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July 23, 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)

There are two picks including a big underdog tonight.
 

#1: Take Cleveland Indians (-133) on the Money Line against Chicago White Sox risking 3% of bankroll. 
(Bauer and Samardzija must start for wager to have action)

With the trade deadline fast approaching, White sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija is likely the Chicago White Sox best option come the deadline. Currently there are 6 potential teams interested in his services so this is likely his last appearance in a White sox uniform. All of those trade rumors and speculation can provide quite a bit of distraction for a pitcher who needs to be mentally focused. Samardzija is a good pitcher, although he's been mediocre at best on the road this season. If there was ever a time where he was going to have an "off" performance, it would likely be tonight. 

We believe Trevor Bauer is the better starting pitcher in this contest and won't be distracted as his counterpart likely will be. Bauer has really come into his own this year has had great success against the Pale Hose this season going 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in three starts against them this  season. In 79 at-bats, he's limited Chicago bats to just 3 extra-base hits! He has a 25/7 strike out to walk ratio against this ball club while limiting them to just a .215 batting average! That's certainly part of the reason his club is 4-1 against White Sox when he takes the mound. Melky Cabrera is hitless against him in 10 at-bats and he's not the only one that's struggled! Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez have also been baffled by him. 

The White Sox have struggled on the offensive end at times and they are currently in the midst of a 4 game losing streak. While their 4 game streak is demoralizing, what's even more so is given the fact that so many of the losses including last night's valiant effort against Cardinals came by just a single run! Indians on the other hand took one in Milwaukee last night and beat the Reds 2-1 to take that series in Cincinnati. They know this is the time to make up ground and will be determined to do so. This is also a club that is starting to find its best starting position players that has resulted in 10 consecutive games of having 0 or maximum of 1 fielding error. The Tribe are not only the better team in our opinion but also have the better coach, better bullpen and are the more motivated squad in this contest.

Th Chicago offense has often struggled. Adam LaRoche is batting just .148 (4 for 27) with one RBI and 12 strikeouts against Cleveland this season, and .140 (8 for 57) with three RBIs in his last 19 contests overall. The White Sox have scored eight runs in their last three games and three or less runs in five of their last seven games. As a team they have lost five of their last eight games when scoring three or less runs and we don't see them scoring a ton in this contest either.

The Indians find themselves just 4.5 games back of a Wild Card spot and still very much in playoff hunt unlike their counterparts. They have quite a bit to play for and not only do they want to open this AL Central home series with a win, but they know they basically need to given that the 3 next hurlers that the White Sox will throw at them are all lefties, including their Ace, Chris Sale. Things aren't going to get any easier for Indians after tonight and this is likely to be their best chance for a win and they realize that. 

Cleveland has numerous advantages in this spot. The Tribe has statistically done much better against right handed pitchers than southpaws which is no surprise given that some of their most potent bats are left-handed. They also have the better bullpen and better manager in Terry Francona. Cleveland should find themselves in a solid position to win this game for and this is a reasonable price to lay with them tonight. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • White Sox are 3-7 in Samardzija's last 10 road starts. 
  • White Sox are 5-10 this season after 3 or more consecutive losses!  
  • White Sox are 5-17 in the last 22 meetings in Cleveland and 17-35 in the last 52 meetings overall.
     

#2: Take Washington Nationals (+168) on the Money Line against Pittsburgh Pirates risking 3% of bankroll. 
(Fister and Liriano must start for wager to have action)

This is a matchup where we feel the Washington Nationals hold an extreme amount of value as the underdogs. These are two quality teams and it can be argued that the Pirates have the better overall pitcher on the mound tonight with southpaw Francisco Liriano taking the mound, but we don't feel that this is the ideal spot to back Liriano, or the Pirates. We have numerous concerns in this matchup, not only from an odds standpoint, but from a performance one as well. This is a matchup that we feel could go either way and due to the hefty return on the Nats, we believe it is worth the risk. 

While Liriano has been a stellar pitcher this season, he is coming off an extremely long layoff. For those who remember, we had backed Liriano in his last start against the Milwaukee Brewers, before a late scratch forced him out of that contest. This means that it has been 10 days since the last time he has taken the mound and could be a bit rusty in the early innings. Also, he was scratched due to neck tightness and at this point it is unknown if he has completely healed from this nagging injury. Either way, we don't expect to see him at a full 100% in this contest. Liriano has had an advantage over most teams this season since he is a southpaw. A majority of teams in the league struggle against left handed pitchers; but the Nationals are not one of them. In fact, Washington already has an impressive 13-7 record against left handed pitchers this season and if Liriano shows even the slightest bit of rust on him, this is a team that can make him pay.  

The Pirates also find themselves in their first game back at PNC Park after a long (and disappointing) road trip. Pittsburgh lost 5 of their 6 games on the road and while many may expect their fortunes to change now that they are back home, we've learned from experience that the first home game after a long road trip is often an adjustment period and rarely works out as an advantage. Pittsburgh will likely be much more comfortable in game 2 of this series, but for tonight's contest, we do expect them to need some time to settle in and adjust to be back home. 

These two teams are also coming off much different endings to last night’s games. Pittsburgh is coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals in a game that saw them go 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. This was another loss to an elite team in the league and may have been a confidence buster since while Pittsburgh is a quality team, they know that if they can't perform against the top tier teams in the league then their playoff hopes will likely be short lived. Last night's loss could leave them deflated and just a bit short on confidence heading into tonight's contest. Meanwhile the Washington Nationals players should be celebrating the way that they won last night’s game with a late rally in the 8th inning to ultimately take the game and the series from the Mets. Unlike their counterparts, the Nats should be full of confidence and looking to carry last night’s momentum over into tonight’s contest. 

We also feel that Doug Fister is being somewhat underrated and disrespected. He's the forgotten man in this Nationals rotation yet he is not a bad pitcher and has in fact held this Pirates offense at bay in the past owning an ERA of just slightly above 1 in previous starts against them. Pittsburgh has managed to get a lot of singles off him but it's led to nowhere and Fister has been able to limit damage when runners get on base. In 68 at-bats, only 2 hits against him have been for extra bases! That’s rather impressive if you think about it. Also, Pirates slugger Starling Marte is 0 for 8 lifetime against him with no walks. Fister should be able to limit the damage by the Pirates bats and keep this game much closer than people expect. 

This is a game that will likely come down to timely hitting; however there are numerous advantages in this contest that we feel sides with the visitors. At these odds, the value is too much to pass up on a quality team like the Nationals, especially given how Pitt has struggled recently. We believe the Nationals win a close one.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Washington is 5-0 against the Pirates in the last 5 meetings!
  • Doug Fister has an ERA of just 1.07 in 4 career starts against Pittsburgh!
  • Liriano has an ERA of 4.42 and a WHIP of 1.254 in 3 career starts against Washington.



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