MLB

MLB Friday Night Lines: Best baseball bets, including a Yankees blowout and some AL Central upsets

Welcome back to the third installment of Friday Night Lines, where the ultimate goal is to be a weekly home for casual baseball bettors or even baseball fans who don’t want to gamble but just enjoy reading picks for Friday night. Many of you have gone through a long week at work and now it’s time to kick back with some of America’s pastime on a Friday night with a beverage of your choosing. 

I remain convinced that as the season progresses, it’ll be easier to win more bets. Now, realize this comes with context behind “easier.” It’s never easy. For example, first base is the easiest defensive position to play in baseball, but sometimes when a person says that, we’ll immediately hear something like “first base isn’t easy!” in return. True. We didn’t say it was easy. Easiest isn’t easy. It’s just not as difficult as the other eight positions. Let’s keep that context of relativity in mind moving forward here. Betting on baseball is never easy. As the Ron Washington character said about first base in the Moneyball movie, “it’s incredibly hard.”  

It just happens to be harder earlier in the season when we don’t have very large samples and trends to work with compared to later in the season. Perhaps that’s reflected in my start here. After going 1-2 in each of the first two weeks, last week yielded a 2-1 record. Uncle Mo’ in the house! Now let’s keep the good times rolling. 

Season record: 4-5 (2-1 last week)

All lines are courtesy of William Hill Sportsbook. 

And as always, best of fortune to our gambling friends. 

Pitching matchup: Tarik Skubal (0-3, 5.21 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (3-1, 1.71 ERA)

Featured Game | New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

Look, let’s be clear: The Yankees have not been a good team thus far in 2021. At times, they’ve been pretty damn bad, in fact. They come into Friday night sitting at 11-14 and tied for last place with the Orioles. Their run differential suggests they are better than that, but not by a ton. It’s dead even at 92 runs scored and 92 runs allowed, so they have played like a .500 team.

But.

The Tigers are terrible. They are 8-18 with a negative-48 run differential and are probably the worst team in baseball. 

The Yankees are sending Gerrit Cole to the hill and we get to take them to win by at least two. 

Anything can happen in any given baseball game. We know this. It’s entirely possible the Tigers win this game. We know that. There are zero sure things and it’s why this thing we’re doing here is called gambling. 

It just doesn’t seem like there’s much more a sure thing Friday night than the Yankees winning by more than one run, you know? No reason to get cute here. We’re trying to win. 

Pick: Yankees -1.5 run line (-170)

Pitching matchup: John Gant (1-2, 2.25 ERA) vs. J.T. Brubaker (2-1, 2.01 ERA)  

Featured Game | Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals

While I’m sitting here fighting against the voice in my head of my dad telling me, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is,” seeing the Cardinals as the underdog is just too juicy to pass up. 

No, I’m still not buying the Pirates. They’ve gone 12-12 to this point and that’s to their credit to overplay expectations, but it’s still only 24 games. I believed heading into the season they’d lose somewhere in the ballpark of 95 games. Let’s say they play like a true-talent 67-95 team the rest of the way. That means they’ll lose about 65 percent of their remaining games. In and of itself I love my chances when betting against them with underdog odds. Compounding matters is that the Pirates have won 11 of their last 17 and there’s no way they are this good. Things have to start evening out soon. 

The Cardinals were my preseason pick to win the NL Central and though they’ve been uninspiring for the most part, they’ve now won five of their last seven. Their splits don’t show any reason to worry about going on the road (they are 7-6 at home and 6-6 on the road). I also feel like several offensive players (Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong) are due to get hot. 

I like Pirates’ starter J.T. Brubaker, but let’s not overthink things here. The Cardinals are the better team and the underdog. Take ’em. A sweep could well be in the cards here, no pun intended. 

Pick: Cardinals win on moneyline (+110)

Pitching matchup: Brady Singer (1-2, 2.95 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda (1-1, 2.42 ERA)  

Featured Game | Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals

Call this the inverse of the above pick. Heading into the season, common sentiment was the Twins were either the best or second-best team in the AL Central while the Royals were expected to finish fourth. The Royals head into this one with the best record in the American League at 15-8 while the Twins have been brutal at 8-15. One might think I’d love to grab the Twins here with an evening-out-type situation. 

It’s just that I don’t like how the Twins look at all right now, aside from the likes of Byron Buxton and ageless slugger Nelson Cruz. Even if you like Michael Pineda, the Twins bullpen has been bad overall. And Pineda got knocked around a bit by the Pirates last time out. 

On the other side, former highly-touted prospect Brady Singer has been excellent on the mound this season. He’s also been almost two whole runs better on the road (2.89 career ERA) than home (4.85 ERA) in his career. It’s only eight starts each, but it’s something. The Royals also have an unheralded back-end of the bullpen — Jake Brentz, Tyler Zuber, Josh Staumont — that is rested after having Thursday off. 

I’m still not willing to wager on the Royals beating the Twins when the dust settles after 162, but I also wouldn’t bet against it. As things stand right now, though, the Royals are the better team and we get to take them with underdog odds. 

Pick: Royals win on moneyline (+130)



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