MLB Picks Today, Best Bets, Odds, Predictions for Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Elly De La Cruz
CINCINNATI, OHIO - JUNE 20: Elly De La Cruz #44 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with TJ Friedl #29 after a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies at Great American Ball Park on June 20, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Dean/Getty Images)

Is that what karma feels like? I’ve been fading the Marlins non-stop, and it finally came back to bite me.

I had the Rockies ML as my lone play yesterday. They have a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, with a starting pitcher on his way to a complete game shutout. He let the first two runners on, and they brought in Justin Lawrence, who allowed a double, a walk, a single, another single, a hit by pitch, and a sacrifice fly to tie the score at five. In extra innings, the Marlins got the win.

It’s one of the rougher beats, but we are used to bad beats over here. Builds character. I’m back with three plays on a loaded Wednesday slate.

These picks are available on BetMGM. Code “JustBaseball” for a first bet offer up to $1500.

2024 Record: 37-39 (-3.52 U)

Cincinnati Reds vs. San Diego Padres @ 4:10 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Graham Ashcraft vs. Joe Musgrove

Something is wrong with Joe Musgrove. I haven’t jumped in until now, but it has to be done at some point. Graham Ashcraft is often a wild card, but this is the bet we have to make at this price.

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There is a chance that Joe Musgrove is throwing through an injury. I don’t know how else to explain his drop in velocity, a 6.94 ERA, and a 7.94 xERA. His strikeout rate is down significantly, his walk rate is up exponentially, and he’s allowing the hardest contact of his career.

Musgrove is typically above average at keeping the ball on the ground, but his current percentage is 37%, by far the lowest of his career.

It’s not as if his schedule has been some gauntlet. He’s faced the Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers, Blue Jays, and Phillies. It’s not easy competition by any means, but it’s not so difficult that we can explain why he’s been so poor to his standards.

Musgrove has little history against the Reds’ current roster, only accumulating 17 PA against them. However, India is 2-8 with a double, Candelario is 2-6 with a double, and Jake Fraley is 1-2 with a double against him. Of the three players he’s faced, they have performed well.

Graham Ashcraft lines up on the other side. He’s looked great so far but has a 4.39 ERA. I expect that to come down, as his xERA sits at 3.76, and his SIERA is 3.55. Beyond those metrics, he’s striking out more batters than ever, keeping the ball on the ground at an elite rate, and his walk rate is the lowest it’s ever been.

He’s recorded 29 PA against this current Padres offense, and they are hitting a minuscule .179 with a .262 xwOBA. Tatis, Machado, Cronenworth, and Bogaerts are a combined 2-21 (.095) against Ashcraft in their career.

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Ashcraft has also been a monster on the road. His ERA is under four on the road for his career, and his ERA at home is nearing six. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in seven of his last eight road starts.

The Padres have the better bullpen, but the Reds are in a better rest spot. Yesterday, the Padres used their four best relief pitchers: Morejon, De Los Santos, Matusi, and Suarez. They all should be available again, but since the Reds just scored four runs against them, I don’t think they’ll mind seeing them again.

The Reds bullpen will have everyone available except Emilio Pagan. I think the Reds will grab a lead and win this game.

The Padres have the offense advantage this season and are playing at home. Their advantages end there, so I think the Reds are undervalued in this spot.

The Pick: Reds ML (+120) Risk 1 Unit

Cleveland Guardians vs. Houston Astros @ 8:10 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Triston McKenzie vs. Justin Verlander

I bet this last night when the lines came out. It has moved to -120, which is playable.

I have a gut feeling the Astros are going on a heater. They stomped all over the Rockies in Mexico, then battled against an excellent Guardians team. They put up eight quick runs, then the Guardians tied it. It’s a story the Astros know all too well this season. This time, they found themselves on top, and that’s a win that can propel a hot streak. Not only do I want to back the Astros, I want to fade Triston McKenzie.

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Something is going on with McKenzie, similar to Joe Musgrove. I don’t know what is happening with Musgrove, but we know McKenzie is pitching through an arm injury.

He’s walking a tightrope right now. His walk rate is 16.7%, which is reserved for relief pitchers who throw 102 MPH and have no idea where it’s going. That’s an outlandish number, and it’s even worse when his strikeout rate is 17.6%, the worst of his career.

His fastball velocity is down to 90.9 MPH from his original 92.4. His slider is still performing well, but his curveball has an opponent average of .300 against it. When he comes in the zone, the Astros will be ready.

Joey Loperfido provided an instant jolt to this offense. Jose Abreu was the worst qualified player in baseball, and he was replaced by a talented young player with plenty of pop. It makes the lineup more dynamic, something the Astros could really use.

Houston was already a top-five offense this year by wRC+ against right-handers, while the Guardians sit in 11th. The Guardians have made us money when we take them against lefties, but not as much against righties.

Justin Verlander takes the mound for the Astros. He’s not the pitcher he once was, but he’s the definition of solid. He’s racked up 83 PA against the Guardians, and Jose Ramirez is the big issue. Verlander has dominated the rest of the lineup, but Ramirez is 12-37 with six extra base-hits.

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Ramirez has a 102 wRC+ this year and doesn’t look like his normal self, so if we can avoid damage from him, Verlander should cruise.

Considering Verlander is 41 years old, I want to take him early in the season and ensure he’s had enough rest. This is only his third start, and he’s had five days of rest between starts. Most pitchers go every fifth day, but Verlander is pitching on the sixth day. That’s ideal for me to back him.

We will not be dealing with Cleveland’s bullpen, but the Astros are not only at home, but they have the better starter and offense. At this price, I have to jump. Take to -120.

The Pick: Astros First 5 Innings -0.5 (-105) Risk 1.05 Units

Player Props

Ross Stripling (OAK) Over 4.5 Strikeouts (+110) Risk 0.5 Units

This Pirates offense is doing absolutely nothing lately, so I want to fade them with a pitcher I think has some strikeout upside.

Stripling is not only due for ERA regression (4.98 ERA vs. 3.76 xERA), but his strikeout rate should rise. He’s generally in the 20% strikeout rate range, but this year, he’s faced many teams who never strikeout. All the teams he’s faced this season don’t strike out at the same rate the Pirates do.

Players like Oneil Cruz (37.2% K), Andrew McCutchen (32.7% K), Joey Bart (28.2%), and Michael A Taylor (34.1%) are all players I’m projecting to strike out.

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There are a few X-Factors, like Jack Suwinski, who’s not striking out much this year, but has a 30.3% career strikeout rate. Or Rowdy Tellez and his 24% strikeout rate. Henry Davis could be in the lineup, and he has a strikeout rate at 34%.

I count six players with very high strikeout rates. We also have other bench bats who may be in the lineup today with massive strikeout rates. At a plus price, this is one I want to throw a half unit on.

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