Opening Day of the 2018 MLB season is finally here on Thursday, March 29th. It’s the time of the year every baseball fan craves and the waiting game usually starts immediately after the final game of the World Series.
Now that the games actually mean something, everyone is going to look for ways to win big in daily fantasy baseball and via baseball betting.
Hunting for that awesome underdog is part of that plight, but the thing that keeps bettors going is getting rock solid wins that lead to consistent, reliable profit.
Getting those daily wins is a little easier said than done, but on such a huge Opening Day slate, there should be a few picks that stand out above the rest. Here are the five picks that seem to be the best locks for bettors looking for easy money:
Houston Astros (-158) Over Texas Rangers (+158)
Houston might be the best “gimme” value play of this entire slate, coming in at -158 at BetOnline.
The defending champions look like a pretty good bet going into the first day of the 2018 MLB betting season. Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA in 2017) was quite the trade acquisition last year and the 35-year old ace figures to start 2018 off with a bang.
The Rangers are not an easy opponent on the road (or ever), but Verlander went 2-1 against them last season and has one of the best offenses in baseball backing him.
The Astros actually offer some decent value as a straight up bet in this spot. They’ll either ride a stout Verlander performance to a win, or they’ll try to edge the Rangers out in a shootout.
It’s not like Cole Hamels (11-6, 4.20 ERA last year) is the same pitcher he was a few years ago. He’s been getting wrecked by right-handed power and has a brutal matchup in front of him.
Hamels didn’t exactly shut the Astros down in 2017 (5.40 ERA) and probably won’t do so on Opening Day.
Texas has a better shot than some teams to steal an upset on Thursday, but Houston looks like they have the better arm and offense in this one and I like them to get the win.
Cleveland Indians (-160) Over Seattle Mariners (+149)
Another elite arm that is easy to trust is Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA last season), who will try to start the 2018 year off right with a road win against the Seattle Mariners.
Seattle has a talented offense, but Kluber was stout on the road last year (8-2, 2.83 ERA) and handled the Mariners (1-0, 0 ER) the one time he faced them in 2017.
On the other side is Felix Hernandez, who will be making his 10th consecutive Opening Day start, but is not the elite force he’s been in past years. Hernandez is still a viable starter, but against a stacked Tribe offense, it’s doubtful he spins a majestic outing.
Cleveland has the obvious edge on the mound and their offense is one to fear. Considering that, the Indians offer pretty nice value as a -160 straight up bet at 5Dimes.
Boston Red Sox (-164) Over Tampa Bay Rays (+159)
Verlander and Kluber are worth backing on Opening Day, but few pitchers are as steady as Chris Sale.
The 28-year old southpaw was a beast in his first full season with the Red Sox last year (17-8, 2.90 ERA), and on Opening Day he’ll be battling a Rays offense that lost a lot of its power this offseason.
Tampa Bay dinged Sale once last year, but he otherwise dominated a far scarier lineup (4-1, 2.66 ERA). The Rays roster has since been stripped down, with mashers like Evan Longoria, Steve Souza, Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison all leaving town.
The one saving grace for the Rays on Opening Day could be pitcher Chris Archer, who didn’t always dazzle (10-12, 4.07 ERA) in 2017. Archer does have elite upside due to a strong K rate, but against a disciplined Boston offense, I’m not sure he can do enough to nab the win.
Boston’s price isn’t as good as some of the other favorites, but that’s probably because they have a great chance of winning. You can try some underdogs on Thursday, but you’d be wise to mix in a hard bet on the Bo Sox as well.
Chicago Cubs (-182) Over Miami Marlins (+179)
The Cubs won it all two years ago and last year they regressed a bit. They could dip even further this year if the loss of Jake Arrieta ends up being felt.
Hopefully, that won’t be the case on Opening Day when Jon Lester starts against a severely depleted Miami Marlins offense.
Lester was not his top-shelf self in 2017, but it is going to be awfully difficult for him to turn up lame in this matchup. Marlins Park is not only friendly to pitchers, but Lester is facing a team that willingly parted ways with elite offensive weapons in Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich.
Miami still has some interesting pieces, but it shouldn’t be enough to defy the odds and get off to a 1-0 start in 2018.
On top of that, they’re pushing Jose Urena onto the mound and he has to tackle a potent Cubs offense. Yeah, everything seems to be coming up Cubs on Thursday.
Los Angeles Dodgers (-285) Over San Francisco Giants (+265)
The easiest bet of this entire Opening Day MLB betting slate is the Dodgers taking down the rival Giants. That was not always necessarily the case, but a random injury to ace Madison Bumgarner almost certainly has this game decided before the teams even hit the field.
Perhaps that was always the case with Clayton Kershaw toeing the rubber. The 30-year old phenom posted another dazzling season in 2017 and remains very much in his prime. There’s just little reason to expect him to face plant against an improved but still underwhelming San Francisco offense.
The Giants no longer have a viable arm to combat Kershaw in this game, either. Instead of Madbum, it will be Ty Blach hitting the dirt. Considering he was just 1-2 against the Dodgers last year and their offense remains as explosive as ever, the Giants are a bad underdog to target.
Obviously, some of these picks could flat line and if you’re on the other side of it when that happens, that’s a lot of fun. Favorites don’t always win, even when logic suggests they absolutely should.
These are special instances, though. These are some of the best teams in baseball and they’ll have some of the top pitchers in solid matchups.
A clean 5-0 sweep for these teams would not be all that crazy, but if you’re planning on laying down some wagers, it’d make some sense to put some heavy bets on at least a couple of these favorites.