MLB Picks Today, Best Bets, Predictions for Friday, June 28, 2024

Rafael Devers Red Sox
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 24: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 24, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

It was a tough loss yesterday. If you told me the Royals would only score two runs, the Guardians would have been a max play. Steven Kwan came up twice with the bases loaded and left empty. That has to be a first for him, as his average was lowered to .373. Plenty of runners left on base overall… you know the story. At some point, we will start getting the breaks.

We have a juicy slate in front of us. I have three picks today: two game picks and one player prop.

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

2024 Record: 70-79 (-13.49 U)

San Diego Padres vs. Boston Red Sox @ 7:10 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Randy Vasquez vs. Nick Pivetta

We have an enormous difference in the two starting pitchers today. Both offenses have been red hot, and both bullpens are in good rest spots, so I will isolate it to the first five innings.

Randy Vasquez has significant issues. One of the final pieces of the Juan Soto trade, the former Yankee never really made it with the big league club, and I don’t expect him to get many more starts for the Padres down the line.

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His 5.10 ERA is lucky to be that low. His 6.81 xERA puts him in the first percentile, meaning you can argue that he’s the worst pitcher in the league right now. Even Patrick Corbin isn’t that low, sitting with a 6.48 xERA. He also has the luxury of pitching at Petco, a huge pitchers’ park, where he’s put up a 3.55 ERA. This season, he has 22.1 innings on the road and posted a 6.85 ERA.

Vasquez’s one redeeming quality is his ability to throw strikes. His walk rate is much lower than most pitchers at only 5.6%, but his stuff is far below average, so being in the zone so much has yet to help him exactly. For a player in the zone as much as he is, to post a strikeout rate under 15% while being in the ninth percentile in whiff rate, is highly concerning.

His ground-ball rate and Hard-Hit rate are above average. He allows more problematic contact than most pitchers, and more of it is in the air than most. He can’t get the strikeout when he needs it, and there will be consistent contact from the Red Sox throughout the game.

The Red Sox offense has been great against right-handers lately. They have a 116 wRC+ with a .781 OPS, ranking inside the top ten. Funny enough, over the last 30 days, it’s been the same, both in wRC+ and OPS, but this time, they rank closer to the top five in both. Vasquez’s 3.5 earned-run line with a 14.5 outs line is priced correctly; I think he gets bounced early.

Nick Pivetta is in line for positive regression, with a 3.36 SIERA and 3.96 xERA. He’s no ace but a high-end three-starter with strikeout upside. His 20.9% K-BB ratio would place him 14th in the league if he were qualified, ahead of pitchers like Zack Wheeler, Logan Gilbert, Tanner Houck, and Shota Imanaga. He’s also in the 64th percentile in hard-hit rate and a pitcher who deserves respect.

He has a tough assignment with a Padres offense that has been equally great as the Red Sox lately.

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Over the past two weeks against right-handed pitching, the Padres’ offense has a 114 wRC+ and a .741 OPS. Over the last 30 days, that wRC+ has climbed to 135, and the OPS follows suit to .820. So, over the previous 30 days, the Padres have been better, but the edge lies with Boston in the last two weeks.

When both offenses are hot, I will isolate it to the starters. The Padres could take the lead at any time in the later innings, but it’s far more likely the Red Sox score more against Vasquez than the Padres do against Pivetta. For that reason, I’m taking the Red Sox early on the run line and would take it to -140.

The Pick: Red Sox First 5 Innings -0.5 (-120) Risk 1 Unit

Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles @ 7:05 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Max Scherzer vs. Albert Suarez

We have another starting pitching mismatch, but the home team is playing much better baseball and has the better bullpen. Due to that, I’ll be isolating this pitching matchup and looking for a plus price.

Max Scherzer is +115 on the first five innings ML to to Albert Suarez. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Or at least, that’s how the World Series champion Rangers are priced today, but I don’t think they are done yet.

It’s hard to be impressed with the Ranger’s offense, but Albert Suarez is falling apart at the seams lately. This is a great opportunity to kick it in gear. He looked dreadful against the Yankees; he didn’t get out of the fourth inning and allowed three runs. He looked to bounce back against the Astros, but he allowed ten hits and five earned runs in five innings.

Albert Suarez is meant to be a time-buyer for the Orioles. Suarez’s 2.70 ERA is a nice story, but the 34-year-old is in for some tough days moving forward. We are looking at a 4.20 xERA and 4.68 SIERA.

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A big reason is his elevated walk rate, inability to keep the ball on the ground, and below-average strikeout rate. The one thing he’s been awble to do is limit hard contact, but that has risen exponentially over the past few starts.

This Rangers offense has been dreadful, ranking near the bottom of the league against right-handed pitching over the last two weeks with a 65 wRC+. However, they did show some life yesterday that makes me confident in backing them today. They registered nine hits against Corbin Burnes, and 12 in the game. The Orioles won 11-2, but both teams had an xBA over .315. Yesterday’s score was not indicative of how the game actually went, and now I think we see value on the other side.

It’s obviously hard to diminish the Orioles’ incredible offense against right-handed pitching, but we have a fresh-arm Scherzer. He looked fantastic in his return to the mound against the Royals, tossing five shutout innings while only allowing one hit. With Scherzer’s age, we don’t know how long this will last, but it’s still Max Scherzer when he’s feeling good.

I know Scherzer isn’t exactly the same guy, but the man put up a 3.77 ERA last season with a 3.28 xERA. Feels as if the market forgot about how good he can be.

I’m betting on the upside here. I’m betting on an offense that showed plenty of life yesterday against an elite pitcher. My bet is they get those runners in scoring position to touch home plate against a faltering arm in Suarez. Scherzer has far more upside than Suarez, and we get it at plus money. If it’s a tie game after five innings, we push. This is a play for me as long as this is plus money.

The Pick: Rangers First 5 Innings ML (+115) Risk 0.5 Units

Player Props

Charlie Morton Over 5.5 Strikeouts (-110) Risk 0.55 Units

Apologies on this one, everyone. While writing this article, this line moved 30 cents, as BetMGM now shows it at -140. My cut-off price is -130 for this one, so I would not recommend a play above that.

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That said, I will explain why I like it, and if you do, by all means, go for it. We should see six or more strikeouts from the right-hander against his former team.

Morton’s curveball will be the key here. He’s one of the few pitchers in baseball who relies on his curveball even more than his fastball, and he goes to it in any count. For Morton, we need a team that whiffs a lot on curveballs. That’s what we have with Pittsburgh.

The Pirates have the fifth-highest whiff rate in baseball, trailing only the A’s, Rockies, Mariners, and Reds. He had six strikeouts against the A’s despite tying his season high with five walks. The Pirates also have a top-ten whiff rate against four-seamers, so we should see plenty of swings and misses today.

The Pirates have the sixth-highest strikeout rate against righties over the past 30 days. Against righties on the road this season, they have the fifth-highest strikeout rate.

Morton has also seen most of his “big strikeout” games at home. He’s been over this 5.5 line in four of his last five home starts, averaging 6.2 strikeouts per outing. He threw against Pittsburgh a few years ago and struck out 12 in six innings. Of course, it’s a completely different lineup, but there is a bit of extra motivation against his former team.

Truist is an excellent place to rack up strikeouts. By Baseball Savant Park Factors, it’s the third easiest stadium for pitchers to record strikeouts.

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