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MLB Odds, Expert Picks: Anthony Dabbundo’s Top Bets for Thursday, Including Nationals vs. Phillies & Red Sox vs. Royals

MLB Odds, Expert Picks: Anthony Dabbundo’s Top Bets for Thursday, Including Nationals vs. Phillies & Red Sox vs. Royals article feature image

Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images. Pictured: Vinnie Pasquantino (Royals)

24 of the 30 MLB teams take the field Thursday in a 13-game slate that includes a Cubs-Cardinals doubleheader in St. Louis.

There are a handful of day games beginning at 12:35 p.m. ET, as the Brewers visit the Pirates. Eight of the games on the Thursday card begin after 7:05 p.m. ET, including the second of the Cubs-Cardinals games.

You can find my colleague Sean Zerillo’s projections for every MLB game in the Action Network App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you can bookmark).

Here are some of my favorite angles and games I’m targeting across Thursday’s evening MLB card.

Nationals at Phillies

7:05 p.m. ET · Paolo Espino vs. Noah Syndergaard

Espino hasn’t been stellar as a starter, but he’s been exactly the kind of mid-rotation guy that the pitching-deprived Nationals have needed. He doesn’t have dominant or even average stuff, but the right-hander has displayed elite command and owns just a 4.7% walk rate.

Espino faces the Phillies on Thursday and Noah Syndergaard, who is definitely not the pitcher he was prior to his Tommy John surgery. Thor's fastball velocity may be down and his Stuff+ metrics are below average, but he’s displayed elite command this season.

Syndergaard has a deep arsenal to keep the inexperienced and, quite frankly, barely major-league Nationals off-balanced.

The Phillies are likely to be pitching with the lead, and their high-leverage bullpen has seen dramatic improvements in the last two months — it's been one of the five best bullpens in the league during that span.

When you throw in defensive upgrades in the middle of the infield — with Jean Segura’s return — and in center field with Brandon Marsh, I like the under at the key number of nine.

Espino and Syndergaard aren’t going to overpower these lineups, but both teams will swing their way into plenty of outs with higher than average chase rates. I’d play under 9 at -115 or better.

Espino (102.7) and Syndergaard (106.3) are both well above average in their Location+ numbers, according to Eno Sarris' model from The Athletic. 100 is considered average.

The Phillies are big favorites and thus likely to have the lead, which is always a hidden benefit, given the increased likelihood of the bottom of the ninth not being played.

There is a slight wind out at Citizens Bank Park — which is always a concern, given how wind dependent the ballpark normally plays — but as a whole, the stadium has been pretty neutral in park factors this season.

Recommended Bet

  • Under 9 (-115 or Better)

Astros at Guardians

7:10 p.m. ET · Justin Verlander vs. Zach Plesac

Justin Verlander has returned to elite form in 2022 and is one of the favorites for the AL Cy Young. However, he continues to outrun the regression that his underlying numbers have suggested is coming.

Verlander has a stellar 1.81 ERA, but that's despite a 10% drop off in his strikeout rate from his last fully-healthy season. He's made up for it with a BABIP allowed that is 40 points lower than his career average, and that is not going to last forever.

He's allowed a barrel rate that is slightly above league average, which makes me skeptical that he will maintain his 0.87 HR/9 rate. Most projection systems for the rest of the season suggest it should be at least a touch higher.

If you were looking for signs that Verlander is improving his stuff as he moves further from the Tommy John, it's not showing in the numbers. Verlander has a 101 Stuff+ for the season.

His plus command lives on and makes him an effective pitcher — with an xERA of 2.96 — but that's quite a bit higher than his 1.81 actual ERA.

His xFIP (3.47) and FIP (3.04) all suggest that he's very good but no longer an elite pitcher. If you believe that too, then he's overvalued here on the road against a Cleveland lineup that is going to put a ton of balls in play.

The Guardians' offense is best in baseball in strikeout rate, and by a wide margin against right-handed pitching. I have my skepticism in them because of a lack of pop in the bats, but they've also gotten improved pitching from Zach Plesac of late.

