Thursday’s MLB Over/Under: Will Taillon vs. Arrieta Live Up to Prime Billing?

Thursday’s MLB Over/Under: Will Taillon vs. Arrieta Live Up to Prime Billing? article feature image

Nice to bounce back yesterday from Tuesday’s disappointing showing, as Cole Hamels and Jake Faria delivered enough to cash the Rangers-Rays Under 7.5. Let’s also give another shout-out to Rays manager Kevin Cash for batting perennial dead-bat Jesus Sucre (0-for-4, stranded team-high three runners) in the No. 6 hole — which I specifically detailed as part of my reasoning for taking the under. On to Thursday we go.

Zylbert’s 2018 MLB Over/Under Betting Record: 13-4-1, +8.7 units
Yesterday’s Result: Rangers-Rays Under 7.5 (WIN)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit

Pittsburgh Pirates @ Philadelphia Phillies | O/U: 7.5

7:05 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
Probable Pitchers: Jameson Taillon (2-0, 0.89 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-0, 3.38 ERA)

A Keystone State clash commences on Thursday evening in the opener of a four-game set between these two old rivals, and the two starting pitchers have me salivating a bit.

That’s because these are two Zylbert Guys from very early on in their careers; I’ve gushed enough already over Taillon, who was one of my top sleepers entering the campaign and is someone I’ve followed closely since well before he made his major-league debut two years ago. It’s been a treat to watch him get off to such a strong start, having allowed only two runs over his first three starts, spanning 20.1 innings. He looks to be on pace for his first career All-Star berth, and as I wrote entering his first start of the year, his ceiling is much higher than that accolade.

I was also early on Arrieta, so suffice it to say, betting this under wasn’t a hard choice for me.

Aside from Taillon’s microscopic 0.89 ERA, he’s also strung together a stellar 18/5 K/BB ratio, something he can strengthen even further opposite a Phillies lineup that has struck out 168 times in 570 at-bats (or once every 3.39 ABs).

Additionally, Taillon has enjoyed success in his two previous matchups with Philadelphia. Over 11 innings, he’s yielded four runs and has racked up 16 Ks while issuing only a pair of walks. In fact, he had a career-high-tying nine-strikeout performance last year in his second career outing against the Phils.

Philadelphia is in the top 10 in runs scored, but that’s because of its knack for extra-base hits in the early going, something that doesn’t figure to be as much in play versus the former No. 2 overall draft pick. The Phillies are actually hitting .226 as a team — sixth-worst in baseball — and that’s something Taillon can capitalize on.

The Pirates have a considerably higher batting average (.265), but that number was actually closer to .290 only about a week ago. The Buccos have been struggling at the plate as of late, plating two or fewer runs in four of their past six games. Gregory Polanco, who was on fire to begin the season, is now down to .197, and the lineup is now also missing Josh Harrison.

That bodes well for Arrieta’s outlook tonight, as he gets set to face a familiar foe in his third start with the Phillies. In his career, the nine-year veteran has faced Pittsburgh more than any other team — 20 starts, to be exact — en route to posting spectacular numbers against this foe: 10-6 record, 3.18 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .204 batting average against and a 114/32 K/BB ratio over 121.2 innings. That also doesn’t even include his incredible five-hit, 11-strikeout shutout against the Pirates in the 2015 NL Wild Card Game.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Arrieta will be dealing from home tonight. With the Cubs, Arrieta was 30-14 in 59 starts at Wrigley Field, pitching to a 2.31 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and .182 BAA, while striking out 378 batters in 378.1 innings.

Of course, his new home, Citizens Bank Park, is more of a hitter’s venue, featuring the sixth-most homers in the early going, but fortunately, we’re able to neutralize that with these two pitchers on the hill. Taillon surrendered a measly 11 home runs in 25 starts a year ago, while Arrieta has always had a reputation for limiting the long ball. Although he did give up a career-high 23 dingers last year in 30 starts, the 32-year-old allowed only 16 homers in 31 outings in 2016 and just 10 in 33 starts in 2015. Thus, it doesn’t appear home runs will kill us.

With the line at 7.5, you’ll want to get this under wager in as soon as you can, as I’ve seen it drop to 7 in some places. Even that low, this is still a quality bet to invest in. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this ends up being the main event pitching matchup on Thursday’s entire slate.

Play: UNDER 7.5 (-120)