MLB Best Bets Today | Odds, Picks for Orioles vs Rays, Diamondbacks vs Reds, More (Friday, July 21)
Al Bello/Getty Images. Pictured: Kodai Senga
Ladies and gentlemen, the weekend.
Friday's MLB slate is once again loaded. The Cubs and Cardinals get us started this afternoon, and then there are 14 more games taking place under the lights, and our analysts are all over it.
We have a whopping seven bets to recommend across four different games, including Padres vs. Tigers, Orioles vs. Rays, Diamondbacks vs. Reds and Mets vs. Red Sox.
Here are our best bets and expert picks from the MLB slate on Friday, July 21st.
Friday MLB Best Bets
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 the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
|Specific bet 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.|
Padres vs. Tigers
By D.J. James
Reese Olson has been a viable starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, and they have sorely needed it. However, their hitting has not been able to keep up with his success, and now he will have to face one of the hottest hitting teams in baseball against right-handed pitching on Friday.
The San Diego Padres come to town with Seth Lugo as the starting pitcher. Lugo is not a stud on the mound, but he has been able to give the Padres a solid 5-6 innings each outing. On the season, he has a 3.78 ERA against a 4.50 xERA, so negative regression is in the cards. His Average Exit Velocity ranks in the 32nd percentile, while his Hard Hit Rate ranks in the 38th percentile. His walk rate is in the 95th percentile, though, and this is part of the reason he has been able to extend himself in recent starts.
Olson has a 3.96 ERA against a 4.03 xERA. His Barrel Rate is 10.3%. His Hard Hit Rate does rank in the 60th percentile, but his Average Exit Velocity ranks in the 28th percentile. This just means he is allowing these hard hit balls slightly less often than Lugo.
The major edge is that San Diego boasts a 132 wRC+ off of righties in July. Detroit has an 83 wRC+.
Detroit’s relief staff has fared better in recent outings, but expect Lugo to give a good outing to his bullpen. Take the Padres to -160. This should be a larger line.
Pick: Padres ML (-140)
Orioles vs. Rays
I can imagine the Orioles are drooling over the opportunity to face Zach Eflin, given their previous success against the right-hander. Baltimore is batting over .300 against Eflin in over 40 plate appearances. Their .512 slugging percentage shows me that they are capable of getting on base against Eflin and drive the ball into the outfield for extra-base hits.
Some Orioles to note that have had elevated success against the righty are Anthony Santander (.500 BA/1.167 SLG), Hicks (.600/.600), and James McCann (.333/.333).
Conversely, the Rays have taken their fair share of bases against the Orioles' Kyle Bradish. In 52 plate appearances, the Rays have accumulated a .333 batting average and .563 slugging percentage.
The last time the Rays faced Bradish, they were able to tally two runs in the first five innings. When the Orioles faced Eflin last, they tallied four runs in the first five innings. Eflin has given up nine runs in the month of July, and I expect that number to go up after facing this hot Orioles offense.
The Rays are capable of tacking some runs on to the Orioles early, which leads me to take the over in the first five innings, rather than the Orioles' first five team total over. Bet to 5 and -110.
Pick: First 5 Over 4.5 (+100)
Orioles vs. Rays
By Tony Sartori
It has been a statistically strong sophomore campaign for Kyle Bradish, who is 6-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. However, his underlying metrics suggest that regression is imminent, ranking in the 42nd percentile or lower in Average Exit Velocity, HardHit%, xERA/xwOBA, xBA and xSLG.
On the other side, right-hander Zach Eflin takes the mound for Tampa Bay, a guy who ranks higher than Bradish in each of those five categories. The Rays should also possesses the hitting advantage, ranking higher than the Orioles this season in runs scored per game, BA, SLG, OPS, home runs and stolen bases.
Finally, the bullpen battle should be a wash, with perhaps a very slight edge to Baltimore. Each of Tampa Bay's past five wins have come by at least a two-run margin, and it is a better team than its recent play suggests.
Pick: Rays Run Line -1.5 (+145)
Orioles vs. Rays
Kyle Bradish is third among all starters in Stuff+ in the last 30 days, behind only Corbin Burnes and Graham Ashcraft. For the first time in his young MLB career, Bradish's fastball is playing above average and it's making a massive difference in his underlying performance.
He's always had the excellent slider (159 Stuff+) and curveball (154 Stuff+), but now his fastball (102 Stuff+ last 30 days) enables him to get ahead in counts without getting crushed. The improved fastball has helped his swinging strike rate and stirkeout rates in the last month. He has 46 strikeouts and nine walks in the last 43 1/3 innings, with a 1.87 ERA.
For all of the talk of the dominance of the Rays lineup this season, Tampa Bay is a league average offense since June began. The projection systems would put the Rays slightly above average for the remainder of the year, but I'd bet the under on them maintaining a season long 120 wRC+ as an offense. As good as the Rays were in April and May, that level of hitting production wasn't sustainable given the talent in the lineup.
