MLB Predictions Today | Odds, Expert Picks for Guardians vs. Braves, Rangers vs. Astros, More (Monday, July 3)

MLB Predictions Today | Odds, Expert Picks for Guardians vs. Braves, Rangers vs. Astros, More (Monday, July 3) article feature image

Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Guardians pitcher Gavin Williams.

Twenty of the 30 MLB teams are in action on Monday with two day games and eight night matchups. This marks the start of the final week of the first half of the regular season with the All-Star break just six days away.

The Astros and Rangers begin the action with the conclusion of their four-game weekend divisional matchup after the Astros won two of the first three games to stay within striking distance in the AL West race.

The Cubs have cooled off from their hot streak and need a rebound in Milwaukee to stay close to the division-leading Brewers when the two teams meet at 2:10 p.m. ET.

Even though Angels-Padres won't be Shohei Ohtani vs. Blake Snell on Monday night anymore, there will be plenty of star power on display in that interleague series this week.

Here are my best bets for Monday's MLB action.

Astros vs. Rangers, 2:05 p.m. ET

Cristian Javier vs. Martin Pérez

Cristian Javier's dominant fastball from 2022 hasn't been close to the same pitch in 2023. Chandler Rome and Eno Sarris of The Athletic wrote about this last week after Javier had consecutive blowups against the Mets and Cardinals.

Javier's poor performance and loss of fastball movement and velocity have raised questions about his health situation. The Astros have very little pitching depth right now because of injuries to Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr. Even Framber Valdez missed his Sunday start.

Javier is going to pitch through it, whatever it is. But how good will he be? If the issue is mechanical, odds are it's going to take more than a few days and a bullpen session between starts to fix it.

Given that Javier really only throws two pitches, the loss of effectiveness of one is a bigger loss compared to someone who has a larger arsenal. The same fastball that generated so many whiffs and pop-ups for two years is now getting barreled repeatedly. He's allowed a .450 SLG on the fastball in 2023 after a .326 mark in 2022.

Javier is difficult to price overall, but his strikeout rate is below one per inning, his xFIP is 4.95 and his Stuff+ dropped from 116 in 2022 to 96 in 2023. That's one of the largest Stuff+ losers year over year, and the model grades his fastball as below average.

Martin Pérez had a career season in 2022 on the back of a career-high strikeout rate and a near-record groundball rate. He's been unable to replicate those numbers for a second consecutive season, though.

The homers have returned in a big way as a result. He's allowed 1.3 HR/9 this season after an unsustainably good 0.5 HR/9 in 2022. The HR/FB rate has regressed toward his career average, combined with more fly-balls.

The underlying metrics are pretty clear on what Pérez is this season. His FIP, xFIP and xERA are all right around 4.85, which is in line with his rest-of-season projection from The BAT.

Houston is a more split-neutral team than usual in 2023, but the lineup projections would still suggest they hit lefties better than righties. I'd bet the first five over 5 runs at -120 or better.

Pick: F5 Over 5 (-120 at BetMGM)

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Cubs vs. Brewers, 2:10 p.m. ET

Drew Smyly vs. Julio Teheran

The Brewers and Cubs offenses are both in their lesser offensive split in Monday's matinée matchup.

Chicago projects much better against lefties and the lineup has a 96 wRC+ against right-handed pitching this year. Milwaukee ranks 29th against southpaws with a 77 wRC+.

A quick look at Drew Smyly's last outing would suggest he was hit really hard, but that wasn't exactly the case against Philadelphia on Wednesday. He played in a difficult pitching environment with the wind blowing out to left at Wrigley Field, and two normally routine fly-balls left the yard for five runs against him in the game.

Smyly isn't going to dominate with his stuff, but the curveball has been effective and remains excellent in the underlying pitch models. He's upped the usage and maintained a sub-4.00 xERA.

Julio Teheran's Stuff+ ratings really popped north of 100 in his first few outings, but he's lost some of that as he's continued to pitch in the back end of Milwaukee's rotation. The Stuff+ models don't like his cutter, but the rest-of-season BAT projections are probably too low on his true pitching ability too.

Teheran has displayed solid command, and the cutter has generated a lot of solid results for him thus far.

Even though Teheran also just had his worst outing of the season and gave up four homers to the Mets, the wind is blowing in today in Milwaukee. I'd bet the under at 9 at -115 or better.

Braves at Guardians, 7:10 p.m. ET

Bryce Elder vs. Gavin Williams

The Braves offense is peaking right now with a league-low 18.1% strikeout rate as a team in June and a 149 wRC+ overall. The rest-of-season projections suggest that Atlanta will maintain its elite offensive profile, but strikeout regression is looming.

Williams has an excellent fastball (109 Stuff+) and pairs it with an elite changeup. His minor league strikeout numbers suggest he should strike out at least one batter per inning in MLB this year. The stuff is good enough, and Cleveland is an average strikeout park.

This is the same Braves lineup that had the third-highest strikeout rate in MLB in 2022 with largely the same players.

The market can be slow to adjust on some young pitchers. The stuff is good enough (15.4% swinging strike rate in Triple-A) for me to believe in Williams' ability to miss bats. It hasn't quite shown up through two starts, but he projects better going forward.

If Williams faces 21 hitters at his 24% projected strikeout number — based on the Braves' expected lineup — I'd project him for 5.04 Ks. I'd bet over 4.5 strikeouts at -125 or better on Monday night.

Pick: Gavin Williams Over 4.5 Strikeouts (-122)

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