Our analysts have targeted three games from tonight’s slate with four bets total. Those include totals, player props and one juicy underdog.
Here are our best bets from Friday’s Major League Baseball slate.
MLB Odds & Picks
Oakland Athletics vs. Oakland Athletics. Cleveland Guardians
DJ James: Triston McKenzie and the Cleveland Guardians and Paul Blackburn and the Oakland Athletics come to a head in a very underrated pitching matchup for Friday night.
McKenzie owns a 3.10 ERA and a 3.92 xERA, so he has been a touch lucky but still solid. Blackburn has been similar with a 3.41 xERA and 2.62 ERA. Neither of these starters gives up many walks. Each rank in the top 50% of the league, which bodes well for the under in this game. There will be very few unnecessary runs.
Cleveland has a top-five bullpen with a 3.35 xFIP. Emmanuel Clase has been a lockdown closer, so if McKenzie could go deep into this game, he does the under some favors.
Outside of his last start, Blackburn has gone at least five innings every time out. The Oakland bullpen has been weak, so this is impactful, too. This is the most significant roadblock to the total. Oakland just needs to pitch well to close this game out.
Finally, the A’s have been the second-worst team in the MLB against right-handed pitching with a 76 wRC+ in the last month. Cleveland comes in at 92, so they are well below average, as well.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers
Jules Posner: Okay, so this might be a deep cut, but stay with me.
Harold Castro is 6-for-11 in his career against Jose Berrios, plus Castro is hitting at an insane .417 clip at home so far this season.
Although he doesn’t have huge extra base power historically, Castro is posting his best career ISO by almost 100 points. Additionally, he’s posting a .190 ISO at home against RHP this season while hitting .381.
Over the past month, Jose Berrios is allowing a .681 SLG against left-handed hitters on the road, and overall Berrios is allowing a .333 batting average against left-handed hitters on the road this season. Additionally, of the 19 hits Berrios has allowed to left-handed hitters, eight of those hits have gone for extra bases.
Berrios has had his moments of being a solid pitcher, but overall he has become one of the more fade-able pitchers in the league.
This combination seems like a good opportunity for “Hittin’ Harold” to go over 1.5 total bases in Friday night’s matchup. Right now the prop is sitting at +125 and if it stays in that range, it would be a solid play.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Pirates. Atlanta Braves
Will Power: A pair of rookies are set to duel in Atlanta as Roansy Contreras takes the ball for the Pirates against Spencer Strider and the Braves. Neither of these pitchers are considered elite at this stage of their young careers, but they should be strong enough to help us cash this under. The under has hit in four of the Pirates past five games and in three of the Braves past five.
Contreras has held opponents to two runs or fewer in all six of his appearances (three starts) this season. He gave up one unearned run over 5 1/3 frames in his last start and has pitched to a 1.93 ERA.
His xERA of 3.22 suggests some regression is coming, but the 22-year-old right-hander ranks in the 92nd percentile in fastball velocity, the 89th percentile in curveball spin and the 88th percentile in chase rate. In other words, the stuff plays and he’s shown an ability to retire big league hitters.
The Braves chase at a 30.8% clip — slightly above league average (28.5%) — meaning Contreras could have success keeping the Braves off the bases.
Strider has made 13 appearances this year, but has only started twice. He gave up one run over four innings in his last start and has pitched to a 2.75 ERA (3.20 xERA). He misses a lot of bats and has fanned 49 over 32 2/3 innings. He ranks in the 98th percentile in fastball velocity and in the 99th percentile in strikeout percentage.
Take those numbers and put them against a Pirates’ offense that ranks 28th in baseball in OPS (.652 overall, .646 against RHP) and runs should be at a premium.
While the Pirates offense doesn’t seem to be a threat to score a bunch, the Braves do have a good offense. However, we have a couple things working in our favor here. The Braves don’t fare as well against right-handers (.703 OPS) as they do against lefties (.814 OPS) and, considering they are heavy favorites to win at home, they’ll likely have one less at-bat to pile up runs.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Pirates. Atlanta Braves
Brad Cunningham: In his brief time in the big leagues, Roansy Contreras has been an absolute stud. In 23 1/3 innings he has a 1.93 and 3.23 xERA, while also sporting a K/9 rate over 10.
He’s the Pirates’ No. 3 prospect and has a really nice three-pitch arsenal of fastball, curveball and slider. His fastball has a ton of life, averaging 96.7 mph and is in the 87th percentile for spin rate and 92nd for velocity. He’s still trying to figure out how to control, but it’s a Major League-level fastball. His slider is absolutely wicked, allowing only a .139 xBA and has a 48.2% whiff rate.
Sliders are a pitch the Braves’ lineup has been struggling against this season, as they have a -6.7 run value against them. So Contreras could have a decent matchup.
Spencer Strider has been dealing this year with a 3.20 xERA in a little over 30 innings. He has some nasty stuff, which is why his K/9 is at 13.50. His fastball has crazy life with a 98.4 mph average and over a 20% whiff rate.
He backs it up with a great slider and changeup that both have over a 40% whiff rate. However, he is having issues with control because his BB/9 rate is at 4.96. The Pirates have been struggling against sliders, but do have a positive run value against fastballs and changes.
The Braves are a tad overpriced here with the starting pitching matchup being pretty even. Since I have the Pirates projected at +155 for the full game and +138, I love the value on Pittsburgh +185 at Caesars for the full game and +165 BetMGM for the first five innings.