MLB Picks Today, Best Bets, Predictions for Sunday, July 7, 2024

Brandon Marsh
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 21: Brandon Marsh #16 of the Philadelphia Phillies reacts after catching a fly ball during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Citizens Bank Park on May 21, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

How about those Blue Jays?! What a sweat that was. It felt easy until the eighth inning when the Blue Jays held a 5-0 lead. Mitch Haniger hit a three-run home run in the eighth, and Luke Raley hit a solo home run in the ninth to score 5-4. Thankfully, we got out with a win, cashing our +105 ML ticket.

We have been profitable for six of our last seven days; let’s keep it going.

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

2024 Record: 77-83 (-9.65 U)

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves @ 1:35 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Michael Mercado (1.50 ERA) vs. Reynaldo Lopez (1.83 ERA)

We cashed on the Phillies at +120 against Max Fried but stayed off them yesterday as the Braves lineup is hitting lefties well. The Phillies lineup also has to be downgraded right now against righties, but this is too expensive. At this point, the Phillies are still the superior team, and with their bullpen set up well for this one, we have to take a shot.

Reynaldo Lopez is an incredible story. A reliever turned starter has put up a 1.83 ERA in 83.2 innings this season. However, it’s hard to see him maintain this level of dominance this season, and I think he’ll hit some regression in this one.

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We’ve already seen it start to happen. He has eight walks in his last two starts, and hasn’t gone more than five innings in his previous three starts. He allowed seven hits in five innings to the Tigers. They allowed two runs in five innings to the Cardinals and then allowed two runs in 4.1 innings against the Giants. Those aren’t elite offenses, and two of those starts came at home. Now he goes up against a division rival who has had success in the past against him.

They haven’t faced him this season yet, but the Phillies’ current roster (without Schwarber, Harper, and Realmuto) has compiled 97 PA against Lopez. They are hitting .319 with a .350 xwOBA and a 18.6% strikeout rate. Not good for Lopez.

No pitcher in Major League Baseball has a more significant discrepancy between his ERA and his xERA. That’s not hyperbole; his ERA is 1.83, and his xERA is 4.31. That’s a difference of 2.48 runs, edging out Hogan Harris, David Peterson, and Colin Rea. That’s not to say he gets destroyed today, but he’s in line for some negative regression.

It’s partly because he’s allowing harder contact than 80% of pitchers. He’s in the 20th percentile in the Hard-Hit rate, and his 36% groundball rate is in the 19th percentile. He’s allowing a lot of hard contact in the air, and when you’re in the 33rd percentile in walk rate, you’ll have runners on for those hard-hit balls in the air. It’s only a matter of time before they start falling.

Will they fall today? The Phillies’ current lineup has shown they can hit him in the past and are seeing righties well. Over the previous two weeks, they have a 116 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Over the last week, they have fallen to a 99 wRC+ but have been hitting fine in this series. They put up a .342 xBA in game one and a .234 xBA in game two. For reference, the Braves put up a .250 xBA in game one and .235 xBA in game two.

The Braves offense against righties is not good right now. Over the previous two weeks, they rank 29th in wRC+ against righties at 68, just ahead of the Marlins. During the last week, they have had 70 wRC+, ranking 27th in the league.

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They face Michael Mercado today. It’s pretty much impossible to project what he will do today, hence the price. He’s put up a 1.50 ERA in six innings so far in the bigs, which includes a five-inning, one-run performance against the Cubs. To his credit, the wind blew out that day in Wrigley, and he still held it down. In 45 1/3 innings down in Triple-A this year, he put up a 1.78 ERA. He can pitch.

He features a four-seamer, cutter, and curveball mix while tossing in the occasional changeup. The Braves rank 14th in xwOBA against that pitch mix. Can he give us five innings of two run ball? I think he has the upside to do it.

The Braves used their three best relievers yesterday: Joe Jimenez, Raisel Iglesias, and AJ Minter. They still have plenty of quality arms, but if they use any of those three, they will be on a back-to-back. The Phillies didn’t use their four best: Kerkering, Strahm, Hoffman, or Alvarado. Both bullpens are fantastic, but I would slightly lean toward Philly’s arms if it’s tied late.

Mercado could get hammered by this Braves offense, and we may never have a chance. He could even pitch well, and regression just doesn’t hit Lopez. We are taking a shot here, as I have seen cracks in Lopez’s armor lately.

Due to the large discrepancy on the mound, we are getting the better team at a highly hefty price. However, the Phillies have the offense and bullpen advantage. I make the Phillies +125 in this game and would take them down to +135. It’s hard to make a number with such an inexperienced pitcher as Mercado, so I lowered the risk.

The Pick: Phillies ML (+155) Risk 0.65 Units