Did you realize we have football this week? I'm serious! The NFL's Hall of Fame Game is on Thursday night between the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. That's right; we're only a few days away from seeing Aaron " " Rodgers make his Jets debut. Every year I long for the football season to start, and the Hall of Fame Game manages to sneak up on me anyway.
My family knows, though. A few nights ago, I was eating dinner with my wife when she stared at me with a sad look. I asked her what the problem was, and she told me she was about to lose me for five months to football. Don't get me wrong, she's not sad because she won't be around me, but because I won't be available to help with errands as much as I am during the offseason, but I digress.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not excited about the Browns/Jets game because I plan to watch it. I'll watch a quarter at most before losing interest because, honestly unless you're a fan of the team, what reason is there to watch a preseason game? No, I'm excited because of what it symbolizes. I can smell the football in the air.
Will we bet Thursday night's preseason game? I don't know. Betting preseason NFL games kind of feels like the reason gambling addiction hotlines exist, but we'll see. In the meantime, we've got baseball plays tonight.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: Toronto has won five of its last seven games.
- The Pick: Blue Jays (-135)
Baltimore is 64-41 on the season, good enough for the best record in the American League and second-best mark in all of baseball. They've been one of the season's biggest surprises, and a few weeks ago, during the All-Star Break, I told you to bet on them missing the playoffs.
They've been shoving that prediction in my face ever since, as they've started the second half 10-6. However, one of my concerns about Baltimore in the second half of the season was that its success was built almost entirely on offense, and offense hasn't even been elite.
The pitching hasn't been nearly as effective. Baltimore ranks 15th in MLB in overall ERA and is hovering around the league in the middle of most categories I care about. Tonight's starter, Kyle Gibson, is 9-6 on the season despite a 4.68 ERA. He rarely strikes anybody out, but to this point, he has done an excellent job limiting hard contact.
I never like to back pitchers who don't miss bats against strong offenses, and Toronto ranks eighth in baseball in wOBA and seventh in wRC+.
The Jays will also have the advantage on the mound, where Chris Bassitt is much more reliable than Gibson. He has an ERA of 3.91, and while his strikeout rate isn't ideal, it's much closer to average, and I have a lot more faith in some of his peripherals than I do in Gibson's.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model and I are on the same side with this one, as it gives a B-grade to the Toronto moneyline.
Phillies at Marlins, 6:40 p.m | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Phillies (-110) -- This is a big series for both squads because, while neither will catch Atlanta, both are fighting for a wild card spot. And, much like I'm doing in this pick, if I'm going to back either horse to pull it off down the stretch, I'm betting the Philly (horse jokes!). Miami has struck me as a team outpacing its play all season long, and we've seen the Marlins come back down to Earth a bit in recent weeks. After a red-hot 19-8 performance in June, they went 9-14 in July and are only 4-10 since the break.
They're also 4-2 against Philadelphia this season despite being outscored overall in the six games, which is another theme of the Marlins. There are 19 teams in baseball with a winning record, and Miami is one of three who have allowed more runs than they've scored. They've got nothing to apologize for, but that's typically not a great sign for your future. They're also sending Edward Cabrera to the mound tonight, and while he has some electric stuff, he really struggles to find the strike zone with it. His 14.3% walk rate is not something I'm looking to bet on, nor is the rate of loud contact he allows when opponents make contact.
Red Sox at Mariners, 9:40 p.m | TV: MLB Network
The Pick: Mariners (-130) -- I can't quite put my finger on it, but vibes-wise, Boston is simply a team I don't have much faith in. There aren't any glaring statistics dictating why, but I'm convinced it's a team that will fade out of the picture down the stretch. Of course, I'm not overly optimistic about Seattle's chances over the final months, but I like their odds tonight.
George Kirby is not an exciting pitcher. He doesn't overpower you with velocity (though he routinely touches 96), nor does he miss many bats, but he doesn't miss the strike zone, either. The man has a walk rate of 2.4% this year. That's ridiculous. Also, thanks to his sinker and breaking stuff, the contact he allows tends to be hit into the ground. I like him in tonight's matchup against Red Sox hitters and Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, who gets more strikeouts, but allows a lot of dingers too.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine's Larry Hartstein is up 10.58 units on his last 103 MLB moneyline plays and he has a pick in for a huge NL Central showdown between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.