Will we see a four-homer game by player this season? It's more rare than a perfect game. It has happened only four times this century, last on May 8, 2012, by the Rangers' Josh Hamilton. I bring this up because Washington's Bryce Harper homered in his first three at-bats on Wednesday, each one further than the previous. Each of the home runs came on the second pitch of the at-bat off the Marlins' Tom Koehler. With a chance for history, Harper finished with an RBI groundout. He has six multi-homer games in 1,614 career plate appearances. Maybe he can go back-to-back with three-homer games Friday (Nats were off Thursday)? That would be pretty incredible.
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Braves at Nationals (-185, 7.5)
Harper entered Wednesday's game just 1-for-17 in May but became the youngest player (22 years, 202 days) since 1970 with a three-homer game since Carney Lansford in 1979. Harper's first few at-bats Friday will be against Braves lefty Eric Stults (1-2, 4.91). He comes off his worst outing of the season by far, allowing six runs and 11 hits over seven innings against Cincinnati. The start before that, he allowed two runs and four hits over 6.1 innings vs. Washington. Stults has allowed five homers in 29.1 innings. Harper has a single in five at-bats off him. Danny Espinosa is 5-for-9 with a double and a solo homer. Fellow lefty Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.86) starts for the Nats. He was great last time out, shutting out the Mets over seven innings on six hits, striking out nine. He generally has either been spectacular or shaky this season. Andrelton Simmons is 6-for-18 with two homers and five RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Braves are 4-1 in their past five against a left-hander. They are 1-8 in their past nine after a win. Washington is 5-0 in Gonzalez's past five at home. Washington is 0-8 in Gonzalez's past eight vs. Atlanta. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five.
Early lean: Take the Braves at -135 on the runline. Go over.
Reds at White Sox (-108, 9)
It's possible you won't see Reds star Joey Votto in this game. I say that because I'm not sure any punishment from the league office would come before Cincinnati's game on Thursday. Votto was ejected from Wednesday's game against Pittsburgh after spiking his helmet and then bumped the umpire while arguing. That's going to get him something, although Votto can play during an appeal if he goes that route. It's veteran right-hander Jason Marquis (3-1, 5.22) for the Reds in this interleague series opener. He allowed three runs and five hits over 6.1 innings vs. Atlanta last time out. Adam LaRoche has seen him more than any White Sox, going 11-for-38 with three homers. Hector Noesi (0-3, 6.75) starts for Chicago and this may be his last start for a while if it's not a good one. Noesi has yet to last more than 5.2 innings. Very few Reds have seen him. Votto is 1-for-1.
Key trends: The Reds are 1-9 in their past 10 Friday games. The Sox are 5-1 in Noesi's past six in Game 1 of a series. The under is 8-3 in his past 11 at home.
Early lean: White Sox and over.
Red Sox at Blue Jays (-123, 9)
Will the Sox get back outfielder Hanley Ramirez in this one? He left Monday's game early with a shoulder injury but has avoided the disabled list. Ramirez is set to take some swings on Thursday, and if he feels fine then he probably will be back in there. Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 4.62) is on the mound for the Jays. He walked six over 5.2 innings and gave up two runs to Cleveland last time out but got the win. He has had control issues all season. Sanchez pitched at Boston on April 27 and allowed four runs and five hits in 5.2 innings. Pablo Sandoval is 2-for-2 with a homer and three RBIs off him. Ramirez is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Struggling Wade Miley (1-3, 7.15) goes for Boston, his first start against the Jays. Edwin Encarnacion is 2-for-2 with a double off Miley.
Key trends: Boston is 7-2 in its past nine series openers. The Jays are 7-1 in their past eight at home vs. lefties. The over is 7-1 in Toronto's past eight vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Jays and over.
Astros at Angels (-142, 8)
I touched on Houston possibly not having outfielder George Springer for a while in Thursday's line report, and indeed the team put him on the seven-day concussion disabled list after the outfielder hurt himself running into the right field wall at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. Houston starts Roberto Hernandez (1-2, 4.25) on the mound, the weak link of the rotation. He faced the Angels on April 17 and gave up three runs over six innings in a no-decision. Mike Trout is 4-for-11 with three homers and four RBIs off him. The Angels' Jered Weaver (0-4, 6.29) is obviously a shell of his former All-Star self these days as he just has no velocity left. One of his better starts of the season was April 17 in Houston opposite Hernandez, allowing two runs over six innings. Jason Castro is 4-for-15 with two homers and a double off him.
Key trends: Houston is 4-1 in its past five Friday games. L.A. is 1-7 in Weaver's past eight starts. The under is 3-0-1 in Weaver's past four against Houston.
Early lean: Astros and over.
Orioles at Yankees (-125, 8.5)
Baltimore was expecting to activate shortstop J.J. Hardy for Thursday's series opener at the
Yankees. He is coming off shoulder surgery. Hardy won Gold Gloves in 2012-13 and hit a combined 47 homers those seasons. He slipped a bit last year but is still one of the better all-around shortstops in the game. Hardy will face Yankees starter Adam Warren (2-1, 4.78). He has yet to last more than 5.2 innings. Last year he was 0-2 with a 19.29 ERA in six relief appearances against the Yankees. Hardy is 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs off him. Miguel Gonzalez (3-1, 2.59) gets the call for the Birds. He beat the Yankees on April 14, allowing a run and four hits over seven innings, striking out 10. Carlos Beltran is 4-for-6 with two doubles and a solo homer against Gonzalez.
Key trends: The Orioles have lost five straight on Friday. New York is 5-1 in its past six in Game 2 of a series. The over is 5-1 in the past six meetings (entering Thursday).
Early lean: Orioles and under.
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