MLB Predictions Today | Odds, Picks for Red Sox vs Giants, More (Friday, July 28)

MLB Predictions Today | Odds, Picks for Red Sox vs Giants, More (Friday, July 28) article feature image

Pictured: Kutter Crawford. (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

One day after one of the smallest slates of the entire MLB season on Thursday, the entire league is back on Friday night with all 30 teams in action, and our MLB betting expert has his MLB predictions and picks ready.

Aaron Judge makes his long anticipated and much needed return to the Yankees lineup as Gerrit Cole faces off against Grayson Rodriguez in Baltimore. Lucas Giolito makes his Angels debut two days after being traded with a start against the Blue Jays, and the Phillies and Pirates begin their in-state rivalry with a three-game series in Pittsburgh.

The Brewers and Braves will face one another for the second consecutive weekend as Milwaukee continues to hold off the chasing Reds and red-hot Cubs for the NL Central lead.

Find MLB prediction, picks and best bets below for the Friday MLB slate.

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MLB Predictions & Picks for Friday, July 28

Phillies vs. Pirates

7:05 p.m. ET · Zack Wheeler vs. Mitch Keller

The respective aces on the two pitching staffs will face off in Pittsburgh on Friday night, one day after Pittsburgh traded first baseman Carlos Santana to the Brewers.

Zack Wheeler has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in all of baseball this season when you compare his actual numbers to the underlying ones. Wheeler's 2023 numbers are pretty much in line with his 2022 numbers. His xERA is 3.27 this year, up a tick from 3.10 last year. His FIP is the same as 2022 and his Stuff+ is right in line with his career numbers. Wheeler has improved his K-BB% from 21.3% last year to 22.5% this season.

The main reason for Wheeler's misfortune on the mound and 3.88 ERA is the defense around him.

No pitcher in baseball has been hurt more by his defense than Wheeler, based on Outs Above Average from Baseball Savant. The Phillies have moved Bryce Harper to first base and pulled Kyle Schwarber out of left field, which should provide a real boost to the defense given that Schwarber was the worst defensive player in the entire league in the first half of the season.

Likely outfield replacement Jake Cave is a significant upgrade defensively for the Phillies and Harper has already proven capable at first.

After heavy bullpen usage in the prior series, both teams had the day off on Thursday, which should enable top relievers Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez, David Bednar and Colin Holderman to be available.

The question in this matchup is what has happened to Mitch Keller. From June 2022 to June 2023, Keller was one of the 15-20 best starters in baseball. His command has regressed hard in the last month. His stuff looks the same as the past, but Keller has a 7.04 ERA in July and has seen his strikeout rate dip.

When you look at his strikeout rate and compare it to his swinging strike rate, there was always likely to be some drop-off there.

The market is overreacting a bit to Keller's dip in command, and despite favorable hitting conditions at PNC Park, I'd bet under 8.5 at -115 or better. Wheeler should have his way against an overmatched and young Pittsburgh lineup, while the Phillies' lineup is still a below-average unit in 2023 by wRC+.

Given the 90-degree heat and his decline in command recently, Keller's outsprop at BetRivers shouldn't be at 18.5. He has a low chance of pitching into the seventh given the conditions.

Picks: Under 8.5 (-115 or better), Mitch Keller u18.5 outs (-177 at BetRivers)

8:10 p.m. ET · Shane McClanahan vs. Cristian Javier

This pitching matchup would have been elite on paper at the beginning of the season. McClanahan has mostly held up his end of that in 2023 (at the surface), but Javier's fastball issues and declining strikeout rate make him significantly more vulnerable.

Now that the Astros have Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez back in the lineup, it's a significantly more formidable group, especially against left-handed pitching.

The Rays are the second-best offense this season against right-handed pitching, while the Astros rank ninth against lefties by wRC+. The offenses are closer to even in the projections for Friday night's game, especially as the Rays' offense has cooled considerably in June and especially into July.

McClanahan's surface-level 2.89 ERA looks elite at a glance, but there's regression in his numbers across the board when compared to 2022. His K-BB% has dropped from 24.5% last year to 16.5% this year. McClanahan no longer has an elite strikeout rate and his walk rates and zone rates are below average.

The decline in command has also contributed to a higher than league average barrel rate allowed.

McClanahan still has the dominant stuff he's always had, but this is part of an underlying command decline that actually began in the second half of 2022.  He broke out as an elite level pitcher last year but hasn't maintained that level.

His decline isn't nearly as significant as Javier's. Javier had a 2.54 ERA and 2.43 xERA with a two-pitch mix that was largely unhittable last season, culminating in a combined no-hitter in the World Series. The fastball has lost vertical movement and the result is a huge decline in whiff rate and strikeout rate. It's a much more hittable fastball and his xFIP is up to 5.04.

He's never had elite command either, which could be an issue against a Tampa Bay lineup that has well above average plate skills as a whole.

The market has downgraded Javier, but there's a lot of downside risk on his performance on Friday night. I'm lower than the market on both starting pitchers and would bet the over in both the first five innings and the full game at 4.5 and 8.5, respectively.

Picks: First Five Over 4.5 runs (-115 or better), Full Game Over 8.5 runs (-110 or better)

10:15 p.m. ET · Kutter Crawford vs. Logan Webb

A quick look at the pitching matchup and you'd probably think that Logan Webb has a sizable edge against Kutter Crawford. But given the underlying pitch model data and the expected stats, there hasn't been much of a gap between Crawford and Webb this season.

The Giants ace is bottom five in baseball in zone contact rate and I don't really believe that his improved strikeout rate will hold as a result. He relies a lot on called strikes to get ahead in counts and the Red Sox have one of the best plate approaches in the entire league.

Webb's barrel rate allowed has spiked this year and his sinker is getting hit as hard as ever. Boston has the better offense in this match, and although the Giants are better defensively and in the bullpen, the game should be lined closer to a coin flip than it is.

Crawford has seen a drop in his Stuff+ since joining the rotation as a traditional starter, but that hasn't stopped him from improving his walk rate and refining his command. The BAT has Crawford with a 5.04 rest of season and Webb with a 3.84 ERA.

The pitch model data suggests these pitchers are much closer in true talent, and thus the game is much closer than the Boston +125 price would suggest. Crawford's 105 Pitching+ is better than Webb's 101 and the strikeout minus walk rates show a small gap overall. Webb has better ERA projections — in part because of ballpark — but when on the same field, I'd bet Boston at +115 or better on Friday night.

Pick: Boston ML (+115 or better)

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