Five to Follow MLB Betting: Friday April 18, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 4/17/2014
Perhaps no good pitcher in baseball gets less run support than the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija, who probably won't be a Cub for too much longer. Things don't look promising for Samardzija in Friday's home start against Cincinnati considering the Cubs just suffered the rare ignominy of being shutout in both games of a doubleheader Wednesday. Here's a look at Friday's Reds-Cubs matchup and four other intriguing games.
Reds at Cubs (-105, TBA)
If Samardzija were on a good team he'd probably be 3-0. However, he is 0-1 despite a sparkling 1.29 ERA. His value is going up and up for when -- and it is "when" -- the Cubs trade him at the July trade deadline. At least the Cubs scored a run in his last outing against the Cardinals. It was the first run scored while Samardzija was on the mound this season and the first run in the previous 35 innings dating back to Sept. 23, 2013. He hasn't gotten a win in nine straight starts. Samardzija struggled against the Reds last year, going 0-2 with a 5.16 ERA in five starts. Todd Frazier likes facing him, going 6-for-16 with two home runs. The Reds start Alfredo Simon (1-1, 1.20). He has allowed one earned run in each of his two starts. Luis Valbuena is the only Cub with a home run off him, so he is likely to start at third over Mike Olt.
Key trends: The Reds have lost six straight series openers. The Cubs are 2-8 in Samardzija's past 10 home starts.
Early lean: The offense does just enough for Samardzija to break that winless skid.
Braves at Mets (-108, 7.5)
The Atlanta Braves somewhat surprisingly cut Freddy Garcia and then quickly signed Aaron Harang late in Spring Training. The team still hasn't really said why. It has been a great move thus far. Harang (2-1, 0.96) has been brilliant for the first-place Braves. He started against these Mets on April 8 and allowed just two hits and one run over six innings while striking out nine yet took the loss as the Braves were blanked. Take a David Wright hitting prop here. He's 11-for-24 with a homer and seven RBIs off Harang. New York starts lefty Jonathan Niese (0-1, 3.46). He was 0-1 with a 6.91 ERA in three starts against the Braves a season ago. Jason Heyward is 9-for-24 with two home runs and eight RBIs off Niese.
Key trends: New York is 7-1 in Niese's past eight series-opening starts. The "under" is 10-2 in Atlanta's past 12 against a lefty starter.
Early lean: The Mets solve Harang, who simply isn't as good as his numbers indicate. Having faced him once already will only help.
Angels at Tigers (-125, 7.5)
The Angels are down another outfielder for at least a month as they put Kole Calhoun, who is essentially replacing the traded Peter Bourjos, on the disabled list. He will miss 4-6 weeks with a ligament sprain. Calhoun was batting .250 with three homers and six RBIs. The Halos also remain without Josh Hamilton. L.A. will not be an AL West contender if Friday's starter, Jered Weaver (0-2, 5.79), doesn't turn things around. He has yet to have a quality start this season and has allowed five home runs in 18.2 innings. Weaver faced Detroit once last year, allowing a run and four hits in seven innings. Miguel Cabrera is 6-for-21 with a home run off Weaver; Cabrera is struggling big time. How's that contract looking, Tigers? Young Tigers lefty Drew Smyly makes his first start of the season. He has pitched six innings of scoreless relief. Detroit traded Doug Fister in the offseason to make room for Smyly in the rotation. Mike Trout is 1-for-6 in his career off Smyly.
Key trends: The Angels are 8-2 in Weaver's past 10 starts against the AL Central. L.A. has won nine straight meetings vs. Detroit. The under is 5-0 in Weaver's past 10 against the Tigers.
Early lean: I agree with those trends: Weaver beats the Tigers, who are clearly not as good this year as they were the past few.
Twins at Royals (-162, 8)
The Royals have been an offensive disappointment thus far, ranking 29th in runs and 30th in slugging entering Thursday. It's a good thing they have a strong rotation or they'd be in the AL Central cellar. The last thing K.C. needed was an injury to one of the few guys hitting well, but outfielder Lorenzo Cain suffered a groin strain Wednesday against Houston. He probably avoids the DL but will miss a few games. Cain leads the team with a .333 average. Do you know the Royals have just four homers entering Thursday? Kansas City starts lefty Jason Vargas (1-0, 1.64) in Friday's series opener against Minnesota. He pitched at the Twins last time out, allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings in a no-decision. Joe Mauer is a career .429 hitter off Vargas with six RBIs in 21 at-bats. The Twins start Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 5.50). He was terrible his first two starts but good April 12 against Kansas City, allowing a run over eight innings.
Key trends: The Twins are 1-5 in their past six series openers. The "over" is a crazy 14-2 in Minnesota's past 16 road games. K.C. has won eight of its past 10 at home in this series.
Early lean: Royals offense has one of its best games of the season -- take K.C. and the over.
Diamondbacks at Dodgers (-180, 6.5)
Los Angeles caught a huge break, pun intended, when it was revealed that X-rays on shortstop Hanley Ramirez's hand were negative after he was hit by a pitch in Wednesday's night game. By the way he was jumping around after, it sure looked broken. Ramirez is hitting .281 with two home runs and seven RBIs. It would be fairly surprising if Ramirez doesn't at least miss a few games as his hand was swollen after the game, so keep an eye on that for this one (he didn't start Thursday). The Diamondbacks were off Thursday, and they needed it. They have lost six straight and are by far the worst team in the majors with a 4-14 mark and minus-48 run differential. GM Kevin Towers and Manager Kirk Gibson got the dreaded votes of confidence this week. The Snakes start Wade Miley (2-2, 5.04) in Friday's opener. He faced the Dodgers last Saturday and allowed five runs over five innings in a loss. Matt Kemp is 5-for-15 with two home runs off him. L.A. starts Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.76). He was opposite Miley in his last start, allowing one run over 5.1 innings.
Key trends: Arizona has lost nine straight Friday games. The Dodgers are 11-1 in Greinke's past 12 vs. teams with a losing record and 4-0 in his past four against Arizona. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings in L.A.
Early lean: I do think Arizona plays somewhat desperate here, and that day off helps. I'd roll the dice on the Diamondbacks here. Helps also that L.A. had to play Thursday and maybe use up the bullpen. Also likely no Ramirez helps Arizona's cause as well.
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