I'd say that new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has done a nice job so far in place of Bud Selig, who really hadn't done anything of substance in years. Selig coasted his way to retirement. But some disappointing news from Manfred on Wednesday in that he said he was against adding the designated hitter to the National League. That's ridiculous. If the leagues were still separate, then fine. But there's at least one interleague series every day of the week now (barring off days, obviously). NL teams aren't built to add the DH -- they generally keep speedy, on-base guys on the bench, no sluggers like a David Ortiz. Plus, from a betting perspective, obviously the totals are different in NL games (other than in Colorado) because pitchers are an automatic out for the most part. Would you rather see Clayton Kershaw or Ortiz hit? The DH needs to be added. I still think it will be by 2020.
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Nationals at Mets (-144, 7)
New York avoided total disaster on Wednesday night as outfielder Yoenis Cespedes left in the third inning against the Phillies after he was hit in the hand by a fastball from Justin De Fratus. Cespedes had to leave the game, but X-rays were negative. He obviously has been the biggest reason why the Mets took off since the trade deadline. Don't expect to see him the rest of the regular season. The Mets go with Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.34) here. He was dominant last time out, allowing two runs over 7.2 innings vs. the Reds and striking out 11. He will next start Game 2 or 3 of the NLDS vs. the Dodgers. Syndergaard is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts this year vs. Washington. It's lefty Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.93) for the Nats. He is 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA in two starts this year against New York. Curtis Granderson can't hit him, going 4-for-30 with 10 strikeouts.
Key trends: The Nats are 2-7 in Gonzalez's past nine starts. They are 2-5 in his past seven on the road vs. teams with a winning record. The Mets are 7-1 in Syndergaard's past eight at home. The "over/under" is 9-2 in Gonzalez's past 11. The over is 8-1 in Syndergaard's past nine.
Early lean: Nationals and over.
Cardinals at Braves (+129, 7)
St. Louis clinched the NL Central after winning the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Pirates. They also clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the National League and will face either the Pirates or Cubs in the NLDS. I'm not touching the Cardinals now the rest of the weekend. They will be resting guys. St. Louis does start the guy who has been its best pitcher for several weeks in lefty Jaime Garcia (10-5, 2.36). I'd imagine he starts Game 2 of the NLDS after Michael Wacha goes in the opener. The Cardinals are 10-1 in Garcia's last 11 starts, during which he has a 2.63 ERA. He hasn't faced Atlanta this season. Atlanta's Julio Teheran (10-8, 4.16) was disappointing much of this season but seemed to find himself in September with a 1.91 ERA in five starts (although just 1-1 because Braves can't score). He hasn't faced St. Louis this year.
Key trends: The Cards are 6-1 in Garcia's past seven vs. teams with a losing record. The Braves are 5-1 in Teheran's past six at home. The over is 4-0 in Garcia's past four on the road. The under is 4-1 in Teheran's past five at home vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Certainly under and Braves.
Angels at Rangers (-125, 9.5)
This will have live betting at sportsbooks as it's televised by ESPN. Texas could clinch the AL West in this game if it didn't on Thursday. It's Jered Weaver (7-12, 4.76) for the Halos. He had to leave his last start vs. Seattle after five innings with shoulder tightness. I'm sure if this were June or something he wouldn't be starting here. Weaver has faced Texas once this year, allowing one run over six innings. Mike Napoli is a career .344 hitter off him with three homers in 32 at-bats. Mitch Moreland is 11-for-34 with two homers. Texas lefty Martin Perez (3-6, 4.77) took the loss last time out despite not allowing an earned run in six innings at Houston. His lone start vs. the Angels this year was Sept. 4 in Anaheim and he allowed three runs over six innings. Mike Trout is 3-for-9 off him. Albert Pujols is 0-for-2.
Key trends: The Angels are 1-7 in Weaver's past eight on the road. The Rangers are 4-0 in Perez's past four at home. The under is 4-1 in Weaver's past five vs. Texas.
Early lean: Angels -- even more so if Rangers clinch on Thursday.
Cubs at Brewers (+193, 7.5)
Chicago has nothing to play for, either, so normally I wouldn't touch the Cubs here. But it's Jake Arrieta on the mound as he makes one final push to beat out the Dodgers' Zack Greinke for the National League Cy Young. Arrieta (21-6, 1.82) is having one of the best second halves of the season in major-league history. At the All-Star break, Arrieta had a 2.66 ERA. Now as you see it's 1.82. He is 11-1 with a 0.80 ERA since the break. That's absurd. He will start Wednesday's wild-card game at Pittsburgh, so he might be lifted a bit early here. Arrieta is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three starts vs. Milwaukee this year. The Brewers go with rookie Ariel Pena (2-0, 3.91). This is only his fifth big-league start and he hasn't faced the Cubs.
Key trends: The Cubs are 6-0 in Arrieta's past six vs. teams with a losing record. The Brewers are 1-4 in their past five series openers. The under is 6-1-1 in Arrieta's past eight vs. Milwaukee.
Early lean: Cubs and under.
Astros at Diamondbacks (TBA)
Of the three wild-card contenders, the Astros have the easiest opponent this weekend in Arizona as the Angels have the Rangers and the Twins face the Royals. Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel (19-8, 2.47) makes his final push for the AL Cy Young -- it will be either him or the Jays' David Price. Keuchel is trying to become the eighth pitcher in club history to win 20 games in a season. He is only 4-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 14 road starts this year. Arizona goes with Rubby De La Rosa (14-8, 4.56), who has been a solid offseason trade acquisition. He faced Houston on July 31 in Texas and allowed four runs over six innings. Carlos Gomez is 2-for-8 with a homer off him. Chris Carter is 2-for-2 with a dinger. No DH in this one for the Astros.
Key trends: The Astros are 1-5 in Keuchel's past six road starts vs. teams with a losing record. Arizona is 6-0 in De La Rosa's past six on Friday. The over is 5-2 in Keuchel's past seven. The over is 7-3-1 in De La Rosa's past 11.
Early lean: Astros.
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