Sorry Chicago fans, but the Cubs are officially in trouble. Last night, I was able to fade the Cubs with their ace, Jon Lester on the mound, in their game against the St. Louis Cardinals. And while Lester has had a long and storied career and looked great to start out the season, he had been awful in the past month, and I felt that being able to fade him at that price showed outrageous value.
The Cardinals have been one of the best pitching teams in the league this season, and with Dakota Hudson pitching well, and a reliable bullpen to fall back on if he didn’t have his best stuff, it seemed like the play was clearly to back the Cards. So, I fired hard on St. Louis and expected Jon Lester to again struggle.
And that is exactly what happened. Lester’s day started out poorly when he gave up a first-inning home run to Tommy Edman and only got worse from there. The Cubs actually managed to make a game out of it, as they hit Dakota Hudson early, as both Jason Kipnis and Anthony Rizzo homered in the first three innings of play, but Lester just wasn’t able to slow the Cardinals down enough to give the Cubs a shot to win the game.
This one was for you, Lou.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 7, 2020
Lester finished his day in the fourth inning and finished with five runs allowed on six hits and two walks. In four out of his last five starts, Lester has allowed at least five earned runs. If you can find another spot like this one where Lester is overpriced, you need to take a hard look at fading him, as he just isn’t very good right now.
Dakota Hudson handed the game off to the bullpen in the sixth inning, and as expected, they managed to close things out, and the Cardinals picked up their third win over Chicago in the last two days and pull within a game and a half of the Cubbies for first place in the NL Central. For Chicago, the Cubs have now lost four out of their last five games and are just 10-15 in their last 25 games after a hot start. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will head to the Nation’s Capital, as the Nationals host the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays (28-13) at Washington Nationals (14-25)
The Tampa Bay Rays are in Washington DC tonight, as they look to keep their hot streak alive in game one of a quick two-game series with the Nationals. The Rays have the best record in the American League and are surprisingly running away with the American League East Division title, with a five and a half-game lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.
For Washington, the Nationals came into this season with dreams of repeating as world champs after winning their first World Series title in franchise history last season, but have been decimated by opt-outs and injuries, and currently are buried in last place in their division with no hope of a postseason run this year.
Starting for the Nationals is their ace Max Scherzer (3-2 3.95 ERA), and for the Rays, it is Charlie Morton (1-1 4.82 ERA). The game total over/under is set at seven and a half runs. The Nationals are -125 home field favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 PM PST from Nationals Park in Washington DC.
Tampa Bay Rays
The only real concern that anybody had about the Tampa Bay Rays this year was about their ability to score enough runs to stay competitive. But despite having a lack of established stars at the plate, the Rays are more than holding their own in terms of run production, as they are 7th in the majors in runs scored. Tampa Bay has seen several low-profile players step their game up this year, including Brandon Lowe, Yandy Diaz, and Mike Broussard.
The Rays recently gave 25-year old Randy Arozarena a shot at playing every day, and this kid is tearing the cover off the ball. Arozarena hit .300 last year in 19 games with the St. Louis Cardinals, and this year in six games, he is hitting an absurd .467. He has seven hits in fifteen at-bats, with three of those hits leaving the ballpark. In his last two games, he has five hits and two home runs.
Charlie Morton (1-1 4.82 ERA)
While the hitting has been a pleasant surprise for Tampa Bay this year, the Rays butter their bread on the mound. And getting Charlie Morton back on the field and pitching well is going to be a major key to their success the rest of the way out. Morton missed three weeks with a sore shoulder, and the Rays brought him back very slowly in his first start back, as he pitched just two innings against the New York Yankees.
But despite throwing just 36 pitches, Morton looked sharp as he didn’t allow a hit and struck out four batters. The Rays are likely to have Morton on a pitch count again tonight, but you can expect him to get much deeper into the game than two innings, and he should be in line for 50-70 pitches, and potentially more if he is feeling well.
I have been fading the Washington Nationals a lot this year. After seeing them get gutted by players choosing to opt-out and guys getting hurt, there just hasn’t been enough depth on this roster to absorb the losses, and winning has not be a major part of the equation this year for the Nats. Washington somehow managed to steal two wins against the Braves in their last series, but going back to last month, they are just 3-11 in their last fourteen games.
Max Scherzer (3-2 3.95 ERA)
It wouldn’t shock me if this is the last start of the year for Max Scherzer. Mad Max has been a beast on the mound for the last decade, but in a lost season for Washington, I am not sure the Nationals are going to want him out here eating up innings at age 36. And to be completely honest, Scherzer hasn’t really looked like himself this season anyway, as he has struggled, at least to his own lofty standards.
Scherzer is walking batters at a higher rate than at any other time in his career at a rate of 3.3 per nine innings. His WHIP is also the highest we have ever seen from him, as he has allowed more base hits than innings pitched this year, something that would be inconceivable for him in the past.
Scherzer has allowed four earned runs or more three times in eight starts this year. In 2019, he only allowed four or more runs in four out of twenty-seven starts. In 2018, he did that in just three out of thirty-three outings, and in 2017, it was just five times in thirty-one starts that he allowed four earned runs or more.
Who Do I Like?
This just isn’t the same Max Scherzer right now. In the past, Max would get you seven or eight innings nearly every start. This year he has pitched past the sixth inning only twice, with only one of those starts coming since the season’s first week of play.
You hate to ever want to fade Max Scherzer, but when you look back on his numbers since the start of August, he has a very mediocre ERA of nearly four and a half runs, and as a betting favorite against the best team in the American League, you have to jump on the other side.
The Washington Nationals have had a very strange betting trend this season. They have been favored in eleven of their sixteen home games. In those eleven games, they have just three wins as home favorites. That is by far the worst home favorite record for any team that has been favored in at least five home games. Yet here they are today, again home field favorites, this time against a red-hot Tampa Bay Rays team.
I just highlighted the fact that the Nationals have been terrible as home favorites, but what I didn’t tell you, was how great Tampa Bay has been on the road this season as dogs. The Rays road winning percentage when they are a betting underdog is .625, that is the second highest in the Major Leagues.
We have a spot where we can back the team with the best record in the AL, against the team with the second-worst record in the NL and get dog money? Yeah, it’s a nice spot. Scherzer is the man, and I absolutely mean no disrespect, but he is coming out of this game at some point, and that means we are going to have to see this putrid Nationals bullpen before all is said and done.
Maybe Scherzer struggles again as he has recently, or maybe he is sharp, and we have to wait for the Nats to go the bullpen to score the runs, but either way, I see the Rays finding a way to win this game. Great teams find ways to win games that they shouldn’t, and bad teams find ways to lose games they should win. Give me the Tampa Bay Rays at +115 tonight in game one from Washington!