There’s no way better way to start the Major League Baseball season than with a matchup against one of the teams you despise the most.

That’s the case with the Philadelphia Phillies, opening the 2024 season as a slight underdog at home against the Atlanta Braves.

Friday’s game should be all about pitching, at least at the start, with Zach Wheeler and that crowd-hating clown Spencer Strider dueling.

Strider and Wheeler are the two favorites to capture the NL Cy Young Award at FanDuel and DraftKings. Strider is the favorite at +380 (FD) and +400 (DK), while Wheeler is the second favorite at +800 (DK) and +900 (FD).

Wheeler is 12-7 with a 3.18 ERA and 173 strikeouts in his career against Atlanta. He had 21 strikeouts in 19 regular-season innings against the Braves last year and a 10-strikeout performance in the postseason.

The over/under on Wheeler’s strikeout prop sits at 6.5. He went over that number in his first start in two of the last three years, including a 10-punchout opener against Atlanta in 2021.

Strider’s strikeout numbers will be inflated all season, and that’s on display with his over/under of 8.5, the over settling around -125. He had at least nine strikeouts in all four of his regular-season starts against the Phillies last season and had at least nine punchouts in every April start in 2023.

Of course, the Phillies had much more success against the Braves’ ace in the postseason. Strider allowed nine earned runs, five homers and did not have more than eight strikeouts in his three playoff appearances versus Atlanta.

The hitters on each side have plenty of familiarity with Wheeler and Strider, and if the hitters thrive on Friday, these are the guys to look at:

  • Ronald Acuna Jr. – 4 HR, 7 RBI, .250 AVG, .881 OPS vs. Wheeler
  • Matt Olson – 2 HR, 2 RBI, .235 AVG, .904 OPS vs. Wheeler
  • Kyle Schwarber – 1 HR, 1 RBI, .222 AVG, .753 OPS vs. Strider
  • Bryce Harper – 1 HR, 3 RBI, .200 AVG, .650 OPS vs. Strider

Oddly enough, Brandon Marsh has the best numbers on the Phillies roster against Strider. He has a .364 average and 1.144 OPS in 11 at-bats. Marsh is -120 at FD and +110 at DK just to get a hit.

Weird things happen in baseball every day and Brandon Marsh Opening Day hero has a nice ring to it. That might be something to consider as Pennsylvania online sports betting and New Jersey online sports betting add Major League Baseball to the daily slate.