Five to Follow MLB Betting: Thursday September 4, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 9/3/2014
The major-league home-run race appears as if it will go down to the wire. Entering Wednesday, Baltimore's Nelson Cruz leads all of baseball with 36, while Miami's Giancarlo Stanton (my pick early this season) has 35. Stanton is a lock to win the NL title with the news that the No. 2 guy, Chicago's Anthony Rizzo (30 HRs), likely will be shut down for the season.Bovada lists Cruz as the -200 favorite to win, with Stanton at +200. Here's a look at five interesting matchups on Thursday's limited schedule -- it's unusual there are no day games.
Reds at Orioles (-156, 8)
While Cruz is still hitting his homers, he's not doing much else. Since the All-Star break he is hitting just .189 compared to .287 before it. The Orioles are locks to win the AL East and thus avoid a one-game wild-card playoff, but I wouldn't favor them against any other AL team in a postseason series. Cruz is 1-for-2 with a double and two RBIs in his career off Thursday Cincinnati starter Mike Leake (10-11, 3.33). He is working on back-to-back zero-run efforts: seven innings at Pittsburgh and 6.2 against Atlanta. Baltimore's Chris Tillman (11-5, 3.36) hasn't lost since July 12. He has allowed more than two earned runs just once since then. Tillman has never faced the Reds.
Key trends: The Reds are 1-5 in Leake's past six on the road. Baltimore has won four straight Tillman starts at home against teams with a losing record. The "over/under" has gone over in nine of Leake's past 11 starts. The over has hit in seven of Tillman's past eight interleague starts.
Early lean: Hard to go against Tillman right now.
Red Sox at Yankees (-149, 9)
The Yankees would never do it, but it's time they turn Derek Jeter into a part-time player or drop him to No. 9 in the lineup. I understand you have to not embarrass the guy, but if Jeter wants to play postseason baseball one last time, which is unlikely as it is, he needs to be on board with this shift. Jeter hit just .207 in August with a .226 on-base percentage and four runs scored. Four! From the No. 2 hole! Joe Girardi was asked about it Tuesday but basically said no. Jeter is 2-for-4 in his career off Thursday Red Sox starter Brandon Workman (1-8, 4.93. Workman hasn't pitched in the majors since Aug. 23, when he was rocked for seven runs and 10 hits in 3.1 innings against Seattle. Lefty Chris Capuano (2-3, 4.24) has been decent sign arriving with the Yanks in late July. He faced Boston on Aug. 1, allowing four runs over 6.1 innings. Allen Craig loves facing him as Craig is 8-for-14 with four doubles, two homers and six RBIs.
Key trends: The Sox are 0-5 in Workman's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 7-1 in his past eight vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Over at -110. I could see both teams scoring at least 9.
Cardinals at Brewers (-119, 7.5)
Potentially huge news for the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday as 2013 postseason star Michael Wacha (5-5, 2.79) will make his first big-league start since June 17. He has been sidelined since then with a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder. Wacha will be limited to about 60 pitches here, but if he can get close to what he was before the injury by the playoffs the Cardinals are that much tougher to beat. One key Brewer that Wacha won't have to face is outfielder Carlos Gomez (.282, 21 HRs, 65 RBIs). He is likely out at least two weeks with a wrist injury. Go ahead and stick a fork in Milwaukee. Wily Peralta starts for the Brewers here. Peralta (15-9, 3.82) had been a huge surprise this year but has come crashing back to earth, allowing 14 runs and 16 hits over eight innings in his past two starts. He is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA this year against St. Louis.
Key trends: St. Louis is 0-8 in Wacha's past eight road starts. The Brewers are 4-1 in Peralta's past five at home. The Brewers are 4-0 in Peralta's past four vs. St. Louis.
Early lean: The Cards are good underdog value against Peralta, who is now pitching closer to his normal self. Plus the Brew Crew are self-destructing.
Tigers at Indians (+112, 7.5)
Sometimes a team just has a pitcher's number. Max Scherzer is 1-0 against Cleveland this year but has a 4.82 ERA in 18.2 innings, and Indians batters are hitting .308 off him. Michael Brantley is a career .341 hitter off him with a home run and nine RBIs. I wonder if Scherzer (15-5, 3.26) is dealing with a bit of "dead arm" right now. He hasn't been sharp in his past three starts, allowing 13 runs and 20 hits over 18.2 innings. Cleveland has won the past four starts of Trevor Bauer (5-7, 3.99). He has shut out Kansas City and Houston in his past two outings, although neither lasted more than six innings. Bauer is 2-0 with a 4.42 ERA in three starts this year vs. Detroit. Alex Avila is 4-for-7 off him with a homer.
Key trends: How's this for a stat: Detroit is 15-1 in Scherzer's past 16 Thursday starts. The Indians are 5-1 in Bauer's past six at home. The Tigers are 5-1 in Scherzer's past six in Cleveland.
Early lean: I can't ignore that Thursday trend. Take Scherzer at such a low -122 favored price.
Angels at Twins (+126, 8.5)
It's bizarre how much that Los Angeles left-hander Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.28) has turned around his season. On July 10, he was beaten in Texas to drop to 1-7 with a 4.50 ERA. As you can see, he hasn't lost since. In fact, Santiago has allowed more than one earned run just once since (includes two relief appearances). His ERA is 1.19 over his past four starts. It's possible his rhythm could be a bit off here as Santiago was pushed back two days so the Angels could take advantage of an off day Monday and move up C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver one day each. Santiago hasn't faced the Twins this year. The Twins have lost the past three starts of Kyle Gibson (11-10, 4.23). On June 24, the Angels blasted him for seven runs in two innings. Mike Trout is 2-for-4 off him with a home run. Albert Pujols is 2-for-5 with a dinger.
Key trends: The Angels are 2-7 in Santiago's past nine on the road. Minnesota is 1-5 in Gibson's past six at home vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0 in Gibson's past four at home.
Early lean: For some reason this smells like a trap game for the Halos. They had to play Wednesday night in Houston and travel. Plus, Santiago might be a bit off. Go Minnesota.
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