Losing a bet late in a game stings like a cut fastball high and inside. These four clubs are considered among baseball’s best but have been burning backers with their late-game letdowns. We break down why these clubs can’t finish and what bettors should look out for going forward:
St. Louis Cardinals (13-8, +5.14 units)
The Cardinals have jumped to the top of the National League Central thanks to a solid pitching staff (which ranks third in ERA) and some consistent offense, averaging 4.86 runs per game. However, after the seventh inning, things go south for St. Louis.
The Cards are hitting just .200 and average only one run in the final three innings. That lack of late-game pop isn’t enough to make up for a shaky bullpen, which lugs a 5.20 ERA (second worst in the bigs) and has blown five saves already this season.
St. Louis opens a three game set with Pittsburgh Friday. The Pirates have the second-best batting average from the seventh inning on in the National League and have won their last two games in comeback fashion.
Detroit Tigers (10-10, -3.71 units)
The Tigers’ current swoon hasn’t been helped out by the fact the team runs out of gas in the final three innings. Detroit has just one win in its last six games, heading into Friday, including an extra-innings loss to Kansas City Thursday. The Tigers have had troubles cashing in runners in scoring position recently, especially deep into games.
Detroit is hitting a measly .206 and averages just 0.65 runs from the seventh inning on – last in the majors. Big bats Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are both hitting .250 in the late innings and have combined for just one home run in that span. The Tigers pitching staff has also struggled past the sixth, posting a collective 5.27 ERA – another stat that ranks worst in the bigs. The bullpen has a 1-5 record and has blown four saves.
Detroit is involved in a possible World Series preview this weekend, hosting the Atlanta Braves in interleague play. Atlanta is shutting the door in the final three innings, with an MLB-best ERA of 1.56 from the seventh on, and a bullpen which is limiting opposing bats to a .213 BA.
Washington Nationals (11-11, -2.77 units)
The Nationals have fallen far from their sky-high expectations in April, limping out to a .500 start heading into Friday. Washington’s once-powerful pitching staff is struggling and its offensive is only plating 3.82 runs an outing and only 0.73 of those runs are coming past the sixth inning.
The Nats are batting .218 and own an OBP of .267 in the late innings. On the other side of the ball, Washington’s staff lugs a 4.22 ERA from the seventh on – nearly a run more than last year’s 3.32 ERA in the same situation. The bullpen, which ranked third in the NL in 2012, is currently 11th and has already blown four saves. Washington’s relievers blew just 17 saves overall last year.
The Nationals opened a four-game set versus Cincinnati with an 8-1 win Thursday, scoring six of those runs before the seventh. The Reds boast the best ERA from the seventh on (2.84) in the majors and score 1.91 runs per game in that span – another MLB-best.
Boston Red Sox (14-7, +6.85 units)
The Red Sox have budged their way to the top of the American League East, knocking in nearly five runs per game and getting stellar work from their starters. Boston is hitting a respectable .257 and its starters own a combined 3.10 ERA – second lowest in the AL. Then comes the seventh inning stretch…
Boston’s bats cool off quickly after the sixth inning, hitting .186, and manage to cash in just 1.14 runs per game in that span. The pitching staff has a 4.32 ERA from the seventh on and the bullpen has been flighty with a 3-3 record and four blown saves.
The BoSox catch a bit of a break this weekend, hosting the Houston Astros. Boston took the first game of the series 7-2, doing all of the damage in the first five innings. The Astros also rank among the worst late-inning teams in baseball. But to be fair, Houston generally sucks no matter what inning it is.