MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Wednesday, May 31st

By Adam Burke  ( 

May 31, 2023 12:17 PM

MLB schedule today has 14 games

The month of May comes to a close with 14 games starting early and ending late as we’ve got a lot of getaway day action around the league. That will leave some slim pickings for the latter portion of the card, but there are some intriguing matchups on the board to think about.

Let’s get right to the action since there are so many early starts.

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Here are some thoughts on the May 31 card (odds from DraftKings): 

Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants (-120, 7.5)

Three of the first four Giants reached against Johan Oviedo yesterday, but an inning-ending double play ended the scoring threat with just one run. The Giants had one runner in scoring position in the second, two in the third, and two in the fifth, but squandered all of those opportunities in a 2-1 loss that served as the exclamation point for a disastrous day. 

The rubber match of this series is the first on the card by rotation number as Alex Wood goes for the Giants and Mitch Keller goes for the Pirates. Keller’s strong season hit a snag last time out, as he allowed six runs on seven hits and two homers to the Mariners. Keller had allowed two homers total in his previous seven starts and seven earned runs in his previous six starts. It was a rough one to say the least, but he did limit the M’s to a 29.4% Hard Hit% in that game, so it wasn’t like he got beaten around. He just gave up two barrels and both left the yard.

He has a 3.01 ERA and a 3.01 FIP heading into this afternoon tilt with an 85/16 K/BB ratio against a Giants lineup that will strike out a fair amount. This seems like a decent bounce back spot for him.

Wood has allowed seven runs on 13 hits in his last three starts since rejoining the Giants rotation. He’s got 14 strikeouts against six walks and just went a season-high 5.2 innings against the Brewers, despite issuing five walks out of 24 batters. He has a 3.51 ERA, but a 4.53 FIP and a 4.02 xERA, so I’m not sure how trustworthy he is. Still, it’s tough to trust the Pirates and their anemic offense, which managed to score two runs and win yesterday.

Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers (-240, 9.5)

This is a really interesting game from a situational standpoint. The Dodgers wrapped up a three-city, 10-game road trip on Sunday and flew home to host the Nationals on Monday. They have Thursday off and then the New York Yankees come to town. Could this be a bit of a flat spot with a getaway day matinee at Dodger Stadium?

I think it’s possible, but the Nationals are also heading home after this six-game road trip. They do need a win to secure a .500 trip, which is a goal for road teams and would be something to feel good about after getting blown out 6-1 and 9-3 the last two nights. I do think there’s a chance that the Nats are a little more engaged here, but is that enough to make up the gap?

Patrick Corbin just allowed six runs on seven hits against the Royals to end a pretty impressive streak of starts with three or fewer earned runs dating back to April 16. From April 16 to May 20, Corbin had a 3.40 ERA with a 3.92 FIP in his 42.1 innings of work. He only struck out 25 batters, but he also only walked four and had allowed just two homers in his last four starts. 

He was building towards that Royals start, though, with 25 hard-hit balls over his last 48 batted ball events. Can he get back on track here against a Dodgers team that absolutely punishes mistakes? That remains to be seen.

As you know, the Nationals are way better against lefties and Noah Syndergaard is a righty, so that lowers the projection for their offense today. Syndergaard has struggled of late, allowing 11 runs on 16 hits in his last 15 innings of work. He had his turn in the rotation skipped to work on his mechanics and then returned for one inning against the Brewers on May 9, only to suffer a cut on his finger. Those are the results for his last three starts.

In those three starts, he has allowed a 47.9% Hard Hit% and four barrels. He’s struck out 12 and only walked two in that span, but he’s allowed some hard contact and he’s also elevated the baseball a bit more, leading to some hard-hit line drive and aerial contact.

The Dodgers are up to 12th in wOBA against LHP now that their BABIP has started to stabilize a bit. They were a bottom-10 offense in that split for a while, but that is no longer the case. I really wanted to fire on Corbin and the Nats here, but with how bad things are going, maybe taking gambles isn’t the best course of action.

