I am definitely not a fan of Alex Rodriguez. The guy had the talent to go down as perhaps the best offensive player in baseball history. He was that amazing. Yet A-Rod had to use steroids not once but twice (that we know of) and lied about it both times. So Rodriguez will never get into the Hall of Fame in my lifetime. Nor should he. But I have to give it up to A-Rod this season. At age 40, he hit his 30th homer of the season on Tuesday night to join Hank Aaron as the only MLB players with 15 seasons of at least 30. Rodriguez hit his 684th career home run leading off the sixth inning Tuesday against Baltimore. It was the first time he has reached 30 since 2010. I don't see how he can't be the American League Comeback Player of the Year after being suspended all of 2014. But many voters won't cast ballots for him because of his cheating history.
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Rangers at Mariners (-141, 7)
Solid pitching matchup in this series finale with a 3:40 ET start, meaning a few regulars might get the day off with it being a getaway day game -- although the Rangers can't afford to give any games away. Seattle's Nelson Cruz hasn't played in a week due to a quad injury, and I can't see him doing so here. The M's go with Felix Hernandez (16-8, 3.65). He has won back-to-back starts and went eight innings in each -- both were against Oakland. He's 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA in three meetings against Texas this season. Elvis Andrus is a career .301 hitter off him with 13 RBIs in 83 at-bats. Prince Fielder is just 2-for-20 off Hernandez. Texas goes with lefty Derek Holland (3-1, 2.37). He has been terrific in his past two outings, both Rangers wins, allowing just one combined run and six hits over 17.0 innings. Holland beat Seattle in his only start against the M's this year on Aug. 19, his return from four months on the DL. Robinson Cano is a career .387 hitter off him in 31 at-bats.
Key trends: The Rangers are 5-1 in Holland's past six vs. teams with a losing record. The Mariners are 1-6 in their past seven at home vs. a lefty. The "over/under" has gone under in Hernandez's past four against Texas. The under is 3-0-2 in Holland's past five against Seattle.
Early lean: Mariners and under.
Blue Jays at Yankees (TBA)
Clearly the series of the weekend in MLB as first place in the AL East is on the line again. It's Toronto's final visit to the Bronx of the regular season. The Jays will host New York for three from Sept. 21-23. The last time Toronto visited Yankee Stadium, it swept three games form Aug. 7-9 and allowed just one run in the series. Lefty ace David Price goes here for the Jays. Price (14-5, 2.43) was great in his last start at New York, shutting out the Bombers on three hits over seven innings. He still has yet to allow more than three earned since joining the Jays. A-Rod hits .245 off him with 19 strikeouts in 53 at-bats. New York goes with good-looking rookie Luis Severino (3-2, 2.04). The Yankees have won his past three and he has allowed only two combined runs.
Key trends: The Jays are 5-2 in the past seven meetings. The under is 7-0 in the past seven. New York is 4-1 in its past five series openers. The Jays are 4-1 in their past five on Thursday.
Early lean: Blue Jays and under. TBA because starters haven't officially announced yet, but it's expected to be the two I listed. Expect Jays to be about -140 with a total of 7.5.
Cubs at Phillies (+260, 8)
Might be a bit of a letdown game for the Cubs if they happen to complete a three-game sweep in St. Louis on Wednesday. Chicago also took a five-game winning streak into that one. The Phillies swept three games in Chicago back in late July, including a Cole Hamels no-hitter. It's a huge pitching mismatch here. The Cubs go with ace Jake Arrieta (18-6, 2.03). He's 12-1 with 0.99 ERA over his past 15 starts, including a no-hitter, and hasn't allowed an earned run in 29 innings over four starts. That loss came opposite Hamels' no-hitter. Philadelphia goes with lefty Adam Morgan (5-5, 4.42). He allowed six runs over 6.1 innings in a loss in Boston last time out. Morgan has never faced the Cubs.
Key trends: The Cubs are 7-1 in Arrieta's past eight vs. the NL East. The Phillies are 1-8 in their past nine series openers. The under is 7-3-1 in Arrieta's past 11. The over is 5-1-1 in Morgan's past seven at home.
Early lean: Cubs on runline (Arrieta will avoid any letdown) and under.
Cardinals at Reds (+145, 7.5)
St. Louis had been having a historically good season in terms of a team ERA, but the Cards have been battered around of late. They had lost five of six entering Wednesday's finale vs. the Cubs and allowed at least seven runs in four of those five defeats. St. Louis still has the only team ERA under 3.00. The team's best pitcher of late has been lefty Jaime Garcia, a huge surprise. Garcia (8-4, 1.89) hasn't lost since July 28. That was against these Reds where Garcia allowed three runs in six innings. He has a 1.76 ERA over his past seven outings. Brandon Phillips is a career .302 hitter off him with two homers and eight RBIs in 43 at-bats. Cincinnati counters with rookie lefty John Lamb (0-3, 6.11). He was tagged for six runs over 5.2 innings in his last start vs. Milwaukee. Lamb has never faced the Cardinals.
Key trends: The Cards are 4-1 in their past five against lefties. The Reds are 1-5 in their past six at home vs. southpaws. The under is 8-0 in the past eight meetings. The Cards are 6-2 in Garcia's past eight vs. the NL Central.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Brewers at Pirates (-168, 8)
Pittsburgh gets a potentially big boost Thursday night as it attempts to catch St. Louis for the NL Central title or hold off the Cubs for the NL's top wild-card spot. All-Star A.J. Burnett (8-5, 3.06) returns to the rotation. Burnett, 38, was placed on the 15-day disabled list July 31 with a flexor strain in his right elbow and received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection Aug. 3. His only outing vs. the Brewers this year was a good one, allowing one run over seven innings with six strikeouts. Ryan Braun is 7-for-20 with a double and seven strikeouts off Burnett. The Brew Crew start Wily Peralta (5-8, 4.21). His last start was cut short after just two innings because of a long rain delay. Peralta hasn't faced the Pirates in 2015. Pedro Alvarez hits .364 off him with two homers and four RBIs.
Key trends: The Brewers are 3-9 in Peralta's past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. The Pirates are 3-7 in Burnett's past 10 vs. the NL Central. The under is 9-2 in Peralta's past 11 vs. the NL Central. The under is 6-0 in Burnett's past six vs. Milwaukee.
Early lean: Brewers (Burnett likely rusty) and yet another under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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