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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#951 Chicago Cubs (Hendricks) -115 over Cincinnati Reds (Roark) 5:40 PM CT

With a pessimistic Pecota projection and some off-season uncertainty the Cubs started slowly in 2019 but now halfway through May, Chicago has the NL’s best record at 24-14, going 21-6 since April 11. The Cubs have won seven of the past eight road games and the lineup is crushing right-handed pitching with an .807 season OPS. Tanner Roark has posted good numbers for the Reds with a 3.27 ERA but a 4.80 xFIP hovers over his season line. While he has an 8.1 K/9 he also had a 4.1 BB/9 and Roark has benefitted from facing some of the NL’s lesser offensive teams this season.

Kyle Hendricks might be on pace to have a season that resembles his great 2016 campaign. While he has just two wins so far, his ERA is 3.19 and he has walked just eight batters in over 42 innings of work. He has an elevated BABIP and only a 65 percent strand rate as he is poised to improve his numbers in the coming weeks. His road splits present a great contrast to his 0.62 Wrigley Field ERA but his road starts have been exclusively against NL contenders and two of those outings were his first two starts of the season. Cincinnati has hit left-handed pitching quite well this season but with a .667 team OPS, this is one of the worst hitting teams in MLB vs. right-handed pitching. The Reds have outscored foes by 20 runs so far in May but are just 6-6, underscoring the recent issues of the bullpen with Cincinnati 1-4 in extra-innings games and 6-13 in one-run games this season.

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20-runs in season scoring differential came exclusively in  sweeping a three-game set with the lowly Marlins however and against two other elite NL squads the Reds have gone 0-6 facing the Dodgers and Brewers. On the road this season the Cubs have scored 7.0 runs per game while batting .283 vs. right-handers while the Reds have hit just .218 vs. right-handers at home this season. Even if Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist remain out this is a reasonable price to support the NL’s top team and a pitcher that is capable of being one of the best in the league.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#971/972 ‘OVER 8.5’ Detroit Tigers (Turnbull) at Philadelphia Phillies (Velasquez) 6:05 PM CT

Vince Velasquez has posted a 1.99 ERA in four starts and a relief inning for the Phillies, helping the rotation greatly with the early season struggles of Nick Pivetta and Aaron Nola. There are some big red flags for Velasquez however with his worst start his only home outing and an xFIP of 4.22. He has left 96 percent of his baserunners on base while posting a .228 BABIP. He has also made starts in Miami and at Citi Field for very favorable opportunities. Some light rain in possible in Philadelphia Tuesday but conditions shouldn’t be detrimental to offense and Philadelphia has scored 5.2 runs per game this season.

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The Phillies have struggled pitching however with 4.7 runs per game allowed and Citizens Bank Park has averaged 10.5 runs per game this season with the Phillies averaging 6.1 runs per game at home. This is the third city on the current road trip for the Tigers who are the AL’s lowest scoring team with only 91 runs. Detroit has averaged 4.9 runs per game over the past 10 contests, posting at least four runs in six of the past nine games and averaging 5.0 runs per game on this road trip.

Tyson Ross was scratched from this start but while Spencer Turnbull might look like a better option with a 2.77 ERA a 4.46 xFIP is a more realistic account. Turnbull hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts but he has also faced a light crop of opposing lineups this season. His 3.8 BB/9 is a concern and little in his career numbers suggests that his current pace is sustainable with Turnbull posting one career win and a 4.04 ERA in now just over 42 innings at the MLB level. Surrendering flyballs at a high rate against the Phillies in this ballpark can be problematic and the Detroit bullpen owns a 4.81 ERA on the season while Philadelphia hasn’t been much better as both bullpens feature a WHIP above 1.40. Over the past 10 games Detroit has a 8.37 bullpen ERA and with a double-header a week ago and several short starting efforts over the weekend the Tigers haven’t had much chance to recover even with an off day Monday.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#959 San Diego Padres (Lauer) +115 over San Francisco Giants (Bumgarner) 8:45 PM CT

Madison Bumgarner remains a popular big-name starter for the Giants but the 2014 World Series hero has a 10-18 record in his decisions since the start of the 2017 season. He owns a 1.38 ERA this season but with a 3.68 FIP and his FIP was well higher than his 3.26 ERA last season. There wasn’t a big difference between the Giants and the Padres last season at the bottom of the NL West with San Diego featuring a worse record but scoring 14 more runs in the 2018 season. The Giants appear to be headed for a similar fate in 2019 with a 3-7 start and only 25 runs scored in 10 games.

