This week’s edition of Sunday Night Baseball features a showdown between two of the best teams in the National League. The Dodgers will host the Padres, who were the talk of baseball following the trade deadline. They managed to acquire superstar Juan Soto, as well as Josh Hader, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury. Those additions – plus the looming return of Fernando Tatis Jr. – makes the Padres a terrifying opponent in the postseason.
Still, the Dodgers remain the kings of the NL West. They own the best record in the NL at 74-33, and they’ve won the first two games of this series in convincing fashion. They’ve outscored the Padres 16-3 over the past two days, extending their lead in the division to a massive 14.5 games.
Can the Padres avoid the sweep on Sunday? Let’s dive into some of my favorite wagers for Sunday Night Baseball.
While Tony Gonsolin got most of the attention in the Dodgers’ pitching staff during the early part of the season, Tyler Anderson has been just as important. He’s posted a 12-1 record across 20 appearances with a 2.89 ERA, which is not too shabby for someone who started the year in the bullpen.
Anderson’s advanced metrics also suggest that his success is sustainable. He’s a below-average strikeout pitcher, but he makes up for it with some of the best Statcast data in the business. He ranks in the 96th percentile in average exit velocity and the 95th percentile in hard hit rate, so opposing batters struggle to make solid contact against him. He also limits the free passes, handing out just 1.79 walks per nine innings. That’s a nice combination for a pitcher who doesn’t miss many bats.
Anderson gets the ball Sunday against a San Diego offense that has been mediocre against southpaws this season. They rank merely 18th in wRC+ in that split this season, and while their offense is certainly improved of late, they still rank just 16th in that split over the past seven days.
On the other side, the Dodgers should have no trouble putting runs on the board. They’re taking on a right-hander in Yu Darvish, and the Dodgers have been the best team in baseball against right-handed pitchers this season.
Ultimately, the Dodgers are the better team with the better pitcher, and the only reason they aren’t bigger favorites is that the Padres “won” the trade deadline. I’m happy to take the discount.
Darvish has become an overrated pitcher at this point in his career. His surface stats are fine – he owns a 10-4 record with a 3.30 ERA – but he’s not nearly the same dominant pitcher he was in his prime. His 3.67 xERA suggests he’s gotten a bit lucky, but the big difference is his strikeout numbers. Darvish used to be one of the best strikeout artists in baseball, but he’s averaging less than a strikeout per inning in 2022.
Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers are also a brutal matchup in terms of strikeouts. They own the eighth-lowest strikeout rate against right-handers this season, and they are potent enough to chase starting pitchers out of the game early.
Darvish did manage seven strikeouts over six innings in his only other meeting with the Dodgers this season, and he has been hot from a strikeout perspective recently. Still, I think this number is too high given the opponent.
There has been some sharp interest on the over in this contest, which has received 75% of the dollars on just 35% of the bets. I tend to think that Anderson can limit the Padres’ offense, but it certainly wouldn’t be a shocker if they got to him.
I’m most interested in targeting the over on 0.5 runs in the first inning. The first inning is almost always the highest-scoring inning on average, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Not only are the pitchers still getting settled, but both teams are guaranteed to have the top of their lineup come to the plate.
In this contest, that means the following six hitters are most likely guaranteed an at-bat: Jurickson Profar, Soto, Manny Machado, Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman. That’s about as good as it gets. Overall, the Dodgers own the best first inning scoring percentage in baseball – they score a run to start the game 39.25% of the time – while the Padres should improve in that department with their new-look lineup.
Additionally, Darvish has been vulnerable to start games this season. He owns a 6.30 ERA in the first frame, allowing 14 earned runs in 20 innings of work.
Ultimately, the over on this prop should be juiced higher than -110.
The first hit prop is a relatively new addition to DraftKings Sportsbook. The lineups are extremely important for this wager, with the odds almost directly correlated to expected batting position. The first three hitters on the road team have the shortest odds since they are the most likely players to come to bat with a chance to record the first hit.
However, I’m going to grab the Dodgers’ expected leadoff hitter at +650. Anderson has limited opponents to a .169 batting average in the first inning this season, so he’s more than capable of keeping the Padres out of the hit column in the top of the first. If that happens, Betts will have a good chance to break the ice.
Darvish has been dominant against left-handed batters this season, but his numbers against righties are pedestrian. They’ve posted a .251 batting average against him, and Betts has historically feasted on right-handed pitching. He’s a career .294 hitter in that split, although his numbers are down slightly in 2022.
I also like the correlation between Betts and the over on 0.5 runs in the first inning. If you’re betting on a run to be scored in the first frame, the Dodgers getting their leadoff hitter on base would be a great start.
Darvish’s struggles against right-handed hitters are amplified from a power perspective. He’s allowed 10 homers in that split over 58 2/3 innings, good for an average of 1.53 homers per nine innings. That’s a massive increase from his 0.39 homers per nine innings against lefties, so targeting Darvish with right-handed power hitters makes tons of sense.
Smith fits that description to a T. He has blossomed into arguably the best hitting catcher in all of baseball, posting a 138 wRC+ with 16 homers in 2022. He’s also done his best power hitting against right-handed pitching, posting a .206 ISO in that split. Overall, 51 of Smith’s 64 career homers have come against right-handers, and he’s swatted one homer against Darvish across 10 at-bats. I’ll take my chances with him at +950.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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