Angels at Red Sox MLB Pick June 28
The first 2 games of this series between the Los Angeles Angels and the Boston Red Sox has produced no shortage of runs. The Red Sox picked up an easy 9-1 win over John Lamb and the Halos on Tuesday before a 9-6 triumph last night. Fenway Park grades out as the second-best hitter’s park in baseball behind Coors Field, and these are 2 strong offenses. As such, it’s no real surprise that we’ve seen all sorts of offensive fireworks so far.
J.D. Martinez has been the signing of the season, and it may not be particularly close. The slugger was lingering on the open market for months before the Red Sox finally inked him to a 5-year deal worth $110 million back in February. Based on his offensive production early in the season, it’s a wonder there weren’t more teams in the market for his services.
Martinez is slashing a robust .329/.396/.654 with a league-leading 25 home runs and 64 runs batted in on the season. The former Houston Astro has homered in each of the first 2 games of this series against the Angels as he continues to give L.A. manager Mike Scioscia headaches. His teammate, Mookie Betts, has been no slouch, either. For his part, Betts has slashed .338/.428/.684 with 20 home runs and 14 stolen bases of his own.
Swingman Brian Johnson will draw the start for Boston tonight against Jaime Barria for the Halos. Johnson will draw the nod in place of injured knuckleballer Steven Wright. The lefty has pitched in 22 games this season, 21 of which have been relief outings. His lone start came in his first outing of the year way back on April 2 against the Marlins. He pitched well that day, limiting Miami to a run on 6 hits in 6 innings of work.
Johnson has pitched pretty well out of the bullpen for Boston this season. His 4.50 ERA is a bit inflated, per his 3.72 SIERA. He has a respectable strikeout rate over 21 percent and his soft contact rate is impressively comparable to his hard-hit rate.
While his numbers look good, Johnson hasn’t enjoyed a whole lot of success as a starter in previous years with the Red Sox. He had an ugly 4.89 SIERA with a middling 17 percent strikeout rate in 5 starts last year, and a 6.69 SIERA in limited work with Boston back in 2015. Relief numbers tend to be bloated compared to numbers for starters, and Johnson doesn’t project particularly well against a solid Angels lineup in this one.
Johnson is a left-hander with a wide split, and the Angels are a lineup generally stacked with right-handed hitters. Mike Trout, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons and Albert Pujols combine to form a solid group of righties set to face Johnson tonight. The southpaw has allowed a .356 wOBA to righties this season, with all 4 homers he’s allowed having come off the bats of right-handers, too.
The Angels will be countering with Barria, who has looked decent this season in his major league rookie campaign. His 3.40 ERA is belied by a 4.24 SIERA, but that’s not an egregiously bad number or anything. He’s about average in terms of strikeouts (~20 percent), but most importantly he has kept his walks to a minimum. Considering how many young pitchers struggle with command and control, Barria has been impressive in that regard.
Still, there are some red flags. Barria pitches his home games at pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium, and Fenway brings a pretty steep park downgrade for him. He is also a fly ball pitcher that has allowed a hard contact rate over 39 percent. The right-hander has served up 9 homers in his 10 starts, and I mentioned previously what kind of thunder awaits him in the Boston lineup.
Barria has also shown some staunch reverse-splits. While that may help him with the lefties like Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland, both Martinez and Betts take their hacks from the right side of the plate. Barria has yielded a .365 wOBA to right-handers on the year, with 7 of the 9 homers he’s allowed coming from righties, as well.
Might Barria pitch well tonight? Anything is possible, but I wouldn’t want to be a pitcher facing this red-hot Boston lineup right now. While Barria has been generally respectable, he also typically won’t pitch deep into games. He has pitched 6 innings or more in just 3 of his 10 starts, and he has a mediocre Angels bullpen backing him up.
10 1/2 is a massive total, and there’s certainly risk in trying for the over. Still, I think that’s the play in this one. 2 mediocre pitchers going up against powerful offenses that don’t swing-and-miss a whole lot. The Red Sox (116) and Angels (110) rank second and fourth, respectively, in home runs this season. We’ll see the ball flying around Fenway tonight. Take the over on 10 1/2 runs to be scored.
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