Thursday MLB Odds, Expert Picks: Our Staff’s 3 Best Bets, Including Marlins vs. Phillies, Pirates vs. Braves & Red Sox vs. Blue Jays (May 20)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. dives into second base against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
- Marlins-Phillies. Pirates-Braves. Red Sox-Blue Jays. There's plenty of MLB action on Thursday night.
- Our staff has eyes on all three, with a total and two moneyline picks.
- Continue reading for our staff's three best bets of the day.
Our analysts have found angles on three games from this evening, with one total play and a pair of live moneyline underdogs. Below, you’ll find out staff’s three best bets from Thursday’s MLB slate.
MLB Odds & Picks
Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Editor’s Note: Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez was scratched from Thursday night’s start because of a numb right index finger.
Kenny Ducey: The Phillies can’t hit. The Marlins can’t hit. Therefore, even in a matchup between two pitchers with weaknesses, I’m driven to the under.
Let’s start out with Philadelphia, which has been considerably better than Miami in terms of offensive production, but has failed to put together any level of consistency and should once again be without J.T. Realmuto, who recently joined Didi Gregorius and Scott Kingery on the shelf.
The injury bug has kept the Phillies’ lineup from achieving its potential, and Sandy Alcantara should work hard to do the same on Thursday. The righty has excelled this season in limiting hard contact, with just four barrels allowed in nine starts, and has pitched to a 2.92 expected ERA according to Statcast. He’s coming off an ugly performance against the Dodgers, but other than that has been excellent for Miami.
On the other side of the coin there’s the Marlins offense, which has been dreadful. Miami, too, has seen its fair share of injuries, but that alone can’t excuse a team that’s been near the bottom of the league in wRC+ all season long and ranks 26th over the last two weeks.
Vince Velasquez should be a good matchup against a Marlins team that averages just 4.3 barrels per plate appearance, the fourth-worst mark in baseball. His all-or-nothing approach with high strikeout and walk rates will pay off against a team ranking second in the league in strikeout rate over the past two weeks and refuses to make hard contact. I love this under.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves
Sean Zerillo: On days where he has his best command, Wil Crowe’s stuff pops off of the screen. He has four pitches which rate as average or better (fastball/slider/curveball/changeup) on the 20/80 scouting scale — but his command (40 scouting grade) will determine his ability to stick around at this level.
Crowe has only made eight appearances and seven starts in the big leagues, dating back to last season, and his results have been subpar (6.74 FIP, 5.60 xFIP, 5.50 SIERA). However, Crowe has looked very sharp in his last two outings against the Giants- and Cubs; compiling 10 strikeouts against a pair of walks over 11 innings.
Obviously, two starts is an extremely small sample on which to base any opinion, but Crowe finally looked comfortable on a big league mound, and he was letting his stuff do the talking. His first-pitch strike rate (72.7%) against the Giants was a career-high, and his zone rate (46.2% and 52.1%) in those outings bested his career mark by more than 15%.
Public projections aren’t too high on Crowe’s potential this season, with his projected FIP ranging from 4.80 at best and all the way up to 5.34.
Accounting almost entirely for those projections (and with a projected ERA of 4.97 in my model), I think the Pirates are still worth a bet on Thursday night. I set their odds at 40.7% for the first five innings (F5) and 39.4% for the full game.
Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Brad Cunningham: Nick Pivetta has actually been very good for the Red Sox so far in 2021 and is far outplaying his preseason projections. His xERA is only 3.99, which is his best mark in three years. The reason for that is because he reduced his hard contact percentage by almost 20% from last season, as its all the way down at 26.2%. His fastball/slider combination has been unbelievable so far this season, holding opponents under a .300 xwOBA and racking up a total of 34 strikeouts. Sliders are one of the pitches the Blue Jays struggle against, with -3.3 weighted slider runs so far on the season, per FanGraphs.
Steven Matz is having a pretty good start to his career in Toronto, but his xERA and xFIP are his lowest since 2018. His sinker and changeup have just been average, as both pitches are allowing a xwOBA over .310. He’ll be facing a Red Sox lineup that has been crushing left-handed pitching this season. Boston is seventh in MLB with a .335 wOBA and 112 wRC+. The Red Sox also have the third-lowest K% and have scored the fourth-most runs against lefties, so Matz has a difficult matchup tonight.