MLB Expert Predictions for Thursday: Our Favorite Bets, Including Nationals at Braves

MLB Expert Predictions for Thursday: Our Favorite Bets, Including Nationals at Braves article feature image

Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37).

  • We have a full slate of baseball on Thursday, and our experts are on six of the eight late games.
  • See their picks and predictions for Tigers-Indians (7:10 p.m. ET), Rays-Yankees (7:05 p.m. ET) and more.

Collin Wilson: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians

Matthew Boyd (6-7, 3.95 ERA) vs. Trevor Bauer (8-7, 3.65 ERA)

  • Tigers Moneyline: +188
  • Indians Moneyline: -210
  • Over/Under: 9
  • First pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET

Thursday generally signifies a getaway game on the travel schedule. Cleveland will stay at home for a series with Kansas City, while Detroit will head back home for a series with Toronto on Friday.

Getaway unders are generally profitable and tonight will be assisted by Cory Blaser calling balls and strikes behind the dish. The Umpire is 124-106 to the under, winning 16.74 units over his time with a runs per game average of 8.2.

The Tigers have been abysmal at 29-62, but Matthew Boyd has been the shining light on their pitching staff. Boyd supports a 3.35 xFIP, well below his season ERA of 3.95. His K/9 rate of 12.00 will be on full display against an Indians offense that ranks 20th in wRC+ against southpaws since May 1.

Toeing the rubber for the Indians is Trevor Bauer and his 10.43 K/9 rate. He should have plenty of punchouts against a Detroit offense that has the second-highest strikeout rate against right handers in MLB (26.1%). The Tigers are dead last in wRC+ against right hand pitching, and that comes to the benefit of bettors with an under.

THE PICK: Under 9

Danny Donahue: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels

Wade Miley (7-4, 3.32 ERA) vs. Matt Harvey (3-4, 6.88 ERA)

  • Astros Moneyline: -145
  • Angels Moneyline: +135
  • Over/Under: 10
  • First pitch: 9:07 p.m. ET

By the time the second half of the MLB season rolls around, bettors have become pretty comfortable with their assessments of each team. They know who the powerhouses are, who’s already looking ahead to the offseason and who’s somewhere in between. And as you could’ve probably guessed, it’s the first option that tends to be on the receiving end of most of their bets.

But oddsmakers are well aware of the fact that such teams are going to be public favorites. Because of that, they generally make it unprofitable to back the best in the league in spots that are going to draw a heavy public majority.

In the second half of the season, if a team at .600 or better is receiving more than 65% of bets, it has gone 806-587 since 2005. But since those teams are just about always favored, that winning record has actually lost 94.7 units over the span (-6.8% ROI). In fact, betting against such teams has produced a pretty nice profit (101.2 units, 7.3% ROI).

And when focusing specifically on divisional underdogs — like the Angels are tonight — that record improves to 293-349 (+124.1 units, 19.3% ROI).

THE PICK: Angels +135

Evan Abrams: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels

Im with Danny here. I think there is value in the Angels as home underdogs tonight against Wade Miley and the Astros. I think Danny’s trend on second half divisional dogs has a great ROI to back Los Angeles, but some of the numbers do too.

Matt Harvey does have a 8.91 ERA at home this year, allowing 32 earned runs in 32 innings pitched. On May 25, two days after allowing 8 earned runs and 4 home runs against the Twins, he was placed on the 10-day DL with an upper back strain, was subsequently sent to the minors and did not start again until July 23.

When Harvey was rehabbing, he dug deep and really tried everything to regain his velocity. In Harvey’s first start back, he threw 5.2 innings, allowed four hits and one earned run.

Last night against the Astros, L.A. lost 11-2, but some good came out of it for Thursday. After Felix Pena, they used just Luke Bard and Luis Garcia, giving the back-half of their bullpen some rest heading into tonight.

On the Astros side, Wade Miley has been Jekkyl and Hyde when it comes to his home/road splits. At home, Miley has a 1.86 ERA, with opponents hitting under .200 against him. On the road, Miley’s ERA is 4.50 this season, with opponents hitting over 40 points higher against him.

THE PICK: Angels +135

Josh Appelbaum: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves

Stephen Strasburg (11-4, 3.46 ERA) vs. Kyle Wright (0-2, 7.07 ERA)
*Note: Julio Teheran was initially slated to start, but was scratched.

