Opportunity to Middle Makes Boston vs Oakland Match-up Intriguing for Bettors

Rainman M.

Saturday, April 21, 2018 4:27 PM UTC

Saturday, Apr. 21, 2018 4:27 PM UTC

The hottest team in baseball, Boston, faces Oakland at 9:05 ET. This game presents a unique situation where bettors could ultimately bet on both teams and win.

Boston Red Sox (17-2) vs Oakland Athletics (9-11)

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Free MLB Pick: Boston First Five RLBest Line Offered: at Bookmaker

I want to back Chris Sale and the Boston lineup to procure a first-five-inning lead and then look into live betting Oakland if Sale, as has been the case in each of his starts this season, fails to make it past the sixth inning.

Oakland’s Sean Manaea (2-2, 1.63 ERA) is not pitching as well as his ERA indicates and Boston’s in-form lineup is primed to expose him. Manaea’s deeper numbers show that he is actually pitching worse than last year. He is throwing a first-pitch strike at a lower rate, inducing fewer swinging strikes, and allowing batters to more frequently make harder contact with his pitches. His FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) is 4.11, which is .01 worse than last year.

Manaea has been surviving with fortune. Opponents’ BABIP is .189, meaning that the balls that they put in play are finding ways to not land for hits. All four of the home runs that he has allowed—and he is allowing homers at a higher rate this season— have only been solo shots.

Active Red Sox batters have enjoyed strong initial success against Manaea, producing a career .306 BA against him. Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts are .500 with two homers against the southpaw. Offensively, the Red Sox have been red hot, producing seven or more runs in four consecutive games. Along the way, they smashed one southpaw to elevate their team BA to .288 against left-handed starters.

Perpetual Cy Young candidate Chris Sale (1-0, 1.23 ERA) is the other major justification for a 'first five' bet on Boston. In Sale’s 2017 performance against the A’s, he achieved a sick FIP of 0.30. He rebounded in 2017 not just against Oakland but against everybody. His success this year represents a continuation of his ability to induce more strikeouts. In 2017 and this year, his strikeout rate per nine innings is over 12. Last year, his key was to amp his slider and changeup usage. This year, he has significantly dropped the vertical release point of his sinker in order to conceal it more effectively. Its vertical release point is also nearly identical with that of the changeup so that batters can hardly discern which pitch he is delivering. The velocity differential between his change and fastball is only five. So he also keeps batters off=balance by barely taking something off of his change.

Oakland is 1-5 so far in our MLB picks against teams with a left-handed starter. In their first four games against left-handed starters, the A's produced five runs in the entirety of the game. They then touched up Alex Wood, whose 3.95 FIP in the game showed that he actually pitched well, as well as LA’s bullpen. Likewise, Marco Gonzales, with a 1.93 FIP against Oakland, had a tough outing. Wood was the only left-handed pitcher who allowed an FIP of over 3.50 against Oakland. In 58 career at-bats, the A’s are hitting .224 against Sale and don’t have a home run against him. So the A's will struggle as long as Sale is in the game.

I think this game could get interesting in the end because of Boston’s tired bullpen. The Red Sox starter failed to complete the fourth inning yesterday, meaning that Boston’s bullpen had to put in significant work and could use a day off. Betting Boston ‚first five‘ is more reasonable than betting Oakland full game run line and hoping Sale will finally leave the game. But those who can bet live should, if Sale leaves early, consider that Oakland is hitting .288 between innings seven and nine.

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