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Look below to find our free MLB Picks for the five best games on today’s schedule!
Atlanta Braves @ Chicago Cubs – 2.20PM ET
Two teams that have admittedly struggled out of the gate in the 2021 MLB season will face off on Friday, when the Cubs host the Braves in Chicago for the first of their three game set.
Even though Opening Day was just over two weeks ago, the Braves have already had a rollercoaster start to the season. After starting the year with an 0-4 record, Atlanta won their next four games to improve to 4-4, but followed that up with another four consecutive losses.
However, the Braves are back on the winners list after a 7-6 victory over the Marlins in Atlanta, leaving them with a 5-8 record as we enter Friday’s matchup.
Although Ronald Acuna Jnr scored twice early in Thursday’s game against Miami, Atlanta trailed 6-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth. A bases loaded walk by Ozzie Albies was enough to tie the games, before Dansby Swanson’s one-out walk off secured the victory.
DANSBY SWANSON WALK-OFF 🔥
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 15, 2021
Similarly to the Braves, the Cubs have also lost four of their past five games, most recently going down to the Milwaukee Brewers in a 7-0 shutout defeat on Wednesday.
When looking at their batting group, Chicago are the 30th ranked (last) team in the league when looking at team batting average and runs per game. Javier Baez has three home runs and eight RBI this season, while Khris Bryant is batting a team best .243
As for their production at the mound, the Cubs will be starting Zach Davies for the third time this season on Friday. Although he is 1-1 this season, Davies was hit for seven earned runs in under two innings against the Pirates last Saturday, and will enter Friday’s encounter with a 11.05 ERA and 2.05 WHIP.
Although the game is in Chicago, the Cubs batting lineup has been the worst in the league to start the season and Davies recent form at the mound would not suggest that he is capable of carrying Chicago to a win against the Braves on Friday.
St Louis Cardinals @ Philadelphia Phillies – 7.05PM ET
The out of form Phillies will host the St Louis Cardinals on Friday night for the first matchup of their three game set in Philadelphia.
Since starting their season 5-1 at home, the Phillies have slipped to 6-6 after suffering back to back losses against the Braves in Atlanta, and most recently finding themselves on the wrong side of 3-1 record from their four games against the Mets in New York.
Throughout their active three game losing streak, Philadelphia scored three runs, zero runs, and one run, bringing their scoring average for the season down to just 3.50 runs per game, which ranks them 26th out of the 30 teams in the league.
As for the Cardinals, they have also slipped to a 6-6 record after their 5-2 start as a result of recent series losses against the Brewers and Nationals.
St Louis will enter Friday’s encounter averaging five 5 runs per game this season, which currently sees them as the seventh best scoring team in the league. This is largely due to Nolan Arenado hitting at a batting average of .319 with eight RBI’s and a .947 OPS in his first season with the Cards.
However, the Cardinals are struggling at the mound in 2021, currently boasting the 27th ranked team ERA in the league, 5.09.
St Louis will start Carlos Martinez on Friday. Martinez is looking to respond from a rough start to the season having allowed four runs in his five innings against the Reds and three runs in five innings against the Brewers in his most recent outing. The right hander will enter Friday’s match with an ERA of 6.30 and a WHIP of 1.40, after wrapping up his 2020 campaign with a disastrous 9.90 ERA.
The Phillies are in need of a win and have the pitching advantage in this matchup, as Zach Eflin has quite simply been better than Carlos Martinez in 2021. Eflin conceded just five runs in 13 innings of work against Atlanta, and should be able to carry that level of production over against the struggling Cardinals.
Chicago White Sox @ Boston Red Sox – 7.10PM ET
Both looking to rebound from a loss in their most recent game, the Red Sox and the White Sox will face off in Boston on Friday night.
Boston recently had their nine game winning streak ended in the final match of their seven game road trip, going down to the Minnesota Twins 4-3 thanks to Max Kepler’s ninth inning walk off single.
The Red Sox are currently second in MLB team batting average, hitting at .283. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are tied for a team leading 17 hits this season. Martinez, who has hit five home runs and has collected 39 total bases in just 45 at bats this year, did not suit up in Thursday’s loss to the Twins, but will feature in the Red Sox return to Boston on Friday.
