Baseball fans will have a couple of distractions during the work day and then a bunch of evening and nighttime games to dig into on the Wednesday April 28 card. The focus in this preview will be on the game in Arlington between the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers. The Angels are a road favorite with Alex Cobb on the hill, while the underdog Rangers will counter with Dane Dunning.

MyBookie Sportsbook lists the Angels as a -135 favorite in the rubber match of this three-game set. The total has been bet down from 9 to 8.5. The Halos won 9-4 on Monday, but dropped a 6-1 decision on Tuesday. The Rangers are the only team without an attendance restriction and more than 16,000 people were on hand for Tuesday’s game.

Let’s break down each side and find a play for this one.

Los Angeles Angels

A 6-1 game doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination, but it the Angels did bang out 10 hits in last night’s game. They just went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The Rangers hit three home runs and that wound up being the biggest difference in the game. One thing that was a positive for the Angels on Tuesday is that Mike Trout had a couple more hits to bump his numbers up to .431/.538/.815 for the season.

Another good thing is that Anthony Rendon played his second consecutive game in his return from the IL. He went 0-for-4, but his presence in the lineup is a big deal, particularly in the slot right behind Trout. If Rendon and leadoff man David Fletcher can get the bats going, this Angels lineup looks very, very solid and like a group that could be a threat in the AL West as the season goes along.

The pitching staff still has questions, including today’s starter, Alex Cobb. Cobb has allowed 11 runs, 10 earned, on 18 hits in 14.1 innings of work. He’s struck out 21 and walked five. Cobb has a 6.28 ERA on the young year, but a 2.52 FIP and a 2.34 xFIP. He’s been the victim of some bad luck with a .436 BABIP against and a 59.3% LOB%. Cobb’s Hard Hit% is only 35%, so he’s done a good job limiting hard contact against. With a high ground ball rate, though, a lot of those balls have found holes and he hasn’t been able to get outs in leverage situations.

With the bases empty, Cobb has allowed a .250/.289/.417 slash with a .307 wOBA, including his only gopher ball of the season. With men on base, he’s allowed a .360/.467/.480 slash and a .417 wOBA. This is a concept called Cluster Luck and guys that have wildly different results with the bases empty and men on base usually see some regression to the mean.

Cobb has also had problems the deeper he gets into games. The third time through the order (TTO) penalty has hit him hard. He’s only had 14 plate appearances against a hitter for the third time in a game, but those hitters have five hits, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch. Cobb has 19 combined strikeouts in 54 plate appearances the first two times through the order and only two the third time through the order.

These are good live betting angles to consider. The sample sizes are minuscule at this point, but worth following.

Texas Rangers

Dane Dunning is a pitcher that I’ve been high on going into the season and he repaid me handsomely with three really good starts to open the season. His fourth start was a dud against his former team, the Chicago White Sox. Dunning allowed five runs on eight hits over 2.2 innings and doubled his walk total on the season from two to four. He had struck out 16 batters in 15 innings, but only had two strikeouts against the White Sox out of 17 batters.

Dunning continued to induce a lot of ground balls, but didn’t have much command and allowed a lot of hard contact. Perhaps he was a little tight against his former team or maybe the White Sox just had a good book on him, which makes sense given that he used to be employed by them. Dunning’s previous three starts came against teams from the AL East. His only MLB work previously had come against AL Central teams during the 2020 season.

In other words, perhaps a guy like Dunning, who does have very good stuff and above average command, will keep having success the first time he sees a team. That would include tonight’s game against the Angels, who have never faced him.

The Texas offense has been a bit better than expected with the 17th-ranked wOBA in baseball. The Angels offense has been extremely solid, ranking fourth in wOBA, even without Rendon for a sustained period of time. Texas does have the highest K% in baseball, but Cobb is not a big strikeout guy, despite the gains he’s made in that department early this season.

Texas was 2-for-4 with RISP last night to bump the batting average in that situation to .319. Only the Reds are higher in that department. The Rangers have also hit 10 homers with RISP to lead the league. A .387 BABIP with RISP will not continue for Texas. The 12% BB% won’t either, as that is much higher than their full-season number. Nevertheless, they’re swinging it well in that split for now.

Angels vs. Rangers Pick

While I’m skeptical of the K% gains for the full season for Cobb, his swinging strike rate (SwStr%) is 16.1% with increased usage of both his splitter and curveball and less usage of his fastball. With a Rangers lineup that strikes out more than anybody, Cobb definitely has the chance to have success in this matchup.

Dunning is a guy that I’ve liked all season long and his most recent hiccup isn’t enough to impact my thoughts on him. With that in mind, the 1st 5 under 4.5 is the play tonight.

Pick: 1st 5 Under 4.5