Ladies and gentlemen, the weekend.
Friday brings us a loaded MLB slate. The Cubs and Reds get things started this afternoon, but after that there are 14 games under the lights. Our MLB analysts have eyes on three of them with four bets total, including Dodgers vs. Rays, Cardinals vs. Guardians and Pirates vs. Mariners.
Here are our best bets from the MLB slate on Friday, May 26th.
MLB Best Bets for Friday, May 26
The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our MLB betting staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.
Dodgers vs. Rays
By BJ Cunningham
I really don’t think Syndergaard should be a pick’em against the Rays bullpen.
Noah Syndergaard is just not the pitcher he was when he was with the Mets. Before he had Tommy John surgery, his fastball and sinker were averaging over 97 mph. Now, every one of his pitches is averaging under 93 mph, and since he was a power pitcher before Tommy John, he just can’t pitch like he used to.
He’s abandoned his slider and is now throwing a cutter, which means he now only has one offspeed pitch, a changeup, and it’s his only pitch that is allowing an xwOBA under .300. He has a 5.11 xERA with a 1.31 BB/9 rate. He’s pitching to contact, considering his K/9 rate is 6.53, and he’s getting hit, as he’s in the bottom 10% of MLB pitchers in expected batting average allowed.
The Rays are the best lineup in baseball against right-handed pitching and have a +17.4 run value against right-handed fastballs, changeups, cutters and sinkers, which are Syndergaard’s four main pitches.
The Rays are doing another bullpen day with Jalen Beeks as the opener and my guess is the Dodgers are going to see all of the Rays’ left-handed arms, because the Dodgers splits versus lefties compared to righties is quite drastic. Los Angeles has a .320 wOBA against lefties (two points higher than the A’s) versus a .340 wOBA against righties.
The Rays’ bullpen also throws the most cutters of anyone in baseball, while the Dodgers have a -2.1 run value against cutters.
I have the Rays projected at -136, so I like the value on them at -110.
Pick: Rays ML (-110)
Cardinals vs. Guardians
Cardinals Team Total Over 3.5 (-133)
By D.J. James
Shane Bieber has been feasting off of good fortune this season. He owns a 3.08 ERA against a 4.92 xERA, and this is mainly due to his 93 mph Average Exit Velocity and 50.5% Hard Hit Rate. It does not get easier, as he and the Cleveland Guardians take on the St. Louis Cardinals, who crush right-handed pitching.
Matt Liberatore has thrown only six innings in MLB this season, but Cleveland also struggles mightily with lefties. They have a 70 wRC+ and .611 OPS against southpaws in May.
The emphasis here, though, is the St. Louis offense against Bieber, who should come back to earth soon. The Cardinals own a 9.6% walk rate and .822 OPS, paired with an MLB-best 125 wRC+ off of righties in May. The lineup has slowed down a bit within the last week, but Bieber is bound for negative regression.
In addition, the Cleveland bullpen has been strong, but has weaker options. For example, James Karinchak and Enyel De Los Santos have May xFIPs above 4.00. They will come into play because Bieber will get hit hard and will exit the game early.
Finally, the Cardinals have seven active hitters above a .330 xwOBA, so this is an immense amount of power at the top of the order. Look for these reliable bats to get to Bieber early and force the weaker Cleveland arms into the game.
Take the Cardinals team total over 3.5 (-133), and play to 4.5 (-110).
Pick: Cardinals Team Total Over 3.5 (-133)
Cardinals vs. Guardians
Shane Bieber Over 5.5 Strikeouts (+100)
By Nick Shlain
Shane Bieber’s strikeouts are down this season. He has just a 17% strikeout percentage, and in 10 starts he’s gone over this number only two times.
This isn’t a great matchup for him strikeout-wise against the St. Louis Cardinals, because the Cardinals’ projected lineup has combined for just a 19% strikeout percentage against right-handed pitching this season.
The good news, however, is that the Cardinals will likely have at least five left-handed hitters in the lineup tonight. Bieber’s strikeout percentage is higher against left-handed batters this year at 20%.
His recent form has been encouraging as well. Bieber has completed at least six innings in four of his last five starts. In his last home start, he struck out nine batters against the Detroit Tigers and he’ll be at home here once again.
I have Bieber projected for six strikeouts here and we’re getting him at plus money. What’s not to like?
Pick: Shane Bieber Over 5.5 Strikeouts (+100)
Pirates vs. Mariners
By Tanner McGrath
Mitch Keller. George Kirby.
Two of the best young pitchers in the game right now.
I guess it’s hard to call Keller young, given he’s in year five. However, it feels like he’s young because he’s finally experiencing the full breakout season we’ve been waiting on. Keller’s added cutter and sweeper have made all the difference, as he’s got an xERA below 2.85 this year.
Meanwhile, Kirby continues to rack up near-perfect innings, mostly based on preternatural command – he boasts a 2.2% walk rate and a 111 Location+. He’ll never force whiffs like other guys, but he’s got a spot in the rotation for a long time.
Behind Keller and Kirby are two fully rested, locked-in bullpens.
Seattle boasts the best reliever xFIP of any club in baseball over the past month, with guys like Trevor Gott, Justin Topa and Tayler Saucedo stepping up. The Pirates rank ninth in that stat during the same time frame, mostly thanks to one of the deadliest closers in baseball.
Assisting each pitching staff today is a pitcher-friendly weather report, with winds blowing in close to 10 mph. BallParkPal projects a -18% Run Factor for Friday night’s game at T-Mobile Park.
And opposing each pitching staff today are two lackluster offenses.
The Pirates have significantly cooled off following a red-hot start, boasting the second-worst OPS (.604) and wRC+ (69) during May. The Mariners have at least clawed back to the league average, but they’re still striking out over 26% of the time.
This is shaping up as one of the ugliest games of the year. The total is low at 7, but our Action PRO model makes the number 6.5, so there’s some value on the under 7 at low enough juice (-108 or better).
Also, the Mariners low-key have a top-five defense, which is always nice to have in your back pocket.
Pick: Under 7 (-106)
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