Five to Follow MLB Betting: Thursday August 14, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 8/14/2014
If I gave you five chances to name the five American League playoff teams this season, would you ever have a scenario in which the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners were part of the postseason? I didn't think so, but it could very well happen. As we get closer to September, look for individual teams' playoff odds at various sportsbooks. Here's a look at five interesting matchups on the schedule for Thursday.
Dodgers at Braves (-120, 7.5)
Expect the Dodgers to rest a regular or two here with a 12:10 p.m. local time start after a night game and with L.A. having to head back to the West Coast afterward. Atlanta, meanwhile, stays home for a weekend series so it may be full strength. Roberto Hernandez (6-8, 3.83) makes his second start as a Dodger. The first one went pretty well, as the former Fausto Carmona allowed two runs and three hits over six innings against Milwaukee in a no-decision. He started three times this season against Atlanta while with the Phillies, going 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA. Evan Gattis has two homers and four RBIs in six at-bats off him. Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.31) goes for Atlanta. This retread has made 24 starts this year, and in 18 he has allowed two runs or fewer. He pitched at the Dodgers on July 29 and had a rare off outing, allowing four runs and nine hits over six innings. Adrian Gonzalez is a career .400 hitter off him with three homers and six RBIs in 20 at-bats.
Key trends: L.A. has won four straight Game 4s of a series. Atlanta is 1-4 in Harang's past five at home. The "under" is 5-0 in both teams' past five on Thursday.
Early lean: The Dodgers have generally owned the Braves, but this is the finale of a long road trip. That's when you pounce. Take Atlanta.
A's at Royals (-105, 7.5)
I don't think you will see any regulars rested in this getaway day game in K.C. even though both sides travel afterward. The clubs split the first two games of the series so the winner of Wednesday night's game will have a chance for an impressive series win Thursday. It should be a great pitching matchup. Jeff Samardzija (5-8, 291) starts for Oakland. The A's have won six of his seven starts since the trade from the Cubs. He has faced only a few Royals in his career. Norichika Aoki is a career .438 hitter off him with three extra-base hits in 16 at-bats. James Shields (11-6, 3.25) comes off perhaps his best start of the year, a complete-game, four-hitter against the Giants. He has a 1.65 ERA in his past seven starts. He pitched in Oakland on Aug. 3 and allowed two runs over eight innings in a win.
Key trends: The A's have won five straight on Thursday. The Royals are 6-1 in Shields' past seven vs. the AL West. The under is 4-0 in Shields' past four.
Early lean: If this was an NL game, the total would be 6. It will drop from 7.5 so take the under at that number while you can.
Astros at Red Sox (-142, 9)
As I projected, the Red Sox rested key guys like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia in Wednesday's getaway day game in Cincinnati, but they should both be back in there to open a series with the Astros on Thursday night. The Sox will face Scott Feldman (6-8, 4.14). He had one of his worst starts of the year on July 11 against Boston, getting ripped for seven runs and 11 hits over 5.1 innings. Feldman has pitched pretty well since then and has won back-to-back starts. Mike Napoli hits him hard, going 12-for-29 with two homers and seven RBIs. Allen Webster (2-1, 4.91) is scheduled for Boston. He beat the Angels last time out, giving up two runs over 6.2 innings. Webster has never faced Houston.
Key trends: Houston is 0-5 in Feldman's past five on the road. Boston has lost four straight at home against right-handed starters. Houston has lost seven straight at Fenway.
Early lean: Over at +100.
Nationals at Mets (+130, 7)
Hopefully you took my recommendation to bet against Washington's Stephen Strasburg (8-10, 3.68) in his last start in Atlanta as he was shelled for seven runs over five innings, allowing four home runs. There is simply no pitcher in MLB who is usually more overpriced in a given start than this guy. The books are going on his hype because Strasburg is otherwise rather inconsistent. That said, it probably means he's due for a dominant outing Thursday at Citi Field. Strasburg opened the season there and allowed four runs over six innings. David Wright does little off him, with three singles and five strikeouts in 12 at-bats. The Mets' Dillon Gee (4-4, 3.54) got his first win since July 9 last time out, holding the Phillies to a run and three hits over seven innings. Jayson Werth is 11-for-37 with three doubles and home off him career, but Werth isn't a lock to play. He was scheduled to have his shoulder looked at Wednesday. The team doesn't think he will need a DL stint.
Key trends: Washington is 1-5 in Strasburg's past six on the road. The Mets are 1-4 in Gee's past five. The Nats are 4-1 in Strasburg's past five against the Mets.
Early lean: Strasburg generally does bounce back after a lousy effort. Take Nats at +115 on the runline.
Padres at Cardinals (-167, 7.5)
San Diego could be saving Manager Bud Black's job as the team is playing much better in the second half and might actually sniff .500 in a few weeks. The Padres have lost just one series since the break. Lefty Eric Stults (5-13, 4.76) looks for his third straight win for San Diego. He has allowed only one earned run over his previous two starts. Stults generally has been pitching better than his record. This will be his first 2014 start against the Cards. St. Louis' John Lackey (12-8, 3.98) was bombed in his last start, allowing 13 hits and nine runs (most since 2011) at Baltimore so I'm sure he will be happy to be done pitching against the American League. The San Diego offense is just a bit less threatening than the Orioles'. Lackey has faced only a few Padres in his career. Seth Smith is 2-for-5 with a double and triple off him.
Key trends: San Diego is 1-5 in Stults' past six following a quality start in his last outing. St. Louis is 1-6 in its past seven series openers. The under has hit in 10 of Stults' past 11 vs. the NL Central. The under is 4-0 in St. Louis' past four at home.
Early lean: Padres had to travel out Wednesday night from the West Coast and begin a long road trip. That's usually gold (against) in a series opener. Cardinals at +130 on the runline.
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