At long last, Major League Baseball is finally returning to ballparks and television screens throughout America.
The player lockout dominated the headlines during the offseason, paused free agency, and forced the first few series of games to be canceled. All of that will soon be forgotten when the players step foot in the diamond they call home.
There is a loaded slate of action Thursday, but from it, these are the best bets to consider.
Shohei Ohtani o4.5 Strikeouts
Shohei Ohtani is now known as a true strikeout artist, but he did throw nearly seven strikeouts per game in 2021. He is one of the elite pitchers in the game. The Japanese-born star will be fresh after a long offseason of rest and recovery.
He will also have a level of comfort from playing in his home park. That should help him retire at least five batters with third strikers.
Ohtani pitched two games against the Astros last season; one was a win, in which he threw ten strikeouts. The other was a loss, in which he threw one. This is not necessarily a guaranteed pick, but with near-even odds, this deal is too good to pass up on, regardless of the hitting talent that the Astros have on their roster.
Jose Ramirez to Hit a Home Run
This bet will bring in $3.50 profit on the dollar if it comes true; Jose Ramirez hit 36 homers last season, tying him for 14th-best in the league. He was one of the bright spots on a Cleveland team that struggled to compete against most teams, especially the ones with better athletes. He will be going against the Kansas City Royals’ newly-signed Zack Greinke, master of the slower fastball.
One major factor in play for this bet is that Ramirez recently signed a huge deal with the Guardians. He will be anxious to start to pay off his debt to them.
It also helps that Greinke, as effective as he can be, does not have the speed on his pitches to blow by batters. So, all he has to do is leave one hanging slightly near the sweet spot for Ramirez to take it yard and kick off the new season with a bang.
Adam Wainwright o4.5 Strikeouts
Very similar to Ohtani, Adam Wainwright is being underrated with his strikeout line in this game. The 40-year-old pitcher averaged just under 5.5 strikeouts per game last season. He hit the over on this 4.5 line in all four games he participated in against the Pittsburgh Pirates, his opening-day opponent.
The Pirates are also not exactly the first team that comes to mind when considering the best batting teams in baseball. The offseason’s rest will also be especially beneficial for the older Wainwright, meaning that he should be dealing his best stuff when the season kicks off. This is the strongest play of the three props on this sheet.