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What you need to know for Wednesday's MLB games
By Todd Zola
Despite a twin bill in Anaheim, Wednesday's slate has only 15 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers enjoying a rare hump day on the sidelines. The Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds will play a split-doubleheader, with the first game beginning at 4:07 p.m. ET. The slate's first game starts at 12:35 p.m. ET as the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals. Altogether, there are eight afternoon affairs, with the remaining seven contests under the lights.
Wednesday's top steaming option is Aaron Civale (41.9% rostered in ESPN leagues), who will make his fourth start for the Tampa Bay Rays since being acquired at the trade deadline. Last time out, Civale collected his first win for his new club with six scoreless innings on the road against the San Francisco Giants. Civale has pitched well since the deal, posting a 2.93 ERA for the Rays, but he has fanned only 11 in 15⅓ innings. The right-hander should be able to pad his strikeouts on Wednesday when facing the Colorado Rockies in St. Petersburg. On the road facing righties, the Rockies strike out at a hefty 26.9% clip, which contributes to their .296 wOBA, the fifth-lowest in this scenario.
Cole Ragans (7.6% rostered) has quietly posted a 2.66 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in August. The high WHIP stems from .407 BABIP in this span. However, Ragans punched out 33 over these 23⅓ innings, walking a reasonable eight while yielding just one long ball. The Kansas City Royals southpaw sets up for another dominant effort on the road against the Oakland Athletics and the third-least productive offense with a left-hander on the hill.
Kenta Maeda (22.0%) has pitched better than his 4.13 ERA indicates, as all the expected ERA metrics peg his mark about half a run lower. There are two main factors: a high home run rate and BABIP. His 1.42 HR/9 emanates from a low 32.2% ground-ball rate. The oddity is that level of grounders should generate a BABIP lower than his current .302. All this speaks toward ERA estimators helping flesh out the true skill level and Maeda's outcomes are falling short of his skills. Maeda has an opportunity to lower his ratios with a road affair in American Family Field. Despite being a favorable hitting venue, the Milwaukee Brewers have recorded the ninth-lowest wOBA and seventh-highest strikeout rate at home with a righty toeing the rubber.
Tarik Skubal (18.5%) missed the first three months of the season following left flexor tendon surgery. It took him a few starts to shake off the rust. Since, he's been on one of the best runs of his career, with a 3.08 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his past five outings, with 29 strikeouts in 26 1/3 frames. Most importantly, he hjas walked just four while surrendering just one homer in this stretch. Wednesday's home matchup against the Chicago Cubs will be a challenge, but the Cubs are much more productive facing right-handers. Against lefties, they remain a below-average offense.
Seth Lugo (20.5%) is also on a roll, with four of his past six outings being quality starts. He has punched out 39 over those 34 1/3 stanzas. On Wednesday, Lugo will take the ball for the San Diego Padres in Petco Park against the Miami Marlins. Even with some trade deadline reinforcements, the Marlins lineup is still sputtering versus right-handed pitching.
The Angels-Tigers doubleheader puts their batters in the spotlight since some will play in both games, doubling the chance for production. Unfortunately, identifying the correct hitters is a chore since both teams will be starting a lefty and a righty, so the respective managers are apt to leverage platoons to get as many as possible some action. While the Angels aren't throwing in the towel, the Reds have more on the line in terms of the playoffs, so look for Matt McLain (47%), TJ Friedl (22.4%) and perhaps Christian Encarnacion-Strand (10.1%) to play both ends. Hunter Renfroe (53.4%) and Brandon Drury (27.8%) are the likeliest Angels to play two.
