MLB Monday best bets: Can Mets keep rolling vs. struggling Braves?
We're nearly a month into the MLB season, which is just long enough to start believing in some early-season trends but too early to put complete faith in them. Here are our best bets heading into the first week of May:
This total is tied for the lowest this season, but that's what happens when you pair two of the worst lineups in baseball with two of the most promising young arms.
Marlins starter Pablo Lopez has made legitimate noise as a Cy Young candidate this year after hurling an MLB-best 0.39 ERA through his first four starts - posting a ridiculous 23-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 1/3 innings. He's blanked the Phillies, Cardinals, and Nationals in successive starts and should have little issue thwarting the Diamondbacks, who own the second-lowest wOBA (.275) in the majors.
Zac Gallen has been strong on the mound, too, spinning a 0.60 ERA across 15 innings with an impressive 0.667 WHIP. The Marlins have surprised at the plate this year but likely won't get much from star bat Jazz Chisholm Jr. (illness), who saw one at-bat Sunday as he deals with a stomach issue.
Speaking of early-season trends, at what point can we start to believe in Chris Paddack again? The former standout rookie had a campaign to forget in 2021, but he's been sharp this year with a 3.68 ERA and 13 strikeouts to just one walk in his first season with the Twins.
Advanced metrics suggest he's been even better: His 1.72 FIP ranks 11th among starters with at least 10 innings pitched, while his high BABIP (.356) and low LOB% (66.7%) suggest there's more success on the way. That's due in part to his improved offspeed - he threw his curveball and changeup on 43 of 80 pitches in his last start and induced a combined four strikeouts with a 30-plus percent whiff rate on each offering.
If he can continue to keep the ball in the park - which shouldn't be hard in the newly cavernous Camden Yards - he'll have his way with the Orioles' lineup, which ranks in the bottom five in slugging (.286) and OPS (.598) in their home ballpark. And with the way the Twins are hitting, this one shouldn't be close.
Are the Mets actually for real? It sure looks that way with New York (16-7) atop the NL standings following Sunday's dominant 10-6 win over the dangerous Phillies. Now this group gets a chance to beat up on the division rival Braves (10-13), who rank in the bottom 10 in run differential (-0.6/game) with a 4-6 record against teams with a .500 record or better.
Atlanta's superstar slugger, Ronald Acuna Jr., is back in the lineup, but the 24-year-old has struggled in his return from injury, batting .154 with six strikeouts and zero extra-base hits through 14 plate appearances. He's unlikely to snap that slump against Mets starter Chris Bassitt (2.25 ERA), who has allowed one or fewer runs in three of four starts with at least six punchouts in all four starts.