Five to Follow MLB Betting: Wednesday September 17, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 9/16/2014
The Los Angeles Angels clinched their first playoff berth since 2009 on Monday night, baseball's first team to officially make the postseason. L.A. also appears a lock to win at least 100 games, which no team has done since 2001. However, not all the news was potentially good for the Halos. Here's a look at their game Wednesday, in which they could clinch the AL West, and four other interesting matchups.
Mariners at Angels (-142, 8)
Let's start with more possible good news for L.A. Josh Hamilton took batting practice on Monday and felt fine. If he has no setbacks on Tuesday he should return to the lineup for Wednesday's game. He hasn't played since Sept. 4 due to shoulder issues. However, Albert Pujols might have to sit for a while, He had a big double on Monday but was clutching his hamstring while running to second. The team is just calling it a cramp but will obviously play it safe with the playoffs a done deal. Finally, Monday's starter and terrific rookie Matt Shoemaker will undergo an MRI on his side after leaving with a bit of discomfort, but he didn't sound worried. That would be huge if it's something serious. Lefty C.J. Wilson (12-9, 4.61) goes for the Angels on Wednesday. He is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in two starts vs. Seattle this year. Former Angel Kendrys Morales hits .435 off him in 23 at-bats. Seattle left-hander James Paxton makes the biggest start of his young career to this point. Paxton (6-2, 1.83) has allowed one earned run or fewer in six of his past seven outings.
Key trends: The Mariners are 5-0 in Paxton's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Angels are 9-1 in Wilson's past 10 at home. The "over/under" has gone under in four of Wilson's past five vs. Seattle.
Early lean: Under at -120.
Giants at Diamondbacks (+176, 7.5)
Here's a matinee-after-a-night game, so you could see a few guys taking a seat, although probably not for the Giants, who need to win every game possible. While the Giants got good news with the return of Brandon Belt on Monday from the disabled list, outfielder Angel Pagan was scratched with back stiffness and that could be a problem because it's been bothering him for months. Pagan is hitting .302. A stiff back is exactly the type of injury you rest in a day game after a night one. San Francisco starts Madison Bumgarner (18-9, 2.91), who should get some Cy Young votes (obviously we know who wins). The lefty is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA this year vs. Arizona. The Snakes' Randall Delgado (3-4, 5.53) pitched in San Francisco last week, allowing three runs and seven hits in four innings of a loss.
Key trends: The Giants are 7-1 in Bumgarner's past eight vs. teams with a losing record. Arizona is 1-4 in its past five against lefties. The Giants are 4-0 in Bumgarner's past four in Arizona.
Early lean: San Francisco at -120 on the runline.
Nationals at Braves (+113, 6.5)
Washington might be resting a ton of guys for this game, and this is something I want to bring up. Always bet against teams the day after they clinch a division title because you know they were up late celebrating the previous night. Most starters will sit. It's also why you may not see day before lines in situations like this at times. Washington has the chance to clinch Tuesday night. Nats outfielder Bryce Harper might not play regardless. He left Monday's game with flu-like symptoms. Gio Gonzalez (8-10, 3.79) is set to start for Washington on Wednesday. The lefty has had five straight quality starts. He is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA against the Braves. Justin Upton is a career .313 hitter off him with three homers in 16 at-bats. The fading Braves go with left-hander Alex Wood (10-10, 2.83). He has allowed more than two earned in just one of his past nine starts. Wood is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA vs. Washington.
Key trends: Washington is 1-5 in Gonazlez's past six on the road. The Braves are 5-1 in their past six at home vs. lefties. Washington has lost eight straight Gonzalez starts vs. Atlanta.
Early lean: I like Wood here no matter what, but if the Nats clinch on Tuesday jump on Atlanta on the runline.
Red Sox at Pirates (-183, 6.5)
There hasn't been much reason for Boston fans to watch their team in weeks, but now there might be: the Sox are expected to call up $72 million Cuban signing Rusney Castillo on Tuesday. He might not arrive in time to start that game but certainly should Wednesday as the Sox will no doubt play him every day to close this season. Castillo played pretty well in his short time in the minors, but the jury is still out on him, according to some scouts. Boston likely will be without David Ortiz again, however. Clay Buchholz (8-8, 5.19) looks to continue his late-season turnaround for Boston. The Sox have won his past four, and all have been quality starts. Russell Martin loves facing him, going 4-for-12 with all four hits homers. He has knocked in seven. The Pirates counter with lefty Francisco Liriano (5-10, 3.53). He hasn't allowed a run in his past two starts, spanning 14 innings. He has struck out 21 and walked four with just seven hits allowed.
Key trends: Boston is 7-1 in its past eight interleague games vs. lefties. Pittsburgh has lost four straight Liriano home starts. The under is 6-0 in Liriano's past six vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Under at +100 even though it's a low total. Either pitcher could throw a shutout.
Phillies at Padres (+123, 6.5)
As expected, MLB suspended Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon for his actions during Sunday's game, which included grabbing his crotch and motioning toward the fans. And that was in Philadelphia! Papelbon, who will sit seven games, actually had the audacity to say he was just, um, shifting himself. Yeah OK. He's not appealing. Ken Giles is likely to be the fill-in closer. Philly's Cole Hamels (8-7, 2.51) threw eight scoreless innings against the Padres earlier this season. The lefty has a stellar 1.80 ERA on the road. Eric Stults (7-16, 4.49) has been much better than his record for weeks. For example, he has allowed more than three earned just once in his past eight outings. Ryan Howard is 2-for-2 with two homers and four RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Phillies are 5-2 in Hamels' past seven on road. San Diego is 1-6 in Stults' past seven vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-0 in Hamels' past five against teams below .500.
Early lean: Have to lean Hamels over Stults and under as well.
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