MLB Expert Predictions for Saturday: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets, Including Braves vs. Phillies

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Atlanta Braves baseman Austin Riley (27) celebrates with starting pitcher Max Fried (54)

  • Our experts give out their favorite plays for Saturday's MLB slate, including Braves vs. Phillies.

Evan Abrams: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers

Jon Lester (9-6, 3.87 ERA) vs. Chase Anderson (5-2, 3.90 ERA)

  • Cubs Moneyline: +110
  • Brewers Moneyline: -120
  • Over/Under: 9.5
  • First pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET

The Cubs have hit a bit of a skid, losing four of their last five games — all on the road. Chicago is now one game back of the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. On Saturday, Cubs turn to Jon Lester, who missed his last start due to illness, so he has not pitched in eight days.

In Lester’s last two starts against the Brewers he has allowed only three earned runs, but what I am focusing on is Milwaukee’s 17 hits in 12.1 innings pitched against Lester.

Not to mention, Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich have had their way with Lester, going a combined 23-63 (.365).

Looking at Brewers starter Chase Anderson, he has leveled out his rough start to 2019 recently, allowing two earned runs or fewer in his last six starts, including a 1.53 ERA in his last six starts against the Cubs.

I’ll take Milwaukee at a short home price on Saturday.

THE PICK: Brewers (-120)

Collin Wilson: Detroit Tigers at Seattle Mariners

Tyler Alexander (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Marco Gonzales (11-8, 4.37 ERA)

  • Away Moneyline: +143
  • Home Moneyline: -153
  • Over/Under: 9
  • First pitch: 4:10 p.m. ET

The old saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applies to today’s game in Seattle. Last night’s column went to Seattle for the Under between the Mariners and Tigers.

Two lefties took the mound with a strong umpire trend and cashed an Under 9.5 easily with a final score of 3-2. Saturday sees much of the same as two left-handers take the mound with an Umpire that favors Under the total.

Kerwin Danley will call balls and strikes behind the dish with a lifetime Under record of 209-176. That is good enough for 54.3% and +12.31 units with an average of 8.7 runs per game.

Tyler Alexander throws for the Tigers with only 12 innings pitched in the majors this season. In his prior outing against the Blue Jays, Alexander allowed one earned run and three walks through seven innings.

To repeat from yesterday’s under, Seattle and Detroit are top 10 in strikeout percentage against southpaws since June 1. Detroit is 29th in HR:FB%, which should equal plenty of empty at-bats without runners on base.

THE PICK: Under 9

Mark Gallant: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies

Max Fried (10-4, 4.08 ERA) vs. Zach Eflin (7-10, 4.25 ERA)

  • Away Moneyline: -119
  • Home Moneyline: +109
  • Over/Under: 9.5
  • First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

When it comes to “windy overs,” Citizens Bank Park is the place to be. Historically, overs with the wind blowing out have gone 127-80-12 for more than 42 units of profit at this ballpark.

The next best? Wrigley Field at +22 units.

This over/under is still just 9.5, which is actually somewhat low these days, especially for an East Coast game. I’m not going to overthink this one too much.

This simple weather system is basically an auto-bet for me as long as the total hasn’t already gone up by one run.

THE PICK: Over 9.5

Sean Zerillo: Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals

Gerrit Cole (11-3, 3.03 ERA) vs. Daniel Ponce de Leon (1-0, 2.82 ERA)

  • Away Moneyline: -195
  • Home Moneyline: 175
  • Over/Under: 8.5
  • First pitch: 7:15 p.m. ET

Gerrit Cole continues to get better. His 2019 strikeout rate is 3.8% higher than in 2018, and nearly 15% higher than in 2017 — before he was traded to the Astros.

His swinging-strike rate has increased from 9.5% to 14% to 16% over the past three seasons, and that change tracks with both improved fastball velocity and increased slider usage:

Over his past five starts, Cole has recorded a first-pitch strike more than 70% of the time (65% in 2019), with a 17% swinging strike rate, punching out an insane 42.2% of the batters that he has faced.

The Cardinals are average in strikeout rate against righties (22.7%, 15th) extremely comparable to Cole’s average opponent this season (22.9%).

Coming off back-to-back 11-strikeout performances against the Angels (18.9%) and Athletics (21.5%), who rank second and seventh, respectively, in strikeout rate vs. righites, Cole is clearly throwing as well as ever.

He has 12 double-digit strikeout games on the year (including three straight games), but has also had exactly nine strikeouts three times — meaning he is 12-7-3 if you set every strikeout prop at 9.0.

If Cole faces his season average of 24.6 batters, and keeps to his 37.9% strikeout rate, that puts him at 9.3 strikeouts, which is certainly enough to push.

But getting to face a pitcher at least twice in a National League park should be the boost that Cole needs to get to double-digit strikeouts for a fourth straight start, and I like the push as a floor without the hook.

THE PICK: Gerrit Cole Over 9 Strikeouts (+100)

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