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We knew going into the shortened MLB season that it would be crazy and full of surprises. We just did not expect them this soon.
After two regular-season games (three for the Giants and Dodgers), just three teams remain undefeated: the Cardinals, Padres, and Astros. A day after losing by a combined 24-3, the Royals, Orioles, and Giants all scored big upsets over playoff contenders. Let that be a lesson for all novice baseball gamblers out there. The worst teams in the league are all perceived to be really bad, but even they win their fair share of games over a season. Because their moneylines as underdogs are usually so high, many of those clubs can actually be profitable long term.
With those lessons in mind, we turn the page to the first Sunday of the season and a full slate of 15 games to sift through for betting purposes.
Here are my top MLB betting plays for Sunday (Odds courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook).
YTD: 2-3 (-1.24 units)
Baltimore-Boston OVER 11 runs (-115)
Those who prefer to be contrarian in their betting are familiar with the phrase “bet over the highest total and under the lowest total.” It certainly is backward from conventional thinking, but has proved very profitable. The clash between the Orioles and Red Sox is easily the highest total on Sunday’s board.
While 11 runs this early in the season may scare some bettors, we have seen plenty of offensive fireworks already in the series. Boston may have had a chance for more runs on Saturday, but manager Ron Roenicke gave starters Xander Bogaerts and Christian Vazquez an early day off after a night game. With them likely back in the lineup on Sunday, the Red Sox will look to feast on lefty Wade LeBlanc, who is making his Orioles debut. As a result of injuries in Boston’s rotation, they counter with Ryan Weber. The 29-year-old righty is 1-5 with a 5.96 ERA in 11 career starts.
Houston -1.5 (-154)
At first glance, this appears like a lot of juice to lay 1.5 runs on the run line. However, the pitching mismatch makes this bet so enticing. Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi allowed 36 home runs last year, tied for second-most in the American League. His 2019 numbers against Houston were abysmal, going 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three starts that all happened to be in Houston. Meanwhile, Astros starter Zack Greinke is 7-1 with a 1.85 ERA in his career against Seattle. Furthermore, the Astros covered 55.3% of their run lines against divisional opponents last year, so I like their chances of doing it a third straight time to start 2020.
Oakland ML (-102)
We go back to the well again with selecting Oakland’s moneyline. While yesterday’s Athletics selection did not work out, the contrarian aspect of this pick is intriguing. The common bettor will look at this pitching matchup, see Shohei Ohtani’s name for the Angels, and automatically be biased into thinking they are the right side. What those bettors will not account for is that Ohtani has not made a major league start (as a pitcher) since Sept. 2, 2018. Thus, look for the pesky Oakland lineup to take advantage of the rust factor. Oakland was baseball’s fourth-best team as home underdogs in 2019, posting a 15-6 ATS record. Ohtani is opposed by veteran Mike Fiers, who has posted an outstanding 13-3 record and 3.04 ERA since coming to Oakland.
Arizona ML (-102)
Something about this line appears fishy at first glance. The Padres have won the first two games of the series, beating Arizona’s two best pitchers (Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray) in the process. Yet in game three, San Diego is the smallest favorite it has been yet in the series despite a clear edge in the pitching matchup. The Padres will trot out veteran Garrett Richards, who is 2-0 with a 2.25 career ERA against the Diamondbacks in four career starts. He is opposed by Zac Gallen, who has just 15 career starts to his name. However, his most successful start came against the Padres, whom he shut out over seven innings while allowing just one hit. I like this pick also for the “regression to the mean” aspect. Since 2009, the Padres have had a winning record just twice after 10 games.
Atlanta-New York OVER 9.5 runs (-110)
The way the first two games of the series have played out, betting the over sounds crazy. However, those results were more about superior starting pitching matchups than poor offense. Two trends from 2019 point to the over being a solid play. The Mets hit the over 54.4% of the time while playing as a home favorite, good for sixth-best in MLB. The Braves subsequently hit the over 57.9% of the time as road underdogs, which was fifth-best. These two teams catch a breath from having to face the likes of Jacob deGrom and Mike Soroka and will instead feast on Sean Newcomb and Rick Porcello.
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