This article originally appeared on MLB.com: 5 bets to consider for Red Sox-O’s showdown.
Sunday Night Baseball features an American League East showdown between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles in Williamsport, Pa. Both of these squads are locked in a fierce battle in the AL East and the AL Wild Card.
The Orioles got off to a rough start this season, but they turned things around after calling up top prospect Adley Rutschman. They’ve gone 46-33 since then, bringing them to five games over .500 for the season. They’re currently 2 1/2 games out of the final Wild Card spot heading into Sunday, giving their fanbase plenty of reason to be excited.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox have gone in the opposite direction. They got to 11 games over .500 on June 26, but they’ve struggled since then. They’ve fallen all the way to last place in the AL East and they’re 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the standings.
Can the Orioles keep things rolling on Sunday Night Baseball? Let’s dive into five of my favorite wagers on DraftKings Sportsbook.
There’s not a whole lot to separate these two teams on paper. Offensively, the Orioles rank 15th in wRC+ against right-handers, while the Red Sox rank 18th. Orioles starter Dean Kremer has a 4.58 xERA, while Nick Pivetta is at 4.39. The Orioles average 4.29 runs per game and the Red Sox average 4.50.
The reason the Orioles are underdogs in this contest at a neutral site is that Kremer has been significantly worse since the All-Star break. He pitched to a 2.59 ERA in his first 41 2/3 innings this season, but he’s posted a 5.02 ERA over his past 28 2/3. The Red Sox also managed to hand Kremer a loss just 10 days ago, scoring four earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings.
However, that performance was incredibly deceiving. Kremer actually posted his third-best K/9 of the year, but the Red Sox managed a .375 BABIP. Overall, his 1.53 FIP in that outing suggests he was terribly unlucky.
Outside of that fluky performance, Kremer has been pretty good of late. He limited a red-hot Blue Jays squad to just two earned runs in seven innings and he kept the Pirates off the scoreboard for 6 1/3 innings. Add it all up and his FIP in the second half is actually better than his mark from the first half.
With that in mind, I don’t think there’s any reason for the Orioles to be underdogs in this spot. They’ve been the better team offensively and they could have the edge on the mound, as well.
Despite hyping up Kremer, I still think there’s some value in the under on 4.5 strikeouts on Sunday. Kremer is far from a strikeout pitcher, averaging just 7.04 strikeouts per nine innings. He ranks in the 23rd percentile in strikeout rate and the 45th percentile in whiff rate, so he simply doesn’t generate a ton of misses.
That makes this matchup vs. the Red Sox a poor one for him. They’ve been one of the tougher teams to strike out this season, ranking 20th in strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers. They’ve been even better recently, dropping to 23rd in that department over the past 14 days.
Kremer did grab six strikeouts in his last meeting vs. the Red Sox, but he needed to get strikeouts due to his poor batted-ball luck. A few more balls should find gloves this time around, so I’m not expecting a repeat performance.
The total on this game currently sits at 8.5 runs, which suggests that it should be on the higher scoring side. Betting on a run to be scored in the first inning makes sense in those types of contests.
The first inning is almost always the highest scoring inning in the league. The Washington Post found that from 1871 through 2016, there was a run scored in the first inning in more than 30 percent of games. No other inning is close to cracking that mark. It’s the only inning where both teams are guaranteed to get the top of the lineup to the plate and it often takes a pitcher an inning or two to settle into the game.
Additionally, both of these pitchers have struggled in the first inning this year. Pivetta has pitched to a 5.25 ERA in the first inning, while Kremer is at 4.85.
Mullins had a breakout year in 2021, posting a 136 wRC+ while becoming the newest member of the 30/30 club. Unfortunately, he’s taken a step back in 2022. His 108 wRC+ still makes him a slightly above-average hitter, but his power has fallen off dramatically. He’s down to just 11 homers and his ISO has dipped from .228 to .143.
However, this seems like a strong buy-low spot. Mullins’ numbers are considerably better against right-handed pitchers, with eight of his 11 homers coming in that split. He’s also been much better since the All-Star break, posting a 141 wRC+ and a .204 ISO over 106 plate appearances.
Pivetta is also very vulnerable to the long ball, specifically against left-handed batters. He’s allowed 1.49 homers per nine innings against left-handers this season.
McGuire is currently expected to draw the start at catcher for the Red Sox and he’s not an imposing hitter. He owns just a 67 wRC+ and a .251 average across 201 plate appearances in 2022. He’ll be on the positive side of his splits against Kremer, but that might not necessarily be a good thing. Kremer has been extremely tough on left-handed batters this season, limiting them to a .282 wOBA. He relies on his fastball in those matchups and left-handed batters have managed just a .190 expected batting average against that pitch. Given McGuire’s struggles at the dish, I have no problem betting on him to go hitless in this matchup.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reese McGuire is not in the lineup for tonight’s game vs. the Orioles.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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