Five to Follow MLB Betting: Saturday August 30, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 8/29/2014
Just a reminder to everyone that baseball's waiver trade deadline is at 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, and there could be moves that will affect pennant races. Of course, the one problem for a team who claims a player is that the other team might just say: "keep him." The Toronto Blue Jays did that a few years ago with Alex Rios and his big contract, simply punting it to the White Sox. It's why you will rarely see a guy with a big contract (who is any good) get claimed. If a guy goes unclaimed, he can be traded anywhere. Here's a look at five interesting matchups on Saturday.
Reds at Pirates (-140, 7.5)
Don't expect to see Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez -- he doesn't play third any longer -- this weekend. Alvarez, who is second on the team with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs, hasn't played since Aug. 26 due to a foot injury that the Pirates have been strangely quiet about. He has been seen in a walking boot, so that's not good. The Pirates keep losing guys, plus Andrew McCutchen is playing hurt, yet they are hanging in there. I didn't see that coming. The Pirates haven't had much luck this season against Reds starter Alfredo Simon (13-8, 3.26), as he is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA this season against Pittsburgh. Simon dominated Atlanta last time out for his first win since July 9. Vance Worley (5-4, 3.14) was a nice surprise there for a while but has lost three straight starts, each getting worse. He pitched two innings of relief against the Reds in July, allowing two runs in two innings.
Key trends: The Reds are 8-1 in Simon's past nine vs. the NL Central. The "over/under" has gone over in his past five road starts.
Early lean: Cincinnati hasn't been good value since the all-star break, but how can Worley be a -140 favorite? Take the Reds.
Tigers at White Sox, Game 2 (+105, 9.5)
I'm writing about this game because I think the total is tremendous value despite two no-name pitchers. Here's why: In Game 1, there are going to be a lot of guys swinging and missing because the Tigers start Max Scherzer and the White Sox go with Chris Sale, two of the best pitchers in baseball. It's going to be hot in Chicago. Add all that together and the hitters will be rather tired by the time Game 2 rolls around. I think the pitchers will mostly dominate. Detroit is calling up left-hander Kyle Ryan from Triple-A for this start. He was 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts there. The Sox are bringing up right-hander Chris Bassitt from Double-A, where he was 3-1 with a 1.56 ERA in six starts. That's another advantage for the pitchers: no opposing hitters know them.
Key trends: The Tigers are 4-1 in their past five against right-handers. The Sox have lost five straight Game 2s of a doubleheader. They have dropped four straight against lefties.
Early lean: This is the highest total on the board by a run. Obviously I like under at -110.
Phillies at Mets (-154, 7.5)
One guy heavily rumored to be traded before Sunday night's deadline is Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon. The problem being that he's owed $11 million next season, is 41 and has a history of PED use. You can see why any team (the Angels?) would be hesitant to give anything up in value. Colon went through unclaimed, so the Mets could trade him anywhere -- if he's scratched then something is up. Colon (12-10, 3.82) has been effective and is pitching really well at the moment, allowing two runs or fewer in each of his past three starts. Colon has had the Phillies' number this year, going 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA. Ryan Howard is 2-for-11 off him career, but those hits were both homers. Marlon Byrd is a .455 hitter off Colon with a solo dinger. Jerome Williams (4-5, 5.42) was terrible with Houston and Texas earlier this year but has a 1.77 ERA in three starts with the Phillies. The shift to the NL can do that for a pitcher.
Key trends: Philadelphia is 1-10 in its past 11 Saturday games. The Mets are 6-1 in Colon's past seven against teams with a losing record. The over is 6-0 in his past six against teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Over at -105. Either pitcher is capable of blowing up.
Twins at Orioles (-178, 8.5)
There must be a lot of evenly-matched games Saturday because the Orioles are the biggest favorites on the board by quite a bit. I guess you can see why, because Baltimore pitcher Chris Tillman (11-5, 3.41) has really been on a roll since the all-star break with a 1.86 ERA. The Orioles have won his past six outings, and he has allowed more than two runs just once in that stretch. Tillman has not faced the Twins in 2014. He is opposed by Kyle Gibson (11-10, 4.31), who has allowed exactly five earned runs and eight hits in back-to-back short starts, both losses. He hasn't faced the Birds.
Key trends: The Twins are 5-1 in Gibson's past six on the road. The Orioles are 5-0 in Tillman's past five at home. Baltimore is 0-4 in Tillman's past four vs. Minnesota.
Early lean: Baltimore at +120 on the runline. That Tillman vs. Twins trend means little this year.
Nationals at Mariners (+122, 6.5)
Sometimes it just infuriates me how much sportsbooks overinflate the value of Washington's Stephen Strasburg, but, hey, I'll take advantage of it. The Nationals have no right being favored in this game. Seattle starter Chris Young (12-6, 3.17) is having a better season than Strasburg in a tougher league, and Young is 8-3 with a 2.35 ERA at Safeco Field. Did I mention the M's have won the past six times he has taken the mound? Strasburg (10-10, 3.59) was a bit wild last time out, giving up five runs and eight hits, walking two, in four innings against the Giants. I suppose that means he's due a good outing because he usually doesn't put together back-to-back similar starts, but this line still bothers me.
Key trends: Washington is 1-6 in Strasburg's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The Mariners are 5-0 in Young's past five Saturday starts. The over is 5-1 in Strasburg's past six on the road vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 5-0 in Young's past five.
Early lean: Clearly I like the M's here as an underdog.
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