The Cardinals have taken two of three games against the Cubs. Will St. Louis close this week’s series with another win? Two of our MLB betting analysts like the Cards’ chances, but are betting on them in different ways.
Find our staff’s favorite bets on Thursday’s baseball slate outlined below.
MLB Odds & Picks
Braves at Phillies
Sean Zerillo: It’s perplexing that the Phillies keep allowing Matt Moore (5.45 xERA, 5.26 xFIP, 4.92 SIERA) to take the baseball. The veteran southpaw doesn’t have a single pitch in his arsenal that is returning a positive pitch value this season, leaving almost no hope that we will make an adjustment and turn the corner soon.
Conversely, Charlie Morton (3.80 xERA, 3.45 xFIP, 3.64 SIERA) has rebounded after his expected indicators crept toward 4.00 last season. His fastball velocity has recovered by two ticks year-over-year (up from 93.3 mph to 95.2), and his curveball has returned to elite status, ranking seventh amongst 58 qualified pitchers on a per-pitch basis (behind Joe Musgrove and ahead of Yu Darvish).
The Phillies have the superior bullpen on the season (3.95 xFIP, 7th; vs. 4.28 xFIP, 16th), but my model-weighted ERA prefers the Braves’ bullpen (4.08 to 4.38) on Thursday night. Still, the whole game moneyline looks about right to me (projected -133).
That said, the moneyline for the first five innings (F5) should be shaded more toward Atlanta (projected 63.2%, -172 implied), and I would bet their F5 moneyline up to -155.
Cubs at Cardinals
Brad Cunningham: Adbert Alzolay has been a below-average starter this season, posting a 4.81 xERA through 16 outings — he is giving up way too many home runs because his HR/9 rate is all the way up at 1.97.
Alzolay mainly uses a three-pitch combination of slider, sinker, and fastball. And while his slider has been effective, his fastball and sinker are both allowing an xwOBA over .390 and opponents have a combined +6 run value against those two pitches.
Kwang Hyun Kim has been the Cardinal best pitcher this season, posting a 3.80 xERA. He’s not a big strikeout pitcher, but he has done a fantastic job keeping the ball inside the yard, as his HR/9 rate is at 0.69. His main secondary pitch is a slider and it’s been pretty deadly, as opponents are only hitting .198 against with a .247 wOBA. The Cubs are one of the worst teams in baseball against sliders with a -17.8 run value, so I expect Kim to go to that pitch quite often tonight.
I have the Cardinals projected at -132 for the first five innings, so there is some value on them at -110. I would play it up to -120.
Kenny Ducey: One of my favorite angles is to take a high-contact team against a strikeout-reliant pitcher with quality-of-contact issues. That’s what we have on Thursday night in the Cardinals against the Cubs.
St. Louis has found its offense of late with a 104 wRC+ over the last two weeks, but it hasn’t been due to walks (just a 5.7% BB%) or power hitting (.174 ISO). It’s been death by singles. The Cardinals rank fourth in the league with a 79.4% contact rate over that 14-day span, turning in some great at-bats with an expected low 10.1% swinging strike rate. That should really help against Alzolay, whose one big strength is his ability to miss bats.
Alzolay hasn’t quite hit the 33.3% strikeout rate we saw him at in a short time last year, but sitting down 24.7% of the batters he faces is firmly above-average. He’s also right in the middle of the league in whiff rate and has been fantastic in limiting walks. The one big weakness, yet again, has been hard-hit balls, seeing as he’s given up a 95 mph+ rocket on 43.1% of the batted balls against him.
There’s a clear way through Alzolay for the Cardinals, and by making a lot of contact, they will enjoy more power than they’ve been used to lately. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve got Kwang Hyun Kim going, who carries a 2.87 ERA into this one and has induced plenty of soft contact.
I love the matchup on both sides of the ball for St. Louis.
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