Starting pitcher rankings for Wednesday
Bullpen usage watch for Wednesday
By Todd Zola
Camilo Doval failed to convert a save for the sixth time in 39 chances last night. He came in with the Giants up 3-2, but the Phillies walked it off on a Trea Turner two-run single. Doval threw 19 pitches, raising his count to 48 over the past three days. His availability for today is in serious jeopardy, especially since the clubs will play in a late afternoon matinee and there is less recovery time. Tyler Rogers also appeared yesterday, but he totaled just 13 pitches and was working on two days of rest, so he's the best candidate to serve as closer. Taylor Rogers should also be good to serve in his usual setup capacity.
Among several closers with a similar scenario, David Robertson registered his 18th save last night, using 19 pitches in the process. However, he was appearing on two days of rest, so he'll be able to answer the call if needed today.
Felix Bautista needed only nine pitches to retire the side in the top of the ninth inning with the Orioles and Blue Jays knotted at three. His efficient effort went for naught as the Blue Jays scored three times in the 10th to win 6-3. The bright side is Bautista was working with two days of rest, so he'll be ready today.
Jordan Romano was the beneficiary of the Blue Jays' three-run outburst, as he retired the Orioles in order in the bottom of the 10th, requiring only eight pitches while fanning a pair. Add Romano to the list of closers previously used on Saturday, so he'll also be available for Game 2 of this AL East series.
David Bednar collected his fourth save in the last 10 days with a 12-pitch effort in the Pirates' 6-3 home win over the Cardinals. Continuing the trend, Bednar appeared after two days of rest, so he's fine for today.
Raisel Iglesias caps the run of closers appearing after two days on the bullpen bench. He struggled a bit, allowing the Mets to put the tying and go-ahead runs on base, but Iglesias buckled down to preserve the Braves' 3-2 home victory. Iglesias required 16 pitches, but his game log shows that isn't enough to sideline him today.
Emmanuel Clase hadn't pitched for three days, so he was asked to finish off the Guardians' 8-3 home defeat of the Dodgers. He delivered, and since he only tossed a dozen pitches, Clase can be in session again today if needed.
Alexis Diaz also hadn't appeared since last Friday, but whereas Clase was summoned in a non-save scenario, Diaz delivered his 34th save, locking down the Reds 4-3' win in Anaheim against the Angels. The clubs play a doubleheader today, but Diaz is likely to be available for just one game. Lucas Sims hasn't appeared since Friday, so he'll no doubt get some work, perhaps as a fill-in closer.
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.
Luis Rengifo (LAA, 2B -- 8%) vs. Abbott and Kennedy
Matt McLain (CIN, SS -- 47%) at Ohtani and Detmers
Joey Votto (CIN, 1B -- 9%) at Ohtani and Detmers
Andrew McCutchen (PIT, LF -- 16%) vs. Thompson
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Wednesday
Ian Happ (CHC, LF -- 59%) at Tarik Skubal
Steven Kwan (CLE, LF -- 93%) vs. Kershaw
Cody Bellinger (CHC, CF -- 96%) at Skubal
Dansby Swanson (CHC, SS -- 86%) at Skubal
Ha-Seong Kim (SD, SS -- 77%) vs. Alcantara
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Wednesday
THE BAT X is 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.
Prop of the Day
Chris Sale, Red Sox: Over/Under 5.5 strikeouts (-118/-108)
THE BAT sees Sale putting up 4.9 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 36.6% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER, with an expected value of $23.81.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
THE BAT projects Minute Maid Park as the ninth-best park in baseball for strikeouts.
The Minute Maid Park roof is expected to be closed today, making conditions in this game 8 degrees colder than the average outdoor game of all games on the slate -- favorable for pitching.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
THE BAT X expects Sale to have a pitch count in this matchup, projecting a maximum of 80 pitches.
Per THE BAT X, the Houston Astros have the second-least strikeout-prone lineup on the slate today with a 20.4% underlying K%.
The Astros have seven batters in the projected batting order that will hold the platoon advantage over Sale, which is especially precarious given his huge platoon split.
Sale's fastball velocity over his last three outings (92.4 mph) has seen a significant dropoff from his season rate (93.7 mph).