We split games last night with the Brewers coming up big and the Yankees letting us down.  With just five days left in the regular season, we continue our march toward a winning season in the Majors with Thursday’s MLB Picks of the Day.

Milwaukee Brewers | Chris Anderson (7-4, 4.30 ERA) | at Cincinnati Reds | Luis Castillo (15-7, 3.25 ERA), 12:35 p.m. ET

The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds conclude a three-game series at the Great American Ballpark Thursday afternoon.  The Brewers have taken two in a row from the lowly Reds and have now won six straight as they hard-charge toward the playoffs.  Wednesday night’s 9-2 trouncing of Cincinnati put the Brewers in the playoffs by clinching at least a Wild Card berth.  They still have a shot to catch the St. Louis Cardinals to win the National League Central title.

Chase Anderson looks to make his 27th, and final, regular-season start for the Brewers this afternoon.  He has been serviceable over those games with a 7-4 record, 4.30 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.  His last start saw him pick up a win against the Pirates last Friday night at home.  He gave up zero runs on three hits and walked one over six strong innings en route to a 10-1 win.

Anderson has had a red-hot month and is really finding his grove at the right time, right along with the rest of the team.  In Anderson’s last three starts, he is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA & 0.86 WHIP with 12 strikeouts in 14 innings of work.

The Reds lost their second straight game to the Brewers last night, third overall, and have been generally ineffective at the plate lately.   They are fourth in the National League Central, more than a dozen games back from the division-leading Cardinals.  They have been out of the playoff race since the season began but would love to close the year on a positive note.

Luis Castillo gets the ball tonight for Cincinnati and has been one of the bigger surprises so far in 2019.  In just his 2nd full Major League season, Castillo has a 15-7 record on the year with a 3.25 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 31 starts.  His 218 strikeouts compared to 75 walks over 185 ⅔ innings has the Reds excited to build around this young fireballer. He took a loss in his previous start last Friday night at home.  He spun seven innings of three-run ball off of just three hits and striking out seven during an 8-1 beating. In September, Castillo is 1-2 with a 3.20 ERA, 0.97 WHIP with 20 punchouts in 19 ⅔ innings on the hill.  He has a 3-3 lifetime record against the Cardinals with a 3.42 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over eight career starts.

Despite their terrible record and to their credit, the Reds have put up a great record lately when playing the final 3, more, game series.  Cincinnati is 5-1 in their previous six games in such a situation but are 0-4 in Castillo’s last four home starts versus winning teams & 1-4 in his last five home starts overall.  I just don’t see them pulling themselves up after the first two games of this series and take this one from the hottest team in baseball.

The Brewers take a 7-1 record over their last seven series finales and 4-0 in Anderson’s previous four outings against sub-.500 teams.  He has given up just one earned run over his last 10 innings pitched, giving up just four hits while striking out 10.  With a 2.50 ERA & .183 batting average against in September and the Brewers still playing to win, they are the clear pick in this matchup.

Best Bet: Milwaukee Brewers Moneyline (odds not posted at the time of writing)

Seattle Mariners +220 | Felix Hernandez (1-7, 6.51 ERA) vs Oakland Athletics -240 | Sean Manea (3-0, 1.14 ERA), 10:10 p.m. ET

The Oakland Athletics are hot right now and with just a half-game lead for the first berth in the American League Wild Card race over Tampa Bay.  The real threat is the Cleveland Indians who are two games back of the Athletics and could knock either the A’s or Rays out of the playoffs.  It’s a testament to how well the competition has been doing as they’ve been able to keep pace with the Athletics who have won 10 of their last 13 games down the stretch.

Oakland has been swinging a hot bat, ripping off three games in a row with at least eight runs and four or more in five of their previous 10 games overall.  A lot of that damage has come off the bats of Marcus Semien, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman who have combined for 452 hits on the season and 268 RBIs.

The Seattle Mariners previous week and a half have not gone quite as well as the Athletics.  They have dropped four of their last five outings and scored just a single run combined over their last three games, including back-to-back shutouts’ and a near no-hitter at the hands of Zach Grienke.  Their offense has been led by the likes of Mallex Smith, Omar Narvaez and Doming Santana, who have combined for 345 hits and 161 RBIs on the year.

Thursday’s game is important to the Mariners for one very special reason.  It makes the likely end of the “King” Felix Hernandez era in Seattle with what will likely be his final start for Seattle.  After a staggering 15-years on the Mariners, it is time for The King to make his final tip of the cap on his way into the dugout tonight.  While his future in the league in uncertain despite a steep dropoff in performance, his days in Seattle are probably over.  It’s amazing that Fernandez has stuck around in Seattle for so long with the six-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner never having thrown a single pitch in the playoffs. It’s a testament to his commitment to the city of Seattle and the team it loves so much.

The 33-year-old rightly will look to cap off his time in Seattle with a positive performance tonight against the Athletics.  This will be a challenge for Hernandez who is playing the role of a poorly aging phenom perfectly. In just 14 starts this year, he has a gut-wrenching 6.51 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and a disastrous 1-7 overall record. In what might have been a career-low, he got lit up by the Orioles of all teams, giving up five runs in so many innings his last time to the mound.  The Mariners are just 8-21 in Hernandez’s previous 29 starts 1-5 in his last six starts against Oakland.  Scary to consider that Hernandez has always struggled against the A’s, even when he was playing All-Star quality ball week-to-week.  Despite his massive struggles, it seems his inefficiency is being overvalued in the betting market.  His pitching woes aside, he is 4-1 on the ‘under’ in his last five despite some awful peripheral numbers.

In stark contrast to Hernandez’s numbers, Sean Manaea has seen nothing but success this season.  While he has just three starts on the year, he’s made the most of those opportunities.  Manaea is 3-0 with a 1.14 ERA and a total of 25 punchouts already in his abbreviated 2019.  The Athletics have handled the American League West this year with a 25-9 record, including a 4-1 record in Manaea’s last five against the AL West.  The ‘under’ has done well in Manaea’s last five starts with a 4-1 record and his dominance bodes well for future low scoring matchups bringing a .150 BAA amd .523 OPS in his four starts in 2019.

A case can be made here for the hometown Mariners to pull out a highly profitable underdog win against the streaking Athletics.  They will be playing not for the postseason, but for a player who has called Settle home for the better part of two decades.  It would be a fitting end to a world-class career, but I just don’t see the M’s pulling it off tonight.  They just have too many negatives that an emotional game for the franchise isn’t enough to sway me toward their side.

With the Oakland Athletics still gunning toward clinching a Wild Card spot, they have a more tangible reason to win this game.  After their losses to the Angels and Rangers last week, things got murky in the AL chase.  They can ill afford any more losses to any team, let alone a bad one.  Games don’t get much more must-win than this one, and I expect the Athletics to rise to the challenge.

Best Bet: Oakland Athletics -1½ (-140) & a Lean Toward the ‘Under’ 9 (-105)