We have 11 games on tap for Thursday, two of which will be played in the afternoon. We’ll get a little bit of everything, including the return of Clayton Kershaw and the MLB debut of Shane Bieber for the Indians.
Let’s take a look at each of the matchups from a betting and fantasy perspective.
Los Angeles Angels (-233) at Detroit Tigers (+190) | O/U: 9.5
Andrew Heaney (2-3, 3.09 ERA) vs. Ryan Carpenter (0-1, 8.31 ERA)
1:10 p.m. ET
Two lefties will face off in an early afternoon affair in Detroit. The Angels rank 25th in average (.225) against left-handed pitching this season, while the Tigers have the fifth-best average at .267. However, Los Angeles certainly has the pitching advantage on paper. Carpenter comes up from Triple-A Toledo to make his third career start. In his first two starts (both in Detroit this season), he allowed eight earned runs over eight innings.
Meanwhile, Heaney comes in red hot. After struggling in his first two starts of 2018, the 2012 first-round draft pick has dominated from the bump. Since April 20, he has allowed only six earned runs over six starts. During that span, he has a sparkling 1.45 ERA over 37.1 innings and hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in five of the six outings. His performance is even more impressive when you consider he faced the Astros, Rockies at Coors Field and Yankees twice over that stretch.
Tampa Bay Rays (+127) at Oakland Athletics (-141) | O/U: 7.5
Ryne Stanek (1-0, 3.24 ERA) vs. Daniel Mengden (5-4, 2.85 ERA)
3:35 p.m. ET
Stanek may be the starting pitcher, but Ryan Yarbrough will likely get the brunt of the work for Tampa. Over his past three appearances, two of which have come following Sergio Romo starts, Yarbrough has allowed just three runs over 18.1 innings. During that span, he has 16 strikeouts to just four walks. If you’re playing the early DraftKings slate with just two games, rostering Yarbrough at $5,500 might not be that psychotic of a move.
The under is 12-3 in the Athletics’ home games in May, which makes them the most profitable home under team in the month.
Oakland will play the final game of 10 straight at home this afternoon. The A’s are just 3-6 on the home stand, thanks to an ice-cold offense, which has scored only 15 runs (1.67 average) over that stretch. The good news? They should get Khris Davis (who has missed the last nine games) back in the lineup. Despite missing those contests, Khrush leads Oakland in home runs and is just one off the RBI lead.
New York Yankees (-168) at Baltimore Orioles (+151) | O/U: 10.5
Sonny Gray (3-4, 5.98 ERA) vs. Andrew Cashner (2-6, 5.07 ERA)
7:05 p.m. ET
In four career starts against the Yankees, Andrew Cashner owns an ERA of 1.73, including just a .204 BAA. Cashner has faced all 30 MLB teams in his career, and the only team he owns a lower ERA against is the Cardinals at 1.70.
With that said, I don’t know how much confidence I’d put in this version of Cashner, who comes off an outing in Tampa in which he allowed 11 hits and four walks in just five innings. You also can’t really trust the Orioles’ offense, which just totaled two runs in a three-game series with the Nationals. Baltimore has amazingly scored three or fewer runs in 33 of its 57 games this season.
Chicago Cubs (-160) at New York Mets (+145) | O/U: 8
Jose Quintana (5-4, 4.78) vs. Seth Lugo (1-1, 2.48 ERA)
7:10 p.m. ET
The Mets will try to match a left-handed starter with their horrid bullpen. That spells disaster on two fronts. New York has hit an MLB worst .216 against southpaws, with a league-low seven homers. (No other team has fewer than 10.)
Its pen, which has 11 blown saves already, has been even worse, especially of late. In the past eight games, the Mets have lost four times when leading after six innings. They lead the league in that category with six blown losses. Remember when the Mets were 11-1? Neither do I.
Pittsburgh Pirates (+145) at St. Louis Cardinals (-160) | O/U: 8.5
Trevor Williams (5-3, 3.43 ERA) vs. Jack Flaherty (2-1, 2.15 ERA)
7:15 p.m. ET
Flaherty’s off to an auspicious start as a major leaguer, but like most fun things, it doesn’t seem like it will last all that long. The rookie right-hander has benefited from an 89.2% strand rate and a .261 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) thus far. As a result, his xFIP (more accurate measure of performance) sits 1.43 runs higher than his ERA. A 3.58 xFIP is still good, but it does tell a bit of a bleaker story.
Another reason for Flaherty’s success? He’s very good at striking out batters, averaging 9.51 punchouts per nine innings in 29.1 innings this year. However, this could be a tough matchup, as the Pirates are tied with the Red Sox for the second-lowest strikeout rate (19.6%) in the bigs.
