Thursday MLB Betting Picks, Predictions: Our 3 Best Bets for Red Sox vs. Rays, Nats vs. Marlins, More (June 24)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Adam Frazier.
- Thursday's MLB slate features eight games, and our baseball experts came prepared to gamble -- as always.
- They picked out three games for their best bets of the day, including Red Sox vs. Rays, Marlins vs. Nationals, and Pirates vs. Cardinals.
- Check out all three picks and predictions complete with a full betting breakdown below.
The weekend is almost here, and we have 10 MLB games on today’s slate. That makes getting to Friday much easier.
In the meantime, our staff came through with three bets for Thursday’s MLB schedule, starting with Red Sox vs. Rays and Nationals vs. Marlins at 7:10 p.m. ET before the Pirates and Cardinals close it out at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Check out all three pick breakdowns, and use the table below to navigate to any game.
MLB Odds & Picks
Red Sox vs. Rays
Tanner McGrath: Nick Pivetta has been nothing more than OK. However, at least he’s not Michael Wacha.
The former Cardinal has been downright terrible. His lower-velocity fastball-cutter combination has been lit up for a combined .366 wOBA, and he’s allowing a barrel rate above 10% and an exit velocity above 90 mph.
Additionally, he’s on pace to post the lowest strikeout rate of his career (6.65 K/9) and is producing ground balls only 36% of the time.
But none of this is due to bad luck. Among qualified pitchers, Wacha’s posted the sixth-highest xERA (6.72), xwOBA (.393), xSLG (.558) and xBA (.317) this season.
Luckily, with Kevin Cash’s opener model, the Rays won’t depend on him for too long and have an excellent bullpen to back him up. However, it’s also worth mentioning the last time he opened a game against the Red Sox, he allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings.
That’s because the Red Sox offense is really good. However, the lineup performs even better on the road, as they’re scoring 5.08 away runs per game this season.
Wacha should be very worried coming into this matchup, as the Red Sox have posted the highest isolated power (.213) among teams on the road by quite a bit. Plus, they’re top-10 in weighted cutter runs created (4.0).
Behind this offense, the Red Sox are the most profitable road team in baseball. Boston has posted a 24-13 away record, and $100 bettors would be up $1,249 if they bet every one of those games.
That’s why I like the Red Sox to steal this road series against their division rival tonight. And given that you can still bet them at plus-money on DraftKings, I think they provide excellent value in this spot.
Nationals vs. Marlins
Kenny Ducey: I’m a Cody Poteet fan, so it’s with a heavy heart that I take this over. It’s a tough sell to take Nationals ML any time Joe Ross is pitching, but it’s just as hard to get behind a Marlins offense to out-slug anyone.
Here’s the thing, though. Miami is 25th over the past week with an 81 wRC+, and that’s a similar story to the last two weeks and the season as a whole. This team has really struggled to hit the ball hard all season long, with a couple of exceptions in Jesus Aguilar and Adam Duvall.
With that said, Miami actually has the highest contact rate in baseball over the past week, and Ross sure does allow a lot of it. His barrel rate sits at 9.4% and his hard-hit rate at 38.1%. He also carries with him a .251 expected batting average, according to Statcast.
Ross has also already given up 13 home runs in 13 starts. I suspect the Marlins’ quality of contact problem is solved here against a hurler who gets shellacked on a nightly basis.
And while I’m a Poteet guy, I’ve got to admit that I don’t see him matching up well with the Nationals, who are 11th in home run-to-fly ball ratio this year. His average launch angle is 18.8 degrees, his barrel rate is 12% and he’s allowing hard hit balls at a 40% rate. This puts him at great risk of some gopher balls against a Nationals team that’s been on fire lately.
In summation, both pitchers are in tough spots here, and I like this game to go over.
Pirates vs. Cardinals
Sean Zerillo: Carlos Martínez used to be an excellent pitcher, but his sample over the past two seasons (6.9% K-BB%, 5.09 xFIP, xERA marks of 5.91 and 5.97, and SIERA marks of 5.20 and 5.01) mirrors a replacement-level talent, as does his +0.4 WAR in 88 innings pitched over that span.
Martinez has lost two ticks off of his fastball (average 94.1 mph) compared to both his last full season as a starter in 2017 and his most recent season as a closer in 2019 (averaged 96.6 mph in both seasons). He has seen a similar decrease to both his slider (from 86 mph to 82.9 mph) and changeup (from 88.1 mph to 84.5 mph) velocity too, and his swinging strike rate has dropped in concert with that declining stuff.
Martinez used to have three above-average offerings, but his changeup (career 15.4% usage) is the only pitch to produce an above-average pitch value over the past two seasons.
I acknowledge that he’s been a bit unlucky (53% strand rate) during that span, but his hard-hit rate (north of 44%, vs. 33.6% career) also ranks 139th out of 155 qualified pitchers (min. 50 IP) over the past two seasons.
Martinez can still have big games (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K vs. the Cubs on June 13) when all of his pitches are working, but he’s also had more walks than strikeouts in four of his 18 starts (22%) dating back to last season, which is uncommon for a modern pitcher.
Similarly, Chad Kuhl is another Jekyll and Hyde type of starter who has accomplished the “more walks than strikeouts” feat six times in 17 starts (35%) dating back to last season.
But he has displayed two above-average offerings (slider, curveball) and doesn’t profile as a significantly worse pitcher (projected FIP range between 4.69 and 5.33) than Martinez at this point.
I projected the Pirates as a 47.2% underdog for the first five innings (F5) and a 46.6% underdog for the whole game on Thursday evening.
I would place either bet down to +125, but I’m splitting my F5 moneyline wager with some F5 spread (+0.5) up to -110.
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