— Marney Gellner (@MarneyGellner) April 15, 2021
The White Sox are coming off a 2-2 series split against Cleveland in Chicago, winning game one and game three, but most recently dropping the final game of the set 4-2.
With Yermin Mercedes hitting at .500 in his first 10 games of the year, the White Sox are the 14th ranked team in the MLB when looking at team batting average, hitting at .233. Luis Robert and Adam Eaton have added 12 and 11 hits respectively this year.
As it stands, Chicago are the sixth best pitching team in the league when looking at ERA (3.05), whereas Boston’s rotation is currently ranked 11th in the MLB with a team ERA of 3.67. However, the Red Sox will be starting Nick Pivetta on Friday night. Pivetta is 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA through his first two starts this season.
Returning back to Boston and welcoming back J.D. Martinez to an already in-form lineup, we can’t see Boston getting beaten in this encounter. Pivetta will likely win the pitching matchup over Dylan Cease and without Eloy Jimenez in their lineup, Chicago will not be able to match it with Boston’s power hitters at home.
Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Diego Padres – 10.10PM ET
In what has the makings to be a box office battle between two of the strongest teams in the league, the 11-2 Los Angeles Dodgers are headed to San Diego to take on the 9-5 Padres in a match that is certain to have implications for the standings in the NL West.
After a six game stretch of matches in Los Angeles, the Dodgers are back on the road, boasting a 11-2 record from their 13 games this season. The Dodgers won the final game of their set against the Rockies 7-5, completing a sweep over Colorado.
Prior to Thursday’s game, Los Angeles had three players boasting a top batting average across the league. Justin Turner is hitting at .390, to go along with his three home runs and 11 RBIs this year, while Max Muncy is hitting at .368 and has an on-base percentage of .520. Finally Cory Seager has built off his impressive 2020 season, batting at .356 with nine runs from his 16 hits.
Turner added a further three hits and two runs from his three at bats on Thursday.
Second-baseman Jake Cronenworth is the lone San Diego batter in the top 20 batting averages in the league (prior to Thursday’s game), leading the team in hitting with an average of .358. However, Eric Hosmer (.340) and Will Myers (.333) are ranking 22nd and 23rd respectively to start the season.
Cronenworth added a further two runs to his season tally on Thursday, scoring twice from his two hits.
Given that both sides possess damaging lineups, whoever has the pitching advantage will likely win this game.
With that in mind, we like the Dodges to win the matchup on the road, as San Diego hitters are only batting at .111 against Walker Buehler (LAD) for his entire career. Given that Austin Nola and Fernando Tatis Jr. are out of the Padres lineup, that number doesn’t seem like it’ll change on Friday night.
Houston Astros @ Seattle Mariners – 10.10PM ET
In what will be a battle between American League West Division rivals, the Seattle Mariners will face the Houston Astros on Friday night, closing out proceedings for Friday’s MLB action.
Since their 6-1 start to the year, Houston have dropped five straight games at home, two against the A’s and now an 0-3 sweep at the hands of Detroit.
Although they lost Thursday’s game 4-6, the Astros had scored three runs or fewer in their four previous matches, which had resulted in a 0-4 record. Scoring continues to be an issue for Houston, who have scored just eight runs in their last three games.
Given their lack of offensive production lately, the pressure will be well and truly on Jose Urquidy at the mound on Friday. Urquidy gets the ball with a 5.23 ERA and 12 strikeouts from his one start (0-1) this season.
Contrastingly, the Mariners have won five of their past six games, giving them an 8-5 record heading into Friday’s matchup. Seattle closed out their four game set against the Orioles in Baltimore with 4-2 and 2-1 victories from Thursday’s double header, giving them a 3-1 series win.
Two Ws by 3 o’clock Pacific? That’ll play. pic.twitter.com/NLf6sW7VYp
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 15, 2021
Having scored 28 runs in their past six games, the Mariners lineup is clearly in solid form. While at the mound, Yusei Kikuchi gets the ball on Friday for his first start of the season. Kikuchi has a 3.75 ERA and 16 strikeouts so far in 2021.
Although Houston are going to be favored in this matchup based on their dominance over Seattle in recent seasons, we can’t go past the in form Mariners to win this one at home. Especially when considering the two teams recent records and the statistical ERA advantage Seattle have in the pitching matchup.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.