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MLB Thursday best bets: Guardians to best Twins

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Wednesday was a good day on the diamond. The Dodgers and Nationals breezed over the total of 9.5 runs while James Kaprielian failed to survive five innings.

Although Pete Alonso came a base short of giving us a sweep, we'll take the profitable 2-1 day.

Let's dive into a few plays that stand out on Thursday's small slate.

Guardians (+120) @ Twins (-140)

The Twins just took two of three from the high-powered Astros and are now sending one of their top arms, Pablo Lopez, to the hill. It doesn't seem like the ideal time to step in the way - but that's just what we're going to do.

Lopez has quietly struggled of late. He owns a 5.21 FIP over the past 30 days, is allowing more than two homers per nine innings, and simply cannot keep the ball on the ground. His fly-ball rate during this stretch (52.7%) is second highest among all of the day's starting pitchers.

He is enjoying success when he can strike batters out. Pitching to contact, however, has been problematic. That's what he will have to do against this Guardians team.

They're not exactly stuffed with big names and don't have gaudy offensive numbers, but the one thing the Guardians do extremely well is avoid strikeouts. Only the Mets and Nationals have done a better job of that this season.

The Guardians have also picked it up offensively of late, scoring 26 runs over the past four games. If you want to go back a little further, they're tied with the Red Sox in batting average versus righties the past couple of weeks despite poor luck on balls put in play.

That's not to say they're tearing the cover off the ball and will overpower Lopez. But the Guardians are in pretty good form, and their ability to force opposing pitchers to grind out longer at-bats should help mitigate Lopez's strengths.

On the other end of things, Tanner Bibee enters this contest pitching extremely well. He conceded two runs or fewer in five of six starts and some of his underlying metrics (3.42 FIP, 22% hard-hit rate) are very encouraging over the past month.

I expect he'll be able to keep the Twins' offense in check and give his team a good chance to win the series opener.

Bet: Guardians (+120)

Hunter Greene under 17.5 outs (-115)

Greene is one of the more talented strikeout artists in baseball. The Reds starter's electric arsenal comes with some control issues, though, which can lead to high pitch counts and prevent him from going the distance.

He has started 11 games this season and completed six innings in just four of them. Greene failed to go over this number against much lesser opponents like the Rockies, White Sox, Athletics and Pirates.

Given as much, I expect he'll have a tough time with this Red Sox team. They rank top five in wOBA against righties on the year while striking out less than all but four teams. They hit for power, they hit for average, they get on base, and they don't get K'd often.

Greene's large fuel tank does afford him the ability to fight through struggles and grind out innings - he has thrown 102-plus pitches in five of the last six - but this Red Sox offense is so prolific (especially at home, ranking third in wOBA) that I don't see him lasting an abnormally long time. That's what it'd take for him to go over this number.

Yordan Alvarez over 1.5 total bases (+110)

Alvarez is in the midst of a slump, failing to hit the over in seven of his past eight games.

What could aid Alvarez in his quest to get back on track? A winless left-handed pitcher with an ERA hovering around 5.0! That's what the Astros face this evening in Angels starter Reid Detmers.

I do think Detmers is better than those numbers suggest, but it shouldn't matter - Alvarez is that good against lefties.

Alvarez owns a .302 batting average against left-handed pitching this season. His ISO sits at .340 while his wOBA easily clears .400.

He is one of the league's most prolific lefty hitters and he has been quiet for quite some time. You're only going to keep a talent like Alvarez in a funk for so long - and this seems like the perfect spot to snap out of it.

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

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