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What you need to know for Sunday's MLB Games
By Todd Zola
Sunday marks the last day of the first round of the playoffs in ESPN head-to-head leagues. Good luck to everyone trying to advance to the finals. For those playing in rotisserie leagues, let's keep grinding. Action begins with a half dozen games in the 1:35 PM ET block. The ESPN Sunday night game starts at 7:10 PM ET with the Chicago Cubs visiting the Arizona Diamondbacks in a contest with playoff implications for both squads.
It's not an ideal slate for streaming pitchers with Jose Quintana (13.7% rostered) the top candidate when he takes the hill in Citi Field for the final game of a series between the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds. Quintana has given the Mets the second-half boost they wanted when signing him, except it was supposed to fortify a playoff-bound team and not a club playing out the string. The veteran lefty has yielded more than three runs in a start just once, and that was to the potent Atlanta Braves lineup. The Reds are a below-average offense facing southpaw pitching, and they incur a big park downgrade on Sunday.
Next up on the Sunday rankings is Quintana's mound foe with Brandon Williamson (6.2%) getting the ball for the Reds. Whereas the Cincinnati hitters must overcome the downgrade from the Great American Ballpark to Citi Field, Williamson benefits from the change. The 25-year-old rookie right-hander has posted a solid second half with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, with 49 strikeouts in 52 frames since the break, but he's experienced a couple of hiccups lately. Even so, our algorithm has the Reds favored on Sunday, with Williamson facing a below-average offense with a righty on the hill, with a strikeout rate that's increased over the second half.
After opening August with a pair of rough outings, Reid Detmers is back on track with three quality starts over his past five outings, including his last two. Detmers has a home date with the Detroit Tigers on the Sunday docket. It's been a trying couple of weeks for the Los Angeles Angels and, after Sunday's affair, they head out on the road to face a couple of playoff-bound teams (Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays). Detmers has a chance to make the flight seem a little shorter facing a below average offense.
The best option for those needing strikeouts is Nick Pivetta (12.5%) when he toes the rubber in the Rogers Centre for the finale of a weekend set between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. There's some risk since the Blue Jays don't fan at an excessive clip, but Pivetta has 79 strikeouts in 53 1/3 second-half innings, including 10 in 5 1/3 innings in his last outing at home against the New York Yankees.
A couple of rookies are in a good position to help a Sunday lineup with some regulars getting the day off, even this late in the season. The Red Sox will start Ceddanne Rafaela (2.6%) and likely bat him leadoff with lefty Hyun Jin Ryu on the mound for the Blue Jays. The 22-year-old right-handed hitter has played second base, shortstop and outfielder since being promoted in late August. Rafaela has impressed early with a .981 OPS. He's only stolen one base in the bigs, but he swiped 37 combined in Double- and Triple-A before getting the call.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sunday
Bullpen usage watch for Sunday
By Todd Zola
Jordan Romano worked the 10th and 1tth of yesterday's extra-inning affair between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. Romano stranded the ghost runners both times, setting up his club to walk it off in the bottom of the 13th. He needed only 18 pitches to get through both frames, but Romano tossed 14 on Friday when saving the first game of the series. Romano has yet to appear on three straight days, though there have been frequent occurrences of this sort of thing around the league over the second half, especially with teams competing for a playoff berth. Furthermore, the Blue Jays don't play on Monday, giving Romano a day to recover if he does pitch today. Romano pitching today can't be ruled out, especially since primary setup man Jordan Hicks has also appeared for two consecutive days, totaling 30 pitches thrown.
Josh Hader recorded his 29th save yesterday, tossing 20 pitches in the process. It was his first outing since last Monday as he needed the long layoff to recover from that 43-pitch effort. Even though 20 pitches is on the high side for an outing, Hader should be available when the Milwaukee Brewers go for the weekend sweep over the Washington Nationals. Primary setup man Scott Barlow has appeared both of the last two days, increasing the likelihood Hader closes today, if needed.
Extra-inning affairs reaching the 13th are rare nowadays, let alone twice in one day. Paul Sewald kept the Arizona Diamondbacks tied with the Chicago Cubs with a scoreless top of the ninth, in a contest eventually walked off by the Diamondbacks. Sewald needed only a dozen pitches, which came one day after tossing 10. Arizona's closer has already appeared three days in a row once this season, so there's a chance he does it again today, particularly since they don't play tomorrow. It should be safe to leave Sewald in your Sunday lineup.
Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Sunday
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.
J.D. Davis (SF, 3B -- 6%) at Flexen
Thairo Estrada (SF, 2B -- 43%) at Flexen
Mike Yastrzemski (SF, RF -- 10%) at Flexen
Michael Conforto (SF, RF -- 6%) at Flexen
LaMonte Wade Jr. (SF, RF -- 10%) at Flexen
Joc Pederson (SF, LF -- 6%) at Flexen
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Sunday
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Sunday
Prop of the Day
Sean Manaea, Giants, 14.5 pitching outs (-150/+114)
THE BAT X sees Manaea putting up 12.7 pitching outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 39.4% of the time. THE BAT X believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $29.71.
Note: Expected Value is a measure of how good a bet is, factoring the probability that it will win versus the odds the book is providing. If you were to wager $1.00 100 times on a bet with an Expected Value of $25, you would win some and you would lose some, but in the end you would expect to come away with $25 in profit on your $100 investment.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
The Rockies' projected offense grades out as the third-worst of all teams today in terms of overall offensive skill.
Pitcher's umpire Brian Walsh is scheduled to be behind the plate in this game.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
The No. 1 ballpark in the majors for boosting batting average, per THE BAT X is Coors Field.
This game is forecast to have the 15th-most suitable conditions for pitching among all of today's scheduled games.
Given his large platoon split, Manaea meets a tough challenge facing seven bats in today's projected batting order who bat from the other side.
Manaea's fastball velocity over his last three starts (91.7 mph) has been significantly lower than than his seasonal rate (92.8 mph).