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Andrew Benintendi has been crushing right-handed pitching this year. Will he be able to do some damage against Minnesota righty Kyle Gibson on Thursday?
Welcome back to the LazyBets Free MLB picks column for Thursday, June 21st. We picked up a win with Wednesday’s free pick, as another close Phillies-Cardinals game ended in our favor with the Phils winning 4-3. Once again, nearly all of the Philadelphia offense came from their top four hitters - if they’re going to stick around in the NL East race (and possibly make us very, very happy), they’re going to need more run support from the bottom of their order. Where art thou, 2015 Maikel Franco?
For Thursday’s pick, we’ll be turning our attention back to Minnesota, where Twins will be looking to do something no team has managed to do so far this year - sweep the Red Sox. While it’s certainly possible (remember folks, in baseball, anything is possible), we like Boston’s chances to avoid the sweep, and we definitely like the odds being offered to us by the books. Let’s get into it.
Boston Red Sox (Porcello) at Minnesota Twins (Gibson)
After winning the Cy Young in 2016 and then stumbling through a rough 2017, Boston’s Rick Porcello seems to have found a happy medium this year. He’s got a 3.70 ERA through his first 15 starts, and there are reasons to believe that he’s been pitching even better than that number.
First, Porcello's strikeout rate is higher than it’s ever been in any season of his career, currently sitting at a healthy 8.68 per nine innings. It also hasn’t come at the expense of a higher walk rate, as it does for some pitchers (including the one we’ll be discussing in a second) - his 2.05 BB/9 is exactly the same as his career rate. He’s also been inducing more ground balls, as his GB% is its lowest since 2013. This has led to a home run rate that is probably unsustainably low, but all the signs are good for Porcello to have a much stronger season than the one he had in 2017.
Much like Porcello, Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson has bounced back from a rough 2017 (5.07 ERA) to a much better start in 2018 (3.27 ERA). However, unlike Porcello, there are many signs that his ERA is artificially low. His BABIP ranks 14th lowest amongst qualified starters, which would lead you to believe that he’s inducing weak contact - that’s not the case, though, as Gibson actually has the 25th highest hard hit ball rate. Fortunately for Gibson, a lot of those hard hit balls are just ending up in the gloves of Minnesota fielders, which doesn’t even make sense when considering that Minnesota is a below average defensive team. Not only that, but like we hinted at in the previous paragraph, Gibson’s strikeout rate has increased, but at the expense of an inflated walk rate (3.92 BB/9) that is teetering on disaster. Seems like it’s just some garden variety luck that Gibson has been receiving this year - we see his ERA rising quite a bit as things start to even out.
Despite being relatively silenced the last few days, we stand behind what we said on Tuesday - the Red Sox offense is as good as anyone’s, especially with the emergence of Andrew Benintendi (.295/.380/.534). While Benintendi has been fantastic this year, he’s been much less impressive against lefties (.197/.275/.410). Lucky for us, Kyle Gibson is a righty - look for the talented young Red Sox slugger to do some damage on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Twins are still ranked 18th on offense, and while we’re starting to believe that left fielder Eddie Rosario might be a solid hitter, there’s not much else to be afraid of in their everyday lineup.
Because of our unwavering confidence in the Red Sox offense and our belief that Rick Porcello has a bigger edge on Kyle Gibson than their ERAs might suggest, we love the odds being offered by BetOnline. We’re making Boston our free pick of the day at -129; we like their chances of avoiding their first sweep much more than the oddsmakers do.
Be sure to check out our free NBA Draft selections before the picks start coming in on Thursday night, and continue checking out our daily World Cup picks before each day of matches - you would’ve made a nice profit by tailing our picks today (thanks, Cristiano!).
Good luck out there everyone, let’s get some wins!
Bet the Red Sox -129
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