San Diego Padres (-120, 8.5) at Miami Marlins

We’ll see Blake Snell and Braxton Garrett in this one as the Padres and Marlins each send southpaws to the bump. The Marlins hit lefties very well and did okay against Ryan Weathers, but Sandy Alcantara ran out of gas and the bullpen supplied some fuel and some fire late in yesterday’s 9-4 loss.

I would guess that I’ve lost more money fading Snell than any other pitcher. This season, he has a 5.04 ERA with a 5.38 FIP over 10 starts covering 50 innings, but he has allowed three or fewer runs in seven of those 10 outings. He just doesn’t work deep into games and it hurts his ERA accordingly. He gave up one run on four hits to the Nationals last time out with four walks against six strikeouts. Teams can get a lot of baserunners against him, but he seems to time his strikeouts well and strand a lot of guys. Honestly, it’s kind of demoralizing betting against him.

Garrett has a 4.50 ERA and a 4.03 FIP in his nine starters and one relief appearance covering 48 innings. He gave up 11 runs on 14 hits in 4.1 innings to the Braves back on May 3 and has allowed a total of 13 runs in his other nine appearances, including just 11 runs in his other eight starts. He’s allowed just three runs on 10 hits in his last 16.1 innings of work, so he’s been on a bit of a heater.

His last start came at Coors Field, but prior to that, he had 22 strikeouts over 16.2 innings in starts against the Giants, Reds, and Diamondbacks. He had allowed some loud contact in those previous three starts, but was able to mostly neutralize the effects. He’s got a 12.4% SwStr% on the season and has been in double digits each of his last seven starts, including a 14.6% SwStr% in his last four starts since that huge blow-up against Atlanta. He’s gone more cutter-heavy since then and it has paid off.

A lean towards the Fish today, but Snell has gotten me so many times that I’m a bit gunshy.

Philadelphia Phillies (-115, 8.5) at New York Mets

Aaron Nola will look for a bounce back effort here against the Mets after giving up five runs on eight hits, including three homers, to the Braves last time out. Nola hasn’t really been himself this season, as he comes in with a 4.59 ERA and a 4.32 FIP over 68.2 innings of work. He only has 60 strikeouts and has now allowed 11 homers over 11 starts. He’s given up at least one homer in seven straight starts and only recently have the strikeouts started to come with 17 over his last 13 innings.

Nola has only allowed a 36.8% Hard Hit%, but the 18 barrels have gotten him this season and the big lack of strikeouts has greatly lessened his margin for error. His lack of strikeout prowess as the game goes along is also noticeable. He has a 32.3% K% the first time through the order, but just a 16.3% mark the second time through and a 15.4% mark the third time through. His K%-BB% goes from 28.3% to 10.2% to 9.0%, which is a really bad sign.

There are a lot of bad signs in the profile for Carlos Carrasco, who has a 6.75 ERA with a 6.44 FIP in his 25.1 innings of work. He’s got 15 strikeouts against 12 walks and has given up five homers across five starts. He’s allowed six runs on 10 hits over 11.2 innings since returning from the IL, as he allowed five runs to Cleveland and just one run to Chicago. He’s actually allowed just a 35.1% Hard Hit% in those two starts, so that’s a big positive for him as he looks to get back on track.

I can’t take him here, though, as I really have no idea what I might get. This is a fairly high total for a Citi Field game as well, so onward we go.

Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks (-165, 10)

It will be Dinelson Lamet making his first start since June 26, 2021 as the Rockies and Diamondbacks continue their NL West rivalry series. Lamet has not fared well in relief this season, posting a 12.66 ERA with a 6.66 FIP in 10.2 innings of work. He’s struck out 13 of 57 batters, but also walked 12 of them. For those keeping score, that’s a 22.8% K% and a 21.1% BB%. Oh, and he’s also allowed a .311 batting average with a .400 BABIP.  So, we’ll see how starting goes for him.

