When is Major League Baseball going to step in and force the current Mets ownership to sell? It did that with former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, and look at where that franchise is now. It's thriving and has the highest payroll in the game. The Mets spend like a small-market team. Yet this week, Commissioner Rob Manfred offered an endorsement of the penny-pinching owners: "I've known both Fred and Jeff Wilpon a very long time," he said. "I know they are absolutely committed to winning and that they will spend money when they think they can spend money and have it be effective in terms of making that team better." They haven't shown it yet, and if New York doesn't add a big bat it's just an embarrassment -- dealing for Atlanta's Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson on Friday hardly counts. Entering the weekend, the Mets' team average was .233, the worst in the majors. By comparison, maybe the worst team in modern MLB history, the 1962 expansion Mets, hit .240 as a team. One Mets player said this to the New York Daily News about John Mayberry Jr. hitting cleanup on Thursday: "he's hitting one f-----g seventy." The Mets have called up top prospect Michael Conforto, an outfielder. But you can't expect a rookie to carry your team. I actually revel in New York teams being lousy. But it's a shame with all that pitching.
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Nationals at Pirates (-185, 7)
Washington hasn't missed disappointing Stephen Strasburg, out since July 4, at all because his rotation replacement, Joe Ross, has been very good in his place. He's a former first-round pick from the Padres -- San Diego pitcher Tyson is his older brother -- acquired in that three-team trade with Tampa this offseason. Ross (2-2, 2.70) has pretty great command considering he has struck out 27 and walked just two in 26.2 innings. He did face the Pirates on June 19 and allowed a run and six hits over 7.1 innings, striking out a career-high 11. It's All-Star Gerrit Cole (13-4, 2.31) for Pittsburgh. He was a tough-luck loser last time out, allowing two earned over 7.1 innings in Kansas City. Cole hasn't faced Washington this season. Ian Desmond is 1-for-4 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Pirates are 4-1 in Cole's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in seven straight Cole starts vs. the NL East.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Astros at Royals (-108, 7)
Houston ace lefty Dallas Keuchel (12-4, 2.12) looks to continue his Cy Young campaign on Sunday in a potential playoff preview in Kansas City. Keuchel was spectacular in his first start out of the break, shutting out Texas over seven innings on two hits and striking out a season-high 13. Keuchel retired the final 18 batters he faced. He now leads the AL in ERA as well as wins. Keuchel faced the Royals on June 30 and shut them out over eight innings. Kendrys Morales is 4-for-13 with an RBI off him. Alex Rios is a career .348 hitter off him in 23 at-bats. Kansas City goes with Yordano Ventura, who was shipped to Triple-A early this week only to be recalled the next day when fellow starter Jason Vargas suffered a season-ending injury. Ventura (4-7, 5.19) allowed six runs and 10 hits over four innings last time out vs. Pittsburgh. He hasn't faced Houston this year.
Key trends: The Astros have won six straight Keuchel starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Royals are 0-6 in Ventura's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 6-1 in Kuechel's past seven vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Call it a hunch, but go Royals. Under.
Marlins at Padres (+100, 7.5)
Nothing is 100 percent in life, but I'm 99.9 percent sure that Sunday will be the final start in a Marlins uniform for Mat Latos -- if he gets pulled before or during it, you know he has been traded. Latos (4-6, 4.48) would be a good second-tier addition for a contender like Toronto or the Cubs. Latos has built up his value by allowing just three runs and 11 hits over 20 innings in his past three starts. He hasn't faced San Diego in 2015. Justin Upton is 8-for-17 with four extra-base hits off him. Yonder Alonso is 4-for-5. The Padres' Odrisamer Despaigne (3-7, 4.98) was knocked around last time out, allowing six runs in five innings against the Giants. He has never faced the Marlins.
Key trends: The Marlins are 2-5 in Latos' past seven on the road. The Marlins are 1-5 in Despaigne's past six at home. The over is 4-0 in Despaigne's past four at home.
Early lean: Padres and over.
Blue Jays at Mariners (-102, 7.5)
I still say Toronto can win the AL East even though the Yankees are playing really well right now. The Jays are going to add pitching by July 31. Quietly having a very good season is 36-year-old lefty Mark Buehrle (11-5, 3.23). He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in a start since May 29, and he has gone at least seven innings in all but one of those nine outings. Guy is becoming a borderline Hall of Famer. Probably needs to pitch a few more good years to have a shot. He lost at home to Seattle on May 23, allowing three runs in 7.1 innings. Robinson Cano is 9-for-32 with three homers and 11 RBIs off him. Nelson Cruz can't hit the guy, going 2-for-22. Mark Trumbo is 6-for-12 with three homers. Seattle goes with Taijuan Walker (7-7, 5.06). He is 0-2 with a 9.39 in his past three starts. Walker lost in Toronto on May 24, allowing four runs in 5.2 innings. Edwin Encarnacion is 1-for-5 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Jays are 13-3 in Buehrle's past 16 vs. teams with a winning record. The Mariners are 7-1 in Walker's past eight. The over is 3-0-1 in Walker's past four overall.
Early lean: Mariners and over.
Tigers at Red Sox (-143, 8.5)
This is your Sunday night ESPN game and thus will have live betting at sportsbooks. This looked like a marquee matchup back when ESPN set its schedule. Now it's a dog. The Red Sox are totally imploding as they opened the second half going 0-7 on their seven-game road trip. It was Boston's first winless trip of at least that long in 64 years. The Sox go with rookie lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (5-3, 4.64). He was rocked on Monday for seven runs in just 1.2 innings at the Angels. This will be his first career start vs. Detroit. For the Tigers it's Shane Greene (4-7, 6.52). He might be the AL's worst starter right now. Detroit has lost his past six and he has allowed at five runs in five of those. Xander Bogaerts is 2-for-4 with a homer off him. Mike Napoli is 1-for-1 with a homer and three RBIs.
Key trends: The Tigers are 1-4 in Greene's past five on the road. The over is 5-1 in Detroit's past six against lefties.
Early lean: Red Sox and over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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