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Note: This file has been updated with any overnight pitching changes or weather-related postponements, along with the addition of the latest MLB game odds as of the indicated time of publication.
What you need to know for Sunday's MLB games
By Todd Zola
Sunday marks the penultimate week of the regular season for ESPN head-to-head leagues. The slate offers the standard 15 games, with action commencing in Citi Field with the New York Mets hosting the Los Angeles Angels at 12:05 p.m. ET. The week wraps up at 7 p.m. ET with a night affair on ESPN featuring the San Francisco Giants entertaining the Atlanta Braves. It's not an ideal platform to make up ground via pitching as several clubs are deploying an opener and primary pitcher, but there are a few scenarios to target.
Griffin Canning (4.7% rostered in ESPN leagues) is slated to return to the Angels rotation on Sunday. Since coming off the IL in mid-August, Canning has had two relief appearances, totaling seven innings. He punched out 10 batters with just two walks, earning his way back into a starting role. The right-hander has a road date in pitcher-friendly Citi Field against a below average Mets lineup focusing on auditioning hitters for next season.
Mike Clevinger (13.1% rostered) has quietly recorded a 2.57 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his five starts since missing six weeks with biceps soreness. Granted, he has benefited from a .267 BABIP and 80.1% left-on-base mark in that stretch, helping to balance fanning only 22 in those 28 stanzas. Normally, a hurler sporting numbers like this would be at risk, but Clevinger draws the Oakland Athletics and the offense with the second-lowest wOBA and third-highest strikeout rate with a right-hander on the hill.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so here is a risky matchup with high strikeout potential. For the season, Alec Marsh (.2%) has an impressive 24.6% strikeout rate, but he has also walked too many batters while administering excessive home runs. Over his last two games, Marsh has 15 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings, but he has also walked six and yielded a pair of long balls. On Sunday, Marsh squares off with a Seattle Mariners lineup scoring a lot of runs, but they also continue to fan at a healthy clip. The possibility exists for Marsh to rack up fantasy points with innings and strikeouts, but he could give them back as well. This is a play strictly for teams needing to make up points. Those in the driver's seat heading into Sunday's action need not apply.
Zack Gelof (27.2%) is an under-the-radar batter meriting higher rostership. While it's unrealistic to expect him to maintain this pace over a full season, Gelof's prorated numbers over 162 games are 45 homers and 36 steals. Playing for the Athletics limits his production, but he is batting leadoff, which lessens the effect. Sunday's matchup against Clevinger isn't ideal, but Gelof has crushed right-handers and he's more than a spot starter; Gelof deserves every day lineup consideration.
Let's wrap up with a trio of hitters enjoying the platoon advantage on some lesser hurlers. Wilmer Flores (31.4%) draws Jared Shuster, Austin Hays (26.2%) faces Ty Blach and Ke'Bryan Hayes (16.6%) steps in against Jordan Wicks. Jordan Montgomery is a solid pitcher, but Royce Lewis (9.2%) has been swinging well since returning, so he warrants lineup consideration.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sunday
Bullpen usage watch for Sunday
By Todd Zola
Paul Sewald was unable to convert a save for the second time in nine chances since being acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sewalks was asked to preserve a 4-2 lead, but the Cincinnati Reds scored twice in the top of the ninth. Sewald threw 25 pitches, giving him 53 over the past three days and 81 over the prior five days. The recent high pitch counts likely signal a day off for the DIamondbacks closer. Kevin Ginkel has appeared each of the last two days, so ninth-inning duties will likely fall to Scott McGough, who had a stint as closer earlier in the season.
