Red Sox vs. Orioles Odds
Red Sox Odds: -250
Orioles Odds: +200
Time: 7:05 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.
The term “spoiler” is popular in sports as seasons wind down, bad teams fade away and the cream rises to the top.
The American League East is settled at the top, but the two AL Wild Card positions are very much up for grabs between three AL East teams (and Seattle … and maybe Oakland). The Boston Red Sox have to go to Baltimore and take care of business to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Two lefties toe the rubber for Game 1 of the series with one team excelling against them at home and the other struggling on the road. Is it as simple as home/road splits when determining betting value or is there another way to look at this game where, despite being losers, the spoils can go to the spoilers?
Tougher Road Than You’d Expect For Red Sox
It was tough sledding for the Red Sox in a home sweep at the hands of the Yankees over the weekend. The good news is they are 12-4 against the Orioles.
Easy win/easy series win/easy series sweep, right? Not necessarily. The Red Sox offense has a 94 road Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) against left-handed pitching in September, not far off but lower than their season-long 97 wRC+ in the same situation. Boston’s hitters are striking out 33% of the time and have the 23rd-ranked slugging percentage against southpaws this month. BABIP is not saving the offense either. Boston has a bottom-10 Hard Hit percentage and top 10 Soft Hit percentage over the past 26 days.
Bruce Zimmermann, a lefty, gets the start for Baltimore.
But hey, Chris Sale looks good coming off Tommy John surgery! Yeah, for the most part. His strikeout rate has dipped in his return (zero issue considering the reason) but he has been hittable. Sale’s 34.0 Hard Hit percentage is four percent above his career average and the second-worst of his career despite having the lowest Barrel percentage since the stat started being tracked in 2015.
Sale has allowed three earned runs and has struck out nine in 10 innings against Baltimore this season, but those innings were played at Fenway Park. Even though the basic numbers look good in that team, Sale’s FIP topped 5.00 in both of those outings.
Orioles’ Bats Could Pose Test For Chris Sale
As difficult as it may be to face a potential Hall of Fame pitcher, the Orioles dig lefty pitching, particularly at home. Their 127 home wRC+ against lefties is top 10 in September and their 114 season-long wRC+ is tied for fifth with the Houston Astros.
Sale could run into trouble against the O’s hitters because he does not strike out left-handed hitters (5.68 K/9), does not strike out hitters away from home (4.5 K/9 in only six innings), and gets slapped by right-handed hitters (.286/.400/.429 slash line against). The Rays -- making their second appearance in a betting preview that does not involve them -- hit Sale hard in his lone start away from Boston and have tagged him for seven runs (three unearned) in two starts.
Baltimore’s top three home run hitters against lefties are all right-handed hitters. Number four on that list is Cedric Mullins, who is one homer shy of 10 against lefties and is a left-handed hitter (do not forget Sale struggles missing lefty bats).
Zimmermann has not started for Baltimore since June 13. He did have minimal success (by his standards thus far in his career) against Boston to open the season, logging 12 innings over two starts for a 4.50 ERA. If we use FIP the same way we did with Sale against the Orioles, Zimmermann has been better against the Red Sox.
Take that for what it is but know that the Red Sox would prefer to face Zimmermann at Fenway.
Red Sox-Orioles Pick
Going 4-12 against a team that you face almost 20 teams per season is damning and the opposite of a ‘feather in the cap’ for Baltimore. I do not care. The Orioles are 6-8 at home in September and have 25 wins at home this season. The Orioles have nothing to play for outside of making the Red Sox squirm trying to lock up a Wild Card slot. The pressure is on Boston to not just beat Baltimore Tuesday, but sweep them outright.
The problem is there is no betting value in the Red Sox as of Monday night. The Orioles are good at home against lefties and can put a dent in the Red Sox’s playoff hopes at plus money.
I also root for chaos and would love to see a three or four-team play-in for the Wild Card Game.
Pick: Orioles Moneyline (+200, and bet it as long as it is plus money. Over 9.5 runs at -115 is also in play until it hits 10-10.5 runs)