Top MLB Betting Picks for Saturday, May 15th (2021)

Who would have imagined that the 2021 MLB season would have started even stranger than the 2020 season? Probably no one, but that’s exactly what’s happened.

Entering Friday night, no team had a division lead of more than three games. The largest gap between a first- and second-place team was the Cardinals sitting three games ahead of the Brewers. No team currently has more than 24 wins, and only one team has less than 14. The incredible parity to start the year has been not only surprising but fun to watch. And what’s more, the two players who are head and shoulders above everyone else in their league’s respective MVP race – Mike Trout and Ronald Acuna Jr. – both play for teams with a losing record.

But that’s why we love baseball, right? 

Our year-to-date betting record sits at 8-7, up just 0.1 units, heading into this weekend. Not great, some tough breaks involved, but it’s better than being down a few units. Let’s try to have a profitable Saturday with one favorite and two underdogs to come out on top.

View the best player prop bets for today’s slate with our MLB Prop Bet Cheat Sheet >>

Texas Rangers ML (+160)

This line is way too high. I’m not saying the Rangers should be favorites, but I didn’t expect them to be anything more than +140 on the moneyline.

Texas is scuffling, losers of four straight, but a closer look at their last four games tells a deeper story than what’s on the surface. First of all, their travel schedule has been unfriendly, and it has had an effect. After a seven-game homestand, Texas flew to Minnesota for four games, then back home for three, and then to San Francisco for just two games. And now they’re back home in Texas, albeit in the midst of a pit stop in neighboring Houston. I can’t imagine the constant shuffling has been easy, but tomorrow will be their third game in the state of Texas, so I expect them to be more settled in.

Additionally, they lost the first three games of their four-game losing skid by a combined five runs. They’re not exactly getting blown out, so I expect the tides to turn in their favor on Saturday.

Texas will send Dane Dunning to the mound, and you’ve probably never heard of him, but he’s been good in May. In two starts this month, Dunning has given up just two earned runs in each while striking out 15, including 10 in his last outing. He’ll go up against Luis Garcia for the Astros, who is set to make his eighth start of the year. Garcia isn’t an opener per se, but he hasn’t given the Astros any length whatsoever. He’s tossed just 30 innings across seven starts, barely over four innings per outing, and the Astros are 0-7 in games he takes the mound.

There are just too many trends leaning with the Rangers here to pass on +160 odds.

Atlanta Braves ML (-110)

It’s the battle of the Andersons tomorrow in Milwaukee; Ian Anderson will get the ball for the Braves, and Brett Anderson is slated to toe the rubber for the Brewers.

The Brewers are really struggling, posting a brutal 3-9 record over their last 12 games. Their offense has completely dried up, despite the pitching being relatively solid outside of one 16-run debacle against the Dodgers. Milwaukee is averaging just 2.75 runs per game over their last 12, which is nearly two-thirds of a run per game fewer than the Pirates, the lowest-scoring offense in baseball. 

Now they’ll face Ian Anderson, a young pitcher with pretty good stuff who’s been pitching much better of late. To finish out April, Anderson posted back-to-back starts of 6-⅔ innings or better without allowing an earned run. He scuffled a bit against Toronto but bounced back with another quality outing last Saturday against the Phillies, allowing three runs while striking out seven over six innings of work. He’ll also have two extra days of rest heading into this one, so I expect him to have a ton of life on his pitches. 

Milwaukee has never faced Anderson before, and the last thing a team who’s forgotten how to hit needs is to face a pitcher they have absolutely no familiarity with. The Braves should be favored in this game, and it shouldn’t essentially be a pick ‘em, so let’s take advantage.

Pittsburgh Pirates ML (+120)

I just mentioned in the previous write-up that the Pirates had the worst offense in baseball. So, naturally, I’m backing them here at home against the Giants. 

The pitching matchup favors the Pirates, despite the household name — Johnny Cueto — starting for San Francisco. Cueto’s numbers aren’t bad this year. He’s 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA, but he’s hit a bit of a wall in his last two starts, and the underlying metrics aren’t good, to say the least. After eclipsing the 100-pitch mark in each of his first two starts, Cueto has been taken out after just 68 and 64 pitches in his most recent two outings, the most recent of which was a particularly rough one. He lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on eight hits, two of which were home runs.

And I mentioned the underlying numbers. His expected batting average against is .278, which is in just the 18th percentile in all of baseball. Despite posting the aforementioned 3.52 ERA, his xERA (expected ERA) is 4.44. He’s also not getting anyone to chase his pitches; his whiff rate is just 19.1%, and his chase rate is in the 25th percentile. Since he’s not getting swings and misses, everything is getting hit hard. Per Baseball Savant, his hard-hit rate is 44.3%, nearly 10% higher than his career rate. Cueto’s been benefiting from some luck, but he’s starting to come back to earth.

Tyler Anderson, yes, another Anderson, will start for Pittsburgh, and he’s been a bit of a hidden gem on a bad team this year. He’s 3-3 with a 3.05 ERA, and he’s been solid in his last five starts. He’s pitched at least five innings in each, including 6-⅔ and eight innings of work in his last two, and he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of the five outings. He’s dropped his ERA from 5.23 to 3.05 in just five games.

I understand why the Pirates are underdogs. They’re not a good team. But I like this matchup, and I’m willing to roll the dice on Pittsburgh at plus money.

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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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