  • Nationals Moneyline: -124
  • Braves Moneyline: +115
  • Over/Under: 9.5
  • First pitch: 7:20 p.m. ET

Recreational bettors abide by a few basic rules when betting over/unders. If the total is low, bet the over. If the total is high, bet the under. If two stud pitchers are going head-to-head, take the under. If two high-ERA scrubs are facing off, hammer the over.

If it were that easy, Average Joes would all be millionaires the Vegas would go bankrupt. Remember, the house always wins.

With Strasburg facing off against Teheran, the public sees a low scoring game and easy under. But wiseguys are buying low on a rare contrarian over.

The total opened at 9.5, which right away raises alarm bells. Why is the total so high with two aces squaring off? Something smells fishy.

Currently 63% of bets are taking the under, yet the line has remained frozen at 9.5. Typically you’ll see it fall if heavy action is pounding the under. The fact that it didn’t fall shows the books’ reluctance to drop the line and give out a better number for sharps.

The over is only getting 37% of bets but 66% of dollars, a clear sign of over smart money, and we’ve tracked a pair of bet signals on the over with no conflicting under plays (or buyback).

Another added bonus for sharps sweating 10 runs or more: the wind is blowing out to straightaway centerfield at 5-8 MPH, hopefully turning warning track fly ball outs into first row homers. It’s also going to be a scorcher in the ATL tonight (game-time temperature of 89 degrees).

Since 2005, the over has hit at a 55% clip when a division game has a temp of 80 or more and the wind is blowing out.

THE PICK: Over 9.5

Sean Zerillo: New York Mets at San Francisco Giants

Noah Syndergaard (7-4, 4.55 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (5-7, 3.86 ERA)

  • Mets Moneyline: 102
  • Giants Moneyline: -112
  • Over/Under: 7
  • First pitch: 9:45 p.m. ET

I’m actually a bit curious as to why this total has stayed on 7 (with heavy juice to the over) despite 85% of the tickets, over 90% of the cash, and a professional steam move all coming in on the over.

I projected this total at 8.6, so I see clear value on the over, even with vig set as high as -125.

The Giants have been on fire in July (11-2, +51 run differential), scoring more than eight runs per game. Their 134 wRC+ this month ranks second best in MLB, while the Mets have been slightly above average (103 wRC+) in July.

For the season, the Mets rank fifth vs. left-handed-pitching with a 114 wRC+.

Madison Bumgarner (3.81 FIP, 3.98 xFIP) hasn’t been the same pitcher since suffering a shoulder injury during an April 2017 dirt bike accident. Look at how his xwOBA has tracked since that injury.
2016: .286
2017: .318
2018: .321
2019: .329

Noah Syndergaard (3.81 FIP, 4.05 xFIP) is looking like he might never fulfill his full potential (career 2.87 FIP, 3.12 xFIP), despite the fact that his xwOBA has remained relatively stable since his debut:
2015: .265
2016: .266
2017: .279
2018: .268
2019: .277

In 2019, he has been harmed by the Mets’ league-worst defense, and a bullpen that ranks 28th with a 5.38 ERA. And those problems aren’t going away.

An outfield consisting of Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and either J.D. Davis or Dominic Smith spells doom for Mets pitchers with the cavernous outfield territory at AT&T park — which necessitates two centerfielders playing together instead of the Mets playing three subpar corner outfield defenders who provide more offense.

I expect a bunch of extra batted balls to land in the outfield when the Giants are at bat in this series, and this total seems to be predicated on the names of the starting pitchers, rather than their true talent level.

THE PICK: Over 7

John Ewing: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees (Game 2)

Charlie Morton (11-2, 2.35 ERA) vs. Home Pitcher (Undecided)

  • Rays Moneyline: Off the board
  • Yankees Moneyline: Off the board
  • Over/Under: Off the board
  • First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

Yankees-Rays are playing a doubleheader on Thursday. The lines are not posted for the second game as New York is undecided about its starting pitcher. Even without the odds up I can tell you I’ll be playing the under.

How can I be so confident? The weather forecast for tonight’s game calls for 7 mph winds to be blowing in from center. Those aren’t hurricane winds, but it has been profitable to bet the under when there are sustained winds of at least 5 mph blowing in.

It is a small sample, but when teams play a doubleheader and the wind is blowing in, the under has gone 17-8-1 since 2005. Bettors should wait to see what the total is for Game 2 but know that the weather is already creating value on the under.


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