This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
Previous day: 0-3, -3 RWBucks
Season: 6-8, -1.07 RWBucks
Zoinks. Give out a run line, and the best offensive team in baseball tosses a shutout and still doesn't get there. That's a pretty good summary of the last week, in which a 4-0 start yielded to a 2-8 stretch. Fortunately, they have not called off the season just yet. I did see Jeff Erickson down the block from me with a baseball bat in his hands, though, so the pressure is on.
Any losing streak can create doubt, and the most productive way to channel that doubt is into checking your processes. I spent much of Sunday evening at the laptop working on a few tasks, one of which was making sure I wasn't leaking somewhere. So far, things look good. I gave out those bets last week same as I did the ones that went 4-0, after considering the card, the starters, the ballparks, any injury information, and the bullpens. I remain a little concerned about projecting the run environment given the new baseball, and I am wondering if shunning under bets is an error. Then again, we saw the Red Sox/Orioles under get beaten Saturday night in extras, and it seems there's a daily reminder of the higher risk involved in unders now.
I miss being able to have lineup information, again not because it's been a factor in the losing streak, but because I think it's critical. Sometimes you know early in the day a player isn't playing, but often not until the lineup drops a few hours before gametime. DNP-CDs aren't the disaster in baseball that they are in basketball, but a star sitting or a manager not adjusting to an opposing starter with a large platoon split do matter. I strongly encourage you to check my picks against additional information you may have by the time you read this column.
I'll make just one change immediately, and that's to give out more plays. It's not because the plays just outside the column are doing all that well so far, but that the edges are small and I think I want to leverage them across more trials. As the academics like to put it, "scared money don't make money."
Tuesday's slate, which was potentially the first on which all 30 teams would play, got extended by the postponements in Baltimore and New York. There are 17 games scheduled today, but just 13 I'm comfortable betting. The seven-inning doubleheader games felt foreign to me all last season, and they still do, enough to push me away from them in most cases.
Of the other 13, here's what I like best:
7 p.m. Rangers/Rays first five innings (F5) under 4.5 (-127). My friend Dave Cokin is a pro gambler, an engaging radio host, and an excellent dinner companion. I've been watching his plays for years, and he uses first-five lines as much as anyone. It's a fairly simple principle: All bullpens are bad, and most are unreliably so, so make bets that take that variance out of play. I'll make my first here today.
The juice on this has moved a bit since I first looked at it, but as of noon Tuesday it's still bettable. The Rangers cannot hit at all, as expected, but "three shutouts in four games" is still notable. They back Kyle Gibson and his excellent groundball rate, however, with a very good infield defense: a .211 batting average allowed on groundballs, fifth-best in the AL. The combination should produce another low-scoring contest...or at least half of one. 1 RWBuck.
7:20 p.m. Marlins +150 over Braves. This will be the second straight time I'm on Pablo Lopez, who has allowed two runs in 11 2/3 innings over two starts and gotten zero in support. The Marlins have not scored while Lopez is the pitcher of record. That may or may not change tonight, but I'll take my chances with the better starting pitcher. We talked on Opening Day about fading Max Fried, who had unrepeatable results on contact in 2020.
If the game isn't decided early, the Braves will be challenged. Closer Will Smith has pitched three straight days, A.J. Minter and Nate Jones two straight. The Marlins' game Sunday was rained out, so even last night's extra-inning game probably only leaves them short Yimi Garcia, who went 25 pitches in the win. 1 RWBuck.
7:40 p.m. Cubs +117 over Brewers. The Cubs have gotten off to a miserable start at the plate, last in the majors in batting average, OBP and SLG, last in weighted on-base average. Dig in, though, and you see that the Cubs are doing some good things at the plate. They are in the middle of the pack in isolated power, with a good team walk rate. They're even tied for fifth in the majors with seven stolen bases, and they have a 78% success rate. The downside? A 29% strikeout rate that's third-worst in MLB.
What's killing them are two things that are sure to regress: A batting average on balls in play of .194, 30 points worse than any other team's, and a batting average with runners in scoring position of .104. Neither of those numbers are remotely sustainable, even if the Cubs' lineup may be prone to below-average performance in both areas. That doesn't mean the BABIP or the RISP performance has to regress tonight, but we'll play the odds behind Kyle Hendricks. This looks a bit better if Christian Yelich's back keeps him on the bench again tonight. 1.5 RWBucks.
8 p.m. Astros -1.5 vs. Tigers (+108). This is a fade of Tigers' starter Matthew Boyd, who led the AL in homers allowed in both 2019 and 2020, but has yet to give one up through two starts this year. One of those was on a 32-degree day in Detroit, and both his starts have come at Comerica. The Astros are the best hitting team in baseball against lefties since the start of 2019.
On the margins, the Tigers used both Jose Cisnero and Gregory Soto the last two days, thinning their bullpen. I'm taking the run line rather than the moneyline because I like the Astros' chances of piling on the rest of the Tigers' pen. 1 RWBuck.