When to Bet the MLB Run Line

Learn when to bet the MLB run line.

Key Points

– There are times when the MLB run line makes more sense than the moneyline.

– Finding value is the cornerstone of being a successful MLB bettor.

When to Bet the MLB Run Line

Baseball has long been a moneyline sport. You bet on one team to win because scoring is relatively low in MLB games. The question that we take a look at in this post is if there is any value in betting the MLB run line.

There are times when you should bet the MLB moneyline. Other times, betting the MLB run line has more value. There are also times when not betting at all makes the most sense. It all comes down to value. 

Take the following example. The Yankees are taking on the White Sox. The Yankees, of course, are favored and are given -220 odds on the moneyline. Chicago is a +200 underdog. 

The run line is -1.5 for New York, but the odds are +110. For Chicago at +1.5, the odds are -150. So, where is the value? Should bettors wager on the moneyline or on the run line?


Analyzing Payouts

With the Yankees a -220 favorite, bettors will need to wager $220 to win $100. That seems like a lot and it is. Underdogs win about four out of every nine games in MLB. 

The White Sox are a +200 underdog. Now, there is a reason why they are given +200 odds. It probably has something to do with the pitching matchup, among other things. While 44 percent of MLB underdogs go on to win games, betting on Chicago here might be a stretch.

Then, we check the run line payouts. Bettors can get the Yankees at plus-money at +110. That means a $100 bet pays out $110. Great, but the Yankees have to win by at least two runs. Roughly one-third of all MLB games are decided by one run. If this one ends up 4-3, you lose. 

On the other side, the White Sox are given -150 odds to cover the MLB run line. That means bettors would wager $150 to win $100 and Chicago will have to lose by one run or win the game outright. 

So, where’s the value? Well, it’s not on the run line. Sure, you can get the Yankees at plus-money, but it’s only +110. New York has to win by two also, which is entirely possible. Betting Chicago on the run line here makes absolutely no sense. Betting $150 to win $100 on a team that is an overwhelming underdog on the moneyline is not the type of bet you should be making. Learning how to manage your bankroll in situations like this is key.

If this isn’t the time to play the run line, when is it a good time? Here are three criteria to use to decide whether or not you should make a wager on the MLB run line.

Betting the MLB Run Line in High-Scoring Games

Take a look at the total for a MLB game. Totals of 8.5 (sometimes even 8) and higher indicate that a high-scoring game is going to take place. When this is the case, it is advisable for bettors to consider betting the favorite on the run line. 

In high-scoring games, there are not a lot of one-run games. Think of games that end in scores of 7-2, 8-1, 9-5, or even 11-8. That’s a lot of runs and when a lot of runs are expected, games don’t usually end up 5-4 or 7-6. 

You will know the teams playing too, and that will play a role in your decision. Teams that have powerful lineups and generate a lot of runs should be a consideration when a high-scoring game is expected. Bet the favorite at -1.5 if the odds make sense. Often, a betting favorite is given plus-money odds to cover the spread because of the amount of one-run games in MLB.

Low-Scoring Games

You might be able to guess this one. If a game is expected to be a low-scoring affair, bettors should consider wagering on the underdog. Low-scoring MLB games typically have totals of 6.5, 7, or even 7.5.

If only six or seven runs are expected, it makes sense that the game will probably be close. The two most common final scores in baseball are 3-2 and 4-3. That is why it makes sense to wager on an underdog in games expected to feature less scoring.

Imagine a game with Cy Young-type pitchers like Sandy Alcantara of Miami or Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. Both pitchers usually go deep into games. Oddsmakers set the game total at 7. 

It would make sense to wager on the favorite on the MLB run line here. It’s likely to be a close game and even if the underdog loses, as long as they lose by one run, you’re a winner.

Home Field Advantage

This isn’t intermediate or advanced sports betting. Playing at home in MLB isn’t the advantage, although it probably helps to some degree. In baseball, the home team bats last. If the home team is winning after the top half of the ninth inning, they do not need to bat. They have already won the game.

Home teams, especially in low-scoring games, are not great bets on the run line. If they lead a low-scoring game – say 3-2 – after the top half of the ninth inning, the game is over. They cannot cover in this case. 

You would have to determine if the home team is the favorite or the underdog. Then, look at the run line odds. In some cases, the odds just won’t make sense and will eliminate the run line bet altogether. 

It’s important to exercise caution while betting the MLB run line. Finding true value can be challenging. When choosing which team to wager on and which bet to make – moneyline or run line – research the teams, current results, and matchups while also keeping in mind the three suggestions above. 

Never feel pressured to place a wager as a baseball handicapper. A run line that offers you value is worth adding an extra unit or two than one that appears shady. Put your best wager forward at all times, and you won’t lose money over the long haul.