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Tuesday’s Free MLB Best Bet: Playoff Implications at Busch Stadium

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St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez continues to fly under-the-radar despite posting an 11-4 record with an impressive 2.57 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 129 1/3 innings pitched this season. More importantly, Martinez’s solid surface statistics are fully supported by his underlying metrics:

Carlos Martinez’ 2015 Metrics:

3.48 FIP & 3.35 xFIP
3.49 SIERA (9.12 K/9; 0.77 HR/9; 55.4% GB%)
2.89 FIP & 3.05 xFIP in June (0.55 HR/9)
3.26 FIP & 3.39 xFIP in July (0.58 HR/9)

The figures from last month are even more impressive when taking into account the 23-year-old’s .348 BABIP. Martinez is also supported by the best bullpen in baseball as St. Louis relievers enter tonight’s game with an incredible 2.26 ERA and 1.24 WHIP (8.10 K/9; .307 OBP; .642 OPS; .237 BAA).

Kansas City’s bullpen sits second with a 2.32 ERA, while the Pirates and Astros’ relief staffs are tied for third with a 2.78 ERA.  St. Louis relievers also own a 2.09 ERA and 1.28 WHIP at home, a 2.14 ERA and 1.20 WHIP versus division opponents and a 1.17 ERA and 0.78 WHIP over the last seven games.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh southpaw Jeff Locke has seemingly turned his season around after posting a woeful 5.37 ERA through his first eleven starts this season. The 27-year-old hurler toes the rubber with a 4.31 ERA in 2015, but he has failed to pitch past the fifth inning in 5 of his last seven starts.

The main culprit preventing Locke from pitching late into games has been his command and control as he has walked 44 batters in 20 starts (3.40 BB/9).  It’s also worth noting that the middling pitcher toes the rubber in poor form with a 6.32 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over his last three starts.

Locke has also struggled away from PNC Park where he owns a 6.43 ERA in 42.0 inning of work this season (4.07 BB/9; 1.07 HR/9). Locke also owns a 4.53 FIP and a 4.23 xFIP on the road in 2015. And, the lefty’s 3.26 ERA in July was aided by a fortunate .274 BABIP. Finally, Locke owns a 5.48 ERA, 4.49 FIP and 3.97 xFIP in the second half of the season, and I believe the erratic hurler is a prime regression candidate going forward.

From a technical standpoint, St. Louis is a profitable 55-19 in its last 74 home games (40-16 this season), including 38-13 versus teams with a winning record. The Cardinals are also 35-16 during games 1 of a series, 6-1 in their last seven versus left-handed starters and 22-5 in Martinez’s last 27 starts, including 18-3 as favorites and 12-1 as home favorites.

In contrast, Pittsburgh is a money-burning 10-23 as a road underdog, 6-16 on the road versus N.L. Central opponents and 16-36 in its last 52 trips to Busch Stadium (swept earlier this year).

With current Pittsburgh batters hitting .255 (24-for-94) against Martinez, take the Cardinals to secure their fourth consecutive home win against the Pirates as our free Best Bet on Tuesday. Lay the number and invest with confidence.

Oskeim Sports Free Best Bet: St. Louis Cardinals

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