Welcome to the Saturday, June 29 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.
6/29/19 MLB Betting Pick:
Boston Red Sox (44-38) vs. New York Yankees (52-28)
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Yankees -136 ML (o/u: 11)
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: Yankees -144 ML (o/u: 11)
888 Sportsbook Odds: Yankees -139 ML (o/u: 11)
BetStars Sportsbook Odds: Yankees -142 ML (o/u: 11)
All 60,000 seats in London Stadium sold out just 15 minutes after going on sale, so the atmosphere should be quite raucous in the first MLB game played on European soil.
Since the Red Sox gave up two home games for this series, they will technically be the home team. The ballpark constructed within the stadium gives a slight ode to Fenway Park with a 16-foot wall in center field. However, the center field fence is only 385 feet from home plate. Fenway’s center field checks in at 390 feet out, and the MLB average is 402.6 feet. This will be the shortest CF fence for an MLB game since 1952, and the fences in RF and LF are only 330 feet from home plate.
There is also extensive foul ground in this ballpark similar to the confines of Oakland Coliseum. The stadium allows for very little air flow, so fly balls may not carry easily over the short fences. Finally, note that both teams are allowed to bring 26 players on their active roster with two additional players in the event that a transaction is required.
The Red Sox have lined up the right SP for these circumstances. Rick Porcello is posting a 7.5% HR/FB ratio over the past two months. He was tagged for 5 ER over 4.2 IP in a start at Yankee Stadium to open June but was 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA and .143 BAA over his previous four outings against the Bronx Bombers.
Porcello is hardly walking RHBs (5.2% BB Rate) and allowing only a 14.8% LD Rate in RvR matchups. His fastball rates 6.2 runs above average, which is his best mark since his rookie year. Of course, the Yanks rank sixth in the Majors with a 32.1 rating against heaters.
He will face a righty-heavy Yankees lineup that just lost Giancarlo Stanton (knee) for several months and will also be without OF Cameron Maybin (calf). Mike Tauchman is expected to fill in as the Yankees’ fourth OF and a rare LHB to use in their lineup.
Aaron Judge is back, and he’s 4-for-16 with a HR and 3 BB to 2 Ks in his career against Porcello. The “new” Yankees—a.k.a. DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and Gleyber Torres—are a combined 9-for-22 (.409) in a limited sample against Porcello. That explains his rough outing against them this year.
LeMahieu is a scorching 15-for-27 (.555) with 4 HR and 6 BB over his last 7 appearances leading into this series. Torres is 9-for-22 (.591) with 4 HR during that span, and Urshela is hitting .373 with RISP.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone can use LeMahieu to set the table and turn the lineup over with Torres and Urshela at the bottom of the order now that Edwin Encarnacion has entered the fold.
The Yanks have homered in an incredible 29 straight games and have plenty of threats to leave the yard with Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius rounding out their lineup. They’ll also bring infielder Thairo Estrada as their 26th man on the international trip. Infielder Chance Adams and backup catcher Kyle Higashioka will serve as potential injury replacements.
The Red Sox come into this contest with little momentum, having gone 3-3 in home games against the lowly Blue Jays and White Sox earlier this week. Their bullpen, which had been pitching very well, coughed up a blown save in the Wednesday afternoon finale against the White Sox.
Boston still has a top 10 bullpen in terms of ERA (3.92) and BAA (.229), but getting timely outs has been a problem for that unit.
Offensively, the Red Sox are rolling with the second-highest collective average (.299) and third-highest wOBA (.366) over the last 14 days. Rafael Devers keyed that run with a .403/.422/.677 slash line over his last 15 appearances, leading manager Alex Cora to move him into the 2-hole.
Devers and Andrew Benintendi will look to do damage against Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka, who is yielding a 1.69 HR/9 ratio on a 21.1% HR/FB ratio when facing lefties. Tanaka is pitching well with a 3.12 ERA over the last two months, but he’s not missing many bats and giving up a 39.9% hard contact rate during that span.
Tanaka has posted a 16.1% HR/FB ratio throughout his MLB career and a 1.46 HR/9 ratio since he started dealing with UCL issues in 2017.
This matchup is also a matter of strength versus strength. Tanaka’s best pitch is a slider that rates 16.1 runs above average. But Boston leads the Majors with a 10.8 rating against sliders and tagged Tanaka for 16 ER with 6 HRs over four meetings last year.
Along with LHB Devers (4-for-10) and Benintendi (8-for-24, 2 HR), RHBs J.D. Martinez (8-for-18, 3 HR) and Mookie Betts (13-for-42, 2 HR) have had consistent success against Tanaka.
Boston will not have dangerous LHB Mitch Moreland (back) or World Series MVP Steve Pearce (back) on this overseas trip and have called up 1B Sam Travis as the 26th player on the roster. Michael Chavis should start at first and provide even more upside against Tanaka.
Finally, Brock Holt (hamstring) was able to make the trip. He would be a candidate to start with the platoon advantage against Tanaka.
The Final Word
My first inclination given the conditions in this makeshift stadium would be to take the Over (11 runs on BetStars Sportsbook).
Both offenses are rolling, and both pitchers have been homer-prone at times. Yet there are so many unknowns when predicting how hitters are going to perform after two days of rest and international travel (a five-hour time change). This game might be surprisingly low-scoring with a playoff atmosphere and some nerves from hitters on both sides.
This rare break and opportunity to play in a new atmosphere could galvanize the struggling Sox to turn their season around. The Yankees have been a far better regular season team to this point, but Boston proved last year to be a better squad when the pressure is on.
The Pick: Red Sox Moneyline