We’re already a full month into the MLB season if you can believe it. Divisional standings are starting to look more like we expected coming into the year, despite many of the upper-echelon teams struggling out of the gate. However, some surprise teams, like the Royals and Giants, don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon and look to be determined to compete down the stretch.
Our betting record sits at 6-3 after a 3-0 sweep last weekend through the first four Sundays of the year.
Let’s build on a solid start to the year with another winning weekend, starting with two of my best bets for Saturday; a National League favorite riding their ace and another first inning that I expect to remain scoreless.
YTD: 6-3 (+2.5u)
View the best player prop bets for today’s slate with our MLB Prop Bet Cheat Sheet >>
St. Louis Cardinals ML (-140)
In my Cy Young preview article, my pick to take home the honors in the NL was Jack Flaherty at +1500. He may not be the frontrunner, but he’s put together an extremely encouraging opening month for the Cardinals after a brutal first start in Cincinnati. He’ll take the hill on Saturday for St. Louis, and he’s been especially hot of late.
In his five starts this season, despite his K/9 rate being below a strikeout per inning for the first time since 2017, Flaherty has yet to lose a decision (4-0). His ERA sits at 3.18 on the year, but that still-solid number includes a four-and-a-third inning, six earned run effort on Opening Day. Since then, across his last four starts, Flaherty owns a 1.50 ERA, and he’ll have the luxury of doing battle with the light-hitting Pirates, MLB’s 23rd-ranked offense.
Flaherty owns the Pirates historically. Their current roster sports a combined lifetime batting average of just .193 off the Cardinals ace in 93 plate appearances, with an xBA of just .187 and a strikeout rate of 29.0%. Flaherty’s had their number of late too, and the exact opposite can be said about Pittsburgh’s Saturday starter: Trevor Cahill.
Cahill, essentially a journeyman at this point in his career, has had a less than ideal start to his year. He’s managed to toss just 19 innings in four starts, with a 1-2 record and a 7.11 ERA. He’s also allowed six or more earned runs in two of his four outings. The Pirates’ right-hander hasn’t fared particularly well against the Cardinals in his career either, as St. Louis is hitting .364 against him lifetime.
The Cardinals have been hot of late, winning six of their last eight and four in a row against NL Central division rivals. I expect them to keep it going against the Pirates and don’t mind laying a little extra juice in a really favorable matchup.
New York Mets/Philadelphia Phillies First Inning Under 0.5 Runs (+100)
I’m not entirely sure why this one is even-money, but I don’t expect it to stay even-money for long.
Granted, this will be the eighth meeting of the year between these two teams, and runs have been plated in the first inning in three of the previous seven meetings. But I don’t expect any runs here because both starters have pitched well in the first inning of nearly all of their starts to date.
Taijuan Walker has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets. When they signed him, he was almost thought to be a placeholder in the rotation under Noah Syndergaard was fully healthy, but he’s been fantastic. He owns a 2.14 ERA through four starts and posts the best K/9 of his career (9.9). He’s also yet to allow a run in any of his four opening innings, and I expect that streak to continue against a team hitting just .116 lifetime against him.
Former Met Zack Wheeler will take the mound for the rival Phillies. He’s also been stingy in the first inning this year, allowing a run just once in five starts.
It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to take an under of any kind in such a small ballpark, where lazy fly balls can sometimes turn into home runs, but these two offenses are really struggling. New York has scored just twice in their last three games and seven times over their last five, and the Phillies haven’t been much better; they’re averaging just 2.42 runs per game over the last week.
Neither team is particularly adept at first-inning offense either, as Philadelphia ranks 20th in baseball (0.44 runs per first inning), while the Mets rank 25th (0.37).
This matchup is really tough to pass on at these odds, and according to my model, it has the second-lowest probability of a run-scoring in the first frame. I’ll gladly exploit a misprice in the market before it evaporates.
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Mike Wagenman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @mjwags23.
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