After weathering a COVID-19 outbreak, the Miami Marlins return to the diamond Tuesday to take on a surprisingly tough opponent in the Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore lost 108 games a season ago, yet are 5-3 and boast series wins over AL East rivals Boston and Tampa Bay, with the latter being of the sweep variety. Can the O's keep it up, or will the 2-1 Marlins pick up where they left off amid a strong start?
Check out abe Insights' betting preview for more on a game that no one would've paid much attention to prior to the 2020 season starting. Given the apparent improvements made, especially by the Orioles, it's worth diving deeper on some advanced stats, wagers analysis and the best odds to see how to bet on this one.
Date: Tuesday, August 4
Time: 7:35 p.m. ET
TV: Fox Sports Florida; MASN
Implied Probabilities: Marlins 47%; Orioles 57%
Spread: MIA +1.5 (-167); BAL -1.5 (+155)
Moneyline: MIA +115; BAL -134
It almost goes without saying, but Miami straight-up had to stop its season and postpone everything for a while. How will the coronavirus-stricken Marlins — 18 players tested positive — respond to the long layoff and bizarre circumstances?
Pablo Lopez gets the ball for Miami on the mound against Baltimore southpaw John Means. It's admittedly not the most electric pitching duel — Lopez is 7-12 with a 4.76 ERA in 31 big-league starts; Means lasted only 2.1 innings and gave up five runs in his last start.
.415 vs .453: Usually this space is reserved for comparisons between the teams in question. Since the Marlins sample size is so small, let's instead begin with Baltimore's slugging percentage from last year to now. Quite the jump already in that area, where Miami ranked dead-last in 2019 (.375).
9.74 vs. 7.78: Orioles pitchers had the third-lowest strikeout rate per nine innings in 2019. That's the latter figure here. This year is a different story, as the club is in the top eight in MLB, doing all of this against talented lineups in their division.
-29.5 vs. 3.9: The numbers don't fully put this narrative into context, but the league rankings do. These are the Ultimate Zone Rating for Baltimore over the course of last season and through the last eight contests respectively. One ranked tied for second-worst in all of baseball. Right now, the Orioles are leading the majors in this category.
So, between vastly improved defense, more power in their batting order and a collective pitching effort that's retiring a higher rate of batters on strikes than yesteryear, there's no area where the O's haven't really lifted their level of play. The question is, can they keep it up through the remainder of this 60-game sprint season?
Most preseason MLB power rankings would probably have Baltimore and Miami at or near the last two spots in some order — certainly not out of the bottom-five. The Marlins have played but three games, so it's even trickier to forecast how they'll do the rest of the way. At least the Orioles have gotten it done against three playoff-caliber foes.
What's most impressive about Baltimore is how it's blended power with a lack of strikeouts. Manager Brandon Hyde's lineup has the third-lowest K rate in baseball, but also 13 home runs in just eight games.
If this is a tight score toward the end, the O's have something of a dilemma in the closer spot. Cole Sulser has already converted three saves in the club's five wins, yet he's done so while yielding three runs in six innings. The hope for the hosts is to have the homer-happy offense produce enough to make this potential issue a nonstarter.
We can't really use trends from 2019 or from this season when it comes to picking which of these teams will cover, pay out a winning moneyline or whether they'll combine to hit the Over or Under. Miami hasn't played enough; Baltimore is pulling a total 180 in 2020.
The smart money should go on the Orioles' spread and moneyline, simply because the Marlins have some rust to knock off, and the uncertainty around that team should cause bettors to wager predominantly on Baltimore. Despite the uninspiring pitching matchup, look for bets to shade toward the Under.
Note: Odds current as of 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday, August 4.
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