David Robertson's struggles with the Miami Marlins continued yesterday as he blew his third save in seven opportunities yesterday, yielding a pair of ninth-inning runs to the Washington Nationals in South Beach, saddling Robertson with his fifth loss of the season. Robertson threw 22 pitches, but since he was working on three days of rest, it's not clear his availability for today is in jeopardy. Furthermore, A.J. Puk and Tanner Scott have been pitching well this month and both have closing experience. There has been nothing reported, but Roberston's leash is getting shorter. Curiously, Puk does not have any holds, but he has only allowed one run in eight August appearances, fanning 12 in 7 2/3 innings. Since he recorded 15 saves before Robertson's arrival, Puk is the top hedge in the Marlins bullpen.
Alexis Diaz failed to convert a save for just the second time all season yesterday, though he was credited with his sixth win after the Reds outlasted the Diamondbacks to win 8-7 in 11 innings. Diaz and the Reds were up by three in the top of the 10th, but a single scored the ghost runner, then an error by Matt McLain paved the way for two more unearned runs to cross the plate. Diaz tossed 21 pitches, but since he was working with two days of rest, he should be able to seek retribution today if needed.
Devin Williams captured his 31st save yesterday. he threw nine strikes in 14 pitches, fanning two in the Milwaukee Brewers 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres. Since previous to yesterday's outing Williams hadn't appeared since Wednesday, he should be good to handle back-to-back efforts today.
There is good news and back news coming out of the AL East bullpens. Kenley Jansen reported no ill effects after a bullpen session yesterday, though the Boston Red Sox have not formally commented on his availability. Still, Jansen's return seems imminent.
Unfortunately, the Baltimore Orioles placed Felix Bautista on the IL with a UCL injury. The extent is not clear, but Bautista's absence for at least 15 days propels Yennier Cano into the closer role, thus Cano becomes a priority for fantasy managers needing saves.
Best sub-50% rostered hitters for Sunday
Best and worst hitters from the day are generated by THE BAT X, a projection system created by Derek Carty using advanced methods like those used in MLB front offices, accounting for a variety of factors including player talent, ballparks, bullpens, weather, umpires, defense, catcher pitch-framing and lots more.
Wilmer Flores (SF, 2B -- 31%) vs. Jared Shuster
Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT, 3B -- 18%) vs. Javier Assad
Andrew McCutchen (PIT, LF -- 17%) vs. Assad
Austin Hays (BAL, LF -- 26%) vs. Ty Blach
Thairo Estrada (SF, 2B -- 45%) vs. Shuster
Worst over-50% rostered hitters for Sunday
MJ Melendez (KC, C -- 56%) at Castillo
Steven Kwan (CLE, LF -- 93%) at Kikuchi
Willson Contreras (STL, C -- 73%) at Nola
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Sunday
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Noah Syndergaard
San Diego Padres at Adrian Houser
THE BAT X is a projection system created by Derek Carty using advanced methods like those used in MLB front offices, accounting for a variety of factors including player talent, ballparks, bullpens, weather, umpires, defense, catcher pitch-framing, and lots more.
Prop of the Day
Noah Syndergaard, Cleveland Guardians: Over/Under 3.5 strikeouts (-124/-102)
THE BAT X sees Syndergaard putting up 3.1 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 36.3% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER, with an expected value of $26.75.
Note: Expected Value is a measure of how good a bet is, factoring the probability that it will win versus the odds the book is providing. If you were to wager $1.00 100 times on a bet with an Expected Value of $25, you would win some and you would lose some, but in the end you would expect to come away with $25 in profit on your $100 investment.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
Rogers Centre is the No. 10 park in MLB for boosting strikeouts, via the THE BAT.
This contest is predicted to have the 14th-most suitable conditions for pitching among games scheduled today.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
The Toronto Blue Jays (20.9 K%, per THE BAT X) project to have the third-fewest strikeout-prone set of batters on the slate.
Hitters umpire Shane Livensparger is calling pitches today.
The wind projects to be blowing out to left field at 9 mph in this matchup, the second-best of the day for hitters.
Syndergaard's 91.7 mph velocity on his fastball this season is a substantial 1.2-mph fall-off from last year's 92.9 mph figure.