Zach Eflin's production at the top of the Rays rotation is sustainable though. He has a career high strikeout and whiff rate and he's maintained his elite command while doing it. The result is a career low in xERA and stellar underlying metrics despite being one of the most unlucky pitchers in baseball. Eflin ranks in the bottom 10 for worst defenses surrounding him on his starts alone, based on outs above average from Baseball Savant.
I'd bet under 8 at -115 or better
Pick: Under 8 (-105)
Diamondbacks vs. Reds
Tommy Henry is a pitch-to-contact pitcher, as he has one of the lowest K/9 rates among qualified starting pitchers at 6.41, but his control hasn’t been great either with his BB/9 rate up at 3.43. That's not really ideal when you are facing a Reds lineup that has one of the highest strikeout rates against left-handed pitching, but is 11th in wOBA.
He is a soft-tossing lefty who throws his 91 mph fastball close to 50% of the time and it’s a really below average fastball, as opposing hitters have a .405 xwOBA against it and the Stuff+ on it is just 72. He is in the top 90th percentile in average exit velocity allowed, but his barrel rate allowed is in the 45th percentile, so at some point, he’s going to get hit and get hit hard. The Reds against left-handed fastballs that are 92 mph or slower this season have a .579 SLG% and .403 wOBA.
Ben Lively is a big time negative regression candidate with his ERA sitting at 3.72, but his xERA all the way up at 4.78. Lively is someone who has been bouncing between the minors, KBO and majors for four years now, so we have a pretty good idea of how good he is and with a career xFIP of 5.09, he’s a well below average pitcher.
He offers a fastball, sinker, slider combination close to 80% of the time with his fastball getting shelled and his slider and sinker allowing an xwOBA under .300. However, the Stuff+ on his fastball and sinker are both below 90 and his Stuff+ overall is only 81. So it’s pretty evident that he is a below average starting pitcher.
The Diamondbacks are a top-10 offense against right-handed pitching, but more specifically against-right handed fastballs, sinkers, and sliders they have a .354 wOBA and +44.6 run value.
I have 12.1 runs projected for this game, so I like the value on Over 10.5 runs at -110.
Pick: Over 10.5 (-108)
Mets vs. Red Sox
By Jim Turvey
Don't look now, but Kodai Senga has quietly turned into the actual ace of the Mets pitching staff. The 30-year-old rookie has lowered his ERA to 3.20 with a strong of excellent starts, highlighted most recently by 14 combined innings of two-run, 21-strikeout ball against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers sandwiching the All-Star break.
Facing off with Senga is Kutter Crawford who has a 3.74 ERA, but that number is a bit of fool's gold. Almost half of Crawford's appearances this season have come in relief, and he has been far more successful in that role. As a starter, Crawford's ERA sits basically a run higher (4.73), with every metric supporting this jump.
Crawford's velocity has also been trending the wrong direction of late, and the weather (friendly to balls in play) also favors Senga and his high strikeout rate.
This is also one of those "half" home games where the Red Sox just played on the road, and they are also in their worse offensive split, while the Mets hit righties much better than they hit lefties.
With all signs pointing to New York, I will be playing the first five inning moneyline (I want no piece of that Mets bullpen), as well as all the alternate spreads offered at FanDuel, who offers all the way up to Mets -3.5 +550 for the first five innings.
Splitting a unit, bettors can put 60 cents on the moneyline at -102; 25 cents on -1.5; 10 cents on -2.5; and 5 cents on -3.5 for the full alt escalator.
Mets vs. Red Sox
It’s a solid buy-low spot for the Red Sox, who dropped back-to-back games against Oakland over the weekend.
Rafael Devers played only one of the three games due to hamstring tightness, but most projections have him back in the lineup on Friday (double-check the lineups closer to first pitch). Either way, the bats should see a boost going back to Fenway from the Coliseum.
Meanwhile, we can sell high on the Mets, who’ve won three of four.
Also, I feel Boston staring pitcher Kutter Crawford is undervalued compared to New York SP Kodai Senga.
Crawford is good! The Stuff+ model rates him very highly (107), and the eye test backs up that analysis — he dominated the Cubs in his last start.
Kutter Crawford was fantastic today against the Cubs
6 IP, 89 P
0 R/1 H/4 BB
17 Whiffs (45%)
86.5 avg EV
— Quinn Riley 📊 (@QuinnRileyBB) July 17, 2023
I must admit that his fastball velocity is down, which worries me. But his secondary offerings still look great (cutter, curveball, slider).
My main concerns lie with Senga, who still carries one of the highest walk rates in the league — fifth among pitchers with at least 10 starts, 12.1%. His fastball looks better recently, but he only carries a 97 Stuff+ rating across his arsenal over the past month.
There’s zero reason to give any lineup or bullpen advantage to the Mets, who are working with a 78 wRC+ and a 4.76 reliever SIERA over the past two weeks. During the same stretch, the Sox have a 123 wRC+ and a 3.17 reliever SIERA (top-five in both stats).
Sean Zerillo makes the Red Sox -130 favorites, while BallParkPal makes them -129. We can buy the Sox at -120 or better.