Five to Follow MLB Betting: Friday July 4, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 7/3/2014
It's arguably the best day of regular-season baseball in the United States on Friday, Independence Day, with games ranging from morning to night and many on national TV. It might be better than Opening Day because not every team plays on the same Opening Day now. If you are a baseball betting junkie, it doesn't get much better. In addition, it's often a good time to bet on baseball futures because division leaders on July 4 win the division around 60 percent of the time since 1995. Here's a look at five interesting matchups.
Cubs at Nationals (-158, 7.5)
This game starts at 11:05 a.m. local time, presumably to help with traffic in D.C. for all the July 4 activities later in the day. The Cubs are playing much better baseball of late. They were 15-13 in June and just swept three games at Fenway Park to start this week. Jason Hammel looks to extend the winning streak to four Friday, and this could well be his final start in a Cubs uniform. Hammel (7-5, 2.98) pitched last week against Washington, allowing two runs and five hits over 6.1 innings to strangely improve to 7-0 with a 3.12 ERA in nine career starts against the Nats. Ryan Zimmerman is 10-for-28 with three doubles and a homer off him. Tanner Roark goes for Washington. Roark (7-5, 2.98) pitched opposite Hammel last week and allowed four runs and 10 hits in six innings, his worst start in months.
Key trends: The Cubs are 5-0 in Hammel's past five against teams with a winning record. The Nats have won five straight at home. The "over" is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Big on the "under" at -115 as players' body clocks are going to be way off with this early start. That should mean hitters will struggle much more than pitchers.
Orioles at Red Sox (-161, 8.5)
This week's sweep by the Cubs has to be the low point of a massively disappointing season in Boston as the Sox are now nine games under .500. Just FYI, no club in the wild-card era has ever been nine games under .500 beyond the midpoint of the season and qualified for the postseason. The team needs to do something with struggling Xander Bogaerts, who has just two hits in his past 46 at-bats. The Sox say they won't demote him. Lefty Jon Lester (9-7, 2.92) looks to stop the bleeding Friday. He outdueled Masahiro Tanaka last Saturday, allowing no earned runs over eight innings. The Sox have won Lester's past four outings. Nelson Cruz is a career .458 hitter with three home runs in 24 at-bats off Lester. Miguel Gonzalez starts for the O's. Gonzalez (4-5, 4.56) has struggled on the road this year with a 5.54 ERA.
Key trends: The Orioles are 4-0 in their past four road games against lefties. The Sox are 0-7 in their past seven at home against teams with a winning road record. Boston is 1-8 in Lester's past nine against Baltimore.
Early lean: No such thing as a must-win this time of year, but this about that for Boston. Back Lester despite his recent track record against the O's. Best bet is Sox at +135 on the runline.
Giants at Padres (-103, 6.5)
A struggling Giants offense will eagerly welcome back first baseman Brandon Belt off the disabled list for Friday's game. Belt hasn't played since May 9 due to a thumb injury. He's hitting .264 with nine home runs. He has 15 career at-bats against San Diego pitcher Eric Stults with three singles and an RBI. The lefty Stults (2-11, 5.36) has generally pitched better than his record of late, but the Padres have lost his past six. They have been held to one run or less in five of those. Pablo Sandoval is 12-for-25 career with four extra-base hits off Stults. Hunter Pence has three homers in 30 at-bats. Matt Cain (1-6, 4.38) starts for the Giants. They have lost his past four even though Cain pitched seven shutout innings in his last start against the Reds. Cain is 0-2 against San Diego this season with a 3.77 ERA in two starts.
Key trends: The Giants are 2-10 in Cain's past 12 series openers. San Diego is 1-5 in its past six following an off day. The "over" is 5-1 in Stults' past six at home against the Giants.
Early lean: Why on earth is this total not at least a run higher? Go "over" at -120.
Brewers at Reds (-122, 7.5)
Milwaukee outfielder Khris Davis (.260, 14 HRs, 44 RBIs) didn't play Wednesday after suffering a shoulder injury in Tuesday's game, but he's expected to be in the lineup Friday in Cincinnati. Davis is hitting .238 with two home runs this season against the Reds. He'll go against starter Alfredo Simon (10-3, 2.81), who has been one of the NL's biggest surprises. The 33-year-old has had six straight quality starts, and the Reds have won them all. He made one start against the Brewers earlier this season, allowing three runs in seven innings of a no-decision. Kyle Lohse (9-2, 3.08) starts for Milwaukee. The Brewers have won four straight of his starts. He got a no-decision against Cincinnati on May 4, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings. Joey Votto is a career .333 hitter off him with a dinger.
Key trends: The Brewers are 8-1 in Lohse's past nine against teams with a winning record. The Reds have won four straight after an off day. The "under" is 5-0 in Lohse's past five against the Reds.
Early lean: Reds keep that winning streak alive after a day off.
Dodgers at Rockies (+158, 8.5)
The incomparable Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for Los Angeles, and he brings a 28-inning scoreless streak into Friday's start against the team he no-hit a couple of weeks ago. Kershaw was the obvious NL Pitcher of the Month for June, going 6-0 with a ridiculous 0.82 ERA, 61 strikeouts and just four walks. That's good. Could the thin air of Denver be a problem? Perhaps not as Kershaw pitched in Coors Field on June 8 and allowed just a run over five innings, striking out nine. Troy Tulowitzki has two homers and seven RBIs off Kershaw, but it has taken 52 at-bats. Lefty Jorge De La Rosa (8-6, 4.86) goes for the Rockies. He is 1-2 with a 7.47 ERA in three starts against L.A. this year. The Rockies have won his past two starts.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 6-0 in their past six against lefties. The Rockies are 1-6 in their past seven against a southpaw. Colorado is 0-4 in its past four when De La Rosa faces Kershaw.
Early lean: The way Kershaw is going it might be worth taking L.A. instead at -110 on the runline (same price as Colorado, which shows how dominant Kershaw has been).
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