Well, sometimes you just get a game wrong. Yesterday, I took a flyer on the Oakland Athletics as huge underdogs (+173) with the thought that they “could” win the game. With a price like that one, it is less about will they win, and more about could they win. And when you looked at Oakland starter Mike Fiers, the guy hadn’t had a losing decision since May 1st, and the A’s had won fourteen of his previous sixteen starts, the A’s certainly could have won.
That streak of consecutive starts without a loss came to a screeching halt last night as Fiers was absolutely blasted in just one inning of work. Fiers gave up a whopping nine runs and was run from the game by the second inning. The Astros continued to pile it on after that too, as they ended the afternoon with fifteen runs scored.
To make matters worse, Astros starter Zack Greinke was lights out as well. Greinke came into this one on shaky ground as he had struggled in his previous two outings. But last night he looked as sharp as ever as he tossed six innings of two-hit ball on just seventy-three pitches. If the game wasn’t so out of hand, Greinke had a shot at a complete-game shutout, he was that good.
What can you do, I mentioned in yesterday’s pick that this was a higher variance play than I normally make, and the variance bit us last night. It has been a profitable week, and a great season, so I won’t let this small bump in the road derail us. For today’s pick, we will head to Minnesota, where the Twins host the Nationals.
The Washington Nationals are in Minnesota Tuesday for game one of a three-game series with the Twins. The Nats managed to stave off the sweep last night in game four of a four-game series with their division rival, Atlanta Braves. Heading into that series, this was the Nationals best shot of getting back into the NL East Division race.
But after dropping three out of four games to the Braves, Atlanta has all but locked up the division title with a nine and a half-game lead with less than twenty games left on the schedule. Washington hopes to get back on track tonight in Minnesota, as they still occupy the first wild card slot in the NL, and with several teams chasing them they can ill afford a late-season slump.
For the Twins, they are in a similar boat as they just dropped two out of three games to the Cleveland Indians. The Twins still have a solid hold on first place though, as they are five and a half games ahead of Cleveland. But had the Twins taken care of business this weekend, the race would be all but over. Now Cleveland will host the Twins for three more games this weekend, with the division title in reach.
Starting for the Twins tonight in Jose Berrios (11-8 3.78 ERA) and for the Nationals, it is Anibal Sanchez (8-7 4.11 ERA). The game total over-under is set at ten and a half runs. The Twins are -144 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:40 PM PST from Target Field in Minneapolis.
Jose Berrios was great in the first half of the season. His ERA was 3.00, and he was named to his second consecutive American League All-Star team. But since then, he has really struggled. In the month of August, he got hammered for twenty-seven runs in just twenty-seven and a third innings pitched. And his one start so far here in September, wasn’t any better as he got hammered for six earned runs in five innings against the Boston Red Sox.
Berrios has really struggled with his command late in the season as he has fifteen walks in his last six starts. He has also allowed eight home runs in that span. If you are walking lots of guys and giving up long balls, it is going to be hard to win games. Despite having one of the best records in the game, the Twins have lost four out of Berrios last six starts. He has just one winning decision since July 31st.
Anibal Sanchez has had an up and down kind of season. He started out his season by losing his first six decisions. Then he found a way to turn things around and win his next eight decisions. That streak ended in his last start as he got blasted for seven runs in just five innings against the New York Mets and lost. In that game, he gave up three home runs.
Could this be a World Series preview? I doubt it, but at this point, both of these teams seem to be headed to the playoffs, and we all know that once the playoffs start, it is anybody’s game. So, while this might not be the two best teams from their respective leagues, these are both good baseball teams that will be playing for a lot tonight. So, where do I find the value?
The game total. Both of these starters are coming off of bad games, and both have seen their results plummet recently. Even when Sanchez was reeling off wins in just about every start, he wasn’t pitching all that well. During that stretch of eight consecutive winning decisions, Sanchez allowed at least three earned runs or more in seven different starts. So, yeah, he was winning games, but it was more in spite of him, than because of him, to be completely honest.
And when you look at this Twins team, the bats have cooled off just a bit here in September, but I expect them to break out of that funk in this series. This lineup is just too powerful to stay down for too much longer. Remember, this team broke the all-time home run mark in a season record with over a month left to play.
The Nationals bullpen has been brutally bad all season long, and their bullpen ERA is nearly six runs! Better than only the lonely Baltimore Orioles on the year. So, even if Sanchez finds a way to be decent, this Washington bullpen just cannot be trusted. Sanchez has lasted five runs or fewer in four out of his last five starts. That means we are likely to see a big dose of this bad Nats bullpen, and that means this game is going to sail over. So, I will expect fireworks at some point, maybe early, maybe late, but the runs are coming at some point tonight. Give me the over ten and a half runs tonight in game one from Minnesota!