Five to Follow MLB Betting: Saturday August 16, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 8/15/2014
Here's hoping that new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred makes some substantial changes in the game. It's still great going to a game in person because it's so slow. You drink a few beers, chat with your friends or people around you, check your fantasy stats. But in the NFL, college football or NBA, people will watch teams on TV other than the one they root for. That doesn't happen in baseball. For one, the games are too slow to watch on TV. Second, if the biggest star in MLB walked into your neighborhood mall, would you recognize him? Maybe Derek Jeter, but anyone else? Didn't think so. Not sure what Manfred can do about that, but those should be on the top of his list. Off my soapbox, here's a look at five interesting matchups on Saturday.
Yankees at Rays (-130, 7.5)
Desperate New York will get back catcher Brian McCann off the disabled list for this game. He has been on the concussion list since Aug. 9. I wouldn't call McCann a bust, but at $17 million a year he should be hitting better than .238 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs. He has never faced Rays starter Drew Smyly (7-10, 3.73). The lefty showed why the Rays wanted him as part of that David Price deal in his last start, blanking Texas on three hits over 7.2 innings. This will be his first start against the Yankees. New York's Shane Greene (3-1, 2.89) comes off a stunning start, where he blanked Detroit over eight innings on just five hits, outdueling Rick Porcello. Greene has not faced the Rays, but he is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA on the road this season.
Key trends: New York is 1-6 in its past seven against left-handers. The Rays have won eight straight Saturday games. The "under" is 7-1 in Tampa Bay's past eight Game 2s of a series.
Early lean: That lefty trend + Saturday trend clinches it for me: Take the Rays.
Blue Jays at White Sox (+130, 8.5)
If Toronto is going to make its move in the wild-card race, it probably needs to happen now. Adam Lind returned from the disabled list a few days ago, and Edwin Encarnacion did Friday. The schedule is pretty friendly upcoming. The Jays will hit, but will they pitch enough? For example, lefty Mark Buehrle (11-8, 3.31) hasn't been the same guy since early June when he was 10-1. He did pitch well on June 29 against the White Sox, his former team, allowing two runs over eight innings, but he still lost. Fellow southpaw John Danks (9-8, 4.96) has allowed at least four runs in each of his past five starts. He beat the Jays on June 27, allowing two runs over six innings. Encarnacion has two homers in eight at-bats off him. Catcher Dioner Navarro is 8-for-20 with three dingers and two doubles against Danks
Key trends: Toronto is 8-0 Buehrle's past eight against teams with a losing record. The White Sox have lost five straight Danks starts on Saturday. The under has hit in 10 of Buehrle's past 11 on Saturday.
Early lean: This looks like one of those 9-7 games. Who wins? Not sure, but go over at -115.
Cubs at Mets (-155, 7.5)
The "other" guy the Cubs received in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade with Oakland was A's pitcher Dan Straily, and he could be one of those reclamation projects that the Cubs have turned around so well the past few years. Straily is only 25 and was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2013 before struggling early this season with the A's and being sent down. He will make his Chicago debut on Saturday. He was 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA in seven starts at Chicago's Triple-A affiliate. Mets left-hander Jon Niese (6-8, 3.46) won for the first time since June 28 last time out, holding the Phillies to two runs over seven innings. Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro hits him well, going 5-for-16 with a triple, homer and five RBIs.
Key trends: The Cubs are 2-9 in their past 11 in Game 2 of a series. The Mets are 5-0 in Niese's past five against teams with a losing record. The over is 8-1 in the Mets' past nine at home against teams with a losing record (entering Friday).
Early lean: Go under all series here between two poor offenses.
A's at Braves (-110, 6.5)
It would be a minor surprise if Justin Upton, arguably the Braves' best offensive player, plays in this game after he left Thursday's with a hamstring strain. You simply can't rush those type of things, and the last thing the Braves need is to lose Upton for a few weeks. Upton is hitting .281 with 21 homers and 72 RBIs. This might be the second-best pitching matchup of the night (see below) as Oakland starts Sonny Gray against Atlanta's Julio Teheran. Gray (12-6, 2.86) has lost three straight starts, but two of those were quality. He has never faced the Braves. Teheran (10-9, 3.06) also has lost three straight starts, and he hasn't been great the past two. Are these two youngsters hitting an innings wall? Teheran has never faced Oakland.
Key trends: The A's are 6-1 in Gray's past seven Saturday starts. Atlanta is 3-14 in its past 17 against right-handers.
Early lean: It would be almost fair if Atlanta lost a big bat in Upton because the A's lose their DH. Either pitcher could dominate so go under at +100. This total could end up at 6.
Mariners at Tigers (-130, 6.5)
There aren't many must-see games during the baseball season, but Saturday night's Seattle at Detroit matchup surely is. For one, it has huge wild-card implications. Second, it features a matchup of former Cy Young winners in Felix Hernandez and David Price. King Felix (13-3, 1.95) probably adds Cy Young No. 2 this season. He has gone a record 16 straight starts of seven or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed. Hernandez is 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 13 career starts against Detroit. Miguel Cabrera hits .417 in 24 at-bats off Hernandez but hasn't gone deep. Price (11-8, 3.21) hasn't been dominant in two starts with Detroit, yet to record a decision with a 4.30 ERA. He is 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA in two starts this year against the Mariners while with the Rays. Robinson Cano is a career .281 hitter off him with a home run and 10 RBIs in 64 at-bats.
Key trends: Seattle is 8-1 in Hernandez's past nine against teams with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in his past five on the road.
Early lean: I guarantee you this opening total will drop. Go under before it does. That half-run is huge.
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