, Texas Rangers team, I jumped all over it. In my estimation, the Orioles shouldn’t be favored against anybody at this point, so I felt like I was stealing with a play on Texas.
And even when the Orioles had built up a 1-0 lead late in the game, with their “ace” John Means on the mound spinning a gem, I wasn’t worried. You see, bad teams have this way of snatching defeat from the claws of victory. They find ways to lose games that they should win. And as expected, they did just that last night.
The Rangers finally got to Means in the seventh inning, scoring two runs on a Nick Solak home run to take the lead. Texas added another run in the top of the ninth, and Jose Leclerc closed it out in the bottom of the frame to give the Rangers the come from behind 3-1 victory.
If you see the Orioles as favorites against anybody the rest of the way out, you would be wise to take a hard look at it. At this point, it might just be a blind bet for me. If Baltimore is laying wood, I’m going to be looking to fade them. For today’s pick, we switch gears as we go from two underperforming American League teams, to the National League, where the first-place St. Louis Cardinals play the Pirates.
The Pittsburgh Pirates welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to town tonight for game one of a three-game weekend set. The Cardinals have been one of the hottest teams in the National League for the last several weeks, surging from third place to first, and looking like a playoff lock at this point. Going back to August, the Cardinals are 21-6 in their last twenty-seven games. With this recent hot streak, the Cardinals now hold a two and a half-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central Division race.
For the Pirates, they hung around for most of the first half of the season, but they had a brutally bad start to August that saw them lose fourteen out of eighteen games and drop into last place. They have shown a little heart here as of late as they are winning games, but those wins have all come against bad teams that are also out of contention. That won’t be the case tonight against a Cardinals team with World Series aspirations.
Starting tonight for the Cardinals is Miles Mikolas (8-13 4.32 ERA), and for the Pirates it is Joe Musgrove (9-12 4.67 ERA). The game total over-under is set at eight and a half runs. The Cardinals are -129 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Miles Mikolas exploded onto the scene last year for the Cardinals. After not pitching for four full years, he made a triumphant comeback for St. Louis last season and was light’s out. He ran up an 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA. Most people expected him to continue that dominance this season, and unfortunately for St. Louis, that just hasn’t been the case.
Mikolas has shown flashes of what made him so great last season but has struggled to stay consistent. His game log against the Pirates this year is a perfect example of that inconsistency. He has made four starts against the Pirates this year, with wildly different results.
On July 15th, he threw a complete game shutout against Pittsburgh. On May 11th, he tossed seven innings of two-run ball. On April 3rd, he lasted just five innings and allowed three earned runs. And in his last start against the Pirates, he was downright awful, as he lasted just five innings and gave up six runs, five of them earned.
So, which Mikolas will we get tonight? I have a feeling he will be at least serviceable, as he seems to be figuring things out as of late. And even when he hasn’t been great, the Cardinals are winning just about every time he pitches anyway. St. Louis has won four out of his last five starts.
Joe Musgrove is another guy that struggles to stay consistent. One team that he has been super consistent against though is the St. Louis Cardinals. Consistently awful that is. Musgrove has faced the Cardinals four times already this season, and he is 0-4 with an ERA of 10.00! Here is a fun fact about Musgrove, he only has a total of thirty-five walks this season in twenty-nine starts. But twelve of those walks have come against the Cardinals in four games! I don’t know what it is about the Cardinals, but they just love to hammer Joe Musgrove, and I don’t see any reason why that trend won’t continue tonight.
If you are an avid reader of my daily picks, you know that I much prefer to chase underdogs than to back favorites. With baseball having so much variance, there are ample daily opportunities to find spots to back underdogs profitably. But every once in a while, especially late in the season, there are spots like this one that are just too profitable to ignore.
This is a bad number. Yeah, Mikolas hasn’t been his elite self this year, but the guy can still get people out and he manages to get deep into games a lot. He hast pitched at least six innings seventeen times already this season. And when you look at Joe Musgrove, the guy just can’t seem to pitch against the Cardinals. And against every other team, he isn’t all that great either.
I preach daily that bettors put way too much emphasis on a game’s starting pitching matchup. Yes, it is very important. But the overall strength of each team is very important as well and often gets overlooked. The Cardinals are the far superior team in this matchup. The Cardinals are 12-4 against Pittsburgh this season, that includes going 6-0 in Pittsburgh.
And when you look at the whole body of work for these two teams, they play in the same division against essentially the same teams, yet the Cardinals are eighteen games ahead of the Pirates in the standings. That just can’t be ignored. So, when I look at this number, it would seem the Cardinals are painfully undervalued, I could see this as -180 or more. So, I will do what I always do when there is a bad number posted, and that is, exploit it. Give me the St. Louis Cardinals as road favorites tonight in game one in Pittsburgh!