Everyone knows we are in the era of specialized pitching right now, and that has led to teams scoring at some of the worst rates since the mound was lowered and strikeouts are way, way up. If you like offense these days, you are generally out of luck. That's what made Tuesday such an unusual night. There was offense everywhere. The Orioles clobbered the Phillies 19-3 and hit eight homers in the process (two shy of big-league record). Most Baltimore runs scored since 2000. The Nationals put up 16 on the Rays, who had two position players pitch, and each give up dingers. The Marlins scored eight in the first inning to clobber the Yankees 12-2. And Boston ended a seven-game skid with a 9-4 win over Atlanta with Brock Holt having the first cycle by a Red Sox player in two decades. Maybe it was just AL East teams? (Toronto lost 3-2).
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Rays at Nationals (+110, 7)
Washington will activate right-hander Doug Fister off the disabled list for this start. The free-agent-to-be was 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA before landing on the DL May 15 with a flexor strain in his right elbow. He made a final rehab start Friday in Double-A and struck out six batters over six scoreless innings. He then had a bullpen session Tuesday and came through it OK, so he will go. Fister needs to prove he is healthy or he's going to lose many millions. He was great last year (16-6, 2.41 ERA). Fister formerly is from the AL, so several Rays have faced him. Evan Longoria, who apparently is just fine after being hit by a pitch Monday (he played Tuesday), is 3-for-10 with an RBI. It's terrific Chris Archer (7-4, 2.00) for the Rays, likely the team's lone All-Star. He hadn't allowed more than a run in five straight starts before allowing three in a seven-inning no-decision Saturday vs. the White Sox, but really that was the bullpen's fault. Archer's big-league debut came nearly three years ago to the day against Washington. Only time he has faced the Nats.
Key trends: The Rays are 8-1 in Archer's past nine road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Nats are 1-4 in their past five on Thursday. The "over/under" has hit under in five of Archer's past seven on road.
Early lean: Love under. Go Rays.
Mets at Blue Jays (-151, 9)
In December 2012, the Mets and Blue Jays agreed to a trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto for prospects Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud (some other pieces in deal, but those were the main ones). That has been incredibly one-sided as Syndergaard looks like a future Cy Young winner and d'Arnaud one of the better young catchers in baseball. Dickey has been just so-so with the Jays. To be fair, he was the reigning NL Cy Young winner at the time of the trade, so the Jays had to pay heavy. And Dickey (2-6, 5.29) gets the call here. This probably will be his last season at age 40. Dickey hasn't won in his past four outings. He has never faced the Mets. It's 42-year-old Bartolo Colon (9-4, 4.41) for New York. He has had four straight quality starts, winning three of them. Plenty of Jays have faced him. Jose Bautista is 3-for-13 with a homer. Jose Reyes 4-for-6 with an RBI.
Key trends: The Mets are 5-1 in Colon's past six interleague starts. The Jays are 5-1 in Dickey's past six at home. The over is 5-2 in Colon's past seven interleague starts.
Early lean: Jays at +130 on runline and over.
Pirates at White Sox (+125, 7.5)
I don't know how much longer the Pale Hose can keep Manager Robin Ventura as they are slumping again and have fallen back into the AL Central cellar with the worst run differential in the AL. Thus, I'm fairly confident Chicago will flip Jeff Samardzija (4-4, 4.84) before the deadline, and he gets the call here. After two terrible starts, he was pretty good last time out, allowing three runs and six hits over seven innings at the Rays. The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen hits .414 with five doubles and 10 strikeouts off him. Neil Walker is 5-for-25 with two homers. It's right-hander Gerrit Cole (10-2, 1.71) for the Pirates, and he deserves to start the All-Star Game right now. Cole has gone seven straight starts not allowing more than two runs. He leads the NL in wins and ERA but has never faced the White Sox.
Key trends: The Pirates are 5-0 in Cole's past five interleague starts. The Sox are 4-1 in Samardzija's past five at home. The under is 7-0-1 in Cole's past eight vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Big on under here as well. Take Pittsburgh.
Red Sox at Braves (-116, 7.5)
Boston's Clay Buchholz (3-6, 4.22) looked like he had turned his season around but has been shaky in the past two, allowing eight runs and 18 hits over 10.2 innings against the Blue Jays and A's. Of course, he will have to bat here, and the Sox will either have to bench designated hitter David Ortiz or put him at first and bench Mike Napoli. Buchholz has seen a few Braves. Nick Markakis is 6-for-39 with three RBIs off him. A.J. Pierzynski 6-for-12 with two RBIs. Atlanta's Shelby Miller (5-2, 2.02) is looking for his first win since May 17, although he has had only one below-average start since then. Napoli is 1-for-3 with a double off him and Ortiz has never faced Miller.
Key trends: The Sox are 8-3 in Buchholz's past 11 interleague starts. The Braves are 4-1 in Miller's past five vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 4-0 in his past four overall.
Early lean: Red Sox and under.
Tigers at Reds (-109, 8)
Detroit has to be moderately encouraged by the first big-league start of the season for Justin Verlander. He was on a pitch count against Cleveland and went five innings, giving up two runs and three hits. He was generally hitting between 93-94 on his fastball and had a high of 97, so that's promising. Cincinnati's Joey Votto is 1-for-2 with a double off him. Todd Frazier is 1-for-3 with two RBIs. It's soon-to-be traded Mike Leake (3-4, 4.35) for the Reds. He has made three straight starts of three runs or fewer, raising his value. Leake has never faced the Tigers. A couple have seen him. J.D. Martinez is 2-for-6 with an RBI. Yoenis Cespedes 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Key trends: The Tigers are 5-1 in Verlander's past six vs. teams with a losing record. The Reds are 0-4 in Leake's past four interleague starts. The over is 5-1 in his past six at home.
Early lean: Tigers and over.
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