There's nothing worse than banking on a solid outing from a starter, and getting it - only to see your moneyline bet fall through because the guy's bullpen had a meltdown. Most baseball bettors would rather get food poisoning than suffer this kind of fate.
While the majority of bullpens are better than they've ever been before, you'll still see an occasional lead blown because none of the team's relievers can get anybody out. But hey, that's what first five-inning lines are for, right?
Here are four pitchers whose five-inning performances have been much stronger than their overall records, making them solid short-game bets:
RHP Matt Andriese, Tampa Bay Rays
Overall record: 3-1, 4 no-decisions
5-inning record: 7-1
That Andriese isn't even the only Tampa Bay pitcher on the list speaks to the frustrating ineptitude of the Rays' bullpen, which has allowed 98 runs from the sixth inning onward - second-most in the majors. Despite this, Andriese has had a terrific season so far, limiting opponents to a .237 batting average while averaging nearly a strikeout per inning through eight starts.
The Rays led after the fifth inning in each of Andriese's first four starts, but he came away with just one victory to show for it. He took his only loss of the season against the Blue Jays on April 29, then answered with three straight five-inning victories, picking up a pair of actual wins over that span. If the Tampa Bay bullpen were even modestly better, he would have 5-plus wins at this point.
RHP Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
Overall record: 3-2, 4 no-decisions
5-inning record: 6-2-1
Archer has been just as sharp as Andriese in the early going, ranking in the Top 5 league-wide in strikeouts while limiting foes to a .225 batting average. Yet, he finds himself with just three wins on the season and, despite struggling for the majority of the past month, he should also have five or more victories by this point.
His most frustrating no-decision game in a rematch with the Blue Jays on May 5, in which he allowed a game-tying home run to Kendrys Morales in the seventh inning before watching the Rays bullpen surrender five runs in the eighth. It has been that kind of year for Tampa Bay's beleaguered relief corps, which enters Friday having thrown the fourth-most innings in baseball.
RHP Andrew Cashner, Texas Rangers
Overall record: 1-3, 3 no-decisions
5-inning record: 4-2-1
Cashner is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance after struggling for most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. But you wouldn't know it by looking at his record, with his only victory coming last time out against the Philadelphia Phillies. That said, Cashner has been one of the strongest five-inning plays in baseball, made even stronger by the fact he has been an underdog in five of seven starts.
The Texas bullpen is partly to blame for Cashner's win drought - it has allowed the third-most runs after the fifth inning so far in 2017. The once-vaunted offense is also culpable, having scored a total of seven runs over Cashner's first five starts, resulting in a 0-3 record despite a 2.63 ERA in that stretch. With 14 runs in his last two starts, perhaps the support will stick around.
RHP Luis Perdomo, San Diego Padres
Overall record: 0-0, 6 no-decisions
5-inning record: 3-1-2
Perdomo hasn't exactly lit the world on fire through six starts, boasting a 4.19 ERA while topping out at six innings. But he deserves a much better fate than six consecutive no-decisions to open the season, and is still looking for his first win of the season thanks at least in part to a Padres bullpen that has allowed a whopping 100 runs after the fifth inning - the most of any team in the majors.
Perdomo has found himself trailing after five innings in just one of his first half-dozen appearances, with three leads in that span. You'll likely continue to get great five-inning odds on him thanks to the Padres' overall futility, but they have the kind of lineup that can jump out to a nice early lead. They just can't keep the opponent from coming back to win. At least, not yet.