Five to Follow MLB Betting: Saturday, April 5, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 4/4/2014
The first Saturday of the season in the majors will be the first time many pitchers make their second starts of the season and where we can start drawing some conclusions on them. Here is a look at five interesting matchups on the schedule.
Yankees at Blue Jays (-113, 8.5)
We saw a rare trade in Major League Baseball on Jan. 13, 2012, when the New York Yankees traded their top young hitting prospect in catcher/DH Jesus Montero to Seattle for the Mariners' top young pitcher in Michael Pineda. You never see two young blossoming stars traded for one another. Now it looks like a total dud, although Pineda can change that. While Montero looks like a bust, Pineda still has a shot to save his career. He was an all-star in his 2011 rookie season after a dominant first half. Pineda wasn't the same in the second half, so the M's sold high on him. Wise decision as then arm injuries hit. This will be his first big-league start since Sept. 21, 2011. He won the Yankees' No. 5 job in camp with a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings. He's still only 25, and if Pineda is 75 percent of the guy he was the first half of 2011, the Yankees should be contenders. Needless to say, only a few Blue Jays have seen him. Adam Lind has two homers in nine at-bats. Toronto starts 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A.. Dickey. He struggled big time early last year but got much better in the second half. Alas, he wasn't good in Monday's opener at Tampa Bay, allowing six runs and six walks over five innings. Dickey was 2-2 with a 2.54 ERA against New York in 2013. Alfonso Soriano is 5-for-15 with two homers off him. Derek Jeter is 2-for-15 with five strikeouts.
Key trends: Toronto is 4-1 in Dickey's past five home starts. The "under" is 4-0 in his past four against the Yankees.
Early lean: Like the total more than side here: under. The Jays aren't that familiar with Pineda, and it's never easy to face a knuckleballer like Dickey, especially this early in the year.
Phillies at Cubs (+108, TBA)
Philadelphia looked pretty old in its opening series in Texas, and no pitcher looked worse than presumed ace Cliff Lee (ace until Cole Hamels makes his season debut). Lee was bombed for eight runs and 11 hits over five innings by the Rangers yet still got the win. The Phillies still think they can contend, but I contend that's a pipe dream. It certainly is if Lee isn't good, and if he struggles his trade value then plummets. Lee made one start against the Cubs last year, allowing two earned runs in five innings. Expect a spot start for Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who will generally start against lefties. He's had some success off Lee, going 4-for-10 with three doubles. Starlin Castro has a homer in 12 at-bats. Chicago goes with Jeff Samardzija, whom the team would love to trade. He only helped his value with seven shutout innings in Pittsburgh in the opener, although he didn't get a decision. He had a 12.60 ERA in two starts against the Phils last year. Chase Utley is 4-for-13 with three doubles and four RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Cubs are 2-7 in Samardzija's past nine home starts. The under has hit in 10 of Lee's past 14 starts.
Early lean: Lee will find things much, much easier against a terrible Cubs lineup and beat them. Go big on the under as well unless the wind is gusting out. The total will probably be 7, but usually there's no opening total in games at Wrigley because of the wind factor.
Angels at Astros (+127, 9)
Whether the Los Angeles Angels have to go out and find another starting pitcher could be answered partly Saturday when young lefty Tyler Skaggs makes his Halos debut against Houston. Skaggs was acquired in that three-team deal with Arizona and Chicago this offseason, costing L.A. Mark Trumbo. Skaggs, originally an Angels' draft pick, was 3-1 with a 4.95 ERA this spring in winning the No. 5 job. He may not be ready for the majors yet. Skaggs was 2-3 with a 5.12 ERA last year in seven starts with the Diamondbacks. Skaggs may not have to deal with Astros all-star catcher Jason Castro. He left Thursday's game after being hit by the foot with a pitch. He didn't play Friday but could in this one. Or the team may sit him out one more because Castro bats lefty and Skaggs is a southpaw. Houston starts lefty Dallas Keuchel. He was 6-8 with a 4.90 ERA as a starter in 2013. He was 2-0 against the Angels despite a 6.50 ERA.
Key trends: L.A. is 4-9 in its past 13 road games against lefty starters. The Astros are 1-7 in Keuchel's past eight starts.
Early lean: "Over"!!
Brewers at Red Sox (-193, 9)
I thought Milwaukee was a solid dark-horse pick in the National League this season with the addition of Matt Garza and full health of Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. Unfortunately, Braun already is dealing with right thumb issues. That led to his early struggles last season and a DL stint. Braun, who was at designated hitter on Friday and could be there all weekend, entered the series just 1-for-11. He has never faced Boston's scheduled starter Saturday, Clay Buchholz. He would have led the majors in winning percentage and ERA last year if Buchholz had pitched enough innings. He simply has trouble staying healthy but is usually excellent when so. Buchholz was 6-1 with a 1.99 ERA at Fenway Park in 2013. Few Brewers have faced him. Milwaukee counters with right-hander Wily Peralta. He had a 3.05 ERA over his final 17 starts last year. No Red Sox have faced him.
Key trends: The Brewers are 1-5 in Peralta's past six road starts. Boston is 6-0 in Buchholz's past six interleague starts.
Early lean: I'd take a shot on the Brewers here, certainly at -115 on the runline. If there's such a thing as a hangover in an early-season baseball game this is it after the Red Sox got their rings in the home opener Friday afternoon.
Padres at Marlins (-150, 6.5)
For my money, this will be the lowest-scoring game of Saturday because it features two filthy young pitchers in San Diego's Andrew Cashner and Miami's Jose Fernandez. I also think it's two of the worst offenses in the NL, although Miami torched the Rockies for 27 runs in the Marlins' season-opening series. San Diego managed six in losing two of three to the Dodgers. Cashner allowed a run on four hits over seven innings in San Diego's lone win over L.A. No Marlins player has more than six career at-bats off him. Fernandez might be the best pitcher in baseball already. He held the Rockies to one run on five hits while striking out nine and walking zero in his first start. At 21, Fernandez was the youngest opening Day starter in the majors since Dwight Gooden in 1986.
Key trends: The Marlins are 6-0 in Fernandez's last six Saturday starts. The under is 7-1 in Cashner's past eight starts. It is 5-1 in Fernandez's past six Saturday starts.
Early lean: Fernandez is 10-0 with a 1.21 ERA career at Marlins Park. He's the pick, and so is the under even though it's the lowest total on the board.
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