Happy 4th of July weekend to all! Get ready to sit back, enjoy three days of afternoon baseball, and cash in on some winners in the process. There are a ton of high-impact, inter-division series this weekend – eight to be exact – and some key series that’ll have a major fingerprint on not only the divisional playoff races but the trade deadline as well.
I’ve selected a total that I think is far too high, as well as a team whose losing streak is due to end today as our best bets. So let’s start the three-day weekend hot with a clean sweep and two more best bet winners.
View the best player prop bets for today’s slate with our MLB Prop Bet Cheat Sheet >>
Cubs / Reds Under 9 (+100)
This total opened at 9.5 (-115), and it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. If you can find a 9.5 out there, as long as it’s not juiced more than -130, I would prefer that, but I also don’t mind sacrificing a half run in return for even money. So that’s exactly what we’ll do.
These teams can certainly score, and that’s clearly why this total opened so high, but the pitching matchup plays perfectly to the under. Cincinnati averages 4.94 runs per game; Chicago averages 4.18 per game. Combined: 9.12 runs per game. So even when the Cubs and Reds are playing to the back of their baseball cards, they’re averaging a fraction of a run higher than this total, and they’ll struggle to do so Saturday afternoon.
Adbert Alzolay will take the mound for the Cubs – and he’s struggled his last three starts – but he’s a pitcher who utilizes a nasty slider as his primary pitch, something the Reds have struggled with. Alzolay throws his slider 45.4% of the time, nearly double any other pitch in his arsenal, including the fastball, and he’s had tremendous success. Opponents are hitting just .165 off the slider, with an exit velocity of just 86.2 MPH on average and a whiff rate of 34.3%. The Reds rank in the middle of the pack in terms of strikeouts, but I’d expect an uptick on their average of 8.77 per game this afternoon.
Alzolay has pitched well against the Reds earlier this year and has really had their number in limited exposure. Alzolay shut Cincinnati out on May 28th; in 5.2 innings of work, he fanned six Reds and didn’t allow a run on five hits. Lifetime, Cincinnati is hitting just .207 off Alzolay.
Tyler Mahle in his last six starts:
44 K pic.twitter.com/3QbNkp47Mb
— And This Blog Belongs To The Reds (@ATBBTTR) June 27, 2021
Tyler Mahle will start for the Reds, and he’s been fantastic over his last seven starts. Dating back to May 25th, Mahle owns a 2.97 ERA, has two scoreless outings, and has held opponents to three runs or less five times. He’s also cranked up the strikeout numbers, fanning 51 over 39.1 innings over that span. That’s bad news for a Cubs team who strikes out more than anyone other than the Tigers and Rays. Chicago will have trouble putting together long innings against Mahle with their propensity to swing and miss.
Mahle has also dominated the Cubs in his career, holding them to a .165 batting average in 144 lifetime plate appearances. In his last outing against Chicago, the Reds right-hander struck out eight and gave up just one hit across five scoreless innings of work.
These two teams also just have not played high-scoring games of late. Four of seven meetings have landed under nine runs on the year, including last night and three of the last four. Over the last two series between the Cubs and Reds, the teams averaged just 5.5 runs per game. Look for this one to follow that trend and enjoy another plus-money winner.
Tampa Bay Rays ML (+105)
What on earth is going on with the Rays? Tampa Bay has been the definition of streaky over the last three or so weeks, and right now, they’re in the midst of one of their cold spells. June 11th kicked off a four-game win streak for the Rays. They followed that up by dropping seven in a row but ended that losing skid by taking the next four games convincingly. Now, they’ve lost another four in a row, and it’s uncharacteristically their pitching that’s been their downfall.
They’ve allowed 36 runs in the last four games – all losses – including 15 on Thursday night against Washington and 11 against the Blue Jays last night. So why are we backing them? Because the Rays under Kevin Cash have a knack for not letting tough spells drag on too long. Their seven-game losing streak towards the end of June was an outlier. Tampa Bay hasn’t lost more than four games in a row since they dropped five straight in early August of 2020: games six through 10 of last year. Safe to say, it’s been a while.
The Rays will send Shane McClanahan to the mound. Not only is his stuff electric – he hits triple-digits with his fastball consistently from the left side – he’s also the last Rays pitcher to start when the team won. His ERA is a bit high (4.09), but he doesn’t exactly go very deep into games, so any minor blemish will have its impact. McClanahan has really found an extra gear in his last two starts as well. He’s racked up 15 strikeouts over his last two outings while only issuing three walks and allowing four earned runs. He’s learning how to pitch at the major league level, not just throw.
#Rays Shane McClanahan
2021 Pitch Quality
5.10 QOPA (Top 6% MLB)
Velocity (Top 10%)
Vertical Break (Top 11%)
Low Rise (Top 30%)
Fastball 5.62 QOPA (Top 3%)
Slider 4.89 QOPA (Top 5%)
ChangeUp 4.65 QOPA (Top 24%)
Curveball 4.39 QOPA (Top 37%)@Sugar_ShaneM #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/xncF3UgSXn
— MLB Quality of Pitch (@qopbaseball) June 26, 2021
McClanahan has also pitched fairly well against Toronto in his limited service time. Back in May, he held the Blue Jays to just a single run on four hits in five innings of work, leading Tampa Bay to a 3-1 win. Toronto hunts fastballs, and while that seems like it could be a bad matchup against a pitcher who throws his fastball over 40% of the time, it’s exactly the opposite. His whiff rate is in the 92nd percentile, fastball velocity is in the 96th percentile, chase rate is in the 90th percentile. Hitters, especially fastball hitters, are sitting on the heat but still getting it blown by them. Look for that to happen today.
I also like the matchup against Toronto’s starter, Ross Stripling, who’s really struggled all year and hasn’t been much more than a back-end starter for the duration of his career. The Rays need to break out of their funk, and facing a pitcher with an ERA over four could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Take the Rays at plus-money before it disappears.
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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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