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Matt Zylbert closes out the week with his pick for Friday's Red Sox/Blue Jays game

Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox (Game 1)

Over/Under: 8.5

First pitch: 4:10 p.m. ET

Probable pitchers: Tanner Roark (2-1, 5.33 ERA) vs. Zack Godley (0-3, 7.71 ERA)

Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox (Game 1) Predictions

Doubleheader games this year are still new for everybody, requiring at least some kind of adjustment to handicap these contests ticketed for only seven innings.

There’s even more of an emphasis on the starting pitcher, with usually less work for the bullpens available. In the case of teams with a bad crew of relievers (like the Red Sox), this style of baseball could be profitable if explored in the right away.

It’s no secret the Boston bullpen has been abysmal. In fact, they’re the only club sporting relief pitching that is collectively flashing an ERA north of 6.00 on the year.

But if you have the ability to minimize the dependence on such a woeful unit, while still getting a relatively (for these seven-inning affairs) high over/under, then this scenario is worth exploring if the starter is right. With me, this is so with Zack Godley.

Yeah, Godley’s 7.71 ERA and 1.95 WHIP probably couldn’t be anymore un-godly. However, this is just unsustainable, especially for a pitcher who really isn’t bad at all. Remember that Godley won 15 games while striking out more than a batter per inning only two seasons ago.

His return to a starting role with the Red Sox in 2020 has been anything but glamorous but a lot of that has had to do with the unusually high frequency of balls leaving the yard off the hand of Godley. Again, I don’t see that continuing and the former Arizona Diamondback should really begin to settle in sooner than later.

On the bright side, he’s nearly matching his strikeout rate from his best days with the D-backs, registering 8.42 K/9. Godley’s velocity has significantly jumped from last year, too, even throwing harder than he has since his rookie campaign.

In today’s unique assignment, he’s getting a Blue Jays offense that has looked sluggish away from their makeshift home in Buffalo. Toronto is scoring just 3.74 runs per game on the road while hitting just .222 — and they’ve played more games as visitors than anybody else in baseball.

As for Tanner Roark, unlike his counterpart here, he actually has a strong group of relievers to lean on in case he falls into trouble. Toronto’s bullpen is fourth in the Majors with a nifty 3.55 ERA.

No matter, I anticipate Roark carrying the ball deep into this AL East meeting despite what his season numbers might say. The biggest problem for the eighth-year right-hander is he’s yielding too many walks. Roark’s 5.0 BB/9 is actually the highest walk rate of his career, as a matter of fact.

However, that can’t possibly continue for a guy who has been around awhile and held a walk rate prior to this season that was just about half that. So, we should be able to count on him giving fewer free passes, and in favorable conditions for Roark, too. He’s typically been steadier in afternoon assignments (3.32 ERA) compared to ones at night (4.00 ERA), and that’s a tendency we’ll try to harness.

Bet: UNDER 8.5 (-112)

MLB Leans - September 4

BOS/TOR Over 8 (Game 2)

NYY/BAL Over 8.5 (Game 2)

CHW/KC Under 9

SD/OAK Under 8

2020 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*: 9-28-4, -22.70 units

Yesterday’s Result: Rangers-Astros Under 7.5 (loss)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit


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