Lamet worked 10.2 innings during an extended rehab assignment at Triple-A and allowed one run on six hits with 11 strikeouts against one walk. He maxed out at 15 batters over 4.2 innings, so the Rockies will be lucky to get five innings from him today.

Tommy Henry worked 1.1 innings in relief on May 27 and will turn around now and start for Arizona once again. Henry has a 4.50 ERA with a 5.84 FIP in his 34 innings of work. He’s struck out 18 and walked 14 in 143 batters faced. He’s the definition of a pitch-to-contact guy, so his margin for error is pretty thin. He has only allowed an average exit velo of 86.8 mph this season and a 33.6% Hard Hit%, so he’s done really well to limit the hard contact that he has allowed.

Still, this is a really hard game to handicap with two pitchers that are fringy MLBers and a Rockies offense that just isn’t any good away from home.

Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox (-145, 9)

Jaime Barria gets the start today for the Angels against Lance Lynn and the White Sox. Barria has maxed out at five innings, which he did over five shutout frames against the Red Sox on May 22 with six strikeouts. He has a 1.55 ERA with a 3.18 FIP over 29 innings of work. He’s actually been quite solid this season, though he did have a rocky appearance against the Marlins in extra innings four days ago, but he allowed four unearned runs on one hit. He did walk two guys.

Since his April 4 appearance against the Mariners, Barria has only allowed one earned run over 25.1 innings of work. He’s held righties to a .207 wOBA and lefties to a .227 wOBA, so he’s really done well against virtually everybody this season. He has only allowed two barrels and a 26% Hard Hit% on the year. Very impressive stuff from him. He’s completely changed his pitch usage the last two seasons to be a 50+% slider guy and it has paid off in a big way.

Lynn seems to be settling in a little bit, at least in some respects. Over his last three starts, he’s allowed four earned runs on 14 hits in 19 innings of work, but he’s also faced the Guardians, Royals, and Tigers. The Royals bashed him for seven runs on May 10 during a stretch in which he allowed 19 runs in four starts. In his last start against the Tigers, he allowed five walks and gave up two unearned runs.

This is an early start and I apologize with the lead time of the article, but I like Barria and the Angels for the 1st 5 in this one at +115. I think what Barria is doing is pretty legit and I’m not sure that Lynn is totally fixed. If nothing else, he likes to give up the long ball and that could push the Halos out ahead early.

Again, I hate doing this on short notice, but it’s been a real struggle in May and I need to try and play what I think are my best options.

Pick: Angels 1st 5 (+115)

Cleveland Guardians (-110, 8) at Baltimore Orioles

The Guardians will send out Shane Bieber in hopes of winning consecutive series for the first time since early April and the Orioles will counter with Keegan Akin as the opener to Austin Voth. My Bieber concerns are very well-documented, as he has a 3.04 ERA with a 4.89 xERA and a 4.03 FIP in his 71 innings of work. His K% is down over 8% from last season and more than 11% from his career average. His Hard Hit% is through the roof, but he’s running an 80.6% LOB%.

I don’t know what more to say about him. I’ve tried to fade him and failed multiple times already this season because he somehow keeps finding ways to work around all of the concerning peripherals and his missing velocity. It’s genuinely frustrating, both as a Guardians fan and as a bettor. At least as a fan, he could figure it out and get back to being the guy that he once was. As a bettor, I can objectively see all the signs of decline, but they haven’t played out in his results yet.

The left-handed Akin has a 4.85 ERA with a 5.73 xERA and a 3.52 FIP in 13 innings of work. He’ll get through the top of the Cleveland order and then give way to the right-hander in Voth. Voth has a 4.10 ERA with a 4.99 FIP in his 26.1 innings of work. He’s maxed out at 3.2 innings this season and 15 batters faced, so the O’s will hope for that in hopes of sparing some of the bullpen.

