MLB Over/Under Bet of the Day
Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics
First pitch: 9:40 p.m. ET
Probable pitchers: Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, -. — ERA) vs. Paul Blackburn (3-0, 1.35 ERA)
Perhaps it is time to take notice of one Paul Blackburn. After years of uninspiring work in the Majors, the 28-year-old appears to have figured out some things.
Take his curveball, for instance. As my teammate and fellow pitching guru Eric Samulski wrote about recently, Blackburn toyed with his curveball grip to increase horizontal movement. In turn, the pitch has been far more effective, obtaining an extra five inches of such run, and he’s getting desirable results based on the increased whiff rate and lack of hard-hitting contact from opposing batters.
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He’s also been throwing his new-look curve significantly more this year (21.4 percent of the time) compared to last (12.2 percent), and overall, Blackburn is clearly harder to hit. His whiff rate is at 27 percent of swings, which is several ticks higher than the 17.5-percent mark he posted across his nine starts in 2021.
Of course I understand if you’re weary considering Blackburn entered the campaign with a career 5.74 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 30 games (27 starts). I was never high on him, either, but the early returns of his shrewd adjustments are very notable, like that 1.35 ERA Blackburn carries through his first four assignments — one of which came against these same Rays, whom he blanked for five impressive innings while striking out seven batters.
That’s another big piece to Blackburn’s success, as he’s notching way more K’s than in any of his other seasons. These changes have transformed the right-hander into a legitimate big-league starter.
The counterpart on this evening, Ryan Yarbrough, has rightfully been thought of as a “legit big-league starter” for awhile now — hence why he had stints in the rotation in each of the last four years for a club that is always contending. Yarbrough has a variable to deal with, though, as this will be the lefty’s first 2022 assignment.
Even so, he’s been around long enough to put himself into a comfortable position tonight, so fretting about potential season-debut nerves or lingering effects from his previous groin injury need not be a thought. Yarbrough should also have a decent pitch count to work with after throwing 59 pitches his last rehab outing.
He’ll get a pretty good opportunity to start his year right, garnering a light-hitting A’s lineup that is still missing its best hitter (Ramon Laureano). Most tempting about this matchup is Oakland’s struggles thus far when taking on left-handed pitching.
Last year, the Athletics finished in the bottom third of baseball in team batting average (.239) and OPS (.725) versus southpaws. With an obvious downgraded lineup in the current campaign, those marks have been worse (.201 average, .618 OPS)
If Yarbrough doesn’t get much leash, that’s OK, too, considering the Rays boast one of the best bullpens annually. This has been the case once again this season, given they are one of eight teams in the league registering a sub-3.00 ERA.
2022 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*: “15-7-3,” +7.15 units
Yesterday’s Result: Angels-White Sox Under 7.5 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit