Tuesday’s 14-game MLB slate is highlighted by the Washington Nationals’ person Opening Day against the Atlanta Braves. After having their first five days of the season wiped out because of a COVID outbreak in the organization, the Nats will send Max Scherzer to the mound against the division-rival Atlanta Braves at 4:05 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
There’s plenty more action, too, and our staff of experts is on it. Below, you’ll find our best bets for Tuesday, including a couple of live underdogs.
MLB Odds & Picks
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals
Kevin Davis: After a long wait, the Washington Nationals’ season finally starts today with a game against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are certainly a better team than the Nationals, but the Nationals have a competitive roster this season and should win about 48% of their games against the Braves.
The full game odds are correct for this game as the Nationals are appropriately -120 moneyline favorites at FanDuel. However, the Nats should be even bigger favorites for their first five inning moneyline at only -115 at BetMGM.
The best reason to take the Washington F5 moneyline is because of the starting pitching matchup between Max Scherzer and Drew Smyly. Scherzer may almost be eligible for an AARP membership, but he is still one of the best pitchers in the game. Smyly, in a sharp contrast to Scherzer, is a borderline starting pitcher who is a fifth starter in a weak Braves rotation. With Scherzer able to get enough run support from the top of the lineup, I believe that the Nationals should be in the lead at the end of the fifth inning.
My best bet is the Washington Nationals First Five Inning Moneyline -115 (BetMGM), and would play up to -135.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins
Kenny Ducey: You may ask yourself, Is this guy crazy? Betting on a pitcher who hasn’t starter a game in three years? Well, to the first question, I can’t really put up much of a defense. That said, I am in love with John Gant, and particularly in love with him here against the Marlins.
That’s right — John Gant. He was arguably one of the most dependable late-inning arms in baseball in 2019 before following that up with another decent showing in last year’s shortened season. Now, the Cardinals are daring to return him to the rotation, where he was somewhat of a failure to begin his career.
What Gant did this spring wasn’t anything special — he posted a 4.40 ERA in three starts — but he did manager to strike out an impressive 13 batters in 14 1/3 innings, which follows a trend we’ve seen over the last three years now with Gant, which is a steady increase in swings and misses all the way up to 10.8 per nine innings last year.
Miami happened to rank ninth in strikeout rate last year, and so far this season have yet to really get its bats going save for an explosion against old man Rich Hill, Chris Archer and Collin McHugh, which isn’t a whole lot to write home about.
Gant should present a challenge for the Marlins, at least for four innings or so, before handing things off to this more-than-capable bullpen. In chorus with a hot offense, I really like the Cardinals as dogs here.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers
Sean Zerillo: I want to call the police and report a crime every time I look at the depth chart for this Texas pitching staff. It is an unholy collection of arms, and for a team that is supposed to be in a rebuilding phase, it’s discouraging to find just a handful of pitchers who could or should be a part of their next competitive team.
One of their few promising young talents is Dane Dunning, the former White Sox prospect who was sent down to Arlington in the Lance Lynn deal last offseason.
Dunning rebounded nicely from Tommy John surgery in 2020, and performed admirably in his first taste of big-league action (34 IP, 35 K BB, 13 BB, 4.16 xFIP, 3.68 xERA), showing a five-pitch mix (sinker, slider, fastball, changeup, curveball) with three above-average offerings. Dunning is a bit of a soft-tosser (34th percentile in fastball velocity) but he limits hard contact, keeps the ball on the ground (45% in 2020), and can throw all of his pitches for strikes.
While there isn’t a ton of upside in Dunning’s profile, he should have a high floor as a mid-rotation workhorse who can chew up 170-180 innings on an annual basis; health provided.
His Tuesday opponent, Tanner Roark, is another soft-tosser (20th percentile in velocity) with a deep arsenal (six pitches), but is a veteran nearing the end of the line in terms of effectiveness. Roark’s indicators have been trending in the wrong direction for the past three seasons (4.33, 5.03, and 6.53 xERA since 2018) which aligns with both his batted ball metrics (.317, .332 and .380 xwOBA over the same span) and declining fastball velocity (lost 1.3 mph in 2020, year over year).
The 2020 version of Dunning was already as effective a pitcher as prime Roark, and a significantly better pitcher than late-career Roark.
I projected the Rangers at 53.4% for the first five innings (F5), and 53.1% for the full game on Tuesday. I would play their F5 moneyline to -102, and their full game moneyline at even money (+100) or better. I have one unit split between those two wagers.
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