Thursday, May 19, 2022

2022 MLB Opening Day picks: Best bets to start the season, including the Braves taking care of business

The 2022 Major League Baseball season officially gets underway on Thursday. It was touch-and-go a bit there a month ago, too, wasn’t it? I feel like we certainly didn’t expect the regular season to be starting just yet at one point, so it’s nice to get a little early April action. 

Speaking of action, there’s certainly some to be had over on Caesars Sportsbook. Let’s make some Opening Day selections. Just for fun, I’ll go with one moneyline pick, one on the run line (it’s baseball’s version of a spread, and one total (the over/under). 

We’ll be using last year’s stat lines when identifying the starting pitchers. They are all 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 2022, obviously. 

Reds at Braves, 8:08 p.m. ET

Reds starter: Tyler Mahle (13-6, 3.75)

Braves starter: Max Fried (14-7, 3.04)

Featured Game | Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds

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We can start the season by flexing muscles with one of my central gambling tenets. There is no reason to get overly cute and often times the easy and obvious looking pick actually is easy and obvious. 

As we head into the season, the Braves look like one of the best teams in baseball. The Reds look like one of the worst. 

The Braves are the defending World Series champions and will have added adrenaline that comes with playing in front of a packed and rocking Truist Park. 

In Fried’s last 11 regular-season starts last season, the Braves went 10-1 and he had a 1.46 ERA. Three of his five playoff starts were gems as well. 

Mahle is good and posted excellent road numbers last season, so this might not happen until late in the game, but the Braves will eventually win by multiple runs, possibly even in blowout fashion. 

The pick: Braves -1.5 (-105)

Astros at Angels, 9:38 p.m. ET

Astros starter: Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14)

Angels starter: Shohei Ohtani (9-2, 3.18)

Featured Game | Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros

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The Angels are actually at full strength. That’s a big deal. They barely got any of Mike Trout and/or Anthony Rendon last season. Ohtani has had injuries in the past. Not only are all three guys going to occupy important lineup spots, but there’s 2021 breakout star Jared Walsh and 2022 breakout candidate Jo Adell

Ohtani on the mound is a plus and the Angels get to leave him in the lineup even after he’s removed in front of Joe Maddon’s shiny new setup toys (Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup) in front of ace closer Raisel Iglesias

The Astros are still one of the better teams in the league and likely the best AL West team, but this is their first game without Carlos Correa and it’s on the road against a very talented team. 

Simply, I really like how this one sets up for the Halos. 

The pick: Angels -130 (moneyline)

Padres at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ET

Padres starter: Yu Darvish (8-11, 4.22)

Diamondbacks starter: Madison Bumgarner (7-10, 4.67)

Featured Game | Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

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Darvish struggled mightily down the stretch last season. Actually, from the start of July through the end of the season, he pitched to a 6.65 ERA and 5.05 FIP. His strikeout rate was still fine, but he allowed a .536 slugging percentage in that span of starts. He was brutal on the road last season, too, going 2-7 with a 5.54 ERA. 

The Diamondbacks don’t have a good offense, but they have several capable offensive players, such as star Ketel Marte, and will be able to put some runs on the board. 

Bumgarner, meanwhile, has a five-plus ERA since signing with the D-Backs. He was better in the second half last season, but he still wasn’t good (3.95 ERA, 4.74 FIP after the All-Star break). 

And while weather will be an issue through much of the East and Midwest, it sure won’t be in Chase Field. It’s an excellent hitter environment. 

Even without superstar Fernando Tatis, Jr., we like a high-scoring affair in Phoenix. Even just a 5-4 result gets us home. 

The pick: Over 8.5 runs

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