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What you need to know for Saturday's MLB games
By Todd Zola
The penultimate Saturday slate of the regular season begins with a pair of games in the 1:05 PM ET time slot. In total, there are nine afternoon affairs followed by six games under the lights.
Jordan Wicks (23.8% rostered) has been a key cog in the Chicago Cubs drive towards an NL wild card spot. The club has sputtered lately and could use a strong effort from the 24-year-old rookie southpaw. Wicks is coming off his first subpar effort of his five starts to begin his career, but he's in a prime spot to rebound at home against the Colorado Rockies. Wicks has only 20 strikeouts in 27 innings, but the Rockies fan more than everyone else on the road with a lefty on the hill. They also sport the lowest wOBA under those conditions.
The Houston Astros are involved in a three-team race with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers where it's possible one team wins the AL West, another captures an AL wild card while the third misses out on the playoffs. The defending champs are in a good spot on Saturday with J.P. France (21.9%) on the Minute Maid Park hill, squaring off with the Kansas City Royals. France was hit hard by the Royals last time out in Kauffman Stadium, but the righty should rebound at home. For the season, the Royals have recorded the worst wOBA and fourth poorest strikeout rate facing right-handers.
The Boston Red Sox are out of the running for a playoff berth, but manager Alex Cora has vowed to play his regulars for the remainder of the season. This includes sending Nick Pivetta (17.8%) to toe the rubber in Fenway Park against the Chicago White Sox. Pivetta has served in every capacity but has achieved the most success in his return to the rotation. Over his last two starts, Pivetta has fanned 16 in 11 2/3 frames facing the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays lineups. On Saturday, Pivetta faces the lineup with the lowest wOBA versus righties, fueled by an above average strikeout rate.
Connor Phillips (1.2%) has a 5.74 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in the first 15 2/3 innings of his career, but he's fanned 17 batters. In his last start, Phillips punched out seven Minnesota Twins in seven frames, earning him another turn in the Cincinnati Reds rotation at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Phillips has issued five homers in his three outings, but on Saturday, he'll face the lineup with the eighth lowest strikeout rate in MLB facing right-handers.
Here are some batters enjoying the platoon edge on Saturday, with a mix of catchers, infielders and outfielders included. Cal Raleigh (40.0%) faces Jordan Montgomery, Lars Nootbaar (25.0%) draws the combo of Nick Martinez and Pedro Avila. Zack Gelof (16.6%) is in a great spot against Joey Wentz. Jake Fraley (15.0%) steps in facing Andre Jackson. And Eddie Rosario (14.1%) squares off with Joan Adon.
Starting pitcher rankings for Saturday
By Todd Zola
For the fifth time this season, Alexis Diaz recorded five outs in an outing as he collected his 37th save in last night's Cincinnati Reds 5-3 win over the Mets. Diaz only needed 22 pitches to get through the 1 2/3 inning effort, but he had tossed a total of 35 pitches working back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday, so the 57 pitches Diaz has thrown over the prior four days jeopardizes his availability for tonight's tilt, though it can't be ruled out since the righty has pitched four out of five days twice already this season. Diaz's support case has also pitched a lot lately with Lucas Sime and Buck Farmer the top candidates to step up if Diaz is given a day to recover.
On Thursday, Devin Williams recorded his 34th save with a perfect frame without any strikeouts. Last night, WIlliams collected his 35th save by striking out the side. Williams used 11 pitches two days ago and another 15 last night, plus 13 on Tuesday, giving him 30 over the previous four gays. Wiliams appeared on three straight days earlier in the year, but it was coming out of the break when he was well rested. While it isn't a sure thing Williams will be held out today, the safe play is reserving him, with Joel Payamps likely filling in as the Milwaukee Brewers closer.
Coors Field is not only trouble for starting pitchers, but relievers as well. Last night, San Francisco Giants closer Camilo Doval incurred its wrath with the Colorado Rockies scoring a pair in the bottom of the ninth to walk it off 3-2. Doval recorded only one out while yielding two hits and a walk. He threw 15 pitches, which came two days after tossing 12 on Wednesday. Doval's usage this season indicates he'll be available for one, but probably not both games of today's doubleheader. Tyler Rogers and Taylor Rogers are risky, but they're both rested and candidates to pitch at least once, if not twice today with holds and perhaps a save a possibility.
Rockies reliever Justin Lawrence hurt his ankle during a delivery last night, leaving Tyler Kinney as their primary closer. Kinney hasn't appeared since Wednesday, so he could pitch twice today.
Jordan Romano garnered his 34th save last night, using 14 pitches in the process. He was appearing with four days' rest, so Romano will be ready if called upon today to log his 35th save, which would tie his career high set last season.
Bullpen usage for Saturday
Best sub-50% rostered hitters for Saturday
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.
Jack Suwinski (PIT, LF -- 8%) at Phillips
Joshua Palacios (PIT, RF -- 0%) at Phillips
Max Kepler (MIN, RF -- 7%) vs. Rosenberg
Chas McCormick (HOU, LF -- 24%) vs. Lyles
Worst over-50% rostered hitters for Saturday
Pete Alonso (NYM, 1B -- 99%) at Wheeler
Brandon Nimmo (NYM, CF -- 88%) at Wheeler
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (MIA, 2B -- 73%) vs. Woodruff
Jeff McNeil (NYM, 2B -- 73%) at Wheeler
The BAT X's Best Stacks for Saturday
Prop of the Day
John Means 15.5 pitching outs (-112/-117)
THE BAT sees Means putting up 18.1 pitching outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 67.2% of the time.
THE BAT believes there is positive value on the OVER with an expected value of $30.55.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
According to the weather report, the temperature and humidity for this game will be the fourth-most suitable for pitching on the slate today.
The wind projects to be blowing in from RF at 16-mph in this contest, the second-most-favorable of the day for pitchers.
Means is an extreme flyball pitcher (39.8% FB% via THE BAT) and should be aided by pitching in the No. 22 HR venue among all parks in this game.
The Baltimore Orioles infield defense grades out as the strongest out of all the teams on the slate today.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
Throwing 76.6 adjusted pitches per outing this year on average, Means places him the third percentile.
The Cleveland Guardians have siz hitters in the projected offense that will hold the platoon advantage against Means in this matchup.