Rick's MLB Plays 9/4

The last few days have been a roller coaster. After a 2-0 +3u day Friday, Saturday brought us an 0-2 -3.29u. I'll be looking to keep that trend going for just 1 more day in hopes for a flawless end to the weekend. Our last Sunday before baseball starts should be a fun one with some matchups that have major playoff implications in Rays-Yankees, Guardians-Mariners, and Twins-White Sox. Eliminated teams are starting to call up their top prospects to give them major league run and playoff contenders are sweating games trying to ensure a Wild Card spot, or in the Yankees case keep their top spot. Lets get into a few of my favorite spots for the slate Sunday:

Miami Marlins @ Atlanta Braves (1:35 ET)

Favorite: Braves -270

Total: 7

Pitchers: Pablo Lopez (3.64 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) vs. Max Fried (2.56 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)

Pablo Lopez this season has almost followed the Dogecoin stock price - consistently decreasing. He began the season with one of the best months by any pitcher this season with a 0.39 ERA and 0.73 WHIP over 23.1 innings in April. Next month he logged a still brilliant 2.78. Since the beginning of June though his ERA has sit just below a 5.00 ERA with a WHIP of 1.30. To make matters worse, he's not going to get a bit of run support from a Miami offense ranked 30th in OPS over the last two weeks and 27th for the season. Add in that Fried is a lefty and the Marlins are the worst team hitting lefties this season at a .582 OPS and I can guarantee they won't get more than 2 runs.

The Braves offense has been nothing short of spectacular ranking 2nd in OPS this season and 4th over the past two weeks. Desperate to make a push on the Marlins for the division only 2 games back, they can't afford to slip up against a Marlins team who has given up. Brian Snitker knows that and will surely be instilling that into his squad going into the afternoon contest. For as average as Lopez has been over the past few months, he could still only allow a couple of runs over five innings. I'll utilize those extra innings for the Braves to notch some insurance runs against what has been an average bullpen for the Marlins (16th in xFIP since July) .

Pick: Braves -1.5 -114 (1.5u)

Oakland A's @ Baltimore Orioles (1:35 ET)

Favorite: Orioles -175

Total: 8.5

Pitchers: Adrian Martinez (5.29 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) vs. Spenser Watkins (4.26 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

Adrian Martinez is one of the hottest prospects in the A's pipeline and their way of welcoming him to the major leagues was to feed him to the wolves. Beginning with the Mariners, Rangers, Blue Jays, Yankees and Giants in his five games. While he allowed 7 to the Mariners in his first outing, he's improved every game since then, decreasing his ER in each appearance. In his latest outing against the Yankees he only allowed 1 run over 5 innings on 3 hits. The Orioles bats have come back down to Earth recently (15th in OPS last 2 weeks) so I expect Martinez to have another decent performance.

Watkins has been up and down for the Orioles. We backed him recently against the Guardians and he disappointed, allowing 5 runs in his worst start since June 11th. He's typically good to allow a run or two but he doesn't give up walks or many hits in the process. Given how putrid the A's offense is, I'd expect him to allow a maximum of 2 runs over five innings. The First 5 total is 4.5 and given how both of these pitchers are throwing combined with sputtering offenses, I think we could have a slow start on Sunday. Give me the under.

Pick: F5 u4.5 -107 (1u)

Raj Mehta - USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals @ Detroit Tigers (1:40 ET)

Favorite: Tigers -115

Total: 8

Pitchers: Max Castillo (2.81 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) vs. Matt Manning (3.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

These two starters have combined for only 66 innings pitched this season. Traded to the Royals as part of the package for Whit Merrifield, Castillo was one of the hotter prospects in the Blue Jays system. Now getting run for the struggling Royals he's eager to build off a brilliant start against the Rays allowing just 1 run on 3 hits over 5 innings. To give him more confidence, he goes from facing that red-hot Rays offense to facing one of the worst and most inconsistent in the Tigers. If he can continue to synergize that fastball/changeup split the way he did in that outing he could have a long career as he implements that slider in.

Manning isn't as wide-eyed as Castillo but this is only his second season in the big leagues. He's been much better this year aside from his last start where he was blown up for 7 runs over 2.2 innings. I'm going to mark that down as the anamoly as in the other 30 innings he's only allowed 8 runs, or a 2.40 ERA. Much like the Tigers offense, the Royals have been poor over the past two weeks (19th in OPS). I think we get solid performances from both pitchers against poor offenses and we fly under this first five total. Give me the under.

Pick: F5 u4.5 -131 (1u)

Mike Mulholland - MLive.com

Philadelphia Phillies @ San Francisco Giants (4:05 ET)

Favorite: Giants -125

Total: 7.5

Pitchers: Ranger Suarez (3.42 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) vs. Carlos Rodon (3.03 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)

Carlos Rodon is one of the best pitchers in the league when he's on. It's safe to say he wasn't on in his last outing against the Padres though. Allowing 4 walks and 5 runs, he had his worst start in August - a month where he pitched against each of the leagues worst offenses in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Arizona. He was able to take care of them, but he faces an offense similar to the Padres in the Phillies Sunday. An offense that just got Bryce Harper back recently and is 4th in OPS over the past 2 weeks. Desperate to keep their 3-game stiff-arm on the Brewers for the Wild Card, they know they'll need to pick up tough wins to get there.

Ranger Suarez has been on the best run of his career. Over the past 44.2 innings he's allowed just 35 hits and 9 runs - good for a 1.83 ERA. He's mastered the soft contact with the nearly exclusive 2-pitch combo of his fastball and changeup and against a Giants offense that has been miserable I expect more of the same. Given the quality of both of these pitchers and the ineptness of the Giants offense, I'll take the Phillies to win the first five innings and under 4.

Picks: Phillies F5 ML -105 (1u) & F5 u4 -128 (1u)

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

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