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Miami Marlins at New York Mets

Over/Under: 8.5

First pitch: 4:10 p.m. PT

Probable pitchers: Caleb Smith (9-10, 4.24 ERA) vs. Steven Matz (10-9, 4.16 ERA)

When arriving into the final week of the Major League Baseball campaign, you actually (sort of) get some early postseason action along with it. For teams on the fringe of reaching October, every game here on out is a must-win situation.

Entering such a mode can bring about more variables that ultimately determine the outcome. Will the hitters be pressing? Is someone on the verge of an out-of-his mind clutch run? In the case of the young Mets offense, it’s hard to say.

But don’t expect their starting pitcher tonight, Matz, to be affected by the pressure. In fact, he seemingly craves these situations. We got a dose of that in his rookie season a few years ago when he delivered some real solid work in three postseason assignments — just six starts deep into his big-league career.

The Long Island native definitely stepped up this season. He’s actually been far better than what his 4.16 ERA might say, having impressively allowed two earned runs or fewer in 20 of his 28 starts. In six of the other eight, though, he was lit up for more than five runs.

One of those instances actually came during the left-hander’s last turn, when Matz surrendered a season-high-tying seven runs. But in his defense, that came in Colorado at hitter-friendly Coors Field, and for tonight’s start, not only is he back in his place of preference, he’s also getting a considerably easier opponent.

As I’ve highlighted many, many (many) times throughout the year, the Marlins are the lowest-scoring team in the league (3.77 runs per game), and they’re also a familiar foe for Matz that he’s handled well. In fact, his career 2.83 ERA opposite the Fish is his lowest such mark against any opponent whom he’s faced more than five times since first coming up. He’s also displayed a habit of rebounding after a bad showing.

Perhaps most importantly, Matz can thrive based on the setting he’ll be in. The 28-year-old has typically been notably better at home throughout his career than on the road, and that’s a trend that’s never been more extreme than this season. In his 15 games (13 starts) in Flushing this year, Matz notched a superb 1.94 ERA, easily besting the 6.62 ERA he’s posted outside of Citi Field. He’s also yielded just six home runs at home compared to more than three times as many as that (19) on the road.

Unfortunately, Smith shares similar home-and-road tendencies but that shouldn’t prevent bettors from enlisting the other southpaw in this matchup. First off, the fact that it’s a start in New York, where Smith began his stint in the majors (with the Yankees, but there’s still meaning to it) — can be helpful.

Though he pitched in only three home games during his brief time with the Yankees, there’s still meaning to it, and perhaps that was a factor in the quality start Smith churned out in his lone appearance at Citi Field last season.

Additionally, not only has Smith been pretty consistent (probably enough to earn him a National League All-Star berth if he wasn’t injured at the time, remember), he’s also been regularly effective in his meetings with the Mets.

The Miami lefty has faced the Mets four times, including twice this season, and has a 3.18 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and .179 batting average against to show for those efforts. 

Just wait until like I am until first pitch before making your bet to see if the line ticks up a half-run. Play: UNDER 8.5/9

Yesterday’s Result: Mets-Reds Under 9 (Push)

2019 MLB Over/Under Betting Record: 85-76-12, -0.85 unit

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

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