Thursday occasions the start of the 2020 MLB season with two compelling match-ups: the Yankees and Gerrit Cole against the reigning champion Nationals; and the latest installment of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. Despite the light docket, we can find some appealing plays therein. All odds via William Hill Sportsbook.
1. Washington Nationals: 4 or more runs conceded after 6 innings ( 185)
Yes, Max Scherzer is on the mound for the Nats, but the Yankees’ offense last season led the AL in run scored (a whopping 943 of them). What’s more: the Yankee lineup is fully healthy for the first time in a long time. Barring the unexpected, Aaron Boone’s Opening Day lineup in D.C. will include DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez, among others. That’s a lineup capable of crooked numbers, even against the likes of Scherzer. This is to say nothing of the Yankees’ power-laden bench. Framed another way, the Yankees last season despite an inordinate number of injuries to their position players average 5.82 runs per game, and four runs in six innings scales to six runs per game.
On another level, the plausible assumption is that in the early going hitting will be less affected by the long layoff and relatively brief summer camp than will the pitching. That plus the hot temps of late July and early August could yield some slug-fests. Nationals Park, by the way, has played as more of a hitter’s park than Yankee Stadium has over recent history.
We don’t really need to belabor the point here. The Dodgers and their opponents last season combined for more than eight runs in 54.3 percent of their games last season. Now recall that the Dodgers have added Mookie Betts to the fold and that both teams will be using the DH. As well, the Dodgers, who last season put up a slash line of .261/.343/.482 against right-handed pitching (incredibly robust numbers at the team level), will be facing a right-hander in Johnny Cueto. Cueto, now 34, is generally projected to put up an ERA in the high-4.00s this season. In getting to the over, the Dodgers figure to do the heavy lifting, but note that their starter, Clayton Kershaw, is coming off a season in which he posted the worse FIP of his career.
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3. New York Yankees: Win by 4 or more runs ( 285)
Know how many games last season the Yankees had Stanton, Judge, LeMahieu, Sanchez, and Torres all in the lineup? Four. It almost never happens, but it figures to be the case on Thursday against the Nats. Despite, again. almost never being at full strength in 2019, the Yankees won by four or more runs a whopping 52 times (i.e., the narrow majority of their total wins). Yes, the Nats are defending champs, but they’re running up against a Yankees lineup that is without exaggeration one of the best ever on paper. They’re also facing Gerrit Cole, perhaps the most dominant starter in baseball right now, and they’ll do so without Anthony Rendon, who inked a free agent contract with the Angels this past offseason. It says here the Yankees’ chances of winning by four or more runs are better than the odds above would lead you to believe.