Today's Top Picks: Two best bets for Raptors-Bucks and a battle of young MLB pitchers to target
Also, watch SportsLine on CBS Sports HQ live at 6 p.m. ET for all today's best bets
It's a shame the Mets and Nationals played during the day on Thursday. Why? Because I would have given you the Mets as a selection in this spot. That sounds like easy hindsight information, and I feel bad saying, "Hey, this game that already happened is a winner," but it's really more of a springboard to point out just how freaking terrible the Nationals are this season.
The crazy part? They were huge favorites against the Mets, thanks to Stephen Strasburg taking the bump for Washington. The Mets were +135 at closing, even though a) Steven Matz was starting for them, and b) the Nationals bullpen is the worst in baseball, incapable of holding any lead.
Thursday was another example of this flaming pile torching a potential win, as the Nats bullpen crumpled up an outstanding performance by Strasburg, threw it in the dumpster, poured gasoline all over it and lit it up.
Strasburg went seven innings with two earned runs and left the game with the Nats trailing 3-1. Washington would pick up three runs off Robert Gsellman to set up a potential series-saving victory and avoid the sweep. What do you think the bullpen did? That's right, it immediately gave back three more runs, with Wander Suero managing to allow two men on and record two outs before coughing up a three-run jack to Carlos Gomez, who is now slugging a less-than-impressive .788 on the season.
Don't bet on the Nationals, and definitely don't bet the under in their games anymore either. This is the second straight game where the bullpen has hemorrhaged a lead and caused the game to go over the total. This is one of the worst teams in baseball, and barring a surprise signing of like five Craig Kimbrels, it's not going to get any better. The Nats are closer to battling the Marlins for last in the division than they are the Phillies for a playoff spot.
They're wasting great years from Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Strasburg, made even more criminal when they're paired with a lineup that features young talent like Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Trea Turner (recently back from a fluke injury) not to mention Anthony Rendon in a contract year.
Don't bother betting on this team unless you can fade it as a favorite. All lines via Westgate:
1. Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: Bucks -7
This number is too high, right? Maybe. But the Bucks looked awesome in the first two games of this series before struggling in Toronto the last two games. Maybe the Raptors figured out how to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo; that's a little concerning, considering the Bucks will have to lean on their guards to score (more on that below). But I think it's a team that understands it needs to bounce back in a big way. My guess is we get the "you can't stop him regardless of what's happening" performance from Giannis along with a much better shooting performance from guys like Brook Lopez, who looked more comfortable at home.
The Action Network's John Ewing points out that the Bucks lost six other games this year by 18 points or more and responded in the next game by covering the spread by 12.8 points per game. With a banged-up Raptors team coming to town, I could see Milwaukee extending a lead with a big second half and winning this one handily.
The SportsLine Projection Model has simulated this matchup 10,000 times, and while it has a lean on the spread, there's a clear value on the total, where one side is cashing 55 percent of the time. See the computer's picks only at SportsLine.
2. Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: Under 215
This line is careening south right now, so it may end up being in the 210 range when all is said and done, with the game tipping off at 8:35 p.m. ET. I'm not even sure I really mind that number either -- the Bucks are a better team at home and should play better defense. But I'm not entirely sure they're going to be lobbing up huge points at home either; we've seen an inability of their guards to shoot thus far when people double Giannis.
Even if they win big, I don't think the Bucks are throwing up some 130-point effort. In fact, I think there's a correlation here for the Bucks winning, the Raptors struggling and the under hitting. Game 4 hit the over because of some garbage-time points. Game 3 only had 192 in regulation. If we get a 70-point quarter like Game 2 in Milwaukee, it could be a problem. But I think the way this series has played out indicates that's unlikely to happen again.
The WNBA season tips off Friday, and SportsLine expert Jacob Gibbs has crunched the numbers to find the best value play, eschewing the teams at the top for a sleeper pick. See Gibbs' top play over at SportsLine before locking in your futures bet.
3. Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros: First 5 full innings Under 5
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, you're Lucas Giolito. The much-hyped pitching prospect has once again wormed his way into fantasy baseball relevance with a potential post-hype breakout performance for the White Sox in the month of May. Giolito has a 1.85 ERA in his last four starts, all of which have gone at least five innings and two of which have gone seven innings. One of the five-inning games was actually a "complete game" performance against the Blue Jays, as Giolito picked up the W on a game that was called after five innings. He'd only thrown 78 pitches, meaning his numbers could be even better. The Astros are a different beast, but he's had success against the Red Sox this month too, and he managed to stymie Toronto in back-to-back games.
On the other side will be a young prospect who's been good early, Corbin Martin, and he'll look to continue his streak of decent starts. He hasn't gone deep into games -- hence the first-five option here -- but he has only allowed two runs in each of his first two starts, against the Rangers (five innings) and against the Red Sox (four innings), the latter game on the road. The White Sox aren't a very good lineup to begin with, but they're pretty bad against right-handed pitching, posting a 95 OPS+ as a team with a .309 OBP on the season. Young pitcher duel, here we come!
The French Open begins Sunday, and you'll want to see who internationally-acclaimed tennis journalist Sean Calvert is taking before locking in your bets. Calvert breaks down the field and gives his best bet over at SportsLine.
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