Today's Free Picks for
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Washington -1½ +170 over Seattle
12:05 PM EST. First game of a doubleheader that sees the not so hot Nationals the favorite in the opener against the red-hot Mariners. When we see something that is enticing to the unsuspecting public, it raises red flags and prompts us to look deeper. What we found is that Josiah Gray (RHP - WAS) is one of the more under-the-radar starters in the game while Chris Flexen (RHP - SEA) is all smoke and mirrors.
Flexen has benefited from pitching at home where he has a high strand rate and a low HR/F, and that kept his ERA more than a full run lower than his xERA of 5.14. That's a sizable gap, basically the difference between the mid-rotation starter he appears to be and the back-end starter he actually is.
Flexen’s primary flaw is that he simply doesn't strike enough batters out. His K% and swing and miss rate are well below average, and even on an individual pitch level, he doesn't have a weapon to get hitters to swing and miss. He has a weak BB/K split of 32/66 in 90 frames with a weak groundball/fly-ball split of 33%/46%.
Across his last five starts, Josiah Gray has been very good, going 1-1 with a 3.03 ERA and 36/8 K/BB in 30 IP. Only 14 qualified starting pitchers in 2022 have a higher K%, and it’s backed by his elite swing and miss rate. .Digging deeper, Gray has altered his pitch mix in June, throwing fewer four-seam fastballs in exchange for more sliders and curves (four-seam usage down from 46% to 37%; sliders up from 31% to 35%, curves up from 21% to 25%). The change is particularly notable because his four-seam fastball has historically been his worst/hardest hit pitch and the pitch with the highest fly-ball% allowed (59% and 23 of the 34 HR he has surrendered lifetime MLB). Plus, the slider and curve has drawn lots of swings-and-misses (slider: 22% curve: 16%). If the modified pitch mix sticks or moves even further in that direction, it could allow the Gray to unlock another level. This kid can pitch and the Nationals can score.
Washington -1½ +170 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.40)