MLB weekend preview: Buy the Marlins, Rays pitching

The 2021 MLB season is officially underway, and it’s our duty to make sure you’re prepared. Here, we’ll preview the first weekend, diving into all the news and notes to keep handy before locking in your wagers.

Orioles (+155) @ Red Sox (-175)
April 2, 2:10 p.m. ET

Orioles left-hander John Means and Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi square off for the first of a three-game set at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Means is one of the more intriguing pitchers to monitor. Means was profitable in 2019, despite a campaign in which Baltimore’s pitching staff set a record for homers allowed and the team overall only won 54 games – $100 bettors would have made $227 wagering on every one of his starts.

Then, last season happened.

The 27-year-old became a hot commodity in the market and his value drained. Only five other pitchers with 10 or more starts lost bettors more money than Means (-$504), who went 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA and 5.60 FIP.

It may not come as soon as Friday, but I have a tough time believing Means will be as unlucky as he was last year. The southpaw should have some attractive price tags attached to his name in 2021.

Rays (+105) @ Marlins (-115)
April 2, 7:10 p.m. ET

Ryan Yarbrough gets the nod for the Rays in their crosstown clash with Pablo Lopez and the Marlins. Both clubs rode their pitching staffs to the playoffs in 2020 – Tampa finished No. 4 in the majors in ERA while Miami’s rotation took huge strides – and their arms should be on full display in the second game of this series.

Yarbrough’s limited Miami hitters to a .143/.226/.179 slash line over his career and Lopez has cashed each of the last two unders starting against the Rays. Marlins Park ranked No. 28 in the majors in runs created last season – expect them to be at a premium on Friday.

Pirates @ Cubs (N/A)
April 3, 2:20 p.m. ET

Jake Arrieta will dominate headlines for the Cubs this weekend. The veteran righty, who spent the last three years with the Phillies, was with Chicago from 2013-17, winning a World Series and NL Cy Young to boot.

Arrieta will have the easiest matchup possible in his first start back – the Pirates own the lowest win total on the board – but if the number gets too inflated, bettors should consider Pittsburgh.

Tyler Anderson is slated to take the hill for the Pirates. The former four-year Rockies starter departed the team – and its hitter-friendly park – and joined the Giants in 2020, where he went 4-3 with a 4.37 ERA. Anderson’s Statcast numbers aren’t going to win him any awards, but he finished in the top-15 percentile in hard-hit percentage and top-23 percentile of exit velocity.

The Cubs struggled to plate runs versus southpaws a season ago – they collectively hit .197 and were one of two clubs to finish with a sub .200 average against left-handers (Mariners, .190).

Cardinals @ Reds (N/A)
April 4, 1:10 p.m. ET

Carlos Martinez and the Cardinals are worth a look on Sunday against the division-rival Reds.

No other qualified pitcher in baseball had a bigger positive discrepancy between ERA (9.90) and expected ERA (5.97) last year than Martinez, who didn’t record a single win across five starts. The 29-year-old should have better fortune in 2021, perhaps as early as Sunday.

Cincinnati had some issues against right-handers last year, with its .216 batting average ranking No. 28 in the majors.

Alex Kolodziej is a betting writer for RunSportBet. He can quote every line from “Rounders” and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AJKolodziej.