I'm calling my shot right now: the Minnesota Twins will be the worst team in the American League this season (although the White Sox look like it so far). OK, I guess that's not going out on a huge limb. However, now 40 percent of the team's rotation is out for a while. Projected No. 2 Ervin Santana was recently suspended 80 games for a positive drug test and now likely No. 3 Ricky Nolasco has been placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Trevor May replaces Nolasco in the rotation. Maybe that's not such a bad thing as Nolasco was terrible as a high-priced free-agent acquisition last season and started this season getting shelled in Detroit.
Nationals at Phillies (+185, 7)
This looks like a rout on paper as the projected best team in baseball faces off against perhaps its worst. And the pitching matchup looks equally lopsided. If you listened to ESPN's Buster Olney and Jayson Stark this week, they said that Scherzer easily could have had a no-hitter in the season opener against the Mets. However, Nats shortstop Ian Desmond made two errors that seemed to irk Scherzer a bit and knocked him off his game ever so slightly. He took a no-no into the sixth but ended up with the loss, allowing four hits and three unearned runs over 7.2 innings, striking out eight. Scherzer didn't deserve that result. He didn't face the Phillies last season while with the Tigers. Jeff Francouer has seen him the most of any Phillie, going 7-for-30 with two doubles, a homer and 10 strikeouts. Ben Revere is 5-for-15 off him with a double. It's journeyman Sean O'Sullivan for the Phillies, he of the 10-17 record and 5.91 career ERA. He's holding down the No. 5 spot only temporarily. He has never faced Washington.
Key trends: Washington is 13-3 in its past 16 on Sunday. Philadelphia has lost four straight Game 3s of a series. The "over/under" has gone under in 10 of Washington's past 11 on the road (entering Saturday).
Early lean: Take the Nats on the runline (-105) and the under because I doubt the Phillies score more than one run.
Twins at White Sox (-168, 7.5)
It's the season debut of White Sox ace lefty Chris Sale, who was third in last year's Cy Young voting. Sale has not faced major-league hitters this year because he broke his foot in a freak accident with his truck very early in the spring (has faced minor leaguers). The three-time All-Star says he is comfortable he crossed every hurdle necessary in his rehab, including fielding. The way Chicago's pitchers have looked thus far, the Sox badly need him. Sale was 12-4 with a 2.17 ERA (second in AL) with 208 strikeouts in 174.0 innings last season. He was 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts against the Twins. Brian Dozier handles Sale OK, batting .263 with two homers and four RBIs in 19 at-bats. There was talk that May might pitch this game and Phil Hughes be pushed back for the home opener on Monday but as of now Hughes goes here. He was outstanding last season but that was perhaps a bit of a fluke. Hughes took the loss Monday in Detroit, allowing four runs and eight hits (two homers) in six innings. He was 1-2 with a 6.30 ERA in four starts vs. the White Sox in 2014. Jose Abreu is 4-for-10 with three doubles and three RBIs against him.
Key trends: Chicago is 4-0 in Sale's past four vs. the Twins. The over is 4-1 in the past five when he faces Minnesota. The under is 5-1 in Hughes' past six on the road.
Early lean: White Sox can't hit right now so I guess take Twins on value. Sale could be rusty.
Royals at Angels (-122, 7.5)
The Royals had to be petrified on Monday. Why? Last Sunday, they signed excellent young pitcher Yordano Ventura, who looks like a future All-Star, to a five-year, $23 million extension that includes two team options to keep him under club control through 2021. If Ventura becomes an ace, that's a steal. He was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 183.0 innings last year and would have won AL Rookie of the Year honors in many seasons. On Monday, Ventura was dominating the White Sox through six innings but crumpled to the ground in the seventh with a thumb injury. Thankfully for the Royals, it was just a cramp and he's good to go Sunday. Last year he was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in one start vs. the Angels. Lefty C.J. Wilson starts for the Halos. He wasn't very good most of last year but was in his 2015 opener, shutting out Seattle on two hits. Wilson was 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts in 2014 vs. the Royals.
Key trends: Kansas City has won six straight Ventura road starts. L.A. is 10-1 in Wilson's past 11 at home. The over is 4-0 in Ventura's past four overall.
Early lean: Royals and under.
Mariners at A's (+134, 6.5)
Seattle's Felix Hernandez showed why he opened the season as the AL Cy Young betting favorite as he dominated the Angels in his first start, allowing a leadoff homer to Mike Trout but then just one more hit while striking out 10 over seven innings. Aside from his one walk, he didn't go to even a three-ball count on any other hitter. It was his 102nd career outing with fewer than two runs allowed and at least seven innings pitched, 22 more than the next closest active pitcher. King Felix was 4-0 with a 2.22 ERA in six starts last year vs. Oakland. Stephen Vogt is the rare Athletic with some success off him, going 3-for-7 with a solo homer and a walk. Jesse Hahn lost his Oakland debut on Tuesday but pitched well against the Rangers, allowing three runs in six innings with no walks. Only a few Mariners have seen the former Padre.
Key trends: The Mariners are 14-3 in Hernandez's past 17 in Oakland (that's crazy). The under is 5-1 in King Felix's past six there.
Early lean: I'll bet against Hernandez once in a while. Just not here.
Red Sox at Yankees (-123, 7.5)
Yes, I know I said I wouldn't preview every darn Red Sox-Yankees matchup this season, but I usually will do the ESPN Sunday night game (as this is) because it takes a lot of action -- often the most of any MLB game each week. And I'm very curious to see how the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka fares. As I'm sure you know, he's pitching with a partially torn ligament in his elbow that's going to need surgery at some point. Tomorrow, next month, next year, five years. It's a matter of time. He didn't look all that healthy in his debut, allowing five runs and five hits over four innings in a loss to Toronto. Tanaka started his career last year in brilliant fashion, never lasting less than 5.1 innings. Now he hasn't gotten to the fifth in his past two (shelled in his 2014 finale against these Red Sox). Tanaka was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts last year against Boston. Mike Napoli has two dingers in six at-bats off him. Boston's Clay Buchholz was terrific in his season debut, shutting out the Phillies over seven innings on three hits, striking out nine. He was 0-2 with a 6.88 ERA in three 2014 starts vs. New York. Alex Rodriguez is 10-for-25 with two homers and seven RBIs career off Buchholz.
Key trends: The Sox are 4-9 in Buchholz's past 13 vs. the AL East. New York is 2-5 in Tanaka's past seven overall. The over is 5-2 in Buchholz's past seven vs. the Yanks.
Early lean: Boston and over (bullpens are still blown out from Friday's forever game).
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