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What you need to know for Wednesday's MLB games
By Todd Zola
Wednesday's games start at 1:10 p.m. ET with a pair of former teammates squaring off. Eduardo Rodriguez and Rich Hill both played for the Red Sox in 2015. Rodriguez was in Detroit when Hill returned to Boston last season. Rodriguez is one of the season's feel-good stories, as he's enjoying a career year after working through issues last season, both on and off the field. Hill (3.3% rostered in ESPN leagues) was one of the reasons the Pirates got off to such a hot start, but like the team, he has cooled lately. Despite matching up with the tough Rodriguez, this is a spot for Hill to get back on track. The Tigers are averaging the third fewest runs per game, in part due to the 10th lowest wOBA versus left-handers, with an above average strikeout rate.
The Cardinals are calling up Matthew Liberatore (3.8% rostered) for a home start against Milwaukee, in what has suddenly become an important series. Granted, this is a battle between a first- and last-place teams, but despite being in the NL Central cellar, based on run differential and the Bill James Pythagorean Theorem means of predicting wins and losses, St. Louis and Milwaukee should have nearly identical records. With fewer games between divisional rivals this season, every chance for the Cardinals to make up ground is key, as is the opportunity for Milwaukee to keep distance between the rivals. Willson Contreras' return behind the plate sparked Jack Flaherty on Monday night; perhaps Liberatore can provide another lift, as manager Oli Marmol wants to give his rotation an extra day's rest. The Brewers' offense is predictably less potent away from hitter-friendly American Family Field and Liberatore has been pitching well for Triple-A Memphis, posting a 3.13 ER and 1.17 WHIP with 54 strikeouts in 46 frames.
Last season as a 27-year-old, J.P. France (11.5%) posted a 3.90 ERA and 1.36 WHIP for Triple-A Sugarland, the Astros' top affiliate. Fanning 136 with 51 walks in 110 2/3 innings is encouraging, but France was several years advanced for the level, and he yielded 15 homers. He opened this season with 26 punchouts and 11 walks in 19 1/3 innings for the Space Cowboys with no homers. With Houston down a couple of starters, France got the call and has held his own in two outings, whiffing eight with two walks in 11 2/3 innings. A .156 BABIP has certainly helped, but France has exhibited solid command and control. On Wednesday he's slated to pitch his first game at home with the club continuing an interleague set with the Cubs. It won't be easy as the Cubs offense is perhaps surprisingly above average just past the quarter mark of the season, but France has exhibited enough to be trusted at home.
Over his first four starts, MacKenzie Gore walked 14 batters in 21 innings. In his last four, Gore has issued a more palatable seven free passes on 20 stanzas, fanning 26 over that span. Gore is in a great spot to keep pitching well with a date against the Marlins in South Beach on tap. Miami has recorded the fifth-worst wOBA against right-handers, with an above average strikeout rate.
The Reds finally called up one of their prized middle infielders earlier in the week, handing Matt McLain (9.6%) the keys to shortstop, a position Cincinnati has struggled with for several seasons. Granted, Coors Field is a nice place to debut, but a 1-for-4 effort with a walk and two runs is an encouraging way to start a career. McLain enjoys the platoon advantage with the Rockies sending lefty Austin Gomber to the hill on Wednesday. The Reds are mid-pack in stolen bases, which suggests they'll give the green light to those capable of swiping a bag. Last season, McLain was 27-for-30 with Double-A Charlotte, and he was 10-for-15 for Triple-A Louisville prior to his call-up. Sure, a 67% success rate is low, but attempting 15 steals in just 38 games is telling. McLain batted second in his MLB debut, another promising reason to believe he could run.
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Starting pitcher rankings for Wednesday
Bullpen usage watch for Wednesday
By Todd Zola
After throwing 25 pitches while recording a four-out save Monday, the assumption was that Camilo Doval would be unavailable last night. Chances are, Giants manager Gabe Kapler preferred to avoid using his closer, but after Tuesday starter Alex Cobb only lasted 3 1/3 innings, Kapler needed all hands on deck, which included Doval registering his 10th save, throwing 10 of 12 pitches for strikes. With 39 total pitches over two consecutive appearances, Doval is almost assuredly off limits today, especially since the Phillies and Giants wrap up their series with a matinee at 3:45 p.m. ET. The problem is Taylor Rogers, John Brebbia and Tyler Rogers all pitched yesterday. Scott Alexander is well-rested, so he'll be in the mix, at least for a hold. Brebbia is more likely to pitch than the Rogers brothers since Brebbia has pitched just once since Friday.