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San Diego had a splashy off-season and is going with young unproven arms in the rotation but the Padres are 6-4 to start the season including a series win in St. Louis last weekend. San Diego won three of four hosting the Giants to start the season and the underdog price late Monday night is appealing. Eric Lauer lacks Bumgarner’s career credentials but the left-hander is a former 1st round pick. His numbers have been marginal in two starts this season but he has allowed just four runs in 11 innings and has displayed excellent command. The Giants have also scored just 1.9 runs per nine vs. left-handers this season compared to 5.8 for the Padres.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#971/972 ‘UNDER 9.5’ Detroit Tigers (Turnbull) at Minnesota Twins (Stewart) 7:10 PM CT

Spencer Turnbull is a former first round pick and he is getting a look at the MLB level this September. He faced Minnesota last week and allowed six runs but on just six hits and his FIP is only 2.55 in his five MLB innings despite the high ERA. He hasn’t allowed a home run and has allowed just one walk.

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The Twins have a team OPS of just .718 over the past 24 games, down to .670 over the past four games. The Twins and Tigers have averaged just 8.5 runs per game in 16 meetings and cold Autumn conditions are expected in Minneapolis tonight. In 10 of the last 14 games Detroit has scored four or fewer runs and the Tigers have a .670 team OPS the past two weeks, averaging just 3.8 runs per game.

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Kohl Stewart has offered great promise for the Twins down the stretch with a 4.40 ERA in seven appearances, never allowing more than three runs. He pitched six innings with only one unearned run and three hits allowed vs. the Tigers last week and the team’s top pick in the 2013 draft has great potential. In favorable pitching conditions both young arms should have success against marginal lineups Tuesday night.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#976 Kansas City Royals (Keller) -130 over Chicago White Sox (Covey) 7:15 PM CT

Brad Keller has been a bright spot for the Royals with a 3.14 ERA and a winning record in 17 starts. He has pitched well in five of six appearance vs. the White Sox with none of his starts vs. Chicago at home where he owns a 3.11 ERA on the season. Since August started Keller owns a 2.64 ERA and the Royals have quietly been hitting well down the stretch.

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Kansas City has an .805 team OPS in the past 11 games, scoring 5.1 runs per contest. In contrast Chicago has a .679 team OPS the past two weeks and has now lost six games in a row without scoring more than three runs. Dylan Covey will be making his first start since mid-August after being relegated to the bullpen. In 17 starting efforts he had a 5.87 ERA with a 4.0 BB/9, going 4-10 in decisions. He has allowed 13 runs in three starts vs. Kansas City this season, taking the loss in all three games. The Royals have also gone 9-1 in the last 10 games as Kauffman.

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Free MLB Pick Sunday

#961/962 ‘OVER 8’ Pittsburgh Pirates (Musgrove) at San Francisco Giants (Rodriguez) 3:05 PM CT

Joe Musgrove has a 3.41 ERA in 12 starts looking like a viable piece of a promising Pittsburgh rotation for years to come. His xFIP is 4.41 and his K/9 is just 6.8 however as Musgrove may not be able to keep this pace up. He has pitched extremely well on the road this season but it is a very small sample of only 27 innings and the Pittsburgh bullpen has struggled in recent weeks while needing a substantial workload already in this series.

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Dereck Rodriguez has provided a very promising start for the Giants, 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 11 outings. He also has a high xFIP casting some doubt on the figures however at 4.00. His strikeout rate isn’t a lot higher at 7.5 K/9 and his numbers seem likely to rise over time. The Giants have had several short starting efforts in the last week and both teams have been significantly more productive vs. right-handers this season.

In six meetings between these teams on the season there has been 71 combined runs scored and AT&T Park has not fit its reputation this season with 8.9 runs per game and a sharp lean ‘over’. Five of the past seven day games in San Francisco have also featured at least eight runs.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#951 St. Louis Cardinals (Weaver) -145 over Miami Marlins (Chen) 6:10 PM CT

With a managerial change and trading or releasing a few prominent players the Cardinals appeared to be content to play for next season but St. Louis is only four games out of the second wild card spot in the National League. Luke Weaver is 6-9 with a 4.75 ERA to fail to meet high expectations that grew after great numbers in 10 starts last season. Weaver has a much lower FIP than his ERA however he possesses steady strikeout and walk counts. Since a brutal start hosting the Braves in late June Weaver has put together a good recent run of outings with a 3.38 ERA in his last five starts. Weaver has pitched better in his road starts and Miami has some of the worst offensive numbers in baseball.

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After a nice mid-summer stretch the Marlins are back in the NL East basement with losses in six straight games and 10 of the past 13. Miami has a .619 team OPS in the past 20 games, averaging just over 3.6 runs per game. The Cardinals meanwhile have a solid .758 team OPS the past 23 games, averaging more than 4.8 runs per contest. St. Louis has also been a dramatically superior hitting team vs. left-handed pitching this season. Wei-Yin Chen has been erratic in 17 starts this season but he ultimately owns a 5.86 ERA with a low strikeout rate and an above average walk rate. He had a marginal four-inning start against the Cardinals earlier this season and while his home numbers are good, a win in his most recent home start was his first since April in Miami.

