MLB Picks Today, Best Bets, Predictions for Monday, July 8, 2024

Chris Sale of Atlanta Braves pitches during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Truist Park.
ATLANTA, GA - MAY 8: Chris Sale #51 of Atlanta Braves pitches during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Truist Park on May 8, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images)

I took a shot with the Phillies yesterday, and it wasn’t even close. I stand by my assessment; the Phillies should not have been priced like that. It ended up closing at +135, 20 cents off our original +155 bet, so the market agreed. If I’m being truthful, I’d make that bet again.

But nobody wants to hear that. You want winners today. You’ll see that these are half-unit plays. It’s a tough slate to navigate, but I do have two plays that are worth the price.

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

2024 Record: 77-84 (-10.30 U)

Atlanta Braves vs. Arizona Diamondbacks @ 9:40 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Chris Sale (2.71 ERA) vs. Yilber Diaz (MLB Debut)

I came to this game with an initial feel to back Chris Sale. I looked deeper into Yilber Diaz and came away really impressed. I looked into the bullpens; both rested with critical arms. While these offenses looked good over the weekend, we see a sleepy game without many runs.

A minor factor in this handicap is travel. The Braves finished up against the Phillies and had to travel from Atlanta to Phoenix without an off day to adjust in between. It won’t hold them back much but doesn’t help them.

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I need this Braves offense to prove they can hit right-handed pitching consistently. Over the previous two weeks, they rank 25th in wRC+ against righties at 82. Over the past week, they have a 93 wRC+, good for 19th in the league.

They beat up Michael Mercado yesterday, but then they blanked until a solo home run against Tyler Philips, who was also making his debut. I won’t be scared off this offense because they beat up one right-handed pitcher who couldn’t throw a strike.

Yilber Diaz is coming off an exceptional start in Triple-A. He threw six shutout innings with 13 strikeouts (22 whiffs). He’s gotten high praise for his fastball command by his coaches in Reno and features a hard slider and a curveball.

Another reason I’m intrigued is how good he’s looked in Reno. It’s one of the most challenging places to pitch in the minors due to the 4500 feet of elevation, warm weather, and short fences. We’ve often seen Diamondbacks starters struggle there, as pitchers like Drey Jameson, Ryne Nelson, and Brandon Pfaadt all putting up ERAs over five.

Through 28 innings, Diaz is rocking a 3.27 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 22 innings. He’s also stretched out, averaging 85-89 pitches per game.

Right-handed pitchers with this pitch mix (fastball, slider, curveball) have proven effective against Atlanta. Against this mix, the Braves have a .319 xwOBA, right between the A’s and the Pirates, towards the bottom of the league.

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The books also notice Diaz’s upside, pricing the young righty for 2.5 earned runs at -115 to the over. I think he gives the Braves trouble today.

After Diaz exists, we have the best of the best from Arizona’s bullpen ready to go. Ryan Thompson (1.72 ERA), Justin Martinez (1.50 ERA), Paul Sewald (3.12 ERA), and Kevin Ginkel (2.68 ERA). If the game is close, we’ll see four elite arms that are all right-handed. Even if Diaz allows 3-4 runs, we should still be in line for an under.

Chris Sale is simply on another planet. When looking at lines, I’m starting to push him into the “best pitcher in baseball” categories. He’s been diabolical on the mound, posting a 2.57 xERA, which is even better than his 2.71 ERA. His strikeout rate is the highest since 2019, and his walk rate is the lowest of his career.

He has sparkling numbers against the Diamondbacks’ current roster. Through 78 PA, he’s rocking a .272 xwOBA, a .237 batting average against, a .399 xSLG, and a 26.9% strikeout rate. He faced them at the beginning of the year, working into the sixth inning while allowing two runs.

The books project him at that, with a 1.5 earned run line juiced to -140 and an 18.5 outs line. If we get six innings and two runs from Sale, the Braves bullpen should shut this game down.

The Braves bullpen might be the best in the league right now, and they have a lane today for their key arms. Joe Jimenez (2.38 ERA), Raisel Iglesias (2.20 ERA), and AJ Minter (2.70 ERA) should follow Sale. They also have Grant Holmes (1.42 ERA) if needed. I see little scoring for Arizona after Sale exists.

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The Diamondbacks offense is above average against lefties, ranking 12th with a 121 wRC+ over the past two weeks. However, Ketel Marte, a lefty masher, is dealing with a bad back that kept him out of yesterday’s game. He may suit up today, but I can’t imagine he’s 100%. Good luck with Chris Sale if he does play (1-12 with 2 K’s vs Sale in career).

Yesterday’s game was an excellent example of what could happen today. The Braves scored five runs in two innings against Mercado, and the game ended 6-0. I talk about the Braves offense being unimpressive, but the bullpen and starters have been fantastic.

I project four runs from the starters and three runs from the bullpens. Due to Diaz’s uncertainty (MLB Debut), we are lowering the risk. Take this to 7.5 (+100) or 8 (-120).

The Pick: Under 8 Runs (-110) Risk 0.55 Units

Player Props

Ryan Feltner Over 15.5 Pitching Outs (+110) Risk 0.5 Units

Anyone interested in spending their Monday evening sweating out a Rockies pitcher prop? Good, me too.

Simply put, this should not be a plus number. It is because Feltner got destroyed by the Reds the last time he faced them, going 4.1 innings and allowing eight earned runs. That was at Coors Field, where he’s struggled mightily, putting up a 6.75 ERA. That ERA drops to 4.65 on the road, and he can find success today.

This season, he has started 17 games and been over this number in nine of those starts. So just off the jump, he’s 53% to the over.

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As you can see from the chart above, he’s consistently over this number in road starts. He’s over 15.5 outs in six of his last seven road starts (17.3 outs per game). He’s facing a Reds offense in the bottom five of every metric over the past 30 days. Cincinnati ranks 29th in average, OBP, and wRC+. Over the last two weeks, the Reds have had an 81 wRC+, which is good for 27th in the league.

I will not accept that a pitcher should be plus money with this matchup and his prior success on the road. The guy allowed eight earned runs and pitched into the fifth inning against this team at Coors Field.

The Rockies bullpen is relatively fresh, but they shouldn’t be eager to rush into the bullpen if Feltner is pitching well. For example, Feltner allowed four runs in his past two road starts and still went over this number both times. We don’t need him to pitch that well, and he should still pitch into the sixth inning.

Take this at +100 or better.