It’s been a rough go on article plays to start May. While we’re still sitting at a respectable 17-14 for the season as a whole, we’re off to a 1-4 start in the month, which means we’re also down 3.2 units. It’s not ideal! Neither is tonight’s super small night slate, with just three games kicking off after 7:00 p.m. ET.
A small slate means a small card. Let’s dive into it.
Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics
Jonah Heim Over 1.5 Hits + Runs + RBI (-110)
We don’t know for certain who will be starting tonight’s contest for the Athletics, but signs point to 34-year-old journeyman Zach Neal, who last started a game at the MLB level in 2016. Neal has had a successful stint in the NPB since then, yet he still does not appear to be all that imposing a matchup for the Rangers. In 11.1 innings in Triple-A in 2023, Neal has pitched to a 5.56 ERA and a 6.24 FIP. In his 85.2 career innings in the majors, Neal’s managed a hilariously low 10.5% strikeout rate. Again, none of the available statistics or narratives are particularly encouraging.
Meanwhile, Heim in is the midst of a true breakout campaign. The backstop faded down the stretch in 2022 after a strong start to the season, but we’ve never seen the 27-year-old look this good before. Across 123 plate appearances, Heim is in possession of a .409 expected wOBA and a 159 wRC+ — both easily the best marks of his career. Crucially, Heim also owns at least a 139 wRC+ from both sides of the plate, which could be important in a game where Oakland is trying to patch together innings with various bullpen pieces. Regardless of the matchup, Heim will be in an advantageous platoon split. Between that and Texas having this slate’s highest implied team total, there’s not much more you could ask for.
San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks
Under 9.5 (-120)
I can understand where this line is coming from. Over the past two weeks, the Diamondbacks have the best wOBA in baseball (.371), which when combined with shaky starting pitching, has produced a lot of overs. Tonight’s shaky starter? Tommy Henry. A man with a 5.17 ERA and as many walks as strikeouts through his first 15.2 innings of the season.
Still, Alex Cobb is taking the mound for the Giants on Thursday. That’s very important. Cobb has registered a pristine 2.01 ERA and 2.91 FIP across his seven outings in 2023, leaning heavily upon a 63.1% ground ball rate that is the highest qualified mark in baseball. Basically, he’s been the National League version of Framber Valdez: No home runs and no walks. That’s generally a blueprint for success. As for Henry, there’s reason for some optimism in this specific spot, as the 25-year-old is left-handed. San Francisco doesn’t hit LHPs. In fact, the Giants are one of only five teams that currently own a wOBA below .300 within the split (.291), and that was before losing platoon ace Austin Slater to injury on Wednesday. I think Henry can pitch well enough to keep us well below 10 runs.
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