Five To Follow MLB Betting: Thursday, April 9, 2015 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 4/8/2015
What is it with the San Francisco Giants in the odd-numbered years this decade? They have won the World Series in each even-numbered year and missed the playoffs in 2011 & '13. I expected them to miss out again this season, and it sure appears like already the karma gods are against the Giants. Starting pitcher Matt Cain has landed on the disabled list, fellow starter Jake Peavy is expected to join him and so might first baseman Brandon Belt, who will undergo an MRI on Wednesday after straining his right groin Tuesday. It could be a long season by the Bay.
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Pirates at Reds (+103, 8)
This is the earliest starting game Thursday with a handful of them matinees on getaway day. It's also the return to Pittsburgh's rotation of A.J. Burnett. The veteran was pretty good there for the most part from 2012-13 but then decided to take a one-year offer with the Phillies in 2014. That didn't go well as he was one of the worst pitchers in the NL, going 8-18 with a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. So he took a one-year deal to return to the Pirates and undoubtedly will retire after this season at age 38. Burnett didn't face the Reds last year. Joey Votto hits him well, going 7-for-20 with three RBIs. Jay Bruce doesn't, hitting .111 with 10 strikeouts in 27 at-bats. The Reds counter with young Anthony DeSclafani, who was the key piece acquired in the Mat Latos trade this offseason with the Marlins. He was 2-2 with a 6.27 ERA last year and has never faced the Pirates.
Key trends: The Pirates are 3-8 in Burnett's past 11 road starts. The "over/under" has gone over in hit in eight of those.
Early lean: Reds and under.
Twins at Tigers (-160, 8.5)
Minnesota got terrible news earlier this week in that projected No. 2 starter and big free-agent acquisition Ervin Santana was suspended 80 games for a positive drug test. It's like some guys just don't care. Thus that probably elevates Kyle Gibson to the No. 2 role and he makes his 2015 debut on Thursday afternoon in Detroit. Gibson was very good at times last year and also very bad. He finished with a 4.47 ERA but had a 1.42 ERA in his 13 wins and an 11.04 ERA in his 12 losses. Gibson was 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in five starts against the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera is a career .455 hitter off him with a homer. Shane Greene, acquired this offseason from the Yankees, gets the call for the Tigers. He was 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 2014 and didn't face the Twins.
Key trends: The Twins are 1-7 in Gibson's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 6-2 those eight.
Early lean: Tigers and over.
Mets at Nationals (-142, 6.5)
Here's your pitching matchup of the day, maybe the first week of the season. It's the celebrated return of Mets phenom Matt Harvey, who is now the face of baseball in New York City. Harvey was brilliant in 2013, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 0.93 WHIP while starting for the NL in the All-Star Game. He missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery. Harvey looked dominant this spring with a 1.19 ERA. He will be limited to about 90 pitches in his return. The Nats' Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman have both homered off Harvey. Scarily, Stephen Strasburg is Washington's No. 3 pitcher and he debuts in this one. He made a career-high 34 starts last year and was 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA. Strasburg was 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts vs. the Mets. Lucas Duda has a dinger in six at-bats off him.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-8 in their past nine Thursday games. They are 0-4 in Harvey's past four on the road. The Nats are 7-3 in Strasburg's past 10 overall. They are 5-1 in his past six vs. the Mets.
Early lean: Nats and under -- both guys could throw six scoreless innings.
White Sox at Royals (-134, 8.5)
Sometimes you just own a team for whatever reason and that's the case for White Sox starter John Danks against Kansas City. The lefty is 7-0 with a 2.43 ERA in 16 career starts against the Royals. Last year it was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts. Lorenzo Cain doesn't have a hit off him in 11 at-bats. Alcides Escobar is only 1-for-18 off him, Alex Gordon 6-for-31 and Mike Moustakas 2-for-16. To replace the departed James Shields, the Royals signed former Pirate Edinson Volquez to a two-year, $20 million deal this winter. He was 13-7 with a career-best 3.04 ERA last year. Volquez was 9-1 with a 1.85 ERA in his final 17 regular-season starts. He didn't face the White Sox. Only a few have seen him. Adam LaRoche is 6-for-17 with a homer and two doubles vs. Volquez.
Key trends: The Sox are 2-8 in Danks' past 10 starts. The Royals are 6-1 in their past seven at home vs. lefties. The under has hit in five of Danks' past seven against Kansas City.
Early lean: Sox and over.
Blue Jays at Yankees (-140, 7.5)
Looking for a decent AL Rookie of the Year candidate? Consider Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris, the team's top prospect. You may have read about him on ESPN as he lives in a 1978 Volkswagen camper despite the fact he's obviously not poor. The 21-year-old retains his rookie status as he pitched only 6.2 innings last year, allowing four runs, five hits and walking five. It wasn't a lock that Norris would start the season in the big-league rotation, but then Marcus Stroman went down with a torn ACL and Norris had a 3.28 ERA in six spring outings. The Yankees' Brian McCann has one big-league at-bat off him and it was a two-run homer. How much does big Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia have left in the tank? Not much if you go by 2014 when he was 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA in eight starts before being shut down. He has gotten progressively worse since 2011. Jose Bautista has just three hits in 26 at-bats off Sabathia but one was a homer.
Key trends: The Jays are 7-3 in their past 10 in Game 3 of a series. The over is 6-1 in Sabathia's past seven on Thursday. New York is 8-2 in his past 10 against Toronto.
Early lean: Yankees and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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