Just a month ago it seemed as if we were doomed to a shortened baseball season – or perhaps none at all – so the fact that we made it to Opening Day may feel even a bit better than any other year. That also makes it a bit easier to forget that two games have already been postponed, which does shorten the slate a bit. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good plays, and let's look at a trio of them that caught my eye for Opening Day.
Cleveland Guardians at Kansas City Royals
The Pick: Cleveland moneyline (-124 on FanDuel Sportsbook) for 1 RW buck
Secondary Pick: Cleveland -1.5 (+135 on PointsBet) for 0.5 RW buck
After a shoulder injury cut Shane Bieber's 2021 season in half, he made it through spring training with a clean bill of health. Talent has not been the question in recent years, and due to other injuries around the league, Bieber will be one of the better pitchers to take the mound Thursday. As for his opponent, according to Steamer, the Royals have only two players in the expected Opening Day lineup with a projected slugging percentage over .450 (Salvador Perez and Bobby Witt) and none with a wOBA over .340. The Guardians don't boast an overly imposing lineup either, so projecting a low-scoring game that ends in their favor appears a likely outcome.
Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
The Pick: Adam Wainwright to record win (+160 on DraftKings Sportsbook) for 1 RW buck
Secondary Pick: Cardinals -1.5 (+105 on BetMGM)
While probabilities suggest Wainwright will struggle to replicate his 2021 results, he should be able to pitch deep into the game. In addition to his veteran status, Wainwright has some track record of pitching after a shortened or complete lack of spring training ramp-up. During the 2020 campaign – shortened by the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic – he threw six innings in his initial outing and never threw fewer than five frames in any of his starts that season. While workload may be a concern for some pitchers early in the season, it shouldn't be for Wainwright.
The mismatch between the teams is also very large on paper. The Cardinals boast the best moneyline odds (-200) of any team on the slate. The Cardinals bullpen projects to be a mediocre unit, which does raise some concern about the team's ability to maintain the lead after Wainwright exits. Nevertheless, he's a strong bet to earn the win Thursday.
New York Mets at Washington Nationals
The Pick: Patrick Corbin over 3.5 strikeouts (-155 on DraftKings Sportsbook) for 1 RW buck
Secondary Pick: Nationals 1st five innings moneyline (+100 on DraftKings Sportsbook) for 0.5 RW bucks
All of the attention in this game will be on the Mets, both for good and bad reasons. The team made headlines all offseason with aggressive spending, but now they're down both of their top pitchers in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer to begin the season. However, though it takes a leap of faith, I want to attack Patrick Corbin being undervalued in this game. At first glance, he's faced a troubling trend of declining strikeout rate in each of the last three seasons. However, he underperformed his 11.2 percent swinging-strike rate in 2021, which translated to just a 19 percent strikeout rate. Though the Mets lineup isn't particularly strikeout prone, betting on him to reach four punchouts is still reasonable based on a projected of Corbin throwing five to six innings.
If looking for a little more value, attacking the fifth inning result is another way to bet on Corbin pitching better than expected. It's also a way to fade Megill, who boasted an impressive 19 K-BB% across 89.2 innings in his major-league debut but also had a home run problem (1.9 HR/9).