MLB Odds Today | Expert Picks, Predictions for Astros vs Mariners, Brewers vs Giants, More on Friday, May 5
Logan Riely/Getty Images. Pictured: Cristian Javier
The two NL West favorites will face off for the first time in 2023 as the red-hot Dodgers visit the Padres to headline a full 15-game Friday slate in Major League Baseball.
The schedule also features a playoff rematch as Houston visits Seattle to open their season series against one another. Neither offense has been hitting this year, and it won’t be easier on Friday given the strong pitching matchup of Cristian Javier and Luis Castillo. Boston visits Philadelphia, not just in the NBA playoffs on Friday, but in baseball, too, as Chris Sale takes the mound against Zack Wheeler.
The Yankees and Rays also will face one another for the first time all year, and the evening of baseball concludes at 10:15 p.m. with Corbin Burnes and the Brewers visiting Sean Manaea and the Giants.
Here are my thoughts on some of the 15 game slate.
Edward Cabrera vs. Justin Steele
There’s only one day game on the docket for Friday, and the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field. The total is sitting at nine because of that 11-mph wind, which is blowing out to left field.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Cubs today after they called up first baseman Matt Mervis to replace Eric Hosmer’s and Trey Mancini’s lacking production at first base. Mervis demonstrated excellent plate skills in Triple-A this year with a 16.1% walk rate and 17% strikeout rate. When you combine that with his plus power, you get a .286/.402/.560 slash line and a 140 wRC+ in Iowa through the first 24 games.
Mervis should provide even more discipline and power to a lineup that is 10th in xwOBA thus far. Edward Cabrera has demonstrated real walk problems in the past, and now faces a lineup that is bottom five in the league in chase rate. The Cubs don’t really swing at pitches outside of the zone and Cabrera has a walk rate above 10% every year he’s pitched in the majors. This season, he sits at 19.8%.
Cubs lefty Justin Steele is also in a favorable matchup here against the Marlins lineup. Miami projects poorly against lefties — 27th in K/BB against southpaws. Even though there’s been a bit of a power surge for the lineup against lefties overall compared to last year’s historically bad clip, the underlying peripherals remain weak for Miami against lefties.
With the wind blowing out and Cabrera’s walk problems, that’s a recipe for some real struggles and plenty of Cubs offense. Chicago’s bullpen is unreliable, but Steele is excellent at generating weak contact and he plays better than his Stuff+ ratings would project too.
Pick: Cubs -1.5 (+120)
Chris Sale vs. Zack Wheeler
Boston has very quietly won six in a row behind its underrated offense, including a sweep of division rival Toronto at Fenway Park this week. The Phillies have lost four straight, including a three-game sweep in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Bryce Harper makes his long awaited return to Citizens Bank Park less than six months after Tommy John surgery and lefty Chris Sale will be a real challenge for Harper.
Sale has had good starts and bad this season, but the underlying numbers show that he’s a clearly depleted and diminished pitcher. His slider has an 87 Stuff+, which makes it a below average pitch. It’s getting three inches less of horizontal movement when compared to last season, and 4-5 inches less compared to 2018 and 2019 versions of the pitch.
Sale without his dominant slider loses a lot of his overall stuff portfolio. Both the fastball and sinker grade out as average pitches as well, giving him zero pitches with a Stuff+ rating over 100. It’s not that Sale can’t still have a great outing from time to time, but the Red Sox lefty has a 4.94 xERA and cannot be projected for an ERA lower than 4.00 anymore with his diminished stuff.
Zack Wheeler just had the best Stuff+ rating of any start this year in his last outing against the Astros on Saturday, and that’s an encouraging sign. While the Phillies ace looked out of gas in November in the World Series and had a bit of a slow start to the season, Wheeler may have now found his best stuff. He projects with an ERA in the low 3s, making him almost a full run better than Sale in terms of ERA.
The Phillies also have the rest advantage since they didn’t play Thursday, and I’d back them at -170 or better at home in Harper’s return.
