Will the Yankees be a bit hungover after their big win last night? Can the Rays continue their Wild Card push tonight vs the Red Sox? Can we maintain our winning picks record for another week? All these questions and more will be answered within the pages of our MLB picks of the day.
Toronto Blue Jays +170 | Jacob Waguespack (4-5, 4.70) at New York Yankees -180 | J.A. Happ (12-8, 5.07 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET
For the first time since the culmination of the 2012 regular season, the New York Yankees are American League East Division champions. Their job is far from over, as far as the regular season goes, with their next order of business being to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Yankees’ next test comes in the form of a visiting Toronto Blue Jays team as they look to take the series opener Friday night at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees also enter their final home series just a half-game back from the Houston Astros for the best record in the Major Leagues and need to win as much as possible over this last week of the season.
Home field is even more critical for the Yankees at this juncture due to the recent loss of two of their best pitchers for the season. Domingo German was recently put on the shelf due to domestic violence allegations while Dillen Betances injured himself tragically in his season debut last week. The Yankees will be trying to balance their desire to continue winning with their desire to keep some of their starts well-rested heading into the postseason. Both Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres sat last night and there will be more rest days going around over the next week atop the Bomber lineup.
As it stands, both Judge and Torres will be playing tonight. Should the Astros and Yankees finish with the same record, Houston would win the tiebreaker with a better record against the Yankees this year than New York has against them.
The Yankees are hoping that J.A. Happ (12-8, 5.07 ERA) can continue to pitch through his left bicep tendinitis after seven full days of rest. His last outing was against the Detroit Tigers, allowing two runs on seven hits in 4 ⅔ innings of work. Happ has a 2-0 record with a 2.05 ERA over his last four outings and is 3-2 with a 3.78 ERA in six career starts against his former team.
The Toronto Blue Jays are 7-9 on the season against the Yankees after winning last week’s series in Toronto. They slide into the Big Apple riding a four-game winning streak and are 7-2 over their last nine games, clearly looking to avoid membership in the 100-loss club this season. They have combined to reel off 27 runs in a three-game sweep of Baltimore and capped the series off with an 8-4 win last Thursday. But, you know, it’s the Orioles.
Toronto has tagged rookie righty Jacob Waguespack (4-5, 4.70) to start in what will be his 12th career start on a major league diamond. He is 3-5 as a starter but has an awful 0-3 record with an 8.22 ERA over his previous three trips to the mound. He also holds a 0-1 record with a 7.36 ERA in a pair of games versus the Yankees. His last game saw the Blue Jays get lit up by the Yankees 13-3, the fifth straight start of Waguespack that the Blue Jays have lost and fourth in a row which saw him fail to eclipse five innings.
The New York Yankees have had the Blue Jays number at Yankee Stadium with a record of 66-44 since it opened in 2009. This season they have won five of six at home with the game totals going 2-4 in favor of the under. Based on the strong home field record, and the Yankees looking to keep pace with the Astros, this feels like an easy game one win for New York.
Best Bet: New York Yankees -1½ (-107)
Boston Red Sox +162 | Rick Porcello (13-12, 5.77 ERA) vs Tampa Bay Rays -172 | Charlie Morton (15-6, 3.16), 7:10 p.m. ET
The Tampa Bay Rays are in the midst of a tight three-team race to earn one of the two American League Wild Card berths. The Rays’ biggest hurdle in the chase is their high strength of schedule when compared to both of their competitors, the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians. For the remainder of the season, teams who the Rays face have a combined winning percentage of .535, essentially teams with a winning record. Neither the Indians nor Athletics has this issue, facing teams with .493 and .441 winning percentages respectively.
First up for Tampa Bay is the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox on Friday night in St. Petersburg. The Rays remain two games back of Oakland and are tied with Cleveland in their race for the Wild Card game.
Tampa Bay is hoping that starter Charlie Morton has what it takes to get the job done after seeing his ERA spike lately, averaging 1.35 points higher than his season ERA in four of his last five games. Morton is 5-1 career with a 4.26 ERA in eight starts versus the Red Sox, including a 2-0 mark in four games so far this season. Morton is a tough nut to crack when handicapping at the moment. On the face of things, his overall stats look very good which creates a situation where a lot of the betting public feels good enough to back him tonight, either betting on the Rays or the Under.
With his struggles, however, he is not the pitcher that season stats suggest he is. Fact is the Rays have struggled to win with him on the hill this summer and the over has hit in four of his last five starts. Match-up wise, the Red Sox line up well against Morton and should be expected to have a strong day at the plate.
Since the All-Star break, the Red Sox rank first in slugging percentage against curveballs thrown by right-handed pitchers at .624. This is particularly important as Morton relies heavily on his breaking balls and has also seen the quality of those pitches take a distinct hit recently. This creates a situation where you have a curveball pitcher who is having location issues who is pitching against a team who rakes against curveballs, especially bad ones.
The Red Sox look to counter with a gas-can pitcher of their own in Rick Porcello. He is 14-12 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 career starts against the Rays but has come up short this year with an 0-2 record. Porcello has many issues with reliability, but perhaps most worrisome is his inability to pitch deep into games. He has not made it past the fifth inning in any of his last six starts with innings elongated due to command issues and general inefficiency.
The fact is, Porcello is giving up way to many walks and home runs to be fully trusted with a bet on the Red Sox. His home run rate has been a massive issue lately with his previous three opponents hitting five long balls against him in limited innings. The AL is particularly strong against him as they’ve seen him, and his lack of command, multiple times in recent years. The last four American League teams with at least 50 wins on the year have hit no less than five earned runs against him.
If we just focus on the AL East, things get even worse. In 13 games the “over” is hitting at a 69.2% clip with the number jumping to 72.7% in away games. Porcello has a vast arsenal of pitches, trouble is he just lacks the control to use them effectively. Additionally, his two least effective pitches are the ones he throws the most. His sinker and fastball are thrown a combined 57% of the time by Porcello despite opponents hitting .282 and .301 against these pitches respectively.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, I am not too high on these two starting pitchers. Frankly, I think you’d have to be high to feel good about backing either of these two tonight. They both have a case of poor location and control issues, leaving a lot of meatballs right out over the plate. Each team hits the opposing pitcher quite well and are familiar with the junk each started is throwing right now.
The total for this game sits at just 8 ½, which is a little surprising considering these guys’ recent O/U records. It’s based on this information that I feel good about making a play on the “over” when the Sox and Rays clash later tonight.
Best Bet: Boston Red Sox & Tampa Bay Rays OVER 8½ runs