Rising Star Pitcher Reason for 'Under' Bet Between Cards and Reds

luke weaver

Rainman M.

Friday, April 13, 2018 11:33 AM GMT

Friday, Apr. 13, 2018 11:33 AM GMT

The Cards are fairly heavy chalk despite being on the road Friday. They'll try to win back-to-back games for the second time this season when they visit Cincinnati at 6:40 ET.

St. Louis Cardinals (6-7, 7-6 O/U) at Cincinnati Reds (2-10, 6-6 O/U)Free MLB Pick: Under 9Best Line Offered: SkyBook

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Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver (1-0, 1.59 ERA), 24, makes his 21st career start and is already drawing heavy chalk on the road. He faced two of the top 10 scoring teams in 2018 and held each to one run. Weaver has had success against the Reds, holding them to two runs in 11 innings pitched against them last season. In both games his FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) was under 1.50. He got the win in each and struck out a combined 13 batters while walking none. Weaver, already in strong form, is primed to pitch at least as well. This time around, he won't have to deal with Scott Schebler or Eugenio Suarez, both of whom are on the DL. Missing both players is important for the Reds because both are producing an OPS (on-base plus slugging; average is .720) over 1.000 and they are the only two on the team to do so. Despite their production, despite playing in a hitter-friendly park and despite MVP candidate Joey Votto ending his ugly slump, the Reds rank 28th in runs scored.

Weaver is also a better pitcher than he was last year thanks to the development of his curveball. He's throwing this curve 20% of the time. It features different movement, and he throws it at different release points. Weaver can reliably throw his curve for a strike, and yet opponents are only hitting .143 off it. So batters now have a third pitch to worry about, in addition to his change, with which he induces the most whiffs but doesn't reach the strike zone often, and fastball. The rising star is more effective and can last longer in games without the opponent growing comfortable with his stuff.

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The Cards' batters produced an angry 13 runs Thursday after losing a tough series at home to division-rival Milwaukee. Tonight, we should witness an offensive letdown. Dating back to last season, the last six times that St. Louis achieved more than five runs in a game, they produced fewer than five the following game. With their young stud Weaver on the mound, this means that we can expect starter Cincinnati's Tyler Mahle (1-1, 4.22 ERA) to limit St. Louis to four runs or fewer so that the 'under' still comfortably hits.

Mahle matches up well against the Cards because he relies heavily on his fastball. He wants to place it on the edge of both sides of the plate, while sometimes accompanying good command with pretty good velocity. He induces a lot of whiffs and is effective with it against lefties and righties. He has a couple of secondary pitches -- a slider that he hides well by limiting its vertical movement, places pretty effectively on the edge, and uses to make his fastball more effective and a mediocre changeup that he's still developing -- but his fastball is his main feature. The Cardinals, however, are really struggling to hit the fastball. They rank 28th against this pitch with a .195 team BA against it. Lefties hit Mahle really well. But the Cards only have one lefty hitting above .200 right now, Greg Garcia at .214.

The Reds' bullpen is poorly ranked but saved its best relievers while getting owned Thursday. Amir Garrett has been lights-out in 6.2 innings and is still fresh. The Cards' pen ranks in the better half in terms of ERA. All these factors add up to an 'under' call for a Friday MLB pick.

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