Five to Follow MLB Betting: Thursday July 3, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 7/2/2014
This could be the weekend that the Tampa Bay Rays decide whether or not to trade David Price. The Rays have won four straight entering Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees. Should Tampa Bay keep the momentum going and take three of four in Detroit, the Rays likely have to keep trying to get back in the wild-card race. However, if the Tigers pull off a sweep, which is eminently possible (Price pitches the Sunday night ESPN game), then I think Tampa Bay officially decides Price will be traded with less than four weeks until the deadline. Here's a look at the Rays-Tigers opener and four other interesting matchups.
Cardinals at Giants (-142, 7)
San Francisco already was in need of some offensive help, and now it really might be with the news that underrated outfielder Angel Pagan is seeing a back specialist. He hadn't played since June 14 but was supposed to return Tuesday before suffering a setback. The Giants have largely gone in the tank since Pagan (.307) went down. So that's one less guy for Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez to worry about in Thursday's matinee finale. The Cards have won the past three times the highly-touted Martinez (1-3, 4.13) has started, but he's on a strict pitch count and has yet to go more than five innings. Lefty Madison Bumgarner goes for San Francisco. Bumgarner (9-5, 2.90) had one of his worst starts of the year last time out, allowing five runs over six innings in a loss to the Reds. He blanked the Cards over seven innings on May 30.
Key trends: The Cards have lost four straight Thursday games. The Giants are 2-5 in Bumgarner's past seven at home. San Francisco is 1-4 in his past five against St. Louis.
Early lean: The Giants haven't been good at home lately, and they don't much know Martinez. Take the Cards at a nice underdog price.
Rangers at Orioles (+110, 7.5)
Think the Texas Rangers could use Orioles DH/outfielder Nelson Cruz right now? Texas did make Cruz a $14.1 million qualifying offer this winter -- but no long-term deal -- and he turned it down, eventually only getting $8 million or so for this season from the Orioles. He's in the AL MVP conversation, tied with White Sox rookie Jose Abreu for the big-league lead in homers and RBIs entering Wednesday. I expect a big series from Cruz as he takes pleasure in sticking it to Texas. Cruz had two homers and four RBIs vs. the Rangers earlier this season. He has never faced former teammate Yu Darvish (8-4, 2.42), who starts this one. Darvish had back-to-back shaky outings before shutting out the Twins over eight innings with 10 strikeouts his last start. Baltimore starts lefty Wei-Yin Chen (7-3, 4.19). Adrian Beltre struggles against him, going 1-for-9.
Key trends: The Rangers are 9-1 in Darvish's past 10 with four days of rest. Texas is 1-9 in the past 10 meetings.
Early lean: Darvish at only -120? Jump on it, despite the Orioles' recent dominance of this series.
Rays at Tigers (-180, 8)
Tampa Bay might have a slightly better chance of pulling the upset here if Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez sits out again. He hasn't started since June 29 because of soreness in his back and side. He's among the leading hitters in the AL. I'm sure Rays starter Erik Bedard (4-5, 4.21) would prefer Martinez sit again. The lefty has won back-to-back starts but hasn't faced Detroit. Torii Hunter is a career .321 hitter off him with two homers and six RBIs. Max Scherzer (9-3, 3.64) starts for the Tigers. After a shocking 10-run outing on June 17, Scherzer has been back to dominant in winning his past two. The two Rays who hit him well, David DeJesus and Yunel Escobar, are on the disabled list.
Key trends: Detroit is 4-1 in Scherzer's past five series-opening starts. The "under" is 10-2 in Tampa's past 12 road games against righties. The "under" is 5-1 in Scherzer's past six against the Rays.
Early lean: Trying to think of a reason to take the Rays, even on the runline, but I can't. Take Tigers at +120 on the runline.
Yankees at Twins (+140, 7)
Minnesota will be without all-star Joe Mauer for at least the next two weeks after he suffered an oblique injury against the Royals. I thought Mauer would have a big season now that he's not catching any longer, but he's hitting only .271 with two HRs and 28 RBIs. His contract looks terrible now. Too bad, as I would have liked to see Mauer against the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka (11-3, 2.10). He has lost two straight starts, although Tanaka has still been very good in them. He held the Twins to one unearned run on four hits over eight innings on May 31. It's former Yankee Phil Hughes (8-4, 3.58) for the Twins. He has been a nice surprise but perhaps is coming back to earth, allowing 10 runs and 19 hits over 12.2 innings in his past two starts. Hughes held the Yanks to two runs and three hits over eight innings on June 1. Jacoby Ellsbury is a career .368 hitter off him. So is Ichiro.
Key trends: The Twins are 5-1 in Hughes' past six at home. The "under" is 8-1 in New York's past nine series openers.
Early lean: Tanaka's three losses are against teams that have seen him before. The Twins have. Take a shot, even without Mauer.
Blue Jays at A's (-168, 7.5)
It's the continuation of a killer stretch for Oakland. The A's just lost a series at AL Central-leading Detroit, then had to fly out Wednesday back to the West Coast to open a series on Thursday night against AL East-leading Toronto. Then comes four against San Francisco. Sonny Gray (7-3, 3.20) starts for the A's in the opener against the Jays. Gray hasn't faced the Blue Jays this year and is 4-2 with a 3.43 ERA at home. He was a little off in June with a 5.40 ERA, which has to concern the A's a bit. R.A Dickey starts for Toronto. Dickey (6-7, 4.24) pitched against Oakland on May 24, allowing two runs over 8.1 innings. However, Dickey enters on a three-start losing streak. He is also 1-5 with a 4.83 ERA on the road.
Key trends: The Jays are 1-7 in Dickey's past eight road starts. The A's are 4-0 in their past four at home against right-handers. The "under" is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Don't trust that Dickey knuckler on the road. Go A's at +130 on the runline.
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