Regional coverage of a couple of Central Division games on MLB Network will feature the AL Central-leading Kansas City Royals at the Minnesota Twins, while the Cincinnati Reds take on the NL Wild Card-leading St. Louis Cardinals.
Matchup: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins
Date/Time: August 18, 8:10 p.m. ET
TV: MLB Network
Probable Starters: KC: Jason Vargas (9-5, 3.27) v. MIN: Trevor May (0-1, 12.46)
Moneyline: Kansas City -144
Total: 8.5 -107/-103
The Kansas City Royals will try to win their four-game wraparound series against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night when they send Jason Vargas to the mound. The Twins will counter with Trevor May in an attempt to split the series and keep the Royals from adding a half-game to their lead over the idle Tigers. The Royals lost the first four out of the All-Star Break and have won 18 of 23 since. The Twins are just 11-17 since the All-Star Break.
A case could be made that no free agent pitcher has had a better first season with his team in 2014 than Jason Vargas. Vargas missed a handful of starts from July 8 to August 2, but he picked up right where he left off upon returning. In his last three starts, Vargas is 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA. His last start was easily his best of the season as he fired a complete game shutout against the Oakland A’s. Vargas has allowed three runs or less in 17 of his 22 starts this season.
Trevor May is making just his second Major League start and third Major League appearance. The Twins acquired May in December 2012 as part of the Ben Revere trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 18 starts at Triple-A Rochester, the 24-year-old May was 8-6 with a 2.84 ERA. He has struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings of the course of his minor league career, which gives the Twins rotation something it was sorely lacking in a guy that can miss bats. May walked seven in just two innings in his Major League debut on August 9 against the A’s. He has allowed seven runs in just 4.2 innings.
Vargas will be taking on the Twins for the 12th time as a starter and 13th time overall. He’s 4-3 with a 3.90 ERA, but this season, he is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA with just two earned runs allowed over 21 innings. The Royals are 12-10 in Vargas’s 22 starts for a modest profit of 0.48 units.
May will be facing the Royals for the first time. He has allowed 15 baserunners in his 4.2 Major League innings, so the numbers have not been pretty. The Twins lost in May’s lone start, so they are down one unit in his starts.
Free MLB Pick: Kansas City Royals
Trevor May isn’t ready for the Major Leagues and a matchup against the surging Royals isn’t going to do a whole lot to convince people otherwise. Vargas has been strong for the Royals and the Twins are just 18-22 against left-handed starters on the season with the 25th-ranked OPS at .678.
Matchup: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals
Date/Time: August 18, 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: MLB Network
MLB Betting Odds From 5Dimes Sportsbook
Probable Starters: CIN: Mike Leake (9-11, 3.59) v. STL: Justin Masterson (2-1, 6.00)
Moneyline: St. Louis -139
Total: 7.5 100/-110
The Cincinnati Reds face a tough situation as they open a crucial series with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds played deep into the mountain night on Sunday night as a water main break near Coors Field forced the Reds and Colorado Rockies to play a Sunday doubleheader. The Cardinals bullpen barely survived another ninth inning collapse to take three out of four from the San Diego Padres and maintain their one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants for the top wild card spot in the NL.
Mike Leake will need to provide some length for the Reds after their bullpen was used extensively in the first game on Sunday, including a four-walk, zero out performance from Aroldis Chapman. Leake leads the NL in hits allowed, but a spike in his strikeout rate has helped him get out of jams this season. Leake has allowed four or more runs in 11 of his 25 starts, but his ERA has never gone above 3.82 after his first start of the season.
Justin Masterson has struggled in his first three starts with the Cardinals, but he has been one of the few Redbirds to get run support this season. After two real shaky starts, Masterson threw seven shutout innings and didn’t walk a batter for the first time this season in his last outing against the Marlins. Masterson went 25 days in between starts as the Cleveland Indians placed him on the disabled list for a knee injury and the Cardinals acquired him at the Trade Deadline before he rejoined the Indians. Among pitchers with at least 110 innings pitched, only three have walked more batters than Masterson.
Leake will be facing the Cardinals for the 11th time in his career and 10th time as a starter. In just 59.1 innings over those 10 starts and one relief appearance, Leake is 3-5 with a 4.85 ERA. Leake is 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA this season after going 0-2 with an 8.27 ERA in three starts last season. The Reds are 10-15 in Leake’s 25 starts for a loss of 5.18 units.
Masterson will be facing the Reds for the sixth time. All of those starts were as an American Leaguer. He’s 3-2 with a 2.86 ERA over 34.2 innings. The Cardinals are 2-1 in Masterson’s three starts for a profit of 1.04 units.
Free MLB Pick: St. Louis Cardinals
There’s no way of knowing what sort of outing Justin Masterson will come up with, but the Reds are in a tough spot for this game against a team that they have really struggled to score against this season. It’s tough to lay sizable chalk with Masterson, but the Cardinals are now 36-26 at home this season.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.