There are seven games today that start before the sun goes down, and our analysts are on three of them, including a couple of first five inning bets and one player prop.
Here are our three best bets from Thursday afternoon’s Major League Baseball slate.
MLB Odds & Picks
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds
Will Power: Taking an under in a game involving the high-powered Dodgers’ offense seems counterintuitive, but we have a few things working in our favor.
We’re getting a solid number here in part because Hunter Greene’s 5.26 ERA doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. However, the hard-throwing right-hander has pitched to a 3.68 xERA, meaning he’s thrown better than the surface numbers indicate. Greene also ranks in the 73rd percentile in Hard-Hit%, the 82nd percentile in xBA and the 87% percentile in K%.
It’s also telling that Greene has lowered both his ERA and WHIP each month this season, a sign he’s improving and learning what it takes to succeed at this level. Yes, he gave up four runs in five innings in his last start, but all those runs came via the homer and prior to that he’d given up just one run over 12 innings across two starts.
Greene’s ERA is a little more than a half-run better at home (4.91) than on the road (5.49) and he’s shown an ability to pitch well against the Dodgers, having thrown five scoreless against them in mid-April before running out of gas in the sixth.
Not only do the metrics suggest Greene is going to start having better results, but the Dodgers are playing without Mookie Betts. Yes, the lineup is still loaded, but Betts is obviously mega-talented and there’s always a drop whenever a player of his caliber is absent.
If Greene can keep the Dodgers’ offense in check, we should have a good chance of cashing this ticket as Clayton Kershaw — who has a 2.64 xERA and is in the 80th percentile or better in a number advanced metrics — should carve his way through a Reds lineup that ranks toward the bottom of the league in numerous offensive categories.
The Reds’ bullpen ranks last in the league in ERA and it’s entirely possible the Dodgers pile on runs late, so let’s have Greene get us through five innings and get out while it’s still safe. The first five under has hit in 52% of both Dodgers and Reds games this season.
Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Anthony Dabbundo: Jose Quintana has managed to avoid disaster on the mound at this point in the MLB season, but I’m not convinced his 3.66 ERA is going to last much longer.
When you look at his underlying numbers, he has the lowest K-BB% of his career because he’s not generating as many strikeouts as he used to at age 33. Despite a career zone rate in the 40s, Quintana’s percentage of pitches in the zone has dipped below 35%. This means he’s reliant on getting a lot of chases and swings and misses outside of the zone.
I’m skeptical of how sustainable that strategy is for a pitcher who has clearly below-average stuff with just three pitches and a fastball that sits at 91 mph.
Quintana’s xERA of 4.98 is a much better indicator of where he is as a pitcher and the Cubs’ lineup has plenty of power in the middle of the order to take advantage of when Quintana is forced to come into the zone. His barrel rate allowed remains solidly below league average and the Cubs are above average at avoiding chases on pitches outside of the strike zone.
Justin Steele is the much better starting pitcher and I’m going to back him in the first five innings on Thursday afternoon. His xERA of 3.39 and ability to avoid hard contact is much more impressive than Quintana.
Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics
Jules Posner: Ramon Laureano broke an 0-for-13 skid in his first at-bat on Wednesday night. He gets a pretty appealing matchup Thursday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners’ Robbie Ray.
Ray has struggled on the road this season and over his past four road starts, he’s surrendered a .279 batting average to right-handed hitters. Additionally, righties are slugging .574 against Ray in his road starts and nine of the 17 hits Ray has given up to righties have gone for extra bases.
Laureano hopefully can build upon Wednesday’s game and take advantage of Ray. Over his past 24 plate appearances at home against LHP, Laureano is hitting .333 with a .238 ISO. Overall, Laureano is hitting .316 against LHP and .286 against LHP at home this season.
Another item worth noting is that he did go 1-for-4 with 2 Ks a walk against Marco Gonzalez and Daniel Lynch in his last two games against LHP, so he could be due Thursday afternoon.
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