I'm not sure why Phillies GM Ruben Amaro still has a job -- he definitely won't when this season is over. Amaro held on to his veterans way too long instead of trading them when they still had some value. For example, former All-Star second baseman Chase Utley would have had some value last season. This year none. He hasn't played since June 22 due to injury and is hitting only .179. You couldn't get a bag of balls for him. And now Amaro is saying that Utley won't be his starting second baseman when he does return. Cesar Hernandez has been great in his place, but this also has monetary reasons. If Utley accumulates 500 plate appearances this season (at 249 currently), his $15 million option for 2015 will vest. That's not going to happen now. First smart thing Amaro has done in years.
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Reds at Marlins (-175, 7.5)
It's the second start of the 2015 season for Marlins ace Jose Fernandez here. He made his return from Tommy John surgery on July 2 vs. the Giants and was solid, allowing three runs and striking out six in six innings -- Fernandez hit as high as 99 mph on the gun, so the Marlins have to be thrilled. He even homered. The Reds' Jay Bruce is 2-for-4 with an RBI off him. Brandon Phillips is 1-for-5 with a solo homer. Reds lefty David Holmberg (2-2, 5.08) make his big-league season debut. In 16 games this season for Triple-A Louisville, Holmberg is 4-6 with a 4.78 ERA. He was 2-2 with a 4.80 ERA last season for the Reds. He has never faced Miami.
Key trends: The Marlins are 18-3 in Fernandez's past 21 at home. The "over/under" is 4-0 on the under in his past four at home vs. teams with a losing record. The Reds are 7-1 in their past eight in Miami.
Early lean: Marlins and over.
Cardinals at Pirates (+100, 7)
You may not see Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong for the rest of the first half of the season (which ends Sunday). He was hurt in Tuesday's first game of the doubleheader with the Cubs, and tests showed he suffered a mild concussion. He's having a fine season, batting .282 with nine homers and 37 RBIs. On the mound for this opener, the Cards go with Carlos Martinez (9-3, 2.70), who is part of the five-man final All-Star vote among fans for the last spot on the NL roster. Martinez was roughed up on May 9 in Pittsburgh but has a 1.52 ERA over his past 10 outings. Andrew McCutchen is 3-for-9 with a homer off him. Neil Walker is 3-for-10 with two homers. It's lefty Jeff Locke (5-4, 4.15) for the Bucs, and he comes off perhaps the best start of his life, blanking the Indians on two hits over eight innings. He allowed three runs in 6.2 innings vs. St. Louis on May 10. Jason Heyward is 5-for-15 with two RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Cards are 1-6 in their past seven against a left-hander. They are 4-1 in Martinez's past five on the road. Pittsburgh is 4-1 in Locke's past five at home. The under is 7-0-1 in Martinez's past eight.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Blue Jays at White Sox (-117, 8.5)
This could very well be the final start in a White Sox uniform for Jeff Samardzija as I think he's all but a goner in trade. And the one team you often hear mentioned as a partner for Chicago is Toronto, which has to get a starting pitcher and has the type of prospects the Pale Hose would want. Samardzija (5-4, 4.33) won't bring as much as he did for the Cubs last year. He comes off a good outing vs. Baltimore, allowing a run and three hits over 7.2 innings. He pitched in Toronto on May 27 and had one of his best outings, allowing no earned runs over seven innings. Russell Martin is 7-for-22 with three doubles off him. Jose Reyes is 4-for-15 with a homer. Toronto's R.A. Dickey (3-9, 5.02) has lost three straight. He gave up five runs in five innings on May 26 vs. Chicago. Alexei Ramirez is 5-for-13 with two homers against Dickey.
Key trends: The Jays are 3-8 in Dickey's past 11 on Thursday. The Sox are 2-5 in Samardzija's past seven at home. The under is 5-1 in his past six at home.
Early lean: White Sox and over.
Angels at Mariners (-135, 6.5)
Seattle starts ace Felix Hernandez (10-5, 3.02) here, and the Mariners have lost four of his past five. He has a 5.25 ERA over that stretch. However, he has owned the Halos this season, going 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA, 26 strikeouts and only nine hits allowed over 20 innings. Kole Calhoun can't hit the guy, going 1-for-23 with eight strikeouts. David Freese is 0-for-16. Mike Trout hits .345 off Hernandez with three homers, 12 RBIs and 18 strikeouts in 58 at-bats. The Angels' Garrett Richards (9-5, 3.35) faced Seattle on June 27 and allowed two runs and seven hits over 7.2 innings. Robinson Cano is 5-for-17 off him with two extra-base hits. Kyle Seager is 7-for-25 with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Angels are 6-1 in Richards' past seven vs. the AL West. The Mariners are 10-4 in Hernandez's past 14 series-opening starts. The under is 6-0 in Hernandez's past six at home vs. the Angels.
Early lean: Mariners and under.
Phillies at Dodgers (-355, 7)
Pretty gigantic pitching mismatch here. It's Dodgers ace Zack Greinke (7-2, 1.48), your NL Cy Young leader and MLB ERA leader. Greinke is working on a stretch of 27.2 scoreless innings, breaking his previous single-season career high of 24 innings set as a Royal in 2009, the year Greinke won the AL Cy Young Award. Greinke has won consecutive starts for the first time since April 29 -- the Dodgers just never score for him. I think Greinke starts the All-Star Game for the NL. The Phillies' Ryan Howard is 2-for-9 off him with three strikeouts. It's rookie Severino Gonzalez (3-2, 8.28) for Philly, taking the spot of Kevin Correia, who was just designated for assignment. Gonzalez has never faced the Dodgers.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 12-5 in Greinke's past 17 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-1 in his past six overall.
Early lean: -355! That may be the biggest spread I've seen all year. I would never recommend that number, so take the Dodgers at -140 on the runline. Go under.
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