Yesterday was not fun. It started well enough, with the Nationals scoring three runs in the first inning, but Washington’s bats would fall silent after that. Toss in an underwhelming performance from Walker Buehler, and we went just 1-2 on article plays, dropping our record to 4-3 for the 2022 season as a whole.
However, a short memory is the defining trait of baseball. Let’s bounce back with these wagers on tonight’s massive slate.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
When push comes to shove, I just don’t have much faith in either starting pitcher taking the mound at Rogers Centre this evening. Daulton Jefferies somehow threw five scoreless innings in his first outing of the season against the Phillies, yet a 9.12 xERA tells a much different story. Jefferies generated very few swing and misses, even going so far as to finish the game with a 100% zone contact rate. Now, contact isn’t always the enemy of a pitcher, but it’s not like the right-hander was inducing a bunch of swinging bunts, either. In fact, of the 14 batted ball events generated by Jefferies, 21.4% were barrels. At some point, that’s going to turn into crooked numbers and this Jays lineup can certainly do some damage.
As for Ross Stripling, let’s just say there’s a reason Toronto acquired Yusei Kikuchi prior to the start of the season. The veteran has simply been bad since the beginning of 2020, pitching to a 5.19 ERA and a 5.55 FIP across 152.2 innings in that span. Stripling has also surrendered 2.1 opponent home runs per nine in that stretch, as his mediocre fastball has been unable to consistently retire quality hitters. This isn’t all about Stripling, though. Despite being pegged as one of the worst lineups in the league coming into 2022, the Athletics enter Friday with 42 runs scored — the second-most of any team in MLB.
Speaking of starting pitchers I don’t trust: Marco Gonzales. The left-hander was basically the poster child for the “Fun Differential” Mariners of 2021, somehow managing to post a 10-6 record and a 3.96 ERA despite some absolutely dreadful advanced numbers. Gonzales leaned heavily on an 82.2% strand rate — the third-highest mark of the 68 pitchers with at least 140 innings — as he would finish the season with a 5.02 xERA and a 5.28 FIP. Those figures were earned, too, as Gonzales surrendered loud contact all year long. In fact, Gonzales conceded a barrel to 8.4% of the batters he faced, which was the third-worst rate in the whole of baseball. This trend followed the southpaw into his first start of 2022, with Gonzales allowing four barrels in just 12 batted ball events against the Twins. That translated into three home runs in a 10-4 loss for Seattle.
I’m expecting similar results for the Astros on Friday. Historically, Houston has possessed one of the best lineups in the league, specifically when it comes to hitting left-handed pitching. Just last season, the Astros posted a league-high 117 wRC+ within the split and that was even with Alex Bregman producing well-below his usual standards. Houston also has a pretty solid track record of beating up on the Mariners, as the Astros are 25-11 in their last 36 games in Seattle, including 9-4-1 in their last 13 trips. As long as Jake Odorizzi can avoid a massive blow-up, I think Houston’s primed to steal another contest on the road this evening.
You know, you might even say these last two bets are pretty correlated. If you, like I, think Gonzales is going to get absolutely crushed in this spot, there’s a decent chance the lefty isn’t going to be pitching into the sixth inning.
Still, allow me to play devil’s advocate for just a brief moment. While I do indeed believe that Gonzales will struggle in his outing on Friday, a bet on the under is a bet on the 30-year-old’s inability to navigate the Astros’ lineup. It is not a bet on Gonzales’ conditioning. Unlike many pitchers that were unable to properly build arm strength during the truncated Spring Training, Gonzales actually threw six innings in his final tune-up appearance. Really, the Mariners did a relatively good job with this across the board, as the team enters the day as the lone American League club averaging at least five innings per start in 2022. Houston’s going to need to do its part to make this prop hit.
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