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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:58 PM

Friday's Best Bet

Friday MLB Best Bet (7:10 p.m. ET)
St. Louis at Cincinnati

The Cardinals used a five-run 6th inning yesterday (thanks to a Tommy Edman grand slam) to take control of the series opener with the Reds and ultimately win 7-4. It was a good win for the Redbirds, as they've now won five of their last six games overall and are doing what they need to to keep pace with the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central race.

Cincinnati has seen their hopes of a 2nd half comeback get cast aside since returning from the break, as they've dropped five of seven since returning, three of which have come to the Cubs and Cardinals. They are a squad that just hasn't had anywhere near the type of consistent offensive production you need to consistently win in this league, and with their pitching faltering later in games during this recent three-game losing streak, there just hasn't been enough time late for the Reds bats to erase those mistakes.

Cincinnati has to have a realistic expectation that they'll be the ones likely playing spoiler in this tight division come late-August and September, but can they do that today and cool off this hot Cardinals team?

MLB Odds: St Louis (-106) vs Cincinnati (-102); Total set at 10

Thanks to Thursday's win, the Cardinals now own a 5-3 edge in the season series with the Reds, as that was the second time they beat Cincinnati on their own diamond. All five of those St Louis wins have been decided by at least two runs, as have all three Cincinnati wins. So if you're a big believer in following that type of trend, backing the winner could be accompanied by a -1.5 run line bet as well if you want to spread out your wagers in that sense. Obviously you've got to be correct in the eventual winner, so let's try and piece that together for tonight now.

The Cardinals are sending veteran Adam Wainwright to the hill, and he was sensational in his last outing. Wainwright pitched seven shutout innings of four-hit ball in a 5-2 win over Arizona last Sunday, as he was definitely a guy that benefited from all that time off in-between starts thanks to the All Star game. It was the third time in his last 10 outings that he went at least 7 IP, and two of the three ended up being scoreless outings as well. St Louis ended up going 2-1 SU in those games and always love when they get a throwback performance from their former ace.

However, those great starts have all been at home for Wainwright this year, and his aging body seemingly needs to be sleeping in his own bed to pitch well. Wainwright has a 6.20 ERA on the road this year and the Cardinals are just 3-5 SU in those eight outings. A couple of those rough road starts have come directly following a dominant home one too, as after the previous two times he's gone at least 7 IP this year, he's only lasted 4.1 innings or less the following start (both on the road) and they resulted in 10-2 and 5-1 Cardinals losses.

That's not great for those considering to back the hotter team in St Louis tonight, especially since Wainwright is already 0-1 SU in Cincinnati this season. It's hard enough for guys at the stage of their career that Wainwright is to back up a high quality outing with another one, and to ask him to do so on the road where he's not been good all year is really tough.

Cincinnati is turning to Tyler Mahle today and there hasn't been a whole lot of good statistically from him lately, or all year. The Reds are 4-14 SU in his 18 starts this year, and with a 7.53 ERA and the Reds being 0-3 SU in his last three starts, you can understand why the majority of the market will likely land on the Cardinals tonight.

However, Mahle's recent numbers are really quite skewed in that his last outing was a rough one out in Colorado (12 hits and 10 runs allowed in 4.1 IP) and that's a baseball diamond where good pitching stats go to die. That's not to say Mahle has been great recently and had one bad outing, but even though Reds opponents have scored 10, 11, and 8 runs against Cincinnati in his last three starts – which is what many will focus on – outside of that Colorado outing, Mahle's efforts were not responsible for the bulk of that damage. They also came against two of the better teams baseball has in Cleveland and Milwaukee, and it's not like Cincinnati's home park is all that friendly to pitchers to begin with.

Many of the Reds other losses in Mahle's recent starts have just as much blame going to the offense as they've scored two runs or less in four of his last six defeats, proving that there is always more to the story than recent trends or box scores will tell you. But it's those two things that commonly get used as supporting evidence for backing a certain play, and they'll likely be touted by some today given that the Cardinals are already a popular play to the tune of 70+ percent.

However, I'm much more willing to give the Reds a shot here against Wainwright in his worst role (on the road AND off a high quality start). It's not like the Cardinals have been the most consistent team out there this year, especially given who they've got on paper, and the fact that this line isn't favoring the Cardinals more suggests to me that the oddsmakers have the belief that Cincinnati is a lot more 'live' then the majority who heavily rely on recent performances (by team and starting pitcher) may want to believe.

Best Bet: Cincinnati ML

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