The Thursday MLB card is a short one, as we don’t have a lot of games, but the ones we do have some very interesting pitching matchups. Take, for example, the series finale between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be Anthony DeSclafani for the Giants and Walker Buehler for the Dodgers.

DeSclafani’s worst start, one that accounts for nearly 28% of the runs he has allowed this season, came against the Dodgers. Will that lead bettors to take the heavy favorites in this one? The Dodgers are priced in the -175 range at Jazz Sports with a total of 8 for the series finale.

San Francisco Giants

These two teams will play again next week for a three-game series at Oracle Park, so we’ll see how it goes when the two best teams in the NL West square off once again. For now, Thursday’s game is a big one, as the Giants have taken two of the first three in this four-game set. They returned the favor from Tuesday, beating Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning for some late-game heroics.

The Giants have faced underdog odds in all three games up to this point and will face long odds again on Thursday, even though a side-by-side comparison of the two teams suggests that they are quite similar. Entering play on Wednesday, Giants position players had accounted for 17 fWAR. The Dodgers had 19.2. The Giants slightly trailed in the wOBA department by four teams, largely because the Dodgers were 11 points better in OBP due to a higher walk rate.

The Giants have actually hit for more power. The Dodgers do strike out less, so they’ve put more balls in play and have more plate appearances with men in scoring position, but the gap is hardly as big as the lines this week would suggest. This does look to be a race that will go down to the wire in the NL West.

Anthony DeSclafani allowed 10 runs on nine hits in 2.2 innings against the Dodgers on May 23. He has allowed just 13 earned runs in nine starts since and had allowed 12 earned runs in nine starts prior to that ill-fated day. DeSclafani has a 2.78 ERA with a 3.64 FIP and that includes two other starts against the Dodgers, in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits in 9.2 innings of work.

We can’t magically remove his starts against the Dodgers, but if we did, DeSclafani would have a 1.78 ERA. He’s been brilliant against everybody else, but all three of his starts against the Dodgers have graded poorly by Game Score. It would be huge if he could have a great outing tonight.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers entered this series one game behind the Giants for the top spot in the NL West. The division couldn’t be won in this series, but it is different when you are the one being chased and the one doing the chasing. The Dodgers should know. After all, they’ve won this division eight times in a row.

You actually have to go back to 2011 to find the last time that the Dodgers weren’t first or second in the NL West and it doesn’t appear that streak will end this season either. The Dodgers rank first or second in a lot of key offensive metrics and have the pitching staff to back it up as well. Even without Trevor Bauer, who is still on MLB’s restricted list, and Clayton Kershaw, who is on the IL, the Dodgers just keep finding pitchers that can get outs.

It doesn’t take much to put the Dodgers in position to succeed. As mentioned, they went into Wednesday’s action second in wOBA and fourth in wRC+, just ahead of the Giants in both categories. They draw a ton of walks, generate a lot of scoring chances, and capitalize on a lot of the ones that they get.

Walker Buehler comes into this start with a 10-1 record in his 19 starts. Buehler has a 2.37 ERA with a 3.35 FIP in his 121.1 innings of work. His K% is down this season, but he’s done a better job keeping the ball in the park. The disappearing strikeouts are an interesting topic, as Buehler has seen a drop in his SwStr% and has allowed more contact on pitches in the zone than ever before.

On the other hand, he’s been just as effective, if not more effective. If the strikeouts do return as the second half moves along, it will increase his projection in a big way. Buehler has not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 11 and has only allowed two earned runs in 19.2 innings against the Giants this season.

Giants vs. Dodgers Free Pick

A lot of bettors will use the head-to-head comparison of the three starts against the opposition for DeSclafani and Buehler and just take the Dodgers here. The handicap is a lot more nuanced than that, though DeSclafani does have some negative regression signs in the profile. It is a big number and we aren’t getting line equity on the Dodgers. This is just a pick with the belief that the Dodgers do win this game more often than they lose it and should take care of business tonight.