MLB Opening Day might be unlike any year in the past, but the 2020 version is finally here, and I’ll take it! After a soft opening on Thursday night, Friday gives us a monster 14-game card. After sifting through it all, here’s what stands out to me on DraftKings Sportsbook for Friday’s games.
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Detroit Tigers at Cincinnati Reds: CIN -1.5 (+116)
The Reds could be one of 2020’s breakout teams in MLB and deserve to be heavy favorites over a team like the Tigers. Matthew Boyd’s been a solid pitcher in recent seasons, but his 4.56 ERA from 2019 doesn’t exactly hold up when you have arguably baseball’s worst offense behind you.
The Tigers ranked dead-last in MLB in 2019 in runs per game at just 3.61. Sonny Gray posted a 2.87 ERA on the season, and picked up a lot of momentum after a tough start. Cincy won 17 of Gray’s final 23 starts of the season. I expect Gray to be able to shutdown this offense, and get enough production from an improved Reds’ offense to win by multiple runs.
Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals: STL -1.5 (+110)
There are bigger favorites on the board, but after diving into this one, it could wind up one of the most lopsided plays on Friday’s card. Somehow, the Pirates and Cardinals actually had similar offensive ranks last season, but Pittsburgh lost its best bat in Starling Marte, so I expect the Cardinals to have an obvious advantage at the dish in 2020.
The pitching matchup is what really tips this one, though. Jack Flaherty ended the regular season on an unheard of hot streak, giving up 11 ER in his last 16 starts. He faced the Pirates twice in 2019, surrendering one run in 15 innings. For the Buccos, Joe Musgrove made four starts against the Cards. He went 0-4 with a 10.00 ERA. Give me St. Louis to get the job done by multiple runs at plus-money.
Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox: MIN (-109)
The White Sox are getting as much love when it comes to futures as any team in baseball, but until we see it happen, I won’t be treating them that way. The batting order made some clear improvements, but let’s not forget how dominant this Twins offense was in 2019. Minnesota led MLB with 307 home runs, was second in baseball in runs per game (5.73), and added a feared bat to the middle of the order in Josh Donaldson.
Like Flaherty, Lucas Giolito went on one of the most dominant pitching runs we saw last season. But he was generally average when he ran into the Twins, going 2-2, including a 10-3 loss. That info doesn’t sway me one way or the other, but Jose Berrios’ dominance against the White Sox last season does. Berrios went 4-1 against Chicago in five starts, giving up 11 ER in 34.1 innings. With the starting pitching edge and offensive edge, the Twins feel like an easy call in a pick ‘em.
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Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros: HOU -1.5 (-152)
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. Houston covered the runline in three of those four starts by Gonzales, winning the four games by an average of 4.25 runs. This is about as lopsided a game as you can find in terms of starting pitching, bullpen and offensive firepower, which points to the runline.
Moneyline Parlay: HOU/STL (-109)
As I mentioned in the runline bets, these two teams feel to be in the strongest spots on anyone on the betting card. Being able to piece them together on the moneyline for standard juice feels like a pretty solid play.
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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.