Naturally I’d love to go against Bieber, but I can’t do it in this spot.

Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros (-180, 8)

A quick handicap here with the big favorite sending Hunter Brown to the bump against Louie Varland. Brown has been outstanding this season with a 3.12 ERA, 3.80 xERA, and a 3.04 FIP. The elevated xERA is because of a heightened Hard Hit%, but Brown has a 54.4% GB% and we’re finding out that hard-hit ground balls, even in a post-shift world, aren’t really that big of a problem. See the MLB ERA leader in Bryce Elder, who is allowing a hard-hit ball nearly half of the time with a below average K%.

Brown has a well above average K% to fall back on and should be able to carve up a Twins lineup that has the highest K% in baseball. Meanwhile, Varland, who has a lot of promising peripherals, has a 4.24 ERA with a 5.16 xERA and a 5.43 FIP in 34 innings of work. Varland has allowed nine home runs in his six starts and a 43.6% Hard Hit% with a 12.9% Barrel%, hence the really high xERA since that really punishes pitchers for having a high Barrel%.

Brown’s K prop is really high at 7.5 against the Twins, who do have the highest K% against righties at 26.3%. I thought maybe it would be a tad lower than that, but that’s a really tough sell.

New York Yankees at Seattle Mariners (-140, 7.5)

Clarke Schmidt and George Kirby are the slated starters here, as Kirby looks to bounce back from a really ugly effort against the Pirates last time out. He allowed seven runs on nine hits and gave up four home runs over his 4.2 innings of work. In his previous nine starts, Kirby had only allowed three home runs, so this was a really bad outing from a command standpoint for him.

He’s up to a 3.43 ERA with a 3.49 FIP now, as he’s got a 51/6 K/BB ratio in 63 innings pitched. He has only allowed a 34.9% Hard Hit% and a 5.1% Barrel%, as his start against the Pirates represented season-highs in HH%, Barrel% and the raw numbers in each category with 10 hard-hit balls and three barrels.

Will he bounce back against a Yankees lineup that has terrorized Bryce Miller and Logan Gilbert in this series? That’s tough to say, as New York has really been swinging the bats well. Giancarlo Stanton just started a rehab assignment last night as well, so everything is coming up roses for the Yanks at this point.

Maybe the bigger development here is that Schmidt may be settling in a bit. He had a seven-run blow-up against Tampa on May 14, but in his other four May starts, he has only allowed five earned runs. He has allowed one homer in his last five starts, which was a big problem early in the season. Schmidt has 58 strikeouts in 50 innings and a slightly elevated walk rate, but command has been his issue. He has a 47% Hard Hit% and a 10.6% Barrel%. However, in his last six starts, his Hard Hit% is down to 40%, which is closer to the league average. He still has a 5.10 ERA in that span, but a 3.18 FIP and a 3.86 xFIP. There are signs of him improving as a pitcher and the raw data is really favorable with his spin rates and that sort of thing.

I like the Yankees and Schmidt here. Kirby has had a little bit of a command hiccup recently and Schmidt’s seems to be improving, along with the fact that the Mariners strike out a ton and he has a 25.3% K% on the season. He has been tagged by some pretty good lineups this season, like Tampa Bay, Texas, and Baltimore, but Seattle is 23rd in home wOBA against righties and 21st overall.

The Yankees pen is also in good shape after a couple lopsided wins the last two days. Schmidt’s improvements, and some further improvements represented by his advanced stats, give me some confidence in him today. Hopefully Anthony Rizzo returns for the Yankees as well.

Pick: Yankees +120

Tampa Bay Rays (-135, 8.5) at Chicago Cubs

Zach Eflin and Justin Steele are the listed hurlers in this one as the Cubs look to complete the sweep of the Rays. Given that the Cubs were swept over the weekend by the Reds at Wrigley Field, a sweep over the Rays would classify as a complete stunner. They are sending their ace to the hill in hopes of completing the feat, so we’ll see if they’re able to do it.