Scheduling note: The Pirates and Cardinals have played their last nine games against each other in Pittsburgh, with the Pirates going 6-3. This will mark the first game between the two clubs in St. Louis since Sept. 10 of last season.
Washington Nationals (+110) at Atlanta Braves (-120) | O/U: 8.5
Tanner Roark (2-4, 3.17 ERA) vs. Sean Newcomb (5-1, 2.75 ERA)
7:35 p.m. ET
Newcomb’s Achilles heel … is in perfect health. However, his one pitching weakness is his poor walk rate of 4.53 BB per nine innings, Newcomb has slightly improved since his rookie campaign in 2017 in which he walked 5.13 batters per nine, but he still has the sixth-worst rate out of 89 qualified starters in 2018.
Washington has the third-best walk rate in the majors, which may spell trouble for Newcomb on the night of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Philadelphia Phillies (+141) at Los Angeles Dodgers (-157) | O/U: 6.5
Aaron Nola (6-2, 2.27 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (1-4, 2.86 ERA)
7:35 p.m. ET
Kershaw will make his fourth career start when coming off the disabled list. In his previous three, he has thrown 16 innings and allowed just two earned runs. That includes two starts in which he went at least six innings without allowing an earned run.
Despite losing Kershaw at the beginning of the month, the Dodgers’ staff has had a successful May, posting the third-lowest ERA in baseball. LA is 10-3 over its last 13 games, mainly thanks to dominant pitching. The Dodgers held opponents to two or fewer runs in eight of those 13 contests.
Don’t forget about the other starter in this game, as Nola has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball this season. Considering the caliber of the starters and the early start time (shadows!), I wouldn’t lrt that low total of 6.5 tempt me into betting the over.
Cleveland Indians (-123) at Minnesota Twins (+113) | O/U: 9
Shane Bieber (0-0, -.–) vs. Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.34 ERA)
8:10 p.m. ET
Welcome to the major leagues and Happy Birthday, Shane Bieber! For his first start, the 23-year-old draws a struggling Twins offense that ranks 26th with a .305 wOBA. Bieber has pitched lights-out in the minors this year, posting a 1.10 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and an impressive 61-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 65.1 innings.
Another positive for “Beliebers” is that he’s had no problem pitching deep into games, completing at least six frames in nine of his 10 assignments this season. The Tribe offense has been heating up, and Odorizzi may struggle, but I trust Bieber to pitch well enough to keep this game under 9.
Boston Red Sox (+175) at Houston Astros (-195) | O/U: 9
Drew Pomeranz (1-2, 6.75 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers Jr. (6-3, 3.98 ERA)
8:10 p.m. ET
For just the second time since 2016, the Red Sox opened as an underdog of +180 or higher. That one other time actually came earlier this month against the Yankees, when they were +206 — also with Pomeranz on the hill, against Luis Severino. The Sox ended up losing 3-2, but own a 5-2 record (+5.95 units) since 2016 when they close at +150 or higher.
McCullers loves pitching in Houston, as you can see from the splits below. But he will definitely be challenged by a Red Sox team that leads MLB with a .276 batting average against right-handers.
Miami Marlins (+126) at San Diego Padres (-139) | O/U: 7.5
Wei-Yin Chen (1-2, 5.22 ERA) vs. Jordan Lyles (1-1, 3.83 ERA)
9:10 p.m. ET
There’s been some funky stuff going on with Lyles. The 27-year-old looked solid enough as a reliever in the early going, posting a 3.66 ERA and .266 wOBA against in 19.2 innings. As a starter, he’s got a 3.97 ERA and .316 wOBA against, but has better strikeout numbers than he did as a reliever. It’s definitely not smart to blindly trust Lyles, but he could provide sneaky value when not facing a bad team such as the Marlins.
Texas Rangers (+134) at Seattle Mariners (-149) | O/U: 8
Mike Minor (4-3, 5.63 ERA) vs. Wade LeBlanc (0-0, 2.70 ERA)
10:10 p.m. ET
The under has gone 5-0 in LeBlanc’s five starts this season, going under by an average of 3.9 runs per game. Since 2012, the under is 21-10-1 in LeBlanc’s 32 starts, including 9-3 when he pitches at 10 p.m. ET or later.
Robinson Cano last played May 13 before he started serving his 80-game suspension. Since then, the Mariners have won 11 of 16 — although they have dropped their last two. How have they maintained such a high level without their star second baseman? Great fortune.
Even after losing by a run Wednesday, the Mariners are 9-2 in one-run games since losing Cano and have gone 4-0 in extra innings. For the season, they lead the majors in one-run victories with 16 and have yet to lose in five extra-inning affairs. Don’t expect them to keep that up