MLB Betting Notes: Sox and Mariners Meet in Potential Playoff Preview

MLB Betting Notes: Sox and Mariners Meet in Potential Playoff Preview article feature image

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Felix Hernandez

Fresh off intradivision sweeps, the Red Sox and Mariners will kick off a series tonight in the Emerald City. Boston will travel across the country after its sweep of Baltimore, while Seattle will stay in its friendly confines after getting its third sweep of the season.

Despite the loss of Robinson Cano, Seattle still sits atop the AL West. In fact, the Mariners have the best record in baseball (25-10) since May 8 — five days before the last time Cano played. Yes, the Mariners have won an unusually high 21 games (21-9) by one run, which puts them on pace to break the record of 42 one-run victories held by the 1978 Giants. However, don’t overlook some of the fantastic things the Mariners are doing on the diamond this season.

They play solid defense (tied for seventh in MLB in fielding percentage), lead the American League in sacrifices, rank fifth in stolen bases per game and have the third-fewest strikeouts per game. That’s a formula for winning baseball games. The energy they play with and clutch hits they constantly come up with also help.

The Mariners might just stick around all summer, especially if they can hold their own in an upcoming brutal stretch of the schedule — starting with a four-game series with the Red Sox tonight. Let’s take a closer look at Game 1 of that series from a betting perspective.

Boston Red Sox (-132) at Seattle Mariners (+122) | O/U: 8.5

David Price (7-4, 4.00 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (6-5, 5.70 ERA)
10:10 p.m. ET

Felix Hernandez

Hernandez is certainly not the same pitcher we saw for many years in Seattle. His 5.70 ERA looks even more troubling when you glance under the hood. His fastball velocity sits at a career-low 89.1. mph, while his hard-hit percentage sits at a career-high 38.9%. Also, his subpar 2.13 K/BB rate ranks 18th-worst among all qualified pitchers. Despite these alarming numbers, he owns the fourth-lowest strand rate among qualified starters — which shouldn’t persist.

King Felix has particularly stumbled early in his starts (especially in the first inning), but he does usually settle in nicely for a few innings before dipping again during the third time through the order.

Hernandez has struggled mightily over the past five seasons against the Red Sox. He owns a sky-high 7.76 ERA over 26.2 innings, allowing 34 hits — eight of which left the yard. That trend might continue tonight against a Sox team that ranks first in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage against right-handers. — Stuckey

David Price

Price also has some troubling peripherals, as his strikeout numbers are down, while his walk numbers have jumped. His 2.40 K/BB rate ranks 29th-worst among qualified starters, which would worry me as a Sox fan. Like Hernandez, the velocity on his fastball has dipped to a career low, and he owns an unsustainable 68.9% strand rate. Things might not get easier against a Mariners team that has the fifth-highest average against southpaws this season. — Stuckey

Fantasy Focus

Bottom Order Blues: The fantasy output difference between the Red Sox’s 1-4 hitters and 5-9 hitters is quite drastic. Just take a look at their performance splits on DraftKings this season:

  • 1-4 hitters: +1.51, 46% consistency, 19% upside
  • 5-9 hitters: -0.77, 33% consistency, 11% upside

Although Boston has the second-best offense in the league behind the Yankees, its big bats have carried the load. We saw how much the Red Sox offense struggled during Mookie Betts’ recent stint on the DL — especially after Dustin Pedroia also headed back to the DL and Hanley Ramirez got the boot.

This could mean a couple of things. Opposing pitchiers could just pitch around the top of the order if those struggles continue. Or Boston’s potent offense could become even more prolific if a couple of bats at the bottom of the lineup get hot. I’m looking at you Rafael Devers (.231), Sandy Leon (.231) and Jackie Bradley Jr. (.181). — Mark Gallant

Getting Trendy

Say What? Hernandez enters this start with an ERA of 5.70, which might work out against Boston. So far in 2018, the Red Sox have amazingly gone just 1-10 in 11 games against starters with an ERA of 5.00 or higher. They’ve been outscored by 2.2 runs on average in those games, losing bettors 8.4 units. Only the Astros (2-12, -8.5 units) have been less profitable in this spot. — Evan Abrams

Historic Pace: Stuck mentioned Seattle’s amazing record in one-run games. Well, the Mariners are also 7-2 in two-run games, including Wednesday’s 8-6 walk-off win against the Angels. That means the M’s own a combined 28-11 (71.8%) record in games decided by one or two runs. If they maintain this pace, they’d have the greatest win percentage in such games since 1901. — John Ewing

East Coast Bias: Since 2011, Price’s teams have gone just 8-14 on the moneyline (-7.4 units) in his 22 starts in the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. Contrast that with the extreme amount of success Price’s teams have had in his Eastern and Central Time Zone starts during that same span: 124-71, +18.1 units.  — Evan Abrams

Pitchers’ Park: The Weather Rating projection for SafeCo Field tonight sits at just 24. Even though Seattle treats pitchers kindly regardless, with arms averaging a Plus/Minus of +0.85 — it’s even better for hurlers in this spot. In games with a Weather Rating of 25 or lower, pitchers’ Plus/Minus has nearly doubled to +1.62. — Mark Gallant