After a break that always feels like an eternity, Major League Baseball will kick off its post All-Star Game schedule on Friday with a full slate of games. MLB handicapper Dalton Brown has a pair of picks to kick off the "second half" of the season.
6:05 p.m. ET: San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies: Phillies moneyline (+105) at BetMGM
The Padres and Phillies will do battle in an NLCS rematch to kick off their respective second halves from Citizens Bank Park, and I am backing the undervalued home underdog in this matchup.
San Diego will turn to Yu Darvish, an embattled veteran righty who hasn't lived up to expectations this season - but especially not recently. Darvish allowed more than four runs per start on average over his last four outings heading into the Break, at times because of poor command and at times because he's allowing too many hits. The righty has struggled all season away from Petco Park, posting a 6.16 road ERA that doesn't bode well as he takes the bump in a band box like Philly.
Awaiting him will be a Phillies team that has found its groove. Rob Thomson's bunch went 9-4 over the first half's final two weeks, and find themselves just a half-game outside the NL Wild Card picture with plenty to fight for. Rookie Cristopher Sanchez, who pitches Friday, has been a big part of why - since his call-up, Sanchez has pitched to a 2.84 ERA and has yet to allow more than three runs in a start. I trust the rookie to keep the Padres reasonably at bay through the game's early innings, setting the stage for Philadelphia's bullpen advantage to carry us the rest of the way.
Since June 15, Philadelphia's pen ranks first in MLB with a 2.54 xFIP, while San Diego's ranks just 24th (4.71).
We are getting a hot team at plus-money playing at home, and despite Darvish's years of experience, we are getting the starting pitcher and bullpen in better form with Philadelphia as well.
7:10 p.m. ET: Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds: Brewers moneyline (-118) at BetRivers
The Cincinnati Reds were one of baseball's feel-good stories over the first half of the season, and for good reason. Sitting at 50-41, the Reds have shattered expectations in 2023 and currently hold a one-game lead over Milwaukee atop the NL Central. But if there's one team that has given the Reds problems over their now six-week long hot stretch, it's been the Brewers - and I think Milwaukee will continue to be a thorn in Cincinnati's side Friday night.
The starting pitching matchup in this series opener is a complete mismatch in Milwaukee's favor - and the deeper I look into this game, the harder I'm having to squint if I want to imagine a phase of the game that favors the Reds. Corbin Burnes will pitch for the Brewers, fresh off of a win over these Reds in his last start on July 7. Burnes, who has been due some positive regression for a while now, has pitched 13 innings in July while allowing just four runs on four hits.
Reds starter Graham Ashcraft has not seen similar success this season. Ashcraft's 6.28 ERA speaks to his lack of success this season, but he's been even worse at home (7.95) and allowed 10 earned runs to these Brewers when he last faced them in early June.
Milwaukee has a sizable bullpen advantage as well, as Craig Counsell's relievers have pitched to a respectable 3.83 xFIP (sixth-best in MLB) since June 15. During that same time period, Cincinnati's relievers rank dead-last with a mark of 5.38.