Five to Follow MLB Betting: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 4/22/2014
Have you noticed how little attention that Albert Pujols has gotten as he closes in on 500 career home runs? It doesn't seem like such a magical number these days after all the PED use led to inflated totals. Might Pujols join the club Wednesday? Here's a look at five interesting games on the schedule.
Rangers at A's (-144, 7.5)
Texas officials will be holding their breath Tuesday for the results of an MRI on the left ankle of big free-agent acquisition Shin-Soo Choo. He left Monday's win in Oakland with a sore ankle. Choo has been about what the Rangers hoped for, batting .317 with two home runs, seven RBIs and a very good .432 on-base percentage. Even if the MRI is negative, Choo seems likely to miss a few games (didn't start Tuesday). The Rangers start one of the pitching surprises in baseball so far in lefty Martin Perez (3-0, 1.86). He has been a godsend with all the injuries to that Texas rotation. He threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout of the White Sox last time out and blanked Houston over eight innings the start before that. Perez was 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts a season ago vs. Oakland. Josh Donaldson is 3-for-7 with a homer and double off him. Oakland starts Sonny Gray (3-0, 1.80), one of the rising stars in the AL. He has never faced Texas.
Key trends: Texas is 1-4 in Perez's past five against teams with a winning record. The A's are 5-0 in Gray's past five against the AL West. The "under" is 4-1 in Oakland's past five against a lefty starter.
Early lean: Probably no Choo, plus Gray is filthy. It's to his advantage the Rangers haven't faced him. Take Oakland and the under.
Angels at Nationals (-125, 7)
What has gotten the most attention in this series is the first-ever meeting in the big leagues between third-year stars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Let's be frank: Harper isn't in the same ballpark as an overall player as Trout. They are two of only six players to have won a Rookie of the Year Award and made two all-star teams before their 22nd birthday. As for Pujols, he entered Tuesday with 498 home runs and is having a solid bounce-back season. The good news is he's facing a lefty Wednesday, and he usually kills southpaws. However, Pujols has somehow managed to not face Washington's Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 2.88). Trout is 0-for-9 with six strikeouts against Gonzalez. The Halos start struggling ace Jered Weaver (1-2, 4.74). He did have his best start of the year last time out, holding the Tigers to a run over six innings. Harper has never seen him. With no DH, that likely means Raul Ibanez will be limited to pinch-hitting for L.A. He had the game-winning pinch-hit double in Game 1 of the series.
Key trends: The Angels are 8-2 in Weaver's past 10 interleague starts. The Nationals are 8-1 in Gonzalez's past nine Wednesday starts.
Early lean: No homer for Pujols and a Nationals win.
Astros at Mariners (-164, 8)
How is that Robinson Cano signing working out for you, Seattle? The Mariners enter Tuesday on a seven-game losing streak and ahead of only Houston in the AL West. Cano hasn't done much to change things as Seattle is once again one of the worst offensive teams in baseball. He entered Tuesday batting .270 -- which sadly leads the team -- with one home run. And he makes $24 million a season. Cano has never faced Houston's starter Jarred Cosart (1-2, 7.36). He was destroyed last time out, allowing seven runs -- two homers, three walks -- in just a third of an inning in Oakland. Cosart pitched five innings of scoreless ball last year against Seattle. The Mariners start 6-foot-10 Chris Young (0-0, 3.27). He was roughed up for four runs and seven hits in three innings by the Marlins last time out. The only Astro to have faced him is Dexter Fowler (3-for-7).
Key trends: Houston is 2-5 in Cosart's past seven starts vs. teams with a losing record. The Mariners are 2-8 in their past 10 at home against righty starters.
Early lean: Seattle shouldn't be -164 against anyone unless Felix Hernandez is pitching. So take the Astros purely on value.
Reds at Pirates (-120, 7.5)
So who is the ace of the Cincinnati Reds? Most would argue Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos (when healthy). Yet so far the best pitcher on the staff has been journeyman Alfredo Simon (2-1, 0.86), who is tied for second in the National League in ERA. I am tempering my expectations for this guy as he has faced the Cubs, Rays and Mets so far, three struggling offenses. This is his first year starting since 2011 with the Orioles. Simon pitched a whopping nine times against Pittsburgh last year. He allowed seven runs and 12 hits in 12.1 innings and was 0-3. Travis Snider, who is likely facing suspension for his role in Sunday's brawl with Milwaukee, is 5-for-11 career off Simon with three RBIs. Pittsburgh counters with Charlie Morton (0-2, 4.32). He has been good in two starts and allowed exactly five runs in six innings in his other two. He has only faced the Cubs and Brewers thus far. Morton was 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA last year against the Reds. Jay Bruce is 7-for-21 with two home runs off him. Todd Frazier is 5-for-9 with four extra-base hits.
Key trends: The Reds are 5-0 in their past five Game 3s of a series. Pittsburgh is 1-4 in Morton's past five home starts. The under is 5-2 in Morton's past seven home starts against Cincinnati.
Early lean: I'll stay on the Simon bandwagon for now.
Phillies at Dodgers (-185, 6.5)
This game features the biggest favorite on the board Wednesday as well as the smallest total. The former somewhat surprises me because it's the season debut of Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, who is a pretty darn good pitcher. Hamels' season debut was delayed because of some biceps soreness this spring. Manager Ryne Sandberg says there will be no restrictions on Hamels. Hamels finished 8-14 last season but had a solid 3.60 ERA. He had a 2.97 ERA after the all-star break. His next win will be No. 100 career. Hamels faced the Dodgers once in 2013, allowing two runs over seven innings in a no-decision. Hanley Ramirez is a career .270 hitter off Hamels with two dingers. Adrian Gonzalez is 8-for-27 with two homers. Yasiel Puig is 0-for-3 with a strikeout. L.A. starts Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.42). He has yet to pitch more than six innings, and the Dodgers lost his last start even though he allowed a run over six innings against Arizona. Greinke was 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two starts against Philly last season. Chase Utley is 3-for-9 with a home run against him. Marlon Byrd is only 3-for-20 with seven strikeouts.
Key trends: The Phillies are 6-0 in Hamels' past six starts against teams with a winning record. Philadelphia is 5-1 in Hamels' past six starts against L.A. The Dodgers are 0-6 in their past six home games against lefty starters.
Early lean: Getting Hamels at +175? Too good to pass up, especially when looking at those trends above.
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