Welcome to the Friday, May 31 edition of the MLB Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one MLB bet for tonight I feel has profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
5/31/19 MLB Betting Pick:
New York Yankees (36-19) vs. Boston Red Sox (29-27)
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Red Sox -136 ML (o/u: 9)
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: Red Sox -152 ML (o/u: 9)
888 Sportsbook Odds: Red Sox -143 ML (o/u: 8.5)
BetStars Sportsbook Odds: Red Sox -167 ML (o/u: 8.5)
The Yankees have rolled into first place in the A.L. East in spite of a litany of injuries. The Red Sox have also righted the ship after a disastrous start to their World Series title defense. They are 18-10 since April 29.
Boston has a clear-cut advantage in the pitching matchup for the first game of this series with Chris Sale going on an extra day of rest thanks to Thursday’s rain out. Sale’s 1-6 record and 4.61 ERA belies his actual performance, which has been absolutely elite over his last seven starts.
Sale did struggle a bit in consecutive outings against an Astros team that mashes lefties. Yet the Yankees rank 23rd in collective wOBA (.295) with the third-highest K-Rate (27.2%) in the Majors when facing LHPs. Among A.L. teams, only Detroit has scored fewer runs than the Yanks (47) against southpaws.
Sale posted a 2.84 xFIP with 6 Ks over 5 IP in a start at Yankee Stadium on April 16, as he was undone by a .400 BABIP. That trend has since regressed with Sale posting a .267 BABIP over his last six starts. He’s not allowing many balls in play with a 14.2% swinging strike rate and 79.1% Z-Contact Rate this year. And Sale was lights out with a 1.65 ERA and 11.54 K/9 ratio over his previous four trips to Yankee Stadium.
The Yanks are still without Aaron Judge (oblique), Giancarlo Stanton (calf) and Miguel Andujar (shoulder), decreasing their prospects against elite lefties. Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres have picked up the slack. Yet they’re a combined 3-for-26 with 13 Ks in their careers against Sale.
The Yankees offense has surprisingly been less dangerous at home with a collective .246 batting average and a 23.7% K-Rate. They’ve gone 18-11 at home thanks to strong pitching and a bullpen that ranks fourth in the Majors with a collective 3.72 ERA.
Boston’s offense has taken off with the third-highest collective wOBA (.359) and second-most runs scored (174) over the last 30 days. However, the Red Sox have also been less dangerous with the fourth-lowest hard contact rate (31.8%) against LHPs this year.
They will face LHP J.A. Happ for the second time this season after tagging him for 3 ER on 6 H over 6.1 innings in a 5-3 loss on April 20. Boston’s lineup is far more dangerous now, though. Michael Chavis, for one, is raking in place of the washed-up Dustin Pedroia. Chavis is not hitting as much for average but owns a ridiculous .467 ISO mark and a 50% HR/FB ratio when facing lefties on the road. Mookie Betts is also breaking out of his moderate slump and hitting like an MVP again.
Then, Steve Pearce has been great against LHPs throughout his career and owns Happ with 11 hits, including 6 HR over 35 career at-bats. He should take over at 1B with Mitch Moreland (back) on the shelf. J.D. Martinez continues to mash with a .512 wOBA, 33.3% HR/FB ratio, and 225 wRC+ against the platoon.
The trio of Pearce, Chavis, and Martinez creates a tough matchup for Happ, who has been quite homer-prone with a 2.64 HR/9 ratio against righties and a 24.3% HR/FB ratio at Yankee Stadium overall.
Boston’s biggest concern is its shaky bullpen, which has blown four saves over the past 10 days. The Red Sox bullpen has posted a league-worst 13.3% BB Rate over the last 14 days and has allowed a .1.70 HR/9 ratio with a 5.31 ERA when facing LHBs this year.
The Yanks are top 10 in BB Rate (9.7%) this year. But luckily for the Red Sox, Yankees lefties Brett Gardner and Kendrys Morales appear to be past their prime, leaving only Mike Tauchman as a consistent threat from that side of the dish.
The Final Word
Boston is starting to get all its pieces back in order. The offense has been prolific, but pitching let the Red Sox down in their last series. Perhaps they’ll put it all together and gain some ground on their rivals with a win to start this four-game series.
Last year, the Red Sox went 54-35 against the spread (ATS) in road games for the second-best win percentage (58.2%) in the Majors.
We lean toward the Red Sox on the Run Line (-1.5 at +108 odds on DraftKings Sportsbook) because of the starting pitching matchup but have a hard time trusting this inconsistent unit.
Note that the Sox are a league-worst 9-17 ATS following a loss this year. They’re also 8-12 ATS in division games and the Yankees are a league-best 15-5 against their division.
Despite Sale’s impressive upside, we’re taking the Over (8.5 runs on BetStars Sportsbook) as the stronger bet this evening. The total has dropped slightly and the Red Sox are getting slightly better odds after Thursday’s postponement.
Red Sox games are 32-22-2 in terms of going Over the total this year, and Yankees games are 29-23-3 in that respect. Sale has not been allowed to pitch deep into games very often, and the Red Sox’s shaky bullpen could allow this game to become high-scoring in the later innings.
The Pick: Over (8.5)