The Marlins have one of the worst bullpens in baseball and over the past 10 games St. Louis has a 1.58 ERA for relievers compared to a 7.24 bullpen ERA for the Marlins. In that span St. Louis is batting .354 vs. left-handed pitching as the road favorite price looks worth the risk fading the slumping Marlins tonight.

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Free MLB Pick Saturday

#978 Colorado Rockies (Gray) -150 over Seattle Mariners (LeBlanc) 8:10 PM CT

Jon Gray was surprisingly sent to the minors for two starts despite being the team’s expected ace. Gray has a 11.6 K/9 on the season and his 2.82 xFIP suggests he has deserved much better than his 5.77 ERA. Pitching at Coor’s Field is a challenge however and Gray has slightly better home numbers while allowing four or fewer runs in five of his past six home starts.

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Wade LeBlanc owns a career 8.59 ERA at Coor’s Field and while he has been a nice story for the surprising Mariners the numbers don’t look sustainable. His xFIP is a full run higher than his ERA and he has been fortunate to post a 5-0 record though it is worth noting that all five wins came at Safeco Field where LeBlanc owns a 2.88 ERA compared to a 4.11 road mark.

8-3 in July with 71 runs scored the Rockies are looking like a threat in the packed NL West as the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have not been able to pull away from the pack. Colorado has great offensive numbers vs. left-handers with a .269 season batting average and a .785 team OPS. Colorado has posted an .820 OPS the past 24 games while scoring 5.8 runs per game while Seattle’s season may be heading the wrong direction, outscored by 19 runs in a 5-6 start to July with luck running out for a squad that is 26-11 in one-run games.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#926 Cincinnati Reds (Romano) -130 over Detroit Tigers (Boyd) 6:10 PM CT

24-year-old Sal Romano is an imposing figure on the mound as one of the largest in stature players in the game. He showed some promise in 16 starts on a bad Reds team last season but he hasn’t taken a step forward this season, struggling through 14 starts with a 5.67 ERA for a last place team. Romano has better numbers at home and he has been very effective against right-handed batters with a .225 batting average against and his season xFIP is a bit more respectable at 4.82. He delivered a fine start at Kansas City in his last outing and in six of his last eleven outings he has allowed two or fewer runs.

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Left-hander Matt Boyd has posted a 3.23 ERA this season but his xFIP is actually higher than Romano’s at 4.98. Boyd has benefitted from a .232 BABIP and his strikeout numbers are marginal with a 7.0 K/9. Boyd is an extreme flyball pitcher and pitching in Cincinnati that could be a problem compared with his spacious home park in Detroit. Not surprisingly Boyd has much worse numbers on the road with the Tigers just 13-20 in road games this season despite being a surprise team in the AL so far this season.

The Reds have a bullpen edge in this matchup with a 2.92 ERA over the past 10 games in relief innings and overall this season both teams have fared better vs. left-handed pitching to give Cincinnati the edge in tonight’s pitching matchup. Since starting the season 8-27 the Reds have played exactly .500 ball since May 8 including winning four of the past six games ahead of this home stand. Detroit has quietly won five in a row but they did so with light scoring as the Tigers have been held to four or fewer runs in 12 of the past 15 games. Trust the oddmakers and support the small favorite tonight despite the contrasting records for these squads.

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Free MLB Pick Saturday

#957 Los Angeles Dodgers (Buehler) -125 over Colorado Rockies (Marquez) 6:15 PM CT

Not much has gone right for the Dodgers this season with a few big injuries but Los Angeles has quietly won 11 of the past 15 games to creep closer to .500. Despite struggling the first two months the Dodgers are just three games out of first place in the NL West and they have a chance to make it just two games with another win over the Rockies after an 11-8 result in Denver last night. The Dodgers have the best scoring differential in the division despite being fourth in the current standings and Los Angeles won last night despite the Rockies going 6-10 with runners in scoring position.

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Both bullpens were heavily taxed yesterday and while Walker Buehler lacks experience he is a high ceiling option on the mound that has proven able to go deep in games with back-to-back seven-inning outings. His ERA is just 2.20 with a better than 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and he has so far lived up to his top prospect billing as a 1st round pick from three years ago. Colorado managed just two hits against him in a mid-May outing over seven innings. First outings at Coor’s Field can be challenging but Buehler looks like the better option on the mound tonight.

German Marquez is actually a few months younger than Buehler despite winning 11 games for the Rockies last season. His trajectory in 2018 remains similar with nearly identical numbers in many categories this season, except for a much higher walk rate. Marquez has been a disaster at home this season with a 7.54 ERA in over 22 innings of work and the Rockies own a shaky 4.78 bullpen ERA the past 10 games.

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