MLB Opening Day might be unlike any year in the past, but the 2020 version is finally here, and I’ll take it! Thursday starts off with just two games, but no shortage of spots to attack. I’ll have you covered for the full slate on Friday with best bets, but here’s what jumps out to me on DraftKings Sportsbook for Thursday’s games.
Also, make sure you opt into these odds boosts below. Just bet $25 on any World Series future, and you get that $25 right back to bet on an Opening Day game. And bet $25 on ANY 2019 All-Star to homer on Opening Day at even odds. That’s a ridiculous prop to offer.
New York Yankees at Washington Nationals: NYY (-137)
I don’t even think I’m going out on a limb to say this is the cheapest price we’ll find Gerrit Cole at all season. I understand the reasoning — a matchup against an ace in Max Scherzer, and being on the road against the defending World Series champions, but let’s not look past how strong the spot is for the Yanks.
Cole was the better pitcher between the two last season, but that’s only a slight edge in this matchup. While the starting pitching factors in, the Yankees have two more significant edges — their bats and their bullpen. New York thwarts Washington in both areas, leaving it underpriced in this spot.
Cole did give up five runs to the Nats in his first start against them in the World Series, but bounced right back, allowing one run in seven innings in his next start. The Nats also lose Anthony Rendon from the heart of the order.
New York Yankees at Washington Nationals: NYY Team Total OVER 4.5 (+117)
I eluded to the strength of New York’s offense as to why we’re backing them on the moneyline, but I also think it’s enough to play a low team total here. The Yankees averaged an MLB-best 5.77 runs per game in 2019, and that was while battling injuries the entire season. This lineup starts 2020 essentially completely healthy.
Obviously, the number here is set low because of the matchup against Scherzer. Welp, in 2019, Scherzer made 27 regular season starts — the opposition scored at least five runs in 12 of them, including the last six. Good luck breaking that trend against this lineup.
This number is set for Scherzer pitching, but it doesn’t factor in how poor Washington’s bullpen is. I originally wrote this play up as O3.5 runs at -139, which hit 16 times against Scherzer last year. I think the plus-money on O4.5 is fine, but if it dips back down to 3.5, I like laying some juice even more.
New York Yankees at Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer UNDER 8.5 strikeouts (-120)
I will admit, Scherzer only stayed below this number 11 times in his 27 regular season starts in 2019, but he got some cupcake matchups along the way. Up the competition, and the strikeouts go down — in his five postseason starts, Mad Max only recorded more than seven punchouts once.
Scherzer also only lasted five innings in three of those starts, and seven innings in the other two. Washington does not want to have to rely on its bullpen, but it’s early in the season, and Scherzer really extended himself during the championship run. I’m expecting a World Series hangover.
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San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers:
LAD to score 1st and win (-115)
Editor’s note: Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw (back stiffness) has been placed on the injured list and will not start tonight vs. the Giants. P Dustin May will start in place of Kershaw.
The Dodgers are -305 on the moneyline, and while I think a play on the run line at -1.5 is in play, that price is still bouncing around -140 to -150. The Giants might have the worst offenses in baseball, not only with Buster Posey opting-out for the season, but Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt starting the season on the IL. The Dodgers have won 16 of
Clayton Kershaw’s last 19 starts at home, and this will be the worst lineup he’s seen yet.
That just leaves the Dodgers scoring first. Johnny Cueto’s made just 13 starts since 2017, clearly losing his best stuff over the last few years. One of Cueto’s four starts last season came against the Dodgers in September — he let up five runs in two innings of a 9-2 loss.
The Dodgers were a top-five offense in baseball in 2019, averaging 5.44 runs per game. They have the lefty bats in Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Max Muncy to absolutely smash Cueto. Oh yeah, and we can add Mookie Betts to the top of that order now.
San Francisco Giants as Los Angeles Dodgers: LAD Team Total O4.5 (-137)
This one should already be pretty clear to you. Cueto is a complete wild card heading into this game, which could lead to things getting ugly against one of baseball’s top offenses. This is just a nice way to keep attacking the Dodgers’ advantage in this game, and get a plus-money payout. I wrote this up at O5.5 (+115), and while I’d love the plus-money, it makes no sense why this total would dip against Cueto. I’ll gladly lay some juice on a lower number.
Moneyline Parlay: LAD/HOU (-141)
I don’t think I need to explain the Dodgers’ side of this to you anymore, but we can link a massive favorite to a team in the strongest spot on Friday’s slate and get some pretty reasonable odds on the parlay.
The perception of the scandal surrounding the Astros makes people not want to bet on them, but the reality is that they still have a tremendously talented offense, and a huge advantage on the mound in this game. Justin Verlander faced the Mariners five times in 2019 — Houston won all five games, with the Mariners hitting .178, and striking out 40 times in Verlander’s 30 innings. Marco Gonzales made four starts against the Astros last season — he had a 5.66 ERA and Seattle lost all four games.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.