Devin Williams is flagged for questionable ability today after throwing 27 pitches to secure a five-out save last night. Williams tossed only two more pitches than Doval after Doval was used on consecutive days, so it isn't a no-brainer to reserve Williams, especially with the rubber game of a series with the Cardinals on tap and the Brewers bullpen being light on reliable replacements with Hoby Milner, Joel Payamps and Peter Strzelecki all recording more than four outs yesterday and starter Wade Miley pitching only 1 2/3 frames. Keeping Williams active feels prudent.
Paul Sewald is also coming off a 27-pitch effort Tuesday, albeit in a loss to the Red Sox. Sewald had not pitched for five days, so he was brought in to get some work. Even with a heavy workload yesterday, keeping Sewald active is wise since Mariners' manager Scott Servais wouldn't have extended Sewald for 27 pitches in a blowout loss if he wasn't comfortable bringing him back today if needed.
In part because they're one of only a dozen teams to play Thursday, but also due to an impending series with the Nationals, the Marlins make their inaugural appearance as the team with the best chance to log wins over the next three days. Miami recently placed closer A.J. Puk on the IL with nerve irritation. Dylan Floro and Tanner Scott are the likely replacements, with JT Chargois in the mix.
Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Wednesday
Best and worst hitters from the day are generated by THE BAT X, a projection system created by Derek Carty using advanced methods like those used in MLB front offices, accounting for a variety of factors including player talent, ballparks, bullpens, weather, umpires, defense, catcher pitch-framing, and lots more.
Charlie Blackmon (COL, RF -- 21%) vs. Graham Ashcraft
Spencer Steer (CIN, 3B -- 5%) at Gomber
Nick Senzel (CIN, CF -- 8%) at Gomber
Jurickson Profar (COL, LF -- 11%) vs. Ashcraft
Randal Grichuk (COL, RF -- 4%) vs. Ashcraft
Ryan McMahon (COL, 3B -- 11%) vs. Ashcraft
Elias Diaz (COL, C -- 33%) vs. Ashcraft
Matt McLain (CIN, SS -- 10%) at Gomber
Tyler Stephenson (CIN, C -- 47%) at Gomber
Mike Moustakas (COL, 3B -- 1%) vs. Ashcraft
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Adolis Garcia (TEX, RF -- 92%) vs. Spencer Strider
James Outman (LAD, LF -- 66%) vs. Sonny Gray
Jonah Heim (TEX, C -- 83%) vs. Strider
Josh Lowe (TB, RF -- 57%) at Kodai Senga
Tommy Edman (STL, 2B -- 81%) vs. Corbin Burnes
DJ LeMahieu (NYY, 3B -- 71%) at Chris Bassitt
Nathaniel Lowe (TEX, 1B -- 85%) vs. Strider
Marcus Semien (TEX, 2B -- 100%) vs. Strider
Jorge Mateo (BAL, SS -- 69%) vs. Griffin Canning
MJ Melendez (KC, C -- 60%) at Yu Darvish
The Bat X's Best Stacks for Thursday
Cincinnati Reds at Gomber
Colorado Rockies vs. Ashcraft
Prop of the Day
Dustin May, Los Angeles Dodgers: Pitching outs prop is 17.5 pitching outs (-175/+130).
THE BAT sees May putting up 15.8 pitching outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 38.1% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $42.44.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER:
THE BAT forecasts May in the 83rd percentile as it relates to his overall pitching talent level.
Dan Bellino is projected to be the home plate umpire and is known for favoring pitchers.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER:
The Minnesota Twins have been the seventh-unluckiest offense in Major League Baseball this year, according to THE BAT X, and are likely to hit better in the future.
The BAT projection system ranks Dodger Stadium fourth in MLB for home runs.
Among all parks, Dodger Stadium has the lowest average fence height.
The wind projects to be blowing out to RF at 8 mph in this contest, the third-most favorable of the day for bats.