By Dalton Brown
Last Week: 1-1
Season Record: 22-14
Saturday, September 11th, 9:10 PM ET
San Diego Padres (Chris Paddack) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Walker Buehler)
The Padres come into Dodger stadium to begin an absolutely brutal scheduling stretch to finish their season. After last night’s shutout loss in Los Angeles, the Padres find themselves tied with the Cincinnati Reds for the second NL Wild Card spot, with the Cardinals, Phillies, and Mets not far behind. All of San Diego’s remaining games are against playoff contending teams, and 15 of their remaining 22 games are on the road. They still play the Dodgers and Giants 14 times within that stretch as well, two teams who have positioned themselves way ahead of the Padres in the NL West division for months now. San Diego’s singular focus all offseason was on catching the Dodgers. Instead, they find themselves struggling to stay ahead of teams with middling expectations in Cincinnati and St. Louis.
The Padres have worked hard to avoid pitching Chris Paddack against the Dodgers all season. Last year, the Dodgers brutalized Paddack over his two starts, scoring 9 runs in 9 innings and mashing 4 home runs against him. He hasn’t been a lot better this season, ranking in the 13th percentile of exit velocity against, 18th percentile in expected slugging percentage against, and in the 14th percentile of expected batting average against, per Baseball Savant. Given the Dodgers ability to hit right-handed pitching at home (115 wRC+), matchups don’t get much more difficult for a pitcher like Paddack.
The Dodgers are plenty motivated as well in the midst of a tight division race, and send Walker Buehler to the mound to continue what just might be a Cy Young campaign. Buehler is coming off the worst start of his season, a 3-inning outing that saw him allow 6 earned runs to the Giants last Sunday. Given Buehler’s known capacity to pitch well in big games and pitch well with emotion, I believe he’s a great bet to pitch with a fire under his ass tonight against San Diego.
THE PICK: Dodgers First 5 Innings -0.5
Saturday, September 11th, 7:15 PM ET
Cincinnati Reds (Luis Castillo) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Miles Mikolas)
Tied with the Padres in the National League Wild Card race are the Reds, who travel to St. Louis tonight to take on the Cardinals (3 games back). It’s an important series in St. Louis this weekend for both teams, and they’re plenty familiar with one another as they meet for the 18th time this season.
Miles Mikolas hasn’t been healthy often in 2021 for the Cardinals, making only his 6th appearance on the mound this season tonight. He’s faced the Reds only once, allowing 4 earned runs during a short 3 inning start on September 1 - a game the Cardinals would eventually roar back and win 5-4. Mikolas has struggled with the Reds consistently throughout his career: his 5.22 ERA against Cincinnati is his highest against any team he’s made 5 or more starts against. The Reds have had a tendency to crush right-handed pitching all season - their 107 wRC+ ranks 7th in baseball in the category.
While I don’t trust the Reds bullpen at all, I do trust Luis Castillo to give the Reds a competitive start against St. Louis. He’s faced them 3 times since the beginning of May, allowing 5 runs over 19 strong innings of work while going 2-1.
To avoid that bullpen but take advantage of the Reds propensity to handle Miles Mikolas, I’ll be targeting Cincinnati on the First 5 Innings line Saturday night.
THE PICK: Reds First 5 Innings -130