Plesac's Stuff+ has improved by four points in the last 400 pitches, and he's now solidly above average — and actually higher than Verlander's. While Plesac does surrender a lot more hard contact, he has similarly low walk rates, and that raises his floor if he can keep the ball in the park.

Cleveland also has a top-six bullpen by xFIP and more than enough depth behind Plesac to the point where he shouldn't need to go deep into the game.

At +165, I like the Guardians at home against the overvalued Verlander.

Recommended Bet

  • Guardians ML (+160 or Better)
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Braves at Mets

7:10 p.m. ET · Kyle Wright vs. Carlos Carrasco

This is the biggest game of the day, as two of the four best teams in the National League begin a five-game series in Queens.

Atlanta is just 3.5 games behind New York for the division crown, which has become even more important because the second-place team is almost certainly going to end up on the same side of the NL playoff bracket as the Padres and Dodgers.

The Brewers/Phillies/Cardinals are likely on the other side of the bracket.

As for this matchup, I think Atlanta has the better lineup and bullpen. The Braves K-BB% from the bullpen is the best in MLB, and they just added Raisel Iglesias from the Angels.

The Mets aren't far behind (in third). Where the Mets have the advantage over Atlanta overall is in starting pitching, especially at the top of the rotation.

But with No. 5 starter Carlos Carrasco and his average underlying numbers facing the improved Kyle Wright, I think Atlanta has advantages all over the field in this matchup.

Most of Wright's underlying indicators sit in the mid 3s, with a 3.38 xFIP, 3.36 FIP and 3.91 xERA. Carrasco isn't that far behind at 3.52 xFIP and 3.43 FIP.

From a stuff perspective, that's where Wright separates himself. He has a 110 Stuff+, while Carrasco is at just 92, solidly below average. Carrasco closes the gap with better command, but doesn't get all the way there.

I'd bet Atlanta at anything plus-money in this game.

Recommended Bet

  • Braves ML (+100 or Better)

Red Sox at Royals

8:10 p.m. ET · Nick Pivetta vs. Kris Bubic

Nick Pivetta is one of the biggest fallers in Stuff+ and overall effectiveness in all of MLB, and I'm looking to fade him again Thursday night.

Pivetta's season-long Stuff number sits well above average at 109, but that drops to 100 in his last 400 pitches. Combine that with his mediocre command, and you have a below replacement-level pitcher in the last month.

The Red Sox righty has a career-high 46% Hard Hit Rate and allows one of the highest Average Exit Velocities in all of MLB amongst qualified starters.

The Red Sox's bullpen behind him has a couple of good pieces too, but as a unit, they've really struggled to consistently get outs. They are 23rd in ERA, 16th in xFIP and 17th in K-BB%.

Royals lefty Kris Bubic is even worse than Pivetta across the board, from his terrible command numbers (11.2% walk rate) to his bad Hard Hit Rate (46.6%) and finally to his well below-average Stuff+ and Location+ numbers.

Boston's offense is seventh in wRC+ against left-handed pitching and just 21st in wRC+ against righties. Add in the Royals' terrible bullpen that is dead last in K-BB% and was heavily used against the White Sox this week, and the results from this game should be runs.

I also like a prop in this game, as FanDuel is offering Vinnie Pasquantino over 1.5 bases at +135. Pasquantino has displayed elite Hard Hit Rates and plate discipline in his short time in the majors for the Royals.

He gets a very favorable matchup with Pivetta and has the biggest difference in xwOBA-wOBA of any hitter with at least 50 balls in play in MLB this season.

Positive regression is coming for Vinnie.

If the Royals do drift to +125 or better, I'll be betting them, as well.

Recommended Bets

  • Over 9 Runs (+100)
  • Vinnie Pasquantino o1.5 Bases (+135, FanDuel)

Anthony Dabbundo’s Bets (August 4)

  • Phillies/Nationals Under 9 (-115 or Better)
  • Guardians ML (+160 or Better)
  • Braves ML (+100 or Better)
  • Red Sox/Royals Over 9 Runs (+100 or Better)
  • Vinnie Pasquantino o1.5 Bases (+135, FanDuel)

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