I enjoy baseball's infatuation with statistics. And thus I give you another one. On Wednesday night, future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels hit his 35th homer of the season and No. 555 of his career. This latter number tied Manny Ramirez for 14th on the all-time list. The former number surprised me: He is just the fourth player with at least 35 dingers in his first 15 seasons. I definitely thought that number would be higher. But he joined Willie Mays (10), Mike Schmidt (11) and Alex Rodriguez (12) on that short list. Pujols is now on pace for 42, a number he hasn't reached since 2010. I do think this will be the last season that Pujols gets to 35 considering he will be 36 years old in January.
Diamondbacks at Cubs (-245, TBA)
Slumping Chicago should catch a break in Friday's only matinee as it's not likely that Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt, who is gunning for the NL Triple Crown, will make it back to the team in time for the game. He was excused from the club to be with his wife in Phoenix for the birth of the couple's first child. It's doubtful he plays Friday. Cubs lefty Jon Lester will take that considering Goldschmidt is hitting .322 with 27 homers and 97 RBIs. Lester (8-10, 3.59) has been shelled in two of his past three starts but had one very good one in between. He finished August 2-2 with a 5.04 ERA in five starts. He threw seven shutout innings vs. Arizona earlier this season. Aaron Hill has by far faced him the most of any Diamondbacks player, going 4-for-35 with nine strikeouts. It's rookie Zack Godley (4-0, 1.90) for Arizona. This will be just his fourth career start and first look at the Cubs.
Key trends: Arizona is 4-1 in its past five on Friday. The Cubs are 4-1 in Lester's past five at home. The "over/under" is 7-2-1 in Arizona's past 10 road games vs. lefties. The under is 4-0 in Lester's past four series openers. The Snakes are 7-1 in the past eight meetings.
Early lean: Cubs on runline (Goldschmidt is that good).
Mariners at A's (-108, 7.5)
Monitor the status of big-league home run leader Nelson Cruz here. He strained his quad in Wednesday's game and is considered day-to-day. Cruz has been well worth his big free-agent money, batting .310 with 39 homers and 82 RBIs. I never expected this many homers playing half his games in spacious Safeco. So Oakland pitcher Aaron Brooks (1-1, 5.47) might catch a break here. He came over in the Ben Zobrist trade. Brooks had a quality start last time out, allowing two runs over six innings in Arizona. He has never faced Seattle. The Mariners go with rookie lefty Edgar Olmos (1-0, 2.13) -- you are going to see a lot of pitchers you never heard of down the stretch on non-contenders. He has pitched 5.0 innings in two relief appearances vs. Oakland this season and is 1-0 without allowing a run.
Key trends: The Mariners have lost seven straight series openers. The A's are 1-5 in their past six following an off day. The over is 9-2 in Seattle's past 11 road games vs. teams with a losing record. Seattle is 9-3 in the past 12 meetings.
Early lean: A's (especially if Cruz out) and under.
Braves at Nationals (-200, 8)
Washington can ill afford to be without MVP candidate Bryce Harper for any period of time, but he had to leave Wednesday's game in St. Louis in the fourth inning with glute tightness. So obviously keep an eye on his status. Harper is batting .331 with 31 home runs and 78 RBIs. Washington starts Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.54) here. He takes the spot of Stephen Strasburg, who is being skipped because of upper-back tightness suffered during his last start. Roark's start was abbreviated to two innings at Double-A Harrisburg on Monday so he would be potentially available for this game. Atlanta's Julio Teheran (9-7, 4.62) was blown up last time out, allowing eight runs and nine hits over 4.1 innings against the Yankees. He is 0-0 with a 7.59 ERA in two starts this season against Washington. Harper is 9-for-21 off him with two homers. Ryan Zimmerman is 5-for-23 with two homers and seven RBIs.
Key trends: Atlanta is 5-0 in Teheran's past five vs. the NL East. The Braves are 1-6 in Teheran's past seven road starts vs. teams with a winning record. Washington is 4-1 in Roark's past five at home. The over is 10-1-1 in Teheran's past 12 on the road. The over is 4-1 Roark's past five overall.
Early lean: Nats and over. Although if Harper sits I'd probably take Braves on runline.
Mets at Marlins (+170, 7)
Another guy to monitor is New York infielder Daniel Murphy. He left Wednesday night's game against the Phillies after the bottom of the third inning with what the team call "mild discomfort," in his left quad. Murphy was on the disabled list with a strained left quad from June 5-30, missing 22 games this season. New York goes with Jacob deGrom (12-7, 2.32) here. He rebounded from his worst start of the season by allowing just two runs over six innings last time out against Boston, although he did take the loss. He shut out the Marlins over 7.2 innings in his lone start against them this season. One guy he apparently won't have to worry about is Giancarlo Stanton. He and the team were targeting Friday as his return from a long stint on the disabled list, but that now is considered doubtful. No reason to push it with the Marlins one of baseball's worst teams. Miami starts Tom Koehler (8-13, 4.12). He is 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA in three starts vs. the Mets this season. Ruben Tejada is 7-for-20 with four doubles and seven RBIs off him. Yoenis Cespedes is 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs.
Key trends: The Mets are 6-0 in deGrom's past six on the road. The Marlins are 0-7 in Koehler's past seven overall. The over is 4-0 in deGrom's past four on the road. The under is 6-2 in Koehler's past eight at home.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Twins at Astros (-178, 8.5)
Minnesota gets another of its good young players back on Friday as outfielder Aaron Hicks will be activated off the disabled list. He hasn't played since Aug. 19 due to a hamstring injury. Hicks is batting .268 with eight homers and 25 RBIs. Hicks hit a three-run homer in Triple-A on Wednesday. Mike Pelfrey (6-8, 3.85) starts here for Minnesota. It's his second straight start vs. Houston as last Saturday he lasted only 3.2 innings and allowed four runs and seven hits in a loss. Pelfrey didn't have to face George Springer then, but he's also expected to be activated off the DL on Friday. He has been out since July 1 with a wrist injury. Springer is hitting .264 with 13 homers and 29 RBIs in 75 games. Houston's Collin McHugh (14-7, 3.92) hasn't allowed more than two earned in his past five outings. He didn't face Minnesota last weekend.
Key trends: The Twins are 1-5 in Pelfrey's past six vs. teams with a winning record. Houston is 10-1 in McHugh's past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-2-1 in Pelfrey's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 9-2 in McHugh's past overall.
Early lean: Astros and under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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