Five to Follow MLB Betting: Friday April 4, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 4/3/2014
Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka left his native country to pitch in America. Well, he's going to have to wait until his second start for that. Tanaka will make his big-league debut on Friday night in Toronto in a game that will draw a lot of attention around the majors. Here's a look at that and four other interesting matchups on Friday's schedule.
Braves at Nationals (TBA)
It's the first meeting of the season between the last two winners of the NL East and the two favorites this year. I personally gave Atlanta little chance after losing both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy this spring to season-ending surgeries. The Braves' pitching was very good in winning two of three to open the season in Milwaukee. However, now we are to the back end of that rotation with guys who wouldn't have been in the starting five. David Hale starts for Atlanta, his third career start. No Nationals regular has ever faced him. The Nats are supposed to start Jordan Zimmermann, who is coming off a career season. He was supposed to start Thursday but was sick all night Wednesday and pushed back here. Obviously, if he's sick again he'd have to be bumped again, and Taylor Jordan would likely get the call. Thus the TBA.
Key trends: Atlanta is 8-2 in its past 10 in Washington. The Nats are 6-1 in their past seven series openers.
Early lean: I'm guessing Zimmermann will want to pitch in Washington's home opener, and I like the Nats big here if he does (i.e. on runline as well). I still like them if Zimmermann doesn't start but not as big. Hale has never made a road start.
Yankees at Blue Jays (+123, 8.5)
By all accounts, Tanaka has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for in spending $175 million on him, including the posting fee. The righty was 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 21 spring innings. He struck out 26. Needless to say, there will be a huge media presence at this game, especially from Japan. Tanaka appears to be one of those guys who likes the pressure. Tanaka isn't considered as dominant as Yu Darvish, but just for comparison here's what Darvish did in his first big-league start, April 9, 2012, against Seattle: 5.2 innings, eight hits and five runs allowed, walking four and striking out five. He did get the win but was clearly a bit wild. Toronto is scheduled to start Dustin McGowan. Injuries have derailed his once-promising career. He pitched only 25.2 innings in relief a season ago, one of those against the Yanks. New York second baseman Brian Roberts is 6-for-13 with a homer off McGowan in his career. Derek Jeter is 8-for-23 with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Yankees are 2-5 in the past seven in Toronto. The "under" is 7-1-1 in the past nine meetings.
Early lean: New York's offense has looked terrible entering Thursday. Generally lean a home team in its opener, so it's the Jays here.
Cardinals at Pirates (-116, 7.5)
Both teams had a getaway game Thursday, with St. Louis having to fly in from Cincinnati and the Pirates looking for a home sweep of the Cubs. The last time we saw St. Louis and Pittsburgh face off was in Game 5 of the National League Division Series as the Cardinals won 6-1 at home to finish off a rally from a 2-1 series deficit. The Pittsburgh starter in that one wasn't A.J. Burnett, whose turn it was, but Gerrit Cole, who starts Friday. The rookie had been terrific as a late-season call-up and dominated the Cardinals in a Game 2 victory. He wasn't as good in Game 5, allowing two runs and striking out five over five innings. Former Cardinal David Freese hit a two-run homer off him. Cole didn't face St. Louis in the regular season. The Cardinals start Shelby Miller, who was pretty good himself as a rookie in 2013, going 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA. Yet for some reason the Pirates owned him as Miller was 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA against them. Russell Martin is 3-for-7 with two homers off Miller. Pedro Alvarez has a homer for his only hit in 10 at-bats against him.
Key trends: St. Louis is 3-8 in its past 11 in Pittsburgh. The Cards are 5-0 in Miller's past five starts.
Early lean: Miller figures things out and shuts down an iffy Pittsburgh offense that hadn't done much against the Cubs entering the series finale.
Rangers at Rays (-134, 8.5)
The Rangers rotation is so thin with Yu Darvish (although he will return Sunday), Derek Holland and Matt Harrison all hurt that Texas had to sign lefty Joe Saunders off the scrap heap three weeks into spring training (Darvish wasn't hurt then). Saunders was signed to a minor-league deal and somehow won a job despite a 9.72 spring ERA. Texas just doesn't have anyone else. Saunders lost 16 games with a 5.26 ERA last year with Seattle. He allowed five runs in 4.1 innings in his lone start against Tampa Bay. James Loney and Evan Longoria each have two homers in their careers off Saunders. Tampa Bay also had an injury to a starter, Jeremy Hellickson, so it turns to Jake Odorizzi to fill that spot until Hellickson next month. Odorizzi, who came over in the Wil Myers trade, was 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in 29.2 innings last year with the Rays. He didn't face Texas. The only Ranger to have seen him is Shin-Soo Choo, who is 2-for-4.
Key trends: Texas is 2-9 in its past 11 series openers. The Rays have won seven of their past eight openers.
Early lean: This is one of those games where I heavily lean the total -- over -- than the side. The Rays might top it themselves as bad as Saunders is.
Angels at Astros (+124, 8.5)
Yeah, I'm not feeling great about my projection of the Halos going over 86 wins this year and taking the American League West. Los Angeles opened the season by getting swept three games at home by Seattle by a combined score of 26-8. Seattle! Even the Angels' hitting coach, Don Baylor, is already hurt. Three games does not a season make, but pitching was the main worry for L.A. and obviously that hasn't been good. The Mariners aren't exactly the 1927 Yankees. Normally the Astros would be the perfect tonic for any struggling team, but they have started well and the Angels were only 9-10 against them last year when Houston was terrible. Garrett Richards gets the call for L.A. He was 1-0 with a 6.00 ERA in 15 innings last year against Houston. The Astros go with Lucas Harrell. He didn't get a decision in three 2013 starts vs. L.A. but had a 1.53 ERA.
Key trends: L.A. is 6-1 in the past seven in Houston. The Astros have are 1-4 in their past five series openers.
Early lean: Angels had Thursday off while Houston had to finish up against the Yankees. L.A. plays desperate and wins.
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