Do I think the Detroit Tigers are good enough to claim the AL's second wild-card spot? I don't. They don't have the pitching, especially after trading David Price. However, they are just 4.5 games back of that second spot entering Friday and they get back arguably the best offensive player in baseball in Miguel Cabrera. He has been out since July 4 with a groin strain. Cabrera's .350 average and .456 on-base percentage would both lead the American League, but with all that time missed he's currently not qualified. The Tigers will certainly be able to mash with Cabrera back, and don't be surprised if the team goes on a mini-run with the boost he provides.
Cubs at White Sox (-105, 8)
It's your only matinee, which is usually the case on Fridays when the Cubs are home. They can do no wrong right now as they are edging closer to that first wild-card spot in the National League, currently held by Pittsburgh. The Pale Hose are still only 4.5 games out of the second AL wild-card spot and just swept the Angels. Jeff Samardzija (8-7, 4.62) takes the mound for the White Sox. Of course, he began his career with the Cubs and was traded by them to Oakland last July; the A's then shipped him to the White Sox this past offseason. I'm sure Samardzija will be fired up to face his former team for the first time. Many think he's angry he wasn't traded by the deadline as he is 0-2 with a 15.43 ERA this month. The Cubs have won three straight starts by Kyle Hendricks (6-5, 3.73). He was great vs. the White Sox on July 10, shutting them out on five hits over seven innings but got a no-decision.
Key trends: The Cubs are 6-1 in their past seven road games. They are 2-10 in their past 12 on Friday. The Cubs are 2-5 in Hendricks' past seven on the road vs. teams with a losing record. The Sox are 0-4 in Samardzija's past four at home. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of Hendricks' past nine vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 4-0 in Samardzija's past four overall.
Early lean: White Sox and over -- this will matter to Samardzija, and I expect a good outing.
Tigers at Astros (-215, 8)
While Cabrera should be in there on Friday, don't expect him to play every day to start with as the team is still a bit worried about him running. The Tigers can't hide him at DH, either, because Victor Martinez can't play anywhere else. So I'd expect Cabrera to perhaps sit Saturday then. He will be facing the AL Cy Young favorite on Friday in Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel (13-6, 2.40). He has come back to earth a bit, allowing 10 hits in two of his past three starts. But he's an amazing 10-0 with a 1.26 ERA at home this season. He hasn't faced Detroit in 2015. Cabrera is 1-for-7 career off him. Ian Kinsler is 6-for-19 with a homer. It's Alfredo Simon (10-6, 4.74) for the Tigers. They have won his past four, but he has allowed at least four runs in three of them. Houston's Carlos Gomez is 3-for-10 with two doubles off him. Jose Altuve is 2-for-6 with a double.
Key trends: Detroit is 1-4 in its past five vs. a lefty. The Tigers are 1-4 in Simon's past five road starts vs. teams with a winning record. Houston is 6-1 in Keuchel's past seven at home vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 9-2 in Simon's past 11. The over is 5-2 in Keuchel's past seven vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Astros and over.
Phillies at Brewers (-155, 8)
Philadelphia remains without one of its good young players in third baseman Maikel Franco. He hasn't played since Tuesday with a wrist injury after being hit by a pitch. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin expects Franco to return to action this weekend, but it might not be until Saturday. Franco is hitting .277 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs. The Phillies start Adam Morgan (3-3, 4.06) on the mound. He had maybe the best start of his young career last time out, allowing one earned run over six innings in San Diego. He has never faced the Brewers. It's Wily Peralta (2-7, 4.48) for the Brewers. They have lost his past two, and he has allowed nine runs and 13 hits over 10.1 innings in that span. Peralta has an 8.82 ERA in three career starts against the Phillies. Domonic Brown is 3-for-7 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Phillies are 4-0 in their past four after an off day. The Brewers are 2-5 in Peralta's past seven at home. The under is 4-0 in Morgan's past four on the road. The over is 4-1 in Peralta's past five at home.
Early lean: Brewers and under.
Nationals at Giants (+135, 7)
San Francisco just put outfielder Angel Pagan on the disabled list, and it appears that fellow outfielder Nori Aoki might join him, but on the seven-day concussion list. The Giants replaced Aoki after four innings of Wednesday's loss to the Astros because of lightheadedness. He was hit in the helmet Sunday. The Giants are going to need all hands on deck to score against Washington's Max Scherzer (11-8, 2.44). He has been mortal in his past two outings, however, allowing seven runs over 12 innings but also with 19 strikeouts. It's his first look at the Giants in 2015. Hunter Pence is 1-for-6 off him. Buster Posey has never faced Scherzer. The Giants' Matt Cain (2-3, 5.59) has allowed 13 earned runs in 15 innings over his past three starts. Remember how good he used to be? Those days are long gone. Ian Desmond is 5-for-14 with a homer off him. Jayson Werth is 5-for-8 with a dinger.
Key trends: The Nats are 7-3 in Scherzer's past 10 on the road. The Giants are 2-5 in Cain's past seven on Friday. The under has hit in eight of Scherzer's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0-1 in Cain's past five.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Reds at Dodgers (-172, 7)
If the Dodgers don't activate third baseman Justin Turner on Thursday, they are expected to Friday. Turner hasn't played since July 26 with a skin infection. And Turner revealed on Wednesday that he was diagnosed with the scary MRSA infection, although it's gone now. That can spread like wildfire in a locker room -- ask the NFL's Tampa Bay Bucs. Turner is hitting .323 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs. He will see Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani (7-7, 3.75) here. He has lasted at least six innings in four straight starts and not allowed more than three runs in any. Turner is 2-for-3 off him career. Jimmy Rollins is 2-for-3 with a homer. Dodgers lefty Alex Wood (7-7, 3.72) has been a moderate disappointment in two starts since being traded from the Braves as he has allowed seven runs over 11.1 inning and the Dodgers lost both. Marlon Byrd has faced him by far more than any other Red and is 4-for-12 with two RBIs off Wood.
Key trends: The Reds are 4-1 in DeSclafani's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-2 in his past seven vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Take a shot with Reds. Dodgers don't know DeSclafani, and Wood has been scuffling a bit. Go over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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