MLB Odds & Expert Picks: Betting Analysis for Red Sox vs. Yankees, Guardians vs. White Sox, More Wednesday Games
Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11).
There are now less than two weeks remaining in the Major League Baseball regular season. The season long marathon has turned into a sprint, especially for the two teams competing for the National League East crown and the three teams in the race for the final two NL wild card spots.
The American League doesn’t have a race within three games, but Seattle Mariners‘ recent slide has opened the door for the Baltimore Orioles to make the final two weeks of the season a race for that wild card.
The Toronto Blue Jays kick off a series with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight that could well be a playoff preview if the standings hold for the final two weeks. The Philadelphia Phillies host the Atlanta Braves for four games starting tonight in a series that could well decide who wins the NL East and who makes the wild card.
The Milwaukee Brewers visit Cincinnati and need to get hot to play in the postseason, while the Cleveland Guardians can stretch its division lead to an almost insurmountable seven games with a win tonight against the rival Chicago White Sox. And, of course, all eyes of baseball will be on Aaron Judge’s quest for 61 homers as the New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox.
Here’s how I’m betting baseball on Thursday night.
Braves vs. Phillies, 7:15 p.m., FOX
Max Fried vs. Ranger Suarez
The Phillies pulled off an eighth inning comeback and extra-inning walk off to maintain their 2.5 game lead on the Brewers for the final wild card spot. This is an all-in series for both clubs after the Braves swept the Phillies in Atlanta last weekend.
The total in this game opened at eight, which is generally pretty low given how good these offenses are and how good the run environment is at Citizens Bank Park normally.
Both offenses are in their preferred offensive split too. The Phillies have a 125 wRC+ against lefties since the All-Star Break and the Braves sit at 116 wRC+ against southpaws since the break too. The Phillies have also exhausted the entire bullpen behind Suarez in the past two nights and there’s potential late game issues brewing because of that.
Despite all of this, the total actually dropped from 8 to 7.5. Why? The weather.
Rain in Philadelphia will bring temperatures down into the 60s for game time, and a forecasted NNW wind of 10-15 mph lowers the run environment considerably at Citizens Bank Park.
Outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago, no ballpark is more wind dependent than the Phillies home park. A northwest wind is blowing directly in from left field and both offenses have plenty of slugging righties who would otherwise feast on the lefties.
The Phillies opened as a +135 home underdog and have taken some money, with the best price currently sitting at +126 at FanDuel. Ranger Suarez is generally a difficult pitcher to project. He’s not much of a strikeout guy, so he can be the victim of BABIP luck much more than the typical pitcher with a 3.53 ERA.
Suarez also plays in front of one of the worst defenses in baseball, regardless of which metric you view him. Suarez doesn’t grade out that well based on Eno Sarris’ model from The Athletic with an 86 Stuff+, but he does have generally good command at 101 Location+.
When Suarez locates well, he’s capable of tossing a gem like he did against the Braves on Friday with one run and two hits allowed in six innings. But he’s also had plenty of struggles recently, allowing six runs to Arizona, four to Washington and three to the Giants in four innings.
Max Fried has taken a massive step forward with his command and has should finish the season top five in NL Cy Young voting. He’s the more reliable starter here with a 2.92 xERA, even if he doesn’t have overpowering stuff either.
I haven’t taken a position on this game, but will look to play the Braves live if the Phillies take an early lead off of Fried. Philadelphia’s bullpen is super worn down right now, and Suarez isn’t good more than two times through the order. Once we get to the fifth and beyond, Atlanta’s edge over Philadelphia only grows.
Red Sox vs. Yankees, 7:15 p.m. ET
Michael Wacha vs. Jameson Taillon
The final series of the season between the Red Sox and Yankees begins on Thursday with a matchup of two starters have over performed expectations this season in their respective rotations.
Somehow, Aaron Judge is 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts against Michael Wacha in his career. The total has come down from the overnight opener of 8.5 after the Yankees offensive explosions against the Pirates for 23 runs in two games.
New York is getting healthy with Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo back in the lineup, but that was too high overnight. It’s down to eight now and I still think that might be too high.
It’s unseasonably cool in the northeast for this game with temperatures in the 60s and it’s fair to wonder if the run environment will just be much lower as temperatures cool again. According to the Ballpark Pal, runs are depressed by 7.4% at Yankee Stadium, and extra base hits are especially depressed (-22% compared to average).
Both starting pitchers in this game have a walk rate less than 6% and rank in the top 15% in all of baseball. Both Wacha and Taillon rank well above average in their Location+ numbers too, with Wacha at 104 and Taillon at 106.
It’s easy to look at both offenses getting healthy and look toward the over as both teams have hit the ball better in the last month. I also understand that Wacha is a negative regression candidate with a 4.07 xERA and 2.60 actual ERA. But he induces a lot of weak contact with a career low 33.4% hard hit rate. His mistakes happen with no runners on base too.
I like under 8 at -110 or better, but wouldn’t play it if dropped to 7.5. The depressed run environment at Yankee Stadium is the key.
Guardians vs. White Sox, 8:10 p.m. ET
Shane Bieber vs. Johnny Cueto
Bieber has been a really difficult pitcher to project this season given the drop in his underlying metrics. His Stuff+ is 91.7, suggesting he’s solidly below average. His Location and Pitching+ would make him an average and maybe slightly above average MLB starter.
His velocity is down, his strikeout rate has dropped from 33% to 25%. All of that should lead to an increase in ERA, but it hasn’t for the right-hander. Like teammate Cal Quantrill, he never regresses.
Bieber has a 3.48 xERA and while he maintains a good K-BB% rate because his control is good, he’s skated by on an unsustainably good HR/9 rate. I’ve been writing this all season, though, and he hasn’t fallen off at all.
Like Bieber, Cueto has also been a prime regression candidate who never actually regressed. His profile makes a lot more sense — the stuff is gone but the excellent command and pitch mix has continued. Guys like that have good BABIP seasons all the time and maintain themselves as viable MLB starters longer than you’d expect.
76 Stuff+ and 103 Location+ tells the story of Cueto’s season in the back end of the rotation. Given the sloppiness and seeming lack of effort or care from Chicago in the last two days, it’s incredibly difficult to back them in this spot.
The White Sox had their two aces on the mound with Dylan Cease and Lance Lynn and provided zero run support. Defensive errors sparked many of Cleveland’s runs. They struck out 13 times against Triston McKenzie.
Both pitchers are due to regress and thus over is where I’d look in this game. Seven seems about right numbers wise, but either pitcher could blow up at any moment.
Chicago doesn’t play good defense behind Cueto generally, and Cleveland makes more contact than any team in the league. That means a lot of pressure on the White Sox’ focus and defense. It’s easy to see how that goes bad.
Over 7 runs (-115 at FanDuel)