The Los Angeles Dodgers lost consecutive starts by three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw just twice last season and won 20 of the final 21 times he took the mound in the regular season. However, he was knocked around a bit by the Cardinals in the NLDS and suffered two losses. Is there a postseason hangover? Have teams figured him out? Or nothing to worry about yet? I ask because Kershaw has a 5.84 ERA through two starts of 2015 and looks to avoid a second straight loss Friday against Colorado. (Note to readers: No opening line stories rest of this week due to vacation)
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White Sox at Tigers (-170, 7)
First meeting of the season between the teams I expect to battle for the AL Central title, although obviously the red-hot Royals might have something to say about that. The Tigers' chances might depend on Justin Verlander, who had a setback in rehab on Wednesday and now seems unlikely to pitch in the majors this month. David Price makes the start here. He was going to be a very rich man as a free agent this winter, but he has only helped his cause thus far, yet to allow an earned run in two starts and just nine hits in 14.1 innings. Last year, Price made two starts vs. the White Sox and was 0-1 with a 5.52 ERA. One was while he was still with the Rays. Adam Eaton is 5-for-8 career off him. Jose Abreu is 1-for-7 with a homer. Jeff Samardzija, another free agent this winter, goes for the Pale Hose. He hasn't been sharp, allowing at least four earned runs in each of his first two starts. The only Tigers batter who has ever faced him is J.D. Martinez (2-for-6 with three RBIs).
Key trends: The Tigers are 4-1 in Price's past five at home. The "over/under" has gone over in six straight Friday games for Detroit. The over has hit in nine of the past 12 in Motown vs. the White Sox.
Early lean: Not sold on Samardzija right now -- maybe he belongs in the NL. Take Detroit at +140 on the runline.
Padres at Cubs (+100, TBA)
Interesting matchup here because the Cubs and Padres were the two final bidders for James Shields, with San Diego offering a bit more and the chance for Shields to play in his hometown. Of course Shields used to pitch in Tampa under current Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who loves Shields. The National League has been good to him as in two starts he has allowed just three earned runs and nine hits in 13 innings. Not many Cubs have faced him. Chris Coghlan is 5-for-13 with two doubles. By the way, because this is the final MLB story for this week, don't be surprised if the Cubs call up Kris Bryant this weekend. That service-time deadline they wanted to wait for ends on Friday. It probably won't be that day as it would be too obvious. But maybe for Saturday's or Sunday's game? Jason Hammel starts for the Cubs. His return to the NL also has thus far worked out well as Hammel won his season debut in Colorado, allowing three runs over six innings. The Padres' Justin Upton knows him well, batting 8-for-29 with two homers and eight RBIs off Hammel.
Key trends: The over is 4-0 in the Padres' past four on the road. The Cubs are 7-0 in Hammel's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The over has hit in the past six of those.
Early lean: Cubs and under total -- which probably will be 7 when posted.
Reds at Cardinals (-120, 6.5)
Cincinnati was off Thursday after losing a series at Wrigley Field. The team has played without excellent catcher Devin Mesoraco since Sunday due to a hip injury and he's not likely to play in this game. Maybe the injury explains his .095 average with no homers or RBIs. The Reds' Johnny Cueto has been perhaps the best pitcher in the National League through his first two starts with an ERA of 0.64 and WHIP of 0.71 but he's 0-1. Last time out he lost to these Cardinals despite allowing just one earned run and four hits over seven innings. Jon Jay is a career .444 hitter off him with three homers in 27 at-bats. Michael Wacha starts for the Cards. He was opposite Cueto in his last start and it was excellent, a great sign off his serious shoulder injury from last season. Wacha allowed one run and five hits over 6.1 innings.
Key trends: The Reds are 4-1 in Cueto's past five series openers. The Cards are 10-2 in Wacha's past 12 at home. The under is 5-1 in Cueto's past six in this series.
Early lean: Cueto as an underdog? I'll take that (he may not be by first pitch). Go under.
Rockies at Dodgers (-278, 6.5)
I didn't pick Kershaw to win the NL Cy Young this season. I thought he'd be terrific as usual, but it's pretty much impossible to be as good as he was in 2014. There was going to be some regression. I thought slight regression and it's obviously too early to panic, but Kershaw has not looked dominant in his two starts. He took a no-decision in his opener but allowed three runs in six innings vs. San Diego, which is a lot for him. Then his second start was downright bad as Kershaw allowed six runs and 10 hits in a loss at Arizona. Last season, Kershaw was 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA in three starts against the Rockies. He had that no-hitter and near perfect game at Dodger Stadium against the Rockies on June 8, striking out 15. Troy Tulowitzki is decent off him with 12 hits in 52 at-bats, two homers and seven RBIs. Kyle Kendrick make his third start for the Rockies. He shut out the Brewers over seven innings in his first and was shelled for eight runs and three homers in five innings by the Cubs in his last. Juan Uribe is 5-for-8 career of Kendrick with a homer. Yasiel Puig (who is dealing with a hamstring injury and could sit again) is 5-for-9 with a double.
Key trends: The Rockies are 4-1 in their past five against a lefty. The under has hit in nine of Colorado's past 11 road games against a southpaw. The over is 4-0 in Kershaw's past four home starts. The Dodgers are 9-1 in Kershaw's past 10 at home in this series.
Early lean: Take Colorado at +115 on the runline. Maybe something's up with Kershaw.
Rangers at Mariners (-140, 7.5)
When I previewed every MLB team over the previous couple of months, the Mariners were my AL pennant team , but my one concern was that of closer Fernando Rodney. The guy can be lights out but also a gas can. Right now, it's Rodney the gas can. In four appearances, he has a 1-1 record with two saves, a blown save, 16.20 ERA and 3.30 WHIP. Already manager Lloyd McClendon has had to give him a vote of confidence. Jonathan Papelbon to Seattle? Keep that in mind. The M's start lefty J.A. Happ in this series opener. His lone start thus far was a no-decision vs. Oakland, allowing two runs and seven hits in 6.1 innings. Prince Fielder has faced him more than any Ranger, going 6-for-19 with three doubles and four RBIs. Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.59) goes for Texas. He has yet to last more than 5.2 innings in two starts but was solid last time out against Houston. Not many Mariners have seem him. Logan Morrison is an ugly 0-for-14 with five strikeouts. Seth Smith just 2-for-17.
Key trends: The Rangers are 0-4 in their past four against a lefty. The over is 7-1 in Seattle's past eight Friday games. The under is 9-3 in the past 12 meetings.
Early lean: Mariners and over, but Nelson Cruz's homer streak ends at five games.
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