I asked recently whether we might see a four-homer game this season after Washington's Bryce Harper hit three on May 7. The answer is probably no, but there's a better chance of that than seeing a record-tying 20 strikeout game. But on Wednesday, previously struggling reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber of the Indians pitched the game of the season thus far with 18 strikeouts and one hit allowed in eight innings against the Cardinals. That's the most Ks by any pitcher since Ben Sheets' 18 in 2004. I understand why Manager Terry Francona didn't let Kluber out there in the ninth inning to try and set or break the record of 20 because he had thrown 113 pitches, but boy do I wish he would have.
Giants at Reds (+142, 7.5)
Could San Francisco get back outfielder Hunter Pence on Friday? He has yet to play this season after suffering a fractured forearm in the spring but is playing with Triple-A and is very close to making his season debut. The Giants shouldn't need many runs to win Friday behind ace Madison Bumgarner (3-2, 3.30). The lefty had a string of three straight quality starts end last time out, allowing three runs in five innings against the Marlins. He did strike out a season-high 10. Jay Bruce can't hit him, going 2-for-15 with four strikeouts. Todd Frazier is 4-for-9 with a homer and two RBIs. Jason Marquis (3-2, 5.66) allowed five runs and 10 hits over 5.2 innings in his last start vs. the Cubs. Pence kills him, going 13-for-32 with six extra-base hits and six RBIs. I doubt Pence plays Friday, but it's not impossible.
Key trends: The Giants are 7-1 in Bumgarner's past eight on five days of rest. The Reds are 1-9 in their past 10 Friday games. The "over/under" has gone under in Bumgarner's past four on five days of rest.
Early lean: I won't often take a team on the runline on the road, but it's good value here at +100 for the Giants. Marquis stinks.
Angels at Orioles (-134, 8.5)
Be honest, have you ever heard of Orioles designated hitter Jimmy Paredes? He's one of the hottest players in baseball right now as he takes a 12-game hitting streak into this series opener. If you look at his past numbers this is a total fluke, but he's hitting .364 with five homers and 18 RBIs on the season. I wouldn't go putting him on your fantasy team quite yet. Paredes looks to extend it against Angels starter Jered Weaver (1-4, 4.98). He had been pretty awful this season but was stellar last time out, throwing a complete-game six-hitter against the Astros. Weaver had gone longer than six innings only once. Paredes is 0-for-2 career against him. Adam Jones is 7-for-23 with two homers and six RBIs. Lefty Wei-Yin Chen (1-1, 2.52) also was great last time out for the Orioles, allowing only a run and five hits over seven innings at the Yankees. Few Angels have faced him. Mike Trout is 1-for-3 with a solo homer.
Key trends: The Angels are 1-4 in Weaver's past five series openers. The Orioles are 8-1 in Chen's past nine on five days of rest. The over is 4-1 in Weaver's past five vs. Baltimore.
Early lean: I'll take the Angels as maybe Weaver has figured things out.
Tigers at Cardinals (-145, 7.5)
It appears that St. Louis avoided disaster when outfielder Matt Holliday was hit on the elbow by a Kluber fastball on Wednesday. Holliday didn't start in the outfield Thursday -- he did at DH -- but it's just a contusion, and he could be back in full Friday. Holliday is hitting .346 with three homers and 21 RBIs. Shane Greene (3-2, 4.71) gets the start for Detroit. He had been battered for three straight starts but allowed only a run and four hits over eight innings against the Royals in his most recent start. He has never faced a member of the Cardinals. Carlos Martinez (3-1, 4.89) has been rocked in his past two starts, allowing 14 runs and 16 hits over nine innings. His ERA before those two was 1.73. Martinez has never faced a member of the Tigers.
Key trends: Detroit is 4-9 in its past 13 interleague games vs. a right-handed starter. The Cardinals are 8-1 in their past nine vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 6-0 in Martinez's past six vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Go over and lean Tigers.
Braves at Marlins (-126, 7.5)
By my count, although I could be off, the Marlins have become the third team this season to replace their closer for performance reasons and not due to injury. Steve Cishek had been in the role but leads the majors with four blown saves along with a 10.32 ERA. Manager Mike Redmond says the team will go by committee for now. Miami looked at free agent Rafael Soriano but passed. David Phelps (2-0, 2.90) could give the team a save chance here as he hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his past four starts. Phelps pitched two-thirds of an inning of relief vs. Atlanta on April 7 and allowed two hits but no runs. Not too many Braves have faced him. Nick Markakis is 2-for-9 with three walks. Atlanta starts Julio Teheran (3-1, 4.74). He comes off allowing six runs and 10 hits over five innings at Washington. He pitched opening day in Miami and allowed a run over six innings. Giancarlo Stanton is just 3-for-24 off him with eight strikeouts.
Key trends: Atlanta is 0-5 in Teheran's past five against teams with a losing record. The under is 7-0 in his past seven against Miami.
Early lean: Teheran is rarely off two starts in a row. Braves and under.
Nationals at Padres (+103, 6.5)
Not clear if San Diego's Wil Myers will play here or even possibly land on the disabled list as he's having a troublesome wrist looked at by a specialist. He's hitting .291 with five homers and 19 RBIs. I'm sure Washington's Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.20) would be fine with Myers sitting out again. Zimmermann had his second straight quality start last time out, allowing three runs and eight hits over six innings against the Braves. The Nats have won his past three starts. Matt Kemp is 6-for-14 with two homers and seven RBIs against him. Odrisamer Despaigne (2-1, 5.13) had this start pushed back a few days, and he might be bumped from the rotation again if he pitches like he did last time out, allowing eight runs and 10 hits in five innings at Arizona. Despaigne has never faced a National.
Key trends: Washington is 6-2 in Zimmermann's past eight on the road. The Padres are 4-1 in Despaigne's past five against teams with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in his past five at home.
Early lean: Nationals and over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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