Have you had chickenpox in your life? You probably have, as a young child, and don't even remember it. It may have left a small scar or two, but generally it's just something American kids get resolved early (either by getting them or getting inoculated) because doing so as an adult can lead to some serious problems. Alas, in Latin America chances of childhood inoculation are lower. The Kansas City Royals are thus dealing with a serious potential problem right now because two players, outfielder Alex Rios and stellar reliever Kelvin Herrera (from the Dominican Republic), both have it. Obviously they are out a while, and the concern is that it may have spread to other players. A lot of guys are calling their parents to make sure this was taken care of at an early age. The fact Rios might not even be able to return this season was partly why Kansas City acquired outfielder Jonny Gomes from Atlanta on Monday night. But keep an eye on that if some other Royals go down as it could make a drastic difference in the AL playoffs.
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Tigers at Royals (-190, 8)
It's not clear if Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas will play in this series finale. He missed Tuesday's game with a mild hamstring strain and is day-to-day. Moustakas had really been hitting well of late and is batting .282 with 15 homers and 59 RBIs this season. The Royals will face young Tigers lefty Matt Boyd (1-5, 7.12), who was acquired in that David Price trade. Boyd's first two outings as a Tiger were against the Royals and was is 1-1 with 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings. Kendrys Morales is 4-for-6 with two RBIs off him. Ben Zobrist is 3-for-5. Kansas City's Edinson Volquez (12-7, 3.27) is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA in two starts this season against the Tigers, both coming in Kansas City. Ian Kinsler is 5-for-13 with a double and four homers. J.D. Martinez is 0-for-7.
Key trends: The Royals are 5-1 in Volquez's past six at home. The "over/under" has gone under in four of Boyd's past five. The over is 4-1 in Volquez's past five in Game 3 of a series.
Early lean: Royals and over.
White Sox at Twins (-133, 8)
Houston's Carlos Correa probably wins AL Rookie of the Year honors, but Minnesota's Miguel Sano is coming on fast. The future superstar hit his 14th homer on Tuesday night in just career game No. 50. That doesn't happen very often. He's batting .343 with nine homers and 23 RBIs in his last 19 games entering Wednesday. If the Twins get any pitching this offseason, they are going to be major contenders in 2016. They start Kyle Gibson (9-9, 3.82) in Thursday's only matinee. Last time out he got his first win since July 12, shutting out Houston on four hits over 5.2 innings. Gibson is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA this season vs. the White Sox. Melky Cabrera is 0-for-11 off him. Jose Abreu is 1-for-9 with a homer. It's Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.85) for the Pale Hose. They have lost his past six starts. It looks like he almost has quit since not being traded. "Shark" is 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA this season against the Twins. He hasn't face Sano. Brian Dozier is 3-for-16 with two RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Sox are 0-5 in Samardzija's past five vs. teams with a winning record. Minnesota is 5-1 in Gibson's past six at home vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 7-1 in Samardzija's past eight. The over is 4-1 in Gibson's past five at home.
Early lean: Twins and over.
Braves at Nationals (-256, 7.5)
Atlanta has been the worst team in baseball for about two months and this is the type of four-game series the Nationals really have to sweep -- and can't go worse than 3-1 -- to have any shot of catching the Mets in the NL East. They turn to Jordan Zimmermann (11-8, 3.45) in Thursday's opener. Washington has won his past three, although only one was a quality start. Zimmermann is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts vs. Atlanta this season. Freddie Freeman is 9-for-24 with three doubles and three RBIs off him. The Braves have lost four straight starts by Matt Wisler (5-5, 5.22). He is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two outings vs. Washington. Ian Desmond is 1-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Braves are 0-4 in Wisler's past four on the road. The over is 4-0 in those.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Pirates at Brewers (+145, 7.5)
Could be a bit of a trap game for Pittsburgh here in the series finale as the Pirates start a big three-game series in St. Louis on Friday night in an attempt to catch the Cardinals in the NL Central. Pittsburgh starts lefty Francisco Liriano (9-6, 3.28). He is unbeaten in 11 consecutive starts, all games the Pirates have won. He has faced the Brewers once this season and allowed three runs over eight innings in a loss. Ryan Braun is 6-for-21 with a homer and five RBIs against Liriano. Khris Davis is 2-for-7 with a dinger. Milwaukee's Taylor Jungmann (8-5, 2.48) shut out the Reds on three hits over six innings last time out. He is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 2015 vs. Pittsburgh. Starling Marte is 1-for-6 with a homer against him. Neil Walker is 0-for-6.
Key trends: The Pirates are 5-0 in Liriano's past five vs. teams with a losing record. Milwaukee is 4-10 in its past 14 on Thursday. The over is 7-0-1 in Liriano's past eight. The under is 4-1-1 in his past six against Milwaukee.
Early lean: Brewers and under.
Giants at Rockies (+113, 11)
San Francisco is fading in the NL West and in the wild-card race, so it needs to beat up on the Rockies this weekend. The Giants turn to Ryan Vogelsong (9-10, 4.19) here. They have lost his past two, and he hasn't lasted more than 4.2 innings in either. He's 3-3 there with a 6.63 ERA career at Coors Field. Nolan Arenado is 4-for-10 with two homers off him. Carlos Gonzalez is only 1-for-17. The Giants no doubt will be happy to see Colorado's Chris Rusin (4-7, 4.94) after having to face the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday night. Two starts ago, Rusin allowed 11 runs in just two innings against the Mets. He was better last time, giving up three over six in Pittsburgh. The Giants' Marlon Byrd is 5-for-11 off him.
Key trends: The Giants are 1-4 during their past five series openers. The Rockies are 1-8 in their past nine at home vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Rockies and over.
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