MLB Picks, Odds, Predictions: Best Bets From Thursday’s Slate, Including Brewers vs. Cardinals, Rangers vs. Athletics (May 26)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images. Pictured: Sean Murphy.
- There's 11 games on Thursday and plenty of betting opportunities on the board.
- Our experts have picks on Tigers-Guardians, Phillies-Braves, Twins-Royals, Cardinals-Brewers and Rangers-Athletics.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of those games, including our betting picks.
It’s another getaway day in Major League Baseball, with several series’ wrapping up and others getting started for the weekend.
In all, there are 11 games on the slate, but still plenty of betting value to be found. Our analysts have eyes on five of those 11 games, including moneylines, first fives, team totals and more.
Here are our best bets from Thursday’s MLB slate.
MLB Odds & Picks
Cleveland Guardians vs. Detroit Tigers
Jules Posner: The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians are two teams that have been struggling offensively.
The Tigers’ offense has the fewest runs at home so far this season. Additionally, they are 29th in team wRC+ against LHP at home in May, meaning they not only aren’t scoring, but they are hardly creating scoring opportunities.
Although the Tigers are facing a rookie, Konnor Pilkington, the Guardians’ knack for developing effective starting pitchers may make Thursday night’s matchup more of a challenge for the Tigers than it may seem.
On the other side, the Guards are in the bottom third in runs on road in May. They’ve also steadily cooled off on road in general. Presently, they are in the bottom third in terms of team wRC+ vs LHP on road.
Tigers starter Tarik Skubal has 2.25 home ERA and a 1.18 home FIP in 2022. He’s been the unquestioned leader of the Tigers’ pitching staff and he should continue to shove tonight.
The under has already moved down to 7 runs and it should be taken while it’s still available between the -105 and -110 threshold.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves
William Boor: The Braves have taken two of three from the Phillies and I’m backing them to finish off the series with another win on Thursday night.
The pitching matchup of Kyle Wright and Aaron Nola is a bit closer than a quick glance at the numbers would indicate, however, Wright may have a slight edge pitching at home. Factor in that the Braves have the better bullpen and are facing a Phillies squad that has lost seven of its past 10 games and Atlanta certainly looks like the right side here.
Wright enters the game with a 2.49 ERA through eight starts. His xERA of 3.13 indicates he’s been a bit lucky, but those numbers are still pretty close. What’s even more encouraging is Wright’s recent form. The 26-year-old has yielded just one earned run over 11 1/3 innings in his past two starts and also posted a 3/1 K:BB ratio in that span.
Wright’s ERA, BAA and WHIP are all better at home and the Braves hit better there, too. Atlanta has a .753 OPS at Truist Park compared to a .653 mark on the road.
Conversely, the Phillies hit better on the road (.791 OPS on the road), but the Braves should be able to scratch across enough runs against Nola and a struggling Philadelphia bullpen.
While Wright enters this matchup on a wave of momentum, Nola gave up four runs over 5 2/3 innings in his last start. He’s pitched to a 3.96 ERA this season, though his 2.73 xERA shows he’s thrown better than the numbers indicate.
Nola should start getting better results at some point this season, but it won’t be Thursday night.
Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins
Michael Arinze: The Kansas City Royals are on a six-game losing streak and will face the Minnesota Twins for a second-straight weekend. You can almost feel a sense of desperation as the Royals lineup has done its part of late, but the pitching hasn’t been up to par.
Kansas City’s scored at least five runs in three straight games and at least four runs in six of its last seven games. And although the Royals are 21st overall with a below-average wRC+ value of 92, they’re right in the middle of the pack in May with a value of 106.
Thursday’s contest will be a rematch from last week between two dueling lefties. Kansas City’s Daniel Lynch will start against Minnesota’s Devin Smeltzer. Smeltzer has pitched in the majors every year since 2018. However, he’s only made 21 appearances, and at 26 he’s past the point of being considered a prospect. While he limited the Royals to one run in 5 1/3 innings just a week ago, I think the Royals’ hitters will have the edge in this contest, given the quick turnaround.
Smeltzer can be exposed at this level when teams get another look at him. His fastball averages around 89 mph, so he’s unlikely to overpower opposing hitters. Moreover, he’s struck out just two batters in 10 1/3 innings this season.
Hitters will figure him out at some point despite his guile and craftiness as a southpaw. Thus, I think he’ll have a more difficult time facing the Royals for the second time in six days. And with a Kansas City pitching staff that ranks 28th in ERA (4.91), it will likely come down to the Royals’ offense if they plan to snap this losing streak.
Look for the Royals’ offense to do their part and back them to go over their team’s 3.5 runs. After shopping around, I found that BetMGM has the best offering at +105 odds.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Sean Zerillo: The Cardinals have the No. 1 offense against left-handed pitching (147 wRC+) in 2022 by a significant margin after ranking third (115 wRC+) last season. It may seem odd to bet against them with a southpaw starter in Milwaukee’s Eric Lauer.
A former first-round pick, Lauer is in the midst of a breakout campaign (3.39 xERA, 2.65 xFIP, 2.52 SIERA), ranking third among 131 qualified pitchers (min. 30 IP) in strikeout minus walk rate, or K-BB% (28%).
More importantly, he’s effectively a right-handed pitcher for this matchup — carrying reverse splits (.308 wOBA vs. RHH; .348 vs. LHH) throughout his career — with neutral splits in 2022 (.275 vs. RHH; .285 vs. LHH).
This season, Lauer has dialed back his curveball usage against right-handed bats (-7.8%), and he’s throwing his cutter or slider (+11.3%) a combined 47.5% of the time against them, with both pitches baring in on opposite-handed hitters.
As a result, I essentially model Lauer as a righty, and I make the Brewers a road favorite in both halves of this contest, projecting their line at -118 (54% implied) for the first five innings (F5) and -104 (50.9% implied) for the full game.
You can bet those lines down to -108 (F5) and +104 (Game), respectively — with either bet representing a two percent edge.
Milwaukee is one of three teams — alongside the Dodgers and Yankees — who rank in the top five of expected wOBA for batting and pitching. Their offense, in particular, has made substantial improvements since last year, improving from 20th to third in xwOBA.
Despite losing Freddy Peralta for an extended period, adding Lauer alongside Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff makes the Brew Crew a legitimate World Series contender.
Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics
DJ James: The Oakland Athletics have shockingly been elite against southpaws this month at a 123 wRC+ mark, only behind St. Louis and Minnesota. They also have a 11.7% walk rate with a .352 OBP.
Martin Pérez may be having a great season, but his 2.48 xERA is not close to where he has been in his career. Opponents are still hitting the ball off of him at 88.9 mph, which is slightly below average.
Missing Stephen Piscotty hurts this Athletics lineup, especially against southpaws, but they still have two hitters over .400 xwOBA this month: Sean Murphy and Seth Brown, as well as four others over .340. Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder may not have the expected numbers to show it, but they will put up strong plate appearances against Pérez.
Franke Montas, on the other hand, has always been a solid pitcher. Texas only ranks 22nd in MLB at a 97 wRC+ mark, and this should be even lower with a top-of-the-rotation starter on the hill.
Montas only walks 6.5% of hitters and ranks in the 93rd percentile in chase rate, all while being above average in inducing weak contact.
The Rangers will struggle with him starting the game, so the edge lands with Oakland.
Take the A’s at -115. Play to -130.
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