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San Diego Padres at Cincinnati Reds

Over/Under: 8.5

First pitch: 9:35 a.m. PT

Probable pitchers: Matt Strahm (5-8, 5.21 ERA) vs. Luis Castillo (11-5, 3.10 ERA)

Despite its drop from prominence a year ago, the Padres’ bullpen is still a unit that can be trusted, and when they are assigned to cover the whole game (no pun intended), there could be a profitable opportunity ahead.

Last year, San Diego relievers ranked third in the National League with a team 3.53 ERA. That mark has inflated considerably in 2019, as the Padres bullpen now sits with a 4.65 ERA. Even so, the way they are using a bullpen game for this series finale in Cincinnati may bring about the results from a season ago.

There’s actually no one I want more to serve as the “opener” in this effort than Strahm, who was utilized in this role five times last year before joining the rotation this season.

His stint on the starting pitching staff was inconsistent — though he’ll eventually get another chance there and probably be good — but when beginning a bullpen game in ‘18, Strahm strung together an impressive 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings. He also recorded 18 strikeouts compared to only three walks within that span.

Strahm has expressed his desire in starting, so this could certainly be viewed as an opportunity to continue his quest in getting back into the rotation. He’ll start us right with at least a pair of scoreless innings, and he has a fine group behind him waiting in the wings to keep it steady.

That’s really crucial because San Diego’s battalion of relievers is about to face one of the biggest constants in All-Star Luis Castillo.

The third-year right-hander has been working on his best campaign to date, owning a pretty 3.10 ERA while holding opponents to an NL-low .201 batting average. He’s also compiled 10.64, tying him with teammate Sonny Gray for sixth-best in the league.

Castillo is coming off a rare bad outing in which he was battered for a career-high eight runs but that’s actually something that can be used to our advantage. The 26-year-old has bounced back nicely in all of the instances where he allowed more than three runs.

He’s also facing an opponent whom he handled well earlier this season, limiting the Padres to one run in six sharp innings and striking out nine. This is a downgraded version, too, with Fernando Tatis Jr. likely out for the year. Additionally, the always-dangerous Manny Machado apparently is being rested today. Play: UNDER 8.5 (-115)

Yesterday’s Result: Nationals-Pirates Under 9 (WIN)

Zylbert’s 2019 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*: 69-61-10, +0.45 unit

*Each bet graded as if it were win 1 unit

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