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All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: Valdez has had at least six strikeouts in seven of 11 starts this season.
- The Pick: Framber Valdez Over 5.5 K (-167)
Houston's Framber Valdez has pitched more innings against the Los Angeles Angels than any other MLB team, and he's all right with that because he's done very well against them. In 16 appearances (12 starts), Valdez is 8-4 with a 3.73 ERA. What's more important to us is his ability to strike Angels hitters out.
In his career, Valdez has a strikeout rate of 23.4%. Against the Angels, that rate climbs to 25.8%. Even more important to our interests, current Angels hitters have had 150 plate appearances against Valdez, and 48 (32%) have resulted in strikeouts. That includes the biggest stars of the Angels lineup, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. The dynamic duo has struck out 16 times in 55 plate appearances against Valdez.
Hunter Renfroe, another power bat in the middle of the lineup, has 11 strikeouts in 20 plate appearances. Plus, Valdez has seen an uptick in his strikeout rates since a start against the Angels last year. Valdez struck out 13 Angels in six innings on July 3 last season. From that game into his 11 starts this season, Valdez has had a strikeout rate of 26.2%. He's finished with at least six strikeouts in 24 of his 31 starts beginning with that 13-strikeout performance last July.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine projection model believes there's value on the money line here tonight, giving a B-grade on one side.
💰 The Picks
Cardinals at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Roansy Contreras Under 4.5 K (-175) -- After taking the over on Framber Valdez, we're going the opposite direction with Pittsburgh's Roansy Contreras. Contreras has never been a high strikeout pitcher. He has a career strikeout rate of 19.7% in 150 big league innings, and that number plummets against the current Cardinals roster.
It's not the largest of sample sizes, but Contreras has only struck out four of the 69 Cardinals hitters he's faced, and three of those strikeouts are Nolan Arenado. The rest of the Cardinals roster has one strikeout (by Nolan Gorman) in 57 plate appearances. Furthermore, Contreras has finished with five or more strikeouts in only three of his 10 starts this season (none of his last five) and 13 of 31 starts going back to last season.
Manchester City vs. Manchester United, Saturday, 10 a.m. | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Over 2.5 (-160) -- A friend of mine who supports Manchester United told me he was betting heavily on United because Manchester City has the Champions League final next week and will not care as much about the FA Cup. This is what is commonly referred to as the state of denial. I guarantee Manchester City cares about winning the FA Cup against anybody, and it cares against Manchester United. This club wants to complete the treble of winning the Premier League, FA Cup and then the Champions League. And it might, but while I expect City to win this match, I'm not betting it too. There isn't enough value on the line.
I prefer to bet the total. City has only scored two goals in three matches since crushing Real Madrid 4-0, but it was on cruise control a bit, and it was also a bit unlucky. Its xG (expected goals) in those three matches was 4.6. The attack is fine. Meanwhile, United has been on a tear, winning four straight matches by a combined score of 9-2. However, while United's xG of 12.7 suggests it should've scored more, it should've allowed more too! It allowed 5.0 xG in those matches despite allowing only two goals. It got away with allowing chances to bottom-half teams. It won't get away allowing the same opportunities to Manchester City.
Roma vs. Spezia, Sunday, 3 p.m. | TV: Paramount+
The Pick: Spezia (+275) -- Roma lost the Europa League final earlier this week, and it all happened in hilariously predictable fashion. Roma took an early lead, and instead of pushing for a second goal, Jose Mourinho parked the hell out of the bus and tried to hold onto a one-goal lead for 70 minutes. I don't blame him because it's a tactic that has worked for him many times. However, it did not work this time. Sevilla scored, which led Mourinho to do what he typically does in these situations: find anybody to blame but himself. So he berated the officials on the field, in his press conference, and the tunnel below the stadium. This led to Roma fans harassing the officials at the airport.
What does any of this have to do with this pick? Well, Mourinho and Roma put all their emphasis on winning the Europa League. Not only did they want the trophy, but it was the clearest path to the Champions League. They failed, and after the match, Mourinho sounded like a man who felt the season was over. His players displayed body language that suggests the same. Mourinho even talked about not knowing whether he'd be back at Roma next year. And they still have a match to play! A match against a Spezia team that could avoid relegation with a win! In other words, Roma is checked out, and Spezia's life is on the line. That doesn't guarantee anything, but that's a pretty big number on a team in a must-win spot against a team that spent the last few days crying.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Game 2 of the NBA Finals isn't until Sunday, but our SportsLine experts are already sharing their thoughts.