A couple of big things happened this past week in MLB. The Houston Astros managed to acquire Detroit ace Justin Verlander. The L.A. Dodgers hit a losing streak.
Let’s start with the Stros. With Verlander, Houston now has 2 lock down starters for the MLB Playoffs. Verlander has thrown much better in the second half of the season than he did in the first half. His ERA is down to 2.06 in 7 starts since July 30. Verlander also has enough post-season experience to take the Stros far, at least to the AL Pennant Series.
The second big piece of news must do with the L.A. Dodgers. Did the Dodgers get Sports Illustrated’s kiss of death? SI wrote a story about the Dodgers being the greatest baseball team ever on August 22. Since the story, LAD has gone 4 and 10 straight up.
The Dodgers are on a 4 game losing streak going into Tuesday, September 5. LAD appears in my Thursday MLB Game Pick. Houston appears in my Sunday MLB Game Pick for this 2017 MLB week 20 weekend.
2017 MLB Week 20 Weekend Preview and Picks
Thursday, Sep. 7
Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado pitcher Jon Gray takes his 4.26 ERA and 1.43 WHIP to Chavez-Ravine on Thursday. Gray has faced Dodgers batters 116 times. He’s allowed 31 hits. 6 of the 31 hits went for home runs. The Dodgers bat a healthy .267 against Gray while Gray has struck out 39 of 116 Dodger batters.
L.A. is listed as starting ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound this Thursday. Kershaw saw action for the first time since July 23 on September 1. He pitched 6 innings, struck out 7, and allowed only 2 hits in a 1 to 0 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
The win brought Kershaw’s record this season to 16 and 2. His ERA is an unreal 1.95 while his WHIP is an equally unreal .83. Colorado bats .220 versus Clayton Kershaw.
It’s tough to go against Clayton Kershaw. But, that’s what I’m going to do. My gut tells me that LAD’s issues are much deeper than just putting Kershaw on the mound and letting the guy throw his stuff. Kershaw could have another fantastic outing. Eventually, he’s going to leave the game.
While LAD’s bullpen was awesome in the first half of the season, and for most of the second half, it’s been downright ugly bad lately. Only Kershaw’s performance is what’s kept the Dodgers from a 9-game losing streak. LAD lost 0 to 13 to Arizona on Monday, September 4. The game was at Chavez-Ravine.
Gray should give up plenty of runs. But with the way L.A. is hitting the baseball, the winner could come down to the Dodgers’ bullpen versus Colorado’s bullpen. I don’t see the Dodgers’ BP out-pitching Colorado’s BP in this.
Mainly, I don’t see it happening because Colorado’s bats should be live while the Dodgers’ bats almost certainly won’t. I’m going after Kershaw and LAD. The Rockies could win this game straight up at huge odds.
Pick: Colorado Rockies money line
Friday, Sep. 8
Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh is listed as starting Trevor Williams this Friday, September 8 versus the rival St. Louis Cardinals. Williams, from Arizona State, has a decent 4.16 ERA. His WHIP is an okay 1.34. He’s not a bad pitcher. If he develops more, he could turn into one of the better pitchers on Pitt’s roster.
The Cardinals do bat .417 against Williams. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Williams only faced Pirate batters 48 times. 48 isn’t a lot of at-bats against a single pitcher. What it means is that Trevor could make the adjustments necessary to be much better versus St. Louis this Friday.
St. Louis starts Luke Weaver on Sep. 8. Weaver has a dynamite 2.50 ERA to go along with a stunning 1.11 WHIP. Weaver’s record is 4 and 1. The young Cardinals pitcher has struck out no less than 9 batters in each of his last 3 starts. He struck out 10 Padres on August 23. He struck out 10 Brewers on August 29.
It’s difficult to look past Weaver and the Cardinals in this match up. Weaver only faced Pitt for 2 innings on August 17. He allowed 1 hit, walked 2, and struck out 1. Starters don’t always handle it well when pitching in relief duty. Weaver appears to have handled it well in his only relief action versus the Pirates.
There’s another reason to like St. Louis in this match up. The Cardinals are only 5 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central Division. Pittsburgh is 9.5 games behind the Cubbies. It would take a lot for Pitt to win the Central.
St. Louis? It might not take much. The Cardinals are 4 and 1 straight up in their last 5 with 3 games versus San Diego at Petco before a 3 game weekend tilt against the Pirates. St. Louis has a massive shot to close the gap on Chicago by sweeping both the Padres and the Bucs.
I think Weaver pitches a marvelous game on Friday. The Cardinals are the play on the run line.
Pick: St. Louis Cardinals run line
Saturday, Sep. 9
Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs
The Brewers are only 3.5 games behind Chicago. This weekend series between the Brew Crew and the Cubbies is ultra-important. If the Brewers can make up ground on Chicago, things could get wild in the final 3 weeks of the MLB Regular Season.
For Saturday’s match up, Milwaukee sends Chase Anderson to the mound. Anderson’s been a pleasant surprise for Brewer fans this season. His ERA of 3.06 is sweet. His WHIP of 1.14 isn’t bad. Anderson allows Cubs’ batters to hit .256 against him. The Cubs have 21 hits, 6 being home runs, from 82 at-bats versus Anderson.
Chicago counters Anderson with pitcher Mike Montgomery. Montgomery has a 3.38 ERA. His WHIP is 1.24. Montgomery has only started 11 games this season while pitching in 38. He’s faced Milwaukee batters 48 times. The Brew Crew hits .250 versus Montgomery.
This is a tough match up. But, I’m going with the Cubs. Although Chase Anderson’s ERA is 3.06, he didn’t pitch well in his last start on September 4. He only lasted 5.1 innings while allowing 3 earned runs off 7 hits. Anderson walked 3 and struck out 4. The Reds beat Milwaukee 5 to 4.
I believe Anderson’s form is going south. The Cubs know that they must beat Milwaukee to stay ahead in the NL Central. I think Chicago does exactly that.
The Cubs are 6 and 4 straight up versus the Brewers so far this season. That includes going 2 and 1 SU in the last 3 games series between these 2 teams. I think Anderson and the Brewers are in for a long afternoon.
I’ve got Chicago beating Milwaukee on the money line.
Pick: Chicago Cubs money line
Sunday, Sep. 10
Houston Astros at Oakland A’s
Justin Verlander’s first start as a Houston Astro is on Tuesday, Sep. 5 against the Seattle Mariners. His second start is scheduled for this Sunday against the Oakland Athletics. In a small sample, the A’s have had great success versus Verlander. Oakland bats .293 against the Stros’ new ace. The A’s have 17 hits from 58 at-bats. 3 of the hits went for home runs.
Oakland counters Justin Verlander with pitcher Kendall Graveman. Graveman’s ERA is 4.54. His WHIP is 1.42. Graveman hasn’t faced Houston since April 14. In that game, he pitched 5.1 innings, and allowed 1 earned run off 5 hits.
Overall, Houston bats .224 versus Kendall Graveman. The Stros have 35 hits from 156 at-bats against Oakland’s listed Sunday starter.
Most MLB handicappers are going to expect Verlander to come up huge in this game versus the Athletics. I’m not sure that happens. The sample size with Verlander against Oakland batters isn’t the issue.
What could be an issue is how well Verlander pitches in Oakland. Justin’s road ERA is a healthy 4.78. Sometimes, pitchers become very good when they switch teams. That may not be the case with Verlander in this battle.
Look, Verlander could make me look like I don’t know what I’m doing for backing Oakland in this. But, the questions about Verlander’s effectiveness on the road, along with Graveman’s overall effectiveness against Houston batters, is enough for me to take a shot.
I like the A’s to upset the Houston Astros in this game on Sunday, Sep. 10.
Pick: Oakland Athletics money line