Five to Follow MLB Betting: Friday September 5, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 9/4/2014
I don't know about you, but I don't believe a starting pitcher should win a league MVP Award because he only goes out there every five days. Pitchers have their own award. Thus, in my opinion the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton should be the NL MVP. He homered Wednesday and leads the league in dingers by six and RBIs by 10. In the last 40 years, seven players have led the NL in homers and RBIs. Six won MVP. The only one who didn't was Colorado's Dante Bichette in 1995 (Barry Larkin did). Working against Stanton, other than that the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw is unreal, is only three times since 1931 has the NL MVP gone to a player on a losing team. Thus, Kershaw is the -150 favorite. Here's a look at Friday's Marlins game and four other interesting matchups on the schedule.
Pirates at Cubs (+104, TBA)
Not only is Chicago All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo likely done for the season, for sure so is All-Star Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro with a high ankle sprain. Castro possibly could have returned for a few games, but there's no point. Castro finishes hitting .292 with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs. Javier Baez will close the season at shortstop, and it's not impossible that Castro has played his final game in a Cubs uniform as there are rumors the Cubs will trade him for a young No. 1 pitcher because they have Baez to play there (plus Addison Russell in the minors). So it's a watered-down lineup that Pittsburgh's Vance Worley will face in Friday's only matinee. Worley (6-4, 3.01) pitched at Wrigley back in June, allowing three runs over 6.2 innings. Chicago's Tsuyoshi Wada (4-2, 2.79) has been great at home, going 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA in six starts. He has never faced Pittsburgh.
Key trends: The Pirates are 5-1 in Worley's past six vs. teams with a losing record. The Cubs have won six straight at home vs. teams with a winning record. They are 7-1 in the past eight after an off day. The "over/under" has gone under in Wada's past five at home.
Early lean: Even without Rizzo and Castro, the Cubs are the choice behind Wada. Go under -- it probably will open at 7 depending on the wind.
Blue Jays at Red Sox (-112, 8.5)
Boston is expected to get back second baseman Dustin Pedroia for Friday's game. Pedroia (.280, seven HRs, 51 RBIs) took a forearm to the head in last Saturday's game and suffered a concussion. The Sox will face Toronto pitcher Drew Hutchison (9-11, 4.47). He has pitched back-to-back quality starts for the first time all season, allowing one run over 13 innings against the Yankees and Rays. Hutchison is 1-1 with a 7.56 ERA in two starts against Boston this year. Mike Napoli is 2-for-3 with a double off him. David Ortiz is 0-for-8 with two strikeouts. Pedroia has a single in five at-bats. Boston's Clay Buchholz (6-8, 5.40) comes off his best start of the season, throwing a complete-game three-hitter against the Rays. However, he is 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA in five starts against the Jays in 2014. Adam Lind is a career .347 hitter off him with two home runs.
Key trends: The Jays have lost seven straight Friday games. Boston is just 3-14 in its past 17 at home. Toronto has won six straight at Fenway.
Early lean: The Jays still care, while the Red Sox don't. Toronto is solid underdog value.
Angels at Twins (+149, 9)
Obviously the White Sox's Jose Abreu will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but have you seen how good the Angels' Matt Shoemaker (14-4, 3.14) has been? Most years he would be a lock to win and certainly should finish second. Shoemaker was not considered a top prospect and already is 27. He was supposed to be an injury fill in but has been stellar. The Angels have won his past five starts, and he has blanked the A's and Marlins over seven innings each in his past two outings. Shoemaker has never faced the Twins. Minnesota counters with one of the worst free-agent signings of this past offseason, Ricky Nolasco (5-10, 5.96). He allowed eight runs and 12 hits in five innings last time out and was rocked for six runs and 11 hits in six innings by the Angels on June 26. Albert Pujols is a career .545 hitter off him with three homers and 10 RBIs in 22 at-bats.
Key trends: L.A. is 6-1 in Shoemaker's past seven on the road. The Twins are 0-5 in Nolasco's past five. The over is 7-0 in the Twins' past seven on Friday.
Early lean: Take any Pujols hitting prop and a rare road team on the runline (Angels are -105).
Astros at A's (-215, 7)
Oakland might get some good news Friday in that center fielder Coco Crisp, who hasn't played since reinjuring his neck last Friday, could return. He got some injections on Tuesday and is feeling better. Crisp is hitting .254 with nine homers and 45 RBIs. However, first baseman Stephen Vogt sprained his left ankle in Wednesday's game and could miss a few. As part of a platoon, he's hitting .303 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. Makes the Adam Dunn trade look even smarter as he can play there. Oakland faces Houston left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (4-10, 4.39). He is 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts this year against the A's. Jed Lowrie hits .400 off him. Josh Donaldson bats .462 with a homer and three knocked in. Oakland's Jeff Samardzija (6-11, 3.14) has had back-to-back quality starts after one rough one vs. the Mets. He beat Houston on Aug. 25, allowing two runs and striking out 10 over eight innings.
Key trends: Houston is 4-0 in Oberholtzer's past four series openers. The A's are 5-1 in Samardzija's past six at home. Houston is 1-8 in the past nine in Oakland.
Early lean: Oakland at -110 on the runline.
Braves at Marlins (-125, 7)
I have no idea why Houston chose to trade pitcher Jared Cosart to Miami at the deadline. Cosart is only 24 and under team control for several more years, and it doesn't seem like the Marlins gave up a ton to get him in terms of prospects. Cosart (12-8, 3.80) was a little shaky in his first Marlins start but has dominated in the past four, allowing one run or fewer in each. His last start was in Atlanta, blanking the Braves on seven hits over seven innings. Miami's going to have an excellent rotation next year with a healthy Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez and Cosart leading the way. The Braves counter with struggling Aaron Harang (10-9, 3.64), who pitched way above his head much of the year but is now regressing to the mean. He was opposite Cosart in his last start with Harang allowing four runs in 5.2 innings. Stanton hits .381 off him with a homer in 21 at-bats.
Key trends: Atlanta is 1-8 in Harang's past nine starts. The Marlins are 8-1 in their past nine series openers. The under is 4-1 in Harang's past five vs. Miami.
Early lean: I'm a Cosart believer and Harang is done. Take Miami. Double up at +175 on the runline.
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