Five to Follow MLB Betting: Saturday September 20, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 9/19/2014
I don't know what to say about the Oakland A's at this point. They were just swept three games by the Texas Rangers, the worst team in baseball. Entering Friday, the A's are 11-25 since Aug. 10 when they led the AL West by four. Blame the offense. Everyone lauded Billy Beane's trade for Jon Lester, but he only helps once every fifth day. That cost Yoenis Cespedes, and since the deal Oakland is averaging 3.47 runs per game compared to around 5.00 before. The A's still might make the playoffs, and maybe that's when the Lester deal pays off. But this again might be a one-and-done club. Here's a look at Oakland's game on Saturday and four other interesting matchups.
Phillies at A's (-194, 8)
More bad news for Oakland: It now appears as if catcher John Jaso is done for the season as he deals with post-concussion symptoms. Fellow catcher Stephen Vogt remains limited to pinch-hitting duties only because of an ankle problem. Outfielder Josh Reddick took a fall in Wednesday's loss to the Rangers and hurt his ankle and neck. He probably has to miss a few more games after sitting Thursday. Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? The A's are using lefty Drew Pomeranz (5-4, 2.53) in a spot start Saturday. That's because Jason Hammel left the team for the birth of his second child. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is 1-for-5 career off Pomeranz, and he's expected back for this series. The Oakland native has been out since Sept. 8 with a hamstring issue. Jerome Williams (5-7, 5.03) has lost two straight starts for the Phils. The former Ranger is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings vs. Oakland this year.
Key trends: The Phillies are 0-6 in their past six interleague road games vs. lefties. The A's are 2-5 in their past seven at home against right-handers. The "over/under" has gone over in eight of the Phillies' past 10 on the road vs. left-handers.
Early lean: The way the A's are sinking they shouldn't be this heavily favored without anyone but Lester on the mound. Take Philly at -130 on the runline.
Tigers at Royals (-114, 7)
Terrific pitching matchup for Game 2 of this huge series, which is nationally televised for a 1:05 ET start on Fox if you want a college football alternative. Max Scherzer (16-5, 3.26), a Missouri native, starts for Detroit. He has been a bit off of late but was good on Sept. 9 at home vs. the Royals, allowing a run in 6.2 innings. However, his road ERA of 3.70 is more than a run higher than his home mark (2.66). Alex Gordon hits him hard, going 14-for-36 with three homers. Fellow soon-to-be free agent James Shields starts for the Royals. Shields (14-7, 3.15) dominated the Tigers in Detroit on Sept. 10, blanking them on two hits over seven innings. Miguel Cabrera is a career .365 hitter off him with two homers and eight RBIs.
Key trends: Detroit is 4-1 in Scherzer's past five on the road. The Royals are 2-5 in Shields' past seven at home vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-1 in Scherzer's past six in K.C. The Royals are 0-4 in Shields' past four at home vs. Detroit.
Early lean: Go under at +105. I'm expecting it be at 6.5 by first pitch.
Reds at Cardinals (-173, 7.5)
St. Louis is really going to have to consider whether or not to add pitcher Michael Wacha to the playoff roster, and Saturday's start could go a long way toward that decision. Obviously, if Wacha (5-6, 3.14) is healthy it's no-brainer. Is he though? He has made two starts since returning from nearly three months on the DL with shoulder problems. He lasted just three innings in his first outing and really looked off in his last, giving up six runs in four innings vs. the Reds. So the Cards gave him a 10-day break. Wacha is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts vs. the Reds this year. Cincinnati's Mike Leake (11-12, 3.65) might be wearing down as he has shot past his career high in innings. He has allowed 13 runs over 16 innings his past three starts. He is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA vs. the Cards. Matt Holliday hits .394 off him with seven RBIs.
Key trends: Cincinnati is 0-5 in Leake's past five on the road vs. teams with a winning record. The Cards are 5-0 in Wacha's past four at home against teams with a losing record. The over is 6-2 in Leake's past eight vs. St. Louis.
Early lean: I'm not sure I trust Wacha at that price, but the Reds have given up. So take the Cards.
Nationals at Marlins (+145, 6.5)
Washington could get back third baseman/outfielder Ryan Zimmerman this weekend. He is down in the minors rehabbing from a serious hamstring injury. He has been out since July 22. The team obviously would like to get him as many big-league at-bats as possible before the postseason. Also, expect first baseman Adam LaRoche to get at least few days off over the next week or so. He's dealing with some back issues. My guess is he sits vs. lefties. Jordan Zimmermann starts here for the Nats. Zimmermann (12-5, 2.88) is on a Kershaw-like streak, not having lost since July 11. He is 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA in four starts vs. the Marlins. Miami's Jarred Cosart (13-9, 3.67) has had seven straight quality starts. He faced Washington back on April 29 as a member of the Astros, allowing two runs in six innings.
Key trends: The Nats are 12-2 in their past 14 on Saturday. Miami is 4-1 in Cosart's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-1 in those five.
Early lean: Fish finally hand Zimmermann a loss.
Giants at Padres (-133, 6)
Here is your low total on the board, and it's not exactly two pitchers you might expect. San Francisco starts Yusmeiro Petit (5-4, 3.64). This guy has great control. He has walked one batter in his past 10 outings (not all starts). He lost to the Dodgers last time out, allowing three earned in seven innings, but had first-pitch strikes to 21 of his 26 batters. That's Maddux-like. Petit has not allowed an earned run in eight innings (three appearances) this year against San Diego. The Padres' Andrew Cashner (4-7, 2.20) threw a complete-game two-hitter last time out against the Phillies. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in his five outings since returning from more than two months on the DL. Cashner hasn't faced the Giants this year. Buster Posey is 5-for-12 with two homers career off him.
Key trends: The Giants are 7-1 in Petit's past eight road starts. The Padres are 4-0 in Cashner's past four against teams with a winning record. The under is 11-2 in his past 13 against teams above .500.
Early lean: I get why San Diego is favored here because Cashner has been great, but I'm still taking the team that has something to play for, especially as a dog.
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