MLB Best Bets Thursday: Odds, Expert Picks, Predictions Today (April 18)

MLB Best Bets Thursday: Odds, Expert Picks, Predictions Today (April 18) article feature image

(Photos: Getty Images) Pictured: Kenta Maeda (left) and Cody Bellinger (right).

MLB Best Bets Thursday

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our MLB betting staff is targeting from today's slate of games. Click on the team logos for any of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

GameTime (ET)Pick
1:10 p.m. ET
1:10 p.m. ET
1:35 p.m. ET
4:40 p.m. ET
Specific betting recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our MLB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Thursday's MLB slate features just five games for April 18, headlined by Jack Leiter's MLB debut. Our baseball betting experts have picks for that game and more, featuring moneyline predictions and a prop pick for Leiter's opposing pitcher Thursday.

After looking over today's MLB odds, our experts have identified best bets for Rangers vs. Tigers, Guardians vs. Red Sox and Marlins vs. Cubs.

Read below for our MLB best bets for Thursday.

Rangers vs. Tigers

Thursday, April 18
1:10 p.m. ET
MLB Network
Rangers ML (+100)

By D.J. James

Over the course of the last year and change of minor league pitching, Jack Leiter seems to have ironed out the issues. His walk rate has been under 7% dating back to the start of 2023, and he is striking out over 37% of batters. MLB hitters are certainly a different breed, but Leiter will have the opportunity to face a team that has been awful when facing a right-hander in the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers are throwing the veteran Kenta Maeda on Thursday. Maeda has had a tough start to the season, yielding six earned runs to the Chicago White Sox, a team that has made a habit of being shut out. Maeda always has had favorable peripherals, and in 2024, his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate are above average. That said, his strikeout numbers are dwindling. Historically, he has been above 20%, but he is well below that mark now.

The kicker is the Rangers have a 9.4% walk rate and sub-19% strikeout rate off righties in 2024. That should bode well against Maeda. In addition, Texas has a 117 wRC+ off righties.

Detroit is in the cellar, striking out over 25% of the time off righties and holding a sub-80 wRC+. The back end of the Tigers' bullpen has been decent, but Maeda could be forced to leave early.

It may seem questionable backing Leiter in his first MLB start, but facing Detroit should give him a favorable matchup. Take Texas in this game to -125.

Pick: Rangers ML (+100; Bet to -125)

Rangers vs. Tigers

Thursday, April 18
1:10 p.m. ET
MLB Network
Kenta Maeda Under 4.5 Strikeouts (+108)

By Tony Sartori

Detroit hands the ball to right-hander Kenta Maeda on Thursday, and he should be a good fade candidate. Through three starts this season, Maeda is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA.

While it is a small sample size, his underlying metrics suggest it will continue to be a rough start to the campaign. Currently, he ranks in the 33rd percentile or lower in both xERA and xBA.

Maeda has also struggled in the strikeout department, ranking in the 24th percentile or lower in Chase%, Whiff% and K%. You can find Maeda's strikeout prop at 4.5 with the Under paying +108 at FanDuel, which is a total he has gone south of in two of his three starts thus far.

This lack of success is likely to continue against Texas, a team Maeda has gone below 4.5 strikeouts against in three of his four career starts. Finally, the Rangers feature a strong lineup that excels at avoiding the punch out, as they rank fourth in K%.

Pick: Kenta Maeda Under 4.5 Strikeouts (+108 at FanDuel | Bet to +100)

Guardians vs. Red Sox

Thursday, April 18
1:35 p.m. ET
Red Sox F5 ML (-140 or better)

By Tanner McGrath

Editor's note: The Red Sox announced yesterday that Brennan Bernandino will be the opener for Thursday's game, but Cooper Criswell will get the bulk innings following him. This doesn't change the writer's handicap, but is worth noting.

Cooper Criswell gets the start for the Red Sox, while the Guardians will counter with Carlos Carrasco, the 15-year MLB veteran in his second stint in Cleveland.

Criswell has a versatile arm and can generate outs across multiple innings. He was an innings-eater as a reliever in Tampa, and Alex Cora hopes he can do something similar in Boston by providing reliable innings with injuries taking their toll on his staff.

Criswell isn’t a hard thrower, but his advanced metrics are more than solid. In the minors, he's flashed strikeout ability with a changeup that drops violently and a sweeper and sinker that break in opposite directions. I’m uncertain he can provide enough consistent length to develop into a solid middle-rotation piece, but his upside is intriguing.

Carrasco, meanwhile, is losing velocity on his fastball. This season, he’s throwing it at 91.3 mph on average, the lowest of his career. He is now forced to nibble around the edges more, greatly increasing his walk rate. He’s walked nine batters in 12 1/3 innings this season.

And Fenway has been anything but friendly to Carrasco in his career. He’s allowed 21 earned runs in 16 ⅓ career innings in Boston, with just 17 strikeouts and 10 walks. Last year, in his only Fenway start as a member of the Mets, he gave up five earned runs on five hits and two walks in just 2 ⅓ innings.

Carrasco is clearly on the decline, which is why I’m fading him on Thursday. Criswell should offer enough to support that decision.

Avoid betting on the latter innings, where the ugly Boston defense could make an appearance.

Pick: Red Sox F5 ML (-140 or better)

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Marlins vs. Cubs

Thursday, April 18
4:40 p.m. ET
Cubs ML (-155)

By Sean Paul

My pick is laying a little juice, but I think the Cubs should be close to -200 favorites back home at Wrigley against the 4-15 Miami Marlins.

The main reason? It’s an all-in fade of Marlins lefty A.J. Puk, who looked terrific in the spring but can’t throw strikes in the regular season. Puk has allowed 26 base runners in just 10.2 innings. There’s constant traffic, and I expect more of the same against a solid Cubs lineup.

The Cubs need their big dollar players, Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger, to show up. Both have an OPS below .700 and still hit in the upper portion of Chicago's lineup. This is a good spot for the two to get rolling.

Back the Cubs at home in the friendly confines of Wrigley.

Pick: Cubs ML (-155; Bet to -180)

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