Steele had some regression signs in his profile, but those have been quickly corrected with five earned runs allowed in two of his last three starts. He has a 2.77 ERA with a 2.85 FIP and 57 strikeouts against 16 walks in 65 innings of work. Prior to the two recent rough starts against the Astros and Reds, he had a 1.82 ERA with a 3.20 FIP and an 81.7% LOB% with a .259 BABIP. Now his BABIP is up to .295 and his LOB% is down to 72.4%, so those corrections made sense.

We’ll see how he does here. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy who can be really batted ball-dependent, but that’s easier when you have a 27.6% Hard Hit% against and have only allowed a 5.4% Barrel%.

Eflin has a 3.17 ERA with a 3.73 FIP in his 54 innings of work. He’s struck out 52 and only walked seven, but has given up eight homers by being around the plate as much as he has. He actually failed to strike out any of the 28 batters that he faced over seven innings in his last start against the Blue Jays, but also only allowed one run on six hits.

I’m not sure I see any compelling reasons to go against either one of these guys. It’s warm at Wrigley, but the total of 8.5 seems a tad high here given the two pitchers and what we’ve seen from the two offenses in this series. The wind is blowing in a little bit as well. I don’t like it enough for a bet, but just an observation.

Atlanta Braves (-230, 9) at Oakland Athletics

Jared Shuster and James Kaprielian are today’s starters as the A’s go for a …checks notes…. sweep of the Braves in this midday matinee. Atlanta is heavily favored for the third straight game here, which is a pretty big price tag for Shuster, given that he is making just his sixth MLB start and has a 5.33 ERA with a 4.63 FIP in 25.1 innings of work. He’s allowed 15 runs on 19 hits with a 20/15 K/BB ratio.

Shuster has allowed a 43.1% Hard Hit% and has been north of 41% in each of his three starts since getting recalled. He’s only allowed seven runs on seven hits with a 15/6 K/BB ratio, so he’s been way better than he was in his first two starts of the season against the Nationals and Padres. Still, I don’t think I’d trust him at this price point.

There aren’t many reasons to trust Kaprielian either. He’s got an 8.45 ERA with a 5.86 FIP in 33 innings this season. He was recalled three starts ago and has allowed eight earned runs on 17 hits in 17 innings of work in that span. He does have 16 strikeouts, but has also walked seven guys. 

There is no way I could have any interest in this game.

Cincinnati Reds at Boston Red Sox (-170, 10.5)

This is a big favorite role for the Red Sox with James Paxton on the bump against Luke Weaver. The Red Sox came home and immediately got their hitting shoes back on, but the Reds also swung the bats well in yesterday’s 9-8 win. This is a big ol’ total, but we’ll see double digits regularly at Fenway the rest of the way.

Paxton has allowed eight runs on 13 hits in 14 innings of work since making his long-awaited return to the Boston rotation. Paxton was shelled last time out by the Angels with five runs allowed on four hits over three innings of work. He’s allowed a 40% Hard Hit% and four barrels through three starts. He’s struck out 19 of the 60 batters he has faced, but he’s had command issues otherwise. It’s a tough profile to get behind, especially because it’s hard to know how he’ll fare as his arm builds up more innings. He is on two extra days rest here.

Weaver has allowed 23 runs on 43 hits in 38 innings of work thus far. He’s given up nine home runs in seven starts and a 44% Hard Hit%, though his first three starts are doing a lot of heavy lifting there. Over his last four starts, Weaver has allowed just a 33.3% Hard Hit% in 69 batted ball events.

I’m not a big believer in either guy, but 10.5 is an enormous total. There just isn’t a whole lot to like on today’s card, especially with all the early starts.

TL;DR Recap

Angels 1st 5 (+115)

Yankees +120

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