Pick: Phillies ML (-170 or better)
Astros vs. Mariners, 10:10 p.m. ET
Cristian Javier vs. Luis Castillo
Luis Castillo has improved his strikeout rate and cut his walk rate to begin the 2023 season, but it’s come with a noticeable drop in his velocity. This is commonplace for Castillo, who usually takes April and May in the cold weather to ramp up to his peak stuff in June and July. While his fastball is sitting 95 instead of 97, though, his Stuff+ is below average and much more hittable.
It feels like only a matter of time before Houston’s lineup figures it out. Alex Bregman hasn’t been slugging at all, José Abreu looks lost at the plate and the Astros are a bottom five offense in barrel rate and actually have a lower wRC+ than Oakland.
Seattle has its offensive issues too, though, and the increased strikeout rate of Teoscar Hernandez and increased chase rate of Julio Rodriguez are zapping a lot of needed power from this lineup. Cristian Javier has been mostly fine in the early season — he’s given up a few too many homers — but his peripherals, Stuff+ ratings and whiff rates are all in line with last year’s numbers. His fastball is getting hit really hard, but the numbers show it to be more of a blip than anything else or truly concerning.
Houston still projects to be the considerably better lineup, and the Astros have an extra off day here as well. It’s a great spot to sell high on Castillo until his velocity returns. With comparable pitchers and a better projected lineup, I’ll take the Astros as an underdog.
Pick: Astros ML (+120)
Brewers vs. Giants
Corbin Burnes vs. Sean Manaea
The market has really soured on Corbin Burnes. There’s been consistent sharp money against him most of the season, and the Giants took a bunch of money on Friday morning. It’s true that Burnes is striking out fewer batters this season, and a 19.7% strikeout rate can be a bit alarming. He’s allowing more contact and generating fewer whiffs thus far in 2023.
That decline has come as a result of a marginal decline in stuff. Instead of the best cutter in baseball with a 144 Stuff+ in 2022, he’s only a top five cutter. His slider has lost some break to it, but it remains above average. The same is true of his curveball. As a whole, Burnes isn’t a top five stuff guy this season. But he’s still ranked eighth among all qualified starters and considerably better than Sean Manaea.
Even with fewer whiffs, the cutter is excellent at generating weak contact, cutting down on homers and the Brewers project as a much better defensive team than the Giants. Sean Manaea did get some of his metrics inflated by the Mexico City start, but his command remains mediocre and the increase in fastball velocity hasn’t helped him overcome all of his struggles from 2022. He’s throwing the fastball harder but catching too much of the center of the plate.
I’ll take the discount on Burnes, who is still a top 10 starter despite somewhat reduced stuff, and bet the Brewers in the first five innings at -125 or better.
Pick: Brewers F5 ML (-125 or better)
- The roof is open in Arizona tonight, which is a major positive toward the run environment in Nationals vs. Diamondbacks. The over is sitting at 9 (-120) as of writing Friday morning, but I’d bet the over 9 if it’s -110 or better. Josiah Gray is throwing his fastball less and it’s helped to cut down his homers, but he’s not immune to homers on a warm open air Phoenix day.
- Toronto matches up really well with Rich Hill, a soft tossing lefty. The Blue Jays crush lefties in general and can stack almost all righty bats against Hill. The number has moved up overnight, but given the struggles of Chris Bassitt and the overuse of the Blue Jays bullpen on Thursday, I’d play the over at nine.
- Dodgers-Padres is the game of the evening, but Yu Darvish’s inconsistent command is a worry against the Dodgers’ lineup. Los Angeles chases less than any lineup in baseball and Darvish’s walk rates have jumped considerably in 2023. Clayton Kershaw is the much more reliable pitcher and the Dodgers’ lineup is still better while none of the Padres top three guys have found their timing and swings in 2023. No bet for me there, but Dodgers at -110 or better would be the side if I had to bet it.
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