The Hall of Fame Game is one of the most anti-climactic sporting events possible. When the Super Bowl is finished in early February, we are all forced to endure six dark, lonely months waiting for another football game. Then, August finally shows up, and the Hall of Fame Game draws near.
Now at this point, we’re all desperate for football, so we allow ourselves to become excited about the prospect of preseason football. Then the game finally starts and the denial you’ve been swimming in quickly evaporates as you realize you’re watching a battle between Kevin Hogan and Kurt Benkert.
That’s when you realize that preseason football — particularly early preseason football — is horrible because these guys have been practicing for like a week, and are nowhere near ready for primetime.
Of course, if you’re smart, those are the same reasons why you took the under in the game, and now you get to cash that ticket.
Let’s see if we can cash a few more. All odds are via William Hill.
1. Cincinnati Reds at Atlanta Braves: Braves -160
Sometimes you want to fade a pitcher, and you need to get past the fact you’re relying on Kevin Gausman as a rather heavy favorite. Still, Cincinnati may have added Trevor Bauer to its rotation this week, but he’s not starting tonight. Alex Wood is, and Alex Wood is not a pitcher I like in this matchup.
Wood has excellent control, and that’s always a good thing, but he doesn’t strike anybody out. Nor does he get groundballs, and he allows a lot of hard contact. In fact, his hard contact rate is 24 percent above league average. So at this point, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that a pitcher who doesn’t strike people out, doesn’t get ground balls, and gives up a lot of hard contact has an HR/9 that’s 44 percent higher than the league average. Oh, and he’s facing an offense that’s posted a wOBA of .333 against lefties this season, which ranks seventh in MLB. The Braves’ ISO of .200 against lefties ranks sixth. So take the Braves tonight, and if you play DFS, maybe stack some Braves hitters in your lineups too.
DFS millionaire Mike McClure got off to a HOT start in 2019, then on Thursday rostered Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who went on to have a massive day, going 4 for 4 with two home runs and three RBI. See who McClure is locking in Friday at SportsLine.
2. Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros: Mariners +235
If you’ve followed my picks long enough, you know I like to look for big dogs that are undervalued in particular matchups. This is one of those times. The Astros are a juggernaut, and they got better this week when they added Zack Greinke, but Wade Miley is a pitcher who can be gotten to.
Tonight he’s facing a Mariners offense that may not be great, but is roughly league average, and has the potential to put runs on the board. Also, while they aren’t as good as the Braves, the Mariners offense has done well against lefties itself, posting a wOBA of .328 and an ISO of .194. Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi isn’t going to get through this one unscathed, but at +235, I think the Mariners outscore Houston enough in this matchup to make this a good play.
SportsLine senior analyst Larry Hartstein is on a 66-39 MLB picks heater. Now he looks to continue the winning ways with Friday’s best bets, including one huge underdog. See Hartstein’s top plays only at SportsLine.
3. Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins: Royals +200
Martin Perez got off to a fantastic start for the Twins in 2019, but he’s fallen back down to Earth since then. Perez has made nine starts since June, and he’s lasted only 50 1/3 innings in those starts and posted an ERA of 5.19. Now, Minnesota is going to score runs itself against Glenn Sparkman, but this could be something of a shootout, and like the Mariners in the last pick, I think the Royals win often enough to justify the price.
SportsLine MMA guru Kyle Marley is up more than $21,000 in the past year on his MMA selections. He has just released his picks for Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 5 card, and you can get them all over at SportsLine.