After finally snapping their six-game losing skid on Wednesday night, the Cincinnati Reds (51-46) look to get back into the NL Central race in the finale of their four-game set against the San Francisco Giants (54-42). Righty Alex Cobb (6-2, 2.82 ERA) will get the ball for the visitors, while Cincy counters with outstanding rookie lefty Andrew Abbott (4-2, 2.45).
The Giants have won five of six out of the All-Star break and eight of 10 overall, pulling them into a tie for second in the NL West with the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Those two teams are also deadlocked for the first two NL Wild Card spots.) San Fran will conclude their road trip with a weekend series against the Washington Nationals starting on Friday night.
The Reds became America’s team during a dream month of June in which they went 18-9 and rocketed into first place in the NL Central. They’ve fallen back to Earth a bit since, losing six in a row — including four against the division rival Milwaukee Brewers to drop 2.5 games off the pace. Cincy will stay home this weekend, welcoming the D-backs to town for a big three-game set.
This one is nearly a pick ‘em on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with Cincinnati the narrow favorite at -115 and the Giants at -105. The run total is set at 9.5.
Giants-Reds picks: Thursday, July 20
Out: RP Luke Jackson (low back strain), RP John Brebbia (right lat strain), INF Thairo Estrada (left-hand fracture), OF Luis Gonzalez (lower back surgery), OF Heliot Ramos (right oblique strain), OF Mitch Haniger (right forearm strain)
Out: INF Kevin Newsman (gastritis), SP Hunter Greene (right hip pain), RP Casey Legumina (right shoulder pain), RP Tejay Antone (Tommy John surgery), SP Nick Lodolo (left tibia stress reaction)
Alex Cobb vs. Andrew Abbott
Cobb remains among the more underappreciated starters in baseball. The righty has allowed just one run in 12 innings across his last two starts, and he’s allowed more than three runs twice all year. His bloated 1.32 WHIP is as much a product of a wildly high .339 BABIP as anything — the righty leans heavily on his splitter, forcing tons of ground balls that have found an inordinate number of holes so far this season. If more of those balls in play turn into outs, he could be in for a very big second half.
Abbott got off to a scorching start to his Major League career, pitching to a 1.21 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 37.1 innings across his first six starts. He came back to Earth a little bit over his last two starts, both losses to the Milwaukee Brewers, in which he put up a 6.79 ERA and 7.45 FIP. The reality, of course, is somewhere closer to the middle: Abbott boasts two solid breaking balls and a usable changeup to keep righties off-balance, but none of those pitches are elite, and when his command falters, he can get hit awfully hard.
These two teams participated in a classic Great American Ball Park barnburner in an 11-10 Giants win on Tuesday, but other than that, the other two totals in this series have been 6 and 5 — and I’m betting on that trend to continue on Thursday afternoon. Cobb has been pitching well of late, and more importantly, he keeps the ball down — a crucially important ability in one of the league’s friendliest hitting parks. Cincy’s offense has struggled of late, while Abbott has allowed more than two runs in just two of his eight starts and should do enough for us to hit the under.
Pick: Under 9.5
San Francisco’s bullpen comes into Thursday pretty much fully rested after only bulk man Ryan Walker pitched on Wednesday, and that could make the difference in what figures to be another tight ballgame between these two teams. In a coin flip situation, give me the slightly more reliable starting pitcher and the slightly better odds.