We had another bad beat to add to the memory bank last week, with the great Shohei Ohtani suddenly surrendering six earned runs in the seventh inning of what had been a scoreless game. A few innings later and we kissed a once promising under goodbye. Alas.
Still, we’re a respectable 46-39 on article plays for the season as a whole, and here’s three more wagers to consider on tonight’s MLB slate.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates
Zack Wheeler Over 6.5 Strikeouts (+105)
As it specifically pertains to strikeouts, it’s been a bit of an odd season for Wheeler. While the right-hander is still averaging well over a strikeout per inning thrown, his 26.7% strikeout rate is noticeably lower than his 29.1% mark from 2021. Wheeler’s also seen that figure drop to just 20.6% through four starts in July, though it hasn’t really effected his performance, as the RHP has posted a 0.86 WHIP within the same span. Still, he’s failed to hit this prop in all four of those outings. So the precedent here isn’t great. Or is it?
Prior to the calendar flipping to July, Wheeler had recorded at least seven strikeouts in 10 of his last 11 appearances. There’s a chance that the veteran’s recent strikeout woes were more about matchup than anything else, with three of his four starts in the month coming against Toronto and St. Louis — two teams in the bottom-third of the league in strikeout rate. Pittsburgh does not share that distinction. The Pirates come into Thursday with baseball’s highest strikeout rate since the All-Star break (28.6%), while the team also owns the fifth-highest swinging strike rate (12.2%). I’d look for Wheeler to get back on the strikeout train this evening.
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Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays
Over 9.5 (-105)
A game total this large that involves the Tigers is a little scary, but I don’t think A.J. Hinch’s crew could ask for a better offensive environment than the one they’ll draw on Thursday in Toronto. While Detroit has been the worst team in baseball by a country mile when it comes to hitting right-handed pitching, its actually been well-above average when drawing a lefty in 2022. In fact, the Tigers have MLB’s third-highest batting average within the split (.275), which translates out to a 105 wRC+.
Detroit also isn’t facing just any old southpaw. The Tigers are squaring off with Yusei Kikuchi, who’s recent spell on the IL was less about neck pain and more about hideous recent results. Across 16 starts in 2022, Kikuchi possesses a 6.26 xERA and a robust 13.9% walk rate. Specifically since the beginning of June, the former Mariner has allowed opponents to slash .315/.443/.696, the direct result of surrendering 3.8 home runs per nine. Woof. I’ll assume Detroit can do enough damage against the reeling Kikuchi to keep pace with a Blue Jays lineup that ranks first in slugging percentage (.485), wOBA (.362) and wRC+ (133) dating back to June 1. There will be runs aplenty in Canada.
Cleveland Guardians at Boston Red Sox
Team Total: Red Sox Under 4.5 (-135)
This is mostly just a bet on Triston McKenzie, who has looked almost unhittable so far in July. In four appearances, the right-hander has maintained an eye-popping 0.34 ERA and 2.11 FIP, allowing just a single earned run across 26.2 innings of work. Within this stretch, McKenzie has faced 98 batters, and those men have combined for just a .146 slugging percentage and a .181 wOBA. It’s simply incredible how dominant the 24-year-old has been.
On the other end of the spectrum, we find the injury-depleted Red Sox. Boston’s managed putrid marks in both wOBA (.283) and wRC+ (78) the past two weeks, stemming mainly from a complete inability to get runners on base, as the Red Sox have mustered a league-worst .259 OBP within that same span of time. Rafael Devers, Trevor Story and Kiké Hernandez are all on the IL. Xander Bogaerts has one home run since June 4. Jarren Duran can’t catch a fly ball. It’s all bad at Fenway Park right now.
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