It’s the penultimate Thursday of the 2021 regular season this week – some teams remain motivated and others are just playing out the string. Here are two underdogs worth a wager on the MLB odds at your favorite sports betting sites.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Thursday, September 23, 2021 – 07:05 PM EDT at Citizens Bank Park
If backing the Pirates on the runline as sizable underdogs look familiar to you, that’s because we recommended the Bucs on Tuesday in Cincinnati – and we won as Pittsburgh upset the playoff-hopeful Reds 6-2, which might have been a death blow for Cincinnati.
Is Pittsburgh any good overall? Nope. But the Pirates have won seven of eleven overall and nine of fourteen and would love nothing more than to help ruin the playoff hopes of their in-state rival Phillies as they open a four-game series Thursday.
The Phils are very much alive in the NL East but I don’t think they will catch Atlanta with Rhys Hoskins out for the season and one of MLB’s worst bullpens.
Bryce Harper might win MVP, though, and is the -175 favorite to do so at SBR’s top-rated books. Of course, he won the NL MVP in 2015 while with the Nationals.
Harper could join Babe Ruth (2x, 1921 & 1923), Ted Williams (2x, 1939 & 1947), Barry Bonds (1x, 1998) and Bobby Abreu (2x, 2001 & 2004) as the only outfielders in history with 100 runs, 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 100 walks in a season.
Philadelphia lost two of three in Pittsburgh from July 30-August 1. Harper was 4-for-9 in the series with three doubles and three RBIs.
One small advantage the Pirates will have here is their game in Cincinnati on Wednesday was rained out so they were able to travel out early and will have their full bullpen. They will likely need a lot of relievers behind expected opener Chris Overton.
He has yet to allow a run in three appearances spanning 5.0 innings with the Bucs. The rookie has never faced the Phillies. The Pirates acquired Overton off waivers from Toronto on Sept. 6.
Philadelphia is scheduled to start Aaron Nola (8-8, 4.48), who has been fairly disappointing. This month in four starts, he is 1-1 with a 5.85 ERA. Nola took a no-decision vs. the Pirates on July 31, allowing two runs over six.
The Pirates are 4-1 ATS in their past five series openers, while the Phils are just 4-9 in their previous thirteen.
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels
Thursday, September 23, 2021 - 09:38 PM EDT at Angel Stadium
This is the only game to start after 9:38 p.m. ET on Thursday’s somewhat limited schedule as it wraps up a four-game series between the AL West rivals – their final game of the season.
The Halos are playing out yet another non-playoff campaign, although Shohei Ohtani is going to win AL MVP in a historic year. He’s the -2000 favorite at SBR’s top-rated books. The Angels haven’t had fellow superstar Mike Trout for months and he’s obviously not coming back at this point.
Houston is going to win the AL West and depending on what happens could clinch as soon as Thursday night but for the most part, is locked into its playoff seeding. Thus, it’s more important the Astros stay healthy than worry about wins right now.
The team was hoping All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley would come off the injured list on Wednesday but he wasn’t quite ready. Again, no reason to rush him. DH Yordan Alvarez was pulled early from Wednesday's game due to general soreness.
The Astros will start Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11) in this one. The right-hander will get some AL Cy Young votes down ballot but won’t be winning it.
McCullers hasn’t personally lost since Aug. 15, but that was at the Angels when he allowed two runs in 5.2 innings. Overall, though, he’s 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts against them in 2021. Ohtani is 3-for-15 career off him with five strikeouts and has yet to go yard.
It’s Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59) for the Angels, and he has been their best guy overall other than Ohtani. Cobb returned from a bit over a month on the injured list last time out and shut out the AL Central-leading White Sox on two hits over five in a victory.
He has been great at home this year, going 5-1 with a 2.30 ERA in seven starts.
Houston might sleepwalk through this game with a bigger series in Oakland starting Friday and I could also see a regular or two sitting this out. Thus, we’ll take the Halos on the runline behind Cobb. L.A. is 4-1 ATS in its past five Thursday games.
We’ll take the runline for our MLB pick.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.