Five to Follow MLB Betting: Friday, August 8, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 8/8/2014
The Braves are doing their best to hand the NL East title to the Nationals as Atlanta enters Friday on a season-high eight-game losing streak, scoring more than three runs just once in that stretch. The good news, if there is any, is that all eight defeats were on the West Coast and Washington hasn't taken very much advantage. Now the Braves return home for what could be a season-defining 10-game homestand against the Nats, Dodgers and A's, all World Series contenders. Here's a look at Friday's Nationals-Braves games and four others of interest.
Rays at Cubs (+115, 7.5)
Back in January 2011, the Chicago Cubs -- under different management -- thought they could still contend in the NL Central despite coming off a 75-87 season. So the Cubs made one of those deals that a desperate GM makes: They sent a package of prospects to Tampa Bay for pitcher Matt Garza. The jewel of that deal for the Rays was acquiring Cubs 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Chris Archer. Needless to say, that trade didn't work out well for the Cubs as Garza was just so-so there and the Cubs never came close to contention. Archer, meanwhile, is one of the best young pitchers in the AL, and he gets to show Cubs fans what they are missing on Friday for the first time against Chicago. Archer (7-6, 3.42) would sure look good as an anchor in that Cubs rotation with all the hitting prospects on the way to the majors. Five of Archer's past six outings have been of the quality version. It will be something for Cubs fans to watch him pitch against super-prospect Javier Baez, who will make his home debut. Lefty Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1, 3.32) goes for Chicago. He has four big-league starts and three have been good.
Key trends: The Rays have won seven straight road games vs. teams with a losing home record. Tampa is 0-5 in Archer's past five interleague starts. The Cubs are 1-6 in their past seven home games vs. right-handers.
Early lean: If the Rays are going to make a last-gasp move in the wild card it has to start now, with four games at lousy Texas after this series. Take Tampa here.
Rangers at Astros (-127, 8.5)
It's been a rough year to be a baseball fan in the Lone Star State as these might be the two worst teams in the majors. So theoretically this game could really matter in terms of landing the No. 1 overall pick next year. The Astros already own the No. 2 overall pick in 2015 after failing to sign this year's top pick Brady Aiken by the deadline. No team has ever had the top two picks. As for the on-field fun, Texas' Miles Mikolas (1-4, 7.29) has terrible numbers but is a solid 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in three road starts. However, Houston destroyed him at home on July 7, charged with nine earned and 12 hits over 3.1 innings. Amazingly, every Houston batter had a hit by the time there was just one out in the fourth inning before Mikolas was yanked following Jon Singleton's three-run homer. Lefty Brett Oberholtzer (4-7, 4.17) hasn't lost since July 3, throwing four straight quality starts. He pitched well in Arlington on April 13, allowing a run over seven innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Key trends: The Rangers are 2-8 in their past 10 road games against teams with a losing home record. Houston is 4-11 in its past 15 series openers. The "over" is 4-0-1 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: This might be a first all season: take Houston giving the 1.5 on the runline (+155).
Cardinals at Orioles (-140, 8.5)
I wouldn't exactly bet on it, but this could be a World Series preview as I expect St. Louis to win the NL Central and the Orioles to at least get a wild card if not take the AL East. A Cards-Orioles Fall Classic is priced at +4000. Justin Masterson (5-6, 5.63) makes his second start with St. Louis after the trade with Cleveland. He wasn't sharp in the first one, allowing five runs and seven hits over six, although he did get the win. Masterson pitched at Camden Yards on May 22, allowing five runs and eight hits over 5.2 innings. Ryan Flaherty hit a three-run homer off him. Baltimore's Chris Tillman (8-5, 3.78) looks to build off one of his best starts of the season as he blanked Seattle over seven innings last time out. He has a 2.78 ERA at home but just a 2-5 record.
Key trends: St. Louis is 1-4 in its past five series openers. The Orioles have won six straight series openers. The under is 11-2 in Baltimore's past 13 at home vs. teams with a winning road record.
Early lean: This feels like a 9-4 type game to me. Take the over at -120.
Nationals at Braves (+103, 6.5)
Don't look for Braves shortstop and defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons to play Friday or probably for a little while. He sprained his left ankle during Tuesday's game and was wearing an air cast and using crutches Wednesday. Simmons is hoping to avoid the disabled list. That's about the last thing the Braves need right now. He's hitting .249 with 36 RBIs. Ervin Santana (10-6, 3.59) starts the series opener for Atlanta. In his lone start vs. the Nationals this year, he lost on June 22 in D.C., giving up three runs over six innings. Denard Span knows Santana well from their AL days with Span hitting .370 with a homer and six knocked in 27 at-bats. Washington's Stephen Strasburg (8-9, 3.39) ended a three-start skid last time out, shutting out the Phillies over seven and whiffing 10. Strasburg is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in two 2014 starts vs. Atlanta. Freddie Freeman hits .450 off him with two homers and seven RBIs.
Key trends: Washington is 0-5 in Strasburg's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Braves are 1-7 in Santana's past eight following a team loss in the previous game. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings in Atlanta. Washington is 2-5 in Strasburg's past seven vs. the Braves.
Early lean: Atlanta has largely had Washington's number the past few seasons and leads this season series 7-3. Strasburg struggles to have excellent back-to-back starts. A return home ends the skid for the Braves.
Dodgers at Brewers (-122, 8)
Here's a matchup we could see in October in either the NLCS or NLDS. The Dodgers are clearly going to win the NL West, while the Brewers have led the NL Central just about all season, although they are +210 underdogs to win it behind St. Louis (-175). Struggling Josh Beckett (6-6, 2.88) gets the call for the Dodgers. He was great early in the year but looks like he's out of gas. Beckett hasn't lasted more than 4.1 innings in his past three starts, allowing at least three runs and six hits in all of them. His ERA is 6.55 in his past five as Beckett deals with a sore hip. Don't be shocked if he lands on the DL with another shaky start. Ryan Braun has three homers in six career at-bats off Beckett. Kyle Lohse (11-6, 3.40) had pitched nine straight quality starts for the Brewers, but he was blasted last Saturday in St. Louis, giving up nine runs in four innings.
Key trends: The Brewers are 5-1 in Lohse's past six home starts vs. teams with a winning record. The under has hit in six of his past eight starts. The under is 9-2 in the past 11 meetings in Milwaukee.
Early lean: I'd classify this is a trap/letdown game. L.A. comes off a heated four-game set with the Angels and had to travel all night on Thursday. Take Brewers and a Braun home run prop.
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