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MLB Best Bets for Friday (8/20)

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Talk about a bad beat to bring the mini-winning streak to an end. We were on Milwaukee and St. Louis under 7 Wednesday and were sitting pretty with St. Louis leading 3-2 in the top of the ninth. Then, with one out and facing one of the most electric closers in the game, Avisaíl García decides to hit a game-tying solo shot over the left field wall. I’m assuming you can guess what happens from there. A tale as old as time, an under heads into extra innings tied and gets blown up. The final score ended up 6-4 Milwaukee, blowing over the total by three runs when we were primed for a cash.

Luckily in betting MLB, there’s always another game, and we’re able to turn the page quickly and focus on Friday. We have a full 15-game slate to sift through, so let’s look to start the weekend off in the green and see how I’m attacking the Detroit at Toronto game.

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Detroit Tigers @ Toronto Blue Jays

Detroit +245, FanDuel Sportsbook; Toronto -265, SugarHouse

Detroit heads north of the border to take on Toronto at the Rogers Centre for a three-game weekend series. We’ll have some lefty-on-lefty crime in this one as Detroit southpaw Tyler Alexander is being sent into the lion’s den again to face off against fellow Toronto lefty Robbie Ray.

Tyler Alexander will get his ninth start of the year at Toronto despite his 4.57 ERA and 4.49 FIP (4.59 and 5.16, respectively, as a starter) this season, numbers that might not necessarily seem egregiously bad, but he’s faced essentially all bottom-of-the-league offenses (Cleveland twice, Baltimore, Minnesota twice, Texas, Seattle and Milwaukee) that have average splits at best facing lefties (excluding Baltimore’s 106 wRC+ vs LHP). Toronto’s lineup, stacked with righties, will be an entirely different beast. For starters, the Rogers Centre is the sixth-highest run-scoring environment in the league … and it’s only that low if you include their stints in Dunedin and Buffalo in the rankings—among actively used parks, Rogers Center is fourth. Not only is the park itself a nightmare for pitchers, but Alexander has been significantly worse on the road. He surprisingly has a 3.91 FIP at home (albeit with a 4.86 xFIP), but his road FIP skyrockets to 5.08 with almost two HR/9 allowed and a smooth .302 BABIP. His lefty/righty splits are just about as dramatic as his home/away splits, allowing just a .239 wOBA with a 3.93 FIP (4.82 xFIP) to lefties but has had his world rocked by righties allowing a .359 wOBA and .518 SLG with a 4.71 FIP. Alexander ranks firmly in the bottom half of the league in all of his advanced metrics and in the bottom-20% of the league in most of them (xwOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG, barrel rate, K% and whiff rate). With a bad track record on the road, terrible stats facing righties, and battling against the lineup with arguably the best right-handed bats in the league, I don’t expect Alexander to be able to keep Toronto’s bats quiet in this one.

Offensively, Detroit has probably been one of the bigger surprises on the season. Thought of by most to be a basement dweller at the beginning of the season much like the Texases and Pittsburghs of the world, they’ve actually checked in with a respectable (for their expectations) 92 wRC+. They haven’t fared too well against righties, but their 103 wRC+ against lefties ranks just inside the top 10. Over the last 30 days, Detroit’s 8.2% barrel rate is just 0.3 percentage points away from being a top-10 mark, and their 39.5% hard hit rate is the seventh best in the majors. This Detroit group may not be the most intimidating offense in the league, but they’ve proven to be able to put up solid numbers against lefties and have been hitting the ball hard lately.

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Now onto the fun part, Toronto’s offense. All they’ve done on the year is put up an MLB-leading .337 wOBA and the second-highest 113 wRC+. They don’t have any split disadvantages and put up almost identical top-three marks facing lefties and righties (second-highest .337 wOBA, tird for third 112 wRC+ vs LHP). Digging a little deeper, Toronto is expected to start eight right-handed batters Friday. I already touched upon Alexander’s terrible splits vs. righties, but the mismatch gets even bigger with Toronto’s righties facing lefties. Their right-handed bats alone, and granted they have some of the best with Vladimir Guererro Jr. Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, and Teoscar Hernández, have touched up left-handers to the tune of a .350 wOBA, .197 ISO, and 121 wRC+, all top-3 marks in the league. Toronto has five players who already have 20-plus homers on the season and I’m anticipating a few of them to add to their season total.

Robbie Ray has had quite the runaround season from last year’s 6.62 ERA and 6.50 FIP. He quietly has just a 2.88 ERA and a 3.85 FIP through 137.1 IP and has been nothing short of amazing for Toronto’s pitching staff. Somewhat expected since he pitches in such a hitter friendly park, Ray actually has reverse home/road splits that shows him performing much better on the road. At home his wOBA against is still under .300, but his FIP increases to over 4.00 in his home starts. Like Alexander, and most liefties for that matter, Ray also has worse splits against righties and has been “touched up” for a .301 wOBA against with a 4.12 FIP (.241 wOBA and 2.92 FIP vs. LHB). Most of his advanced metrics rank pretty high, his xwOBA, xERA, xBA, K%, BB% and whiff rate all bored the top 30% of the league, but he has three big advanced stats that rank poorly. His barrel rate falls within the bottom 25% of the league while his average exit velocity and hard hit rate are both bordering the bottom 10%. Ray has been phenomenal this season, but allowing a team who is good against lefties to barrel up some balls could lead to a few runs.

The pick

I’m expecting fireworks in this matchup in Toronto, at least from one side. The Tigers should be able to hold their own as they are a top-10 team facing lefties on the year, but Toronto’s bats against Alexander is what really stands out in this matchup. They throw out All-Star righty after All-Star righty and in no world do I expect Alexander to be able to quiet their big four (Guerrero, Semien, Bichette, and Hernandez). The line here was at 9 when I locked it in and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Toronto got there alone. As long as Detroit chips in a couple of runs to help the total a little, I think Toronto can shoulder most of the load to get to the nine runs we need. Over 9 +100, Caesars Sportsbook

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