Five to Follow MLB Betting: Saturday September 27, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 9/26/2014
I think it's fair to say we know which 10 teams will be competing for the World Series. The National League has been set: the Nationals and Dodgers are division winners. The Cardinals or Pirates will win the NL Central, and the loser will be a wild card. The Giants are the other wild card. Thus, those latter three still have something to play for Saturday. In the AL, the Angels and Orioles are division winners. The Tigers or Royals will win the AL Central -- most likely Detroit -- and the loser will almost surely be a wild card. The other will probably be Oakland. So those latter two/three have something to play for still. Here's a look at five interesting matchups on Saturday, my final Five to Follow of the regular season. I will continue into the playoffs where applicable and when multiple games.
Yankees at Red Sox (+127, 8)
I'm not saying that Orioles reliever Evan Meek grooved a pitch to Derek Jeter in the bottom of the ninth inning in Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, but, yeah, he did. Storybook ending for Jeter's career, and he will not play shortstop at all in this series. He will either pinch-hit or designated hit. That's a great call. The Red Sox fans, and I'm sure plenty of Yankee fans from the area, still get a chance to see him. Boston, meanwhile, has shut down David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Brock Holt for the rest of the way. Masahiro Tanaka finishes off his injury-shortened season for the Yankees, and he might be the face of the team going forward (sorry it's not Alex Rodriguez, even if he plays next season). Tanaka (13-4, 2.47) made his first start since July 8 last Sunday and allowed a run over 5.1 innings to Toronto. He will be on a pitch count of about 85 for this one. Joe Kelly (5-4, 4.15) probably will be in the bullpen for Boston next year. He beat the Yankees on Sept. 2, allowing three runs in 6.2 innings. That was his first win since a trade from St. Louis.
Key trends: The Yanks are 7-3 in Tanaka's past 10 vs. teams with a losing record. Boston is 2-7 in Kelly's past seven against teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in Tanaka's past five with five days of rest.
Early lean: Half the Red Sox roster is out, and Tanaka looks back to pre-injury form, so go Yanks.
Pirates at Reds (+150, 6.5)
Raise your hand if you had Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison as the 2014 NL batting champion. Yeah, I don't think Harrison even expected this, but the race isn't over. Harrison, who had never played more than 104 games or hit better than .272 in three previous seasons, is at .319 entering Friday with Colorado's Justin Morneau (.317) and teammate Andrew McCutchen (.314) still having a shot. If the Pirates win out, they are guaranteed to at worst host the wild-card game against the Giants. They still could win the NL Central. Lefty Francisco Liriano (7-10, 3.32) starts here for the Bucs. They have won his past four, and he has allowed just one earned run. By pitching Saturday, he wouldn't be available for Wednesday's NL wild-card game unless on three days' rest. Liriano is 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA this year vs. the Reds. Cincinnati's Alfredo Simon (15-10, 3.34) is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA this year against Pittsburgh. Harrison has three singles in 11 at-bats off him.
Key trends: The Pirates have won four straight Liriano starts against teams below .500. The Reds are 1-5 in Simon's past six following a quality start in his last appearance. The under is 11-2 in Liriano's past 13. However, the over is 5-2 in his past seven vs. Cincinnati.
Early lean: Pirates at -105 on runline.
Padres at Giants (-181, 7)
San Francisco's lone motivation is to try and pass Pittsburgh for home field in that wild-card game. If those two end up tied, there is no tiebreaker game. The Pirates hold it, and they could clinch home field in the game possibly Saturday. The Giants could know their fate by the time they take the field at 4:05 ET. Already having lost outfielder Angel Pagan for the season and playoffs, now San Francisco doubts whether Michael Morse will be available, either. I don't see how this team has enough offense to do much in the postseason. Win a wild-card game, maybe, but not a series. Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.78) made himself some free-agent money by pitching very well for San Francisco since his trade from Boston. I'll bet the house he stays in the National League next year, maybe with the Giants. Peavy is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA this month. Padres lefty Eric Stults (8-17, 4.42) is looking to avoid being the 2014 MLB loss leader by himself. He's currently in a three-way tie with 17. Stults is 2-1 with a 3.45 ERA in three starts this year against the Giants.
Key trends: San Diego is 3-8 in Stults' past 11 on the road. The Giants have won four of their past five at home against lefties. The under is 4-1 in Stults' past five on the road.
Early lean: Under at -110.
Royals at White Sox (+166, 8)
Kansas City had a chance to clinch its first playoff berth since 1985 on Friday, but the players can't be celebrating too hard because there are still things to play for. If not the AL Central title, then it's home-field advantage in the wild-card game, likely against Oakland. If any franchise deserves a home playoff game, it's Kansas City. Royals left-hander Danny Duffy (9-11, 2.32) has missed a few starts with a minor shoulder problem but didn't look very rusty on Sept. 22, shutting out Cleveland over six innings. Duffy has faced Chicago once and didn't allow a run in seven innings. The Sox start lefty John Danks (10-11, 4.82), whom they would love to dump this offseason but would have to take a bad contract back. Danks is 0-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts vs. the Royals. Eric Hosmer hits .438 off him in 16 at-bats.
Key trends: The Royals have won four straight against left-handers. The Sox are 0-5 in Danks' past five at home. The under is 9-1 in Duffy's past 10 against AL Central teams.
Early lean: Call this totally a hunch. The White Sox will honor retiring Paul Konerko, one of the best players in franchise history (and probably a future Pale Hose manager), before this game. Emotion can play a role in baseball. Take Chicago.
Cardinals at Diamondbacks (+140, 7.5)
St. Louis hit a mini-slide at the wrong time as the Cards have let the Pirates have hope in the NL Central. There could be a Game 163 between those two on Monday if they finish tied. Or depending on what happens Friday (St. Louis win, Pittsburgh loss), the Cards could clinch the division Saturday in Arizona, which will finish with the majors' worst record and get the first pick in next summer's draft. The Cards have ace Adam Wainwright scheduled for Sunday, and I'm sure they don't want to have to use him. As for Saturday, it's Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.73). The Cardinals have lost his past three, but they all have been quality starts. Arizona's Wade Miley (8-12, 4.35) hasn't pitched too badly over the past couple of months, but the Snakes have lost eight of his past nine outings. Mark Ellis may get a spot start here at second as Ellis is 10-for-24 with four solo homers off Miley.
Key trends: St. Louis has won seven straight against lefties. The under is 4-0 in Lynn's past four on the road vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 11-2 in Miley's past 13 against teams with a winning record.
Early lean: No reason that Arizona will put up much of a fight. St Louis it is and under.
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