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Top MLB Betting Picks For Thursday, August 12th (2021)

by August 12, 2021
Nolan Arenado

Thursdays are usually getaway days in the MLB, which means a lot of day games and some tricky lineups to navigate – especially among teams who are all but eliminated from playoff contention.

Speaking of playoff contention, the postseason races are heating up as we’re nearly halfway through August and on our way to the final month of the season. Some teams – like the White Sox, Brewers, and even the Rays – have relatively comfortable leads atop their division, while the other division leaders continue to jockey for a trip to the playoffs.

On Tuesday, we split our best bets with a win and a loss, bringing our weekly record to a profitable 2-1-1 mark – +1.4 units. I’ve selected two of my favorite lines for Thursday as we look to build on a solid start to the week, so let’s take a look at who I like on today’s slate.

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

St. Louis Cardinals ML (-120)

The Cardinals are one of baseball’s biggest surprises – and not in a good way. They’re a .500 team after adding one of the game’s best third basemen in Nolan Arenado and are 11 games back of first place in a year they expected to be competing for a title. Despite their struggles, they’ve got a golden matchup on Thursday, so I expect this line to move from -120 down to -135, or even -140. I would bet it down to -130, so make sure you get this bet in quickly before it’s out of reach.

The Cardinals will face Pittsburgh’s JT Brubaker on Thursday, and Brubaker has had his ups and downs, but a lot of his downs have been against the Cardinals. The Pirate right-hander has racked up 76 plate appearances against St. Louis and has allowed a .343 batting average against with an expected batting average of .315. The Cardinals also have a .571 expected slugging percentage against Brubaker, so they’re hitting the ball hard and far and have zero issues squaring up everything he has to offer.

Brubaker is also striking out just 15.8% of St. Louis hitters, nearly 10% below his season and career strikeout rate. In his three outings against the Cardinals this year, Brubaker has allowed three runs in a five-inning loss, five runs in a 5.2-inning loss, and three runs in a six-inning loss. He’s just 4-11 overall this year, and Pittsburgh is 5-15 in games he’s started. Brubaker is also coming off a brutal performance in his last outing where he allowed nine runs (eight earned) on seven hits and four walks in five innings of work in a 10-0 loss to the Reds. He hasn’t exactly bounced back from bad outings this year either; in five starts where he’s allowed four or more runs, he’s allowed 19 combined runs in the subsequent starts.

Wade LeBlanc will start for the Cardinals, and while his numbers haven’t exactly been sparkling this year, a deeper dive will show how much stronger he’s been since moving over from Baltimore to St. Louis. In five of his seven starts for the Cardinals, LeBlanc has allowed two or fewer runs, and he’s managed to lower his ERA from the 9.00 mark it sat at when he left the Orioles all the way down to 4.02.

The Pirates aren’t exactly handling the bats well since the deadline, either. They’re second-to-last in baseball and dead-last in the National League with a .205 team batting average and .597 OPS since the trade deadline passed, and their dismal wRC+ of 64 is also second from the bottom. LeBlanc doesn’t need to be the second coming of Randy Johnson in this one, he just needs to keep pitching the way he has, and the Cardinals should have no problem taking care of the Pirates.

Atlanta Braves ML (-130)

The Braves are suddenly in the thick of a playoff race after the complete collapse by the struggling New York Mets. The recent influx of hope has made the Braves come alive – they’re 6-1 over their last seven games as they enter a pivotal stretch of the schedule. Atlanta will send one of their most promising young arms to the mound in hopes of continuing this recent hot streak.

Kyle Muller starts for the Braves, and he’s their number five prospect after winning the 2016 National Gatorade High School Player of the Year Award in Texas. Muller’s electric fastball helped him post a 0.46 ERA as a senior, including a run of 24 consecutive strikeouts at one point, and he’s brought that same stuff to the MLB level. His fastball spin rate is in the 88th percentile among all major league starters, and he’s striking out over a batter per inning as a rookie. Muller has been solid, and his lone start against the Reds was one of his best.

In his third career trip to the mound, Muller allowed a single hit and no earned runs while striking out a career-best nine Reds in a 4-0 shutout victory. Those nine strikeouts were good enough for a 50.0% strikeout rate, and his 42.6% whiff rate from that outing backs up his strong performance. The Reds managed to post just a .080 expected batting average and a .099 expected slugging percentage, so they couldn’t figure Muller out in any fashion. Cincinnati has also struggled mightily against lefties since the trade deadline. They’re hitting just .255 against left-handers – 17th in MLB – compared to .284 against righties which ranks second in the league.

To combat Muller, the Reds will send Vladimir Gutierrez to the mound – a fellow rookie but one who hasn’t fared as well as Atlanta’s left-hander. Gutierrez sports a 4.15 ERA and a WHIP of nearly 1.400, and while his last three starts have been much better, consider they’ve come against the soft-hitting Pirates, struggling Mets, and post-deadline fire sale Cubs. Look for Gutierrez’s form to be more like it was in his lone start against Atlanta earlier in the year when he allowed two long balls and six hits in a losing effort. The Braves’ expected batting average in that matchup was .316 – 36 points above their actual batting average, so Atlanta could have done far more damage.

The Braves have also crushed righties since the deadline. They’re hitting .274 – fourth in all of baseball – and have posted a wRC+ of 112, which ranks seventh in the league. Atlanta is set up nicely in this matchup, both on the mound and at the plate – and while there’s already a bit of juice built into this line at -130, there’s still value to be had. I wouldn’t bet this any lower than -140.

MLB Prop Bets

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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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