Are you a fan of the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game? I think it has gotten stale, but it's also all that goes on that Monday in the sports world. Apparently baseball wanted to spice things up for the Derby as new rules have been unveiled, and I rather like it. It's no longer American League vs. NL batters. It's just a single-elimination eight-player field bracket-style. The players will be seeded based upon regular-season home runs through July 7, although not necessarily the top eight home-run hitters will be in the field. Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, who leads the majors in dingers, won't be in the Derby, for example, after breaking a bone in his wrist over the weekend. And there aren't outs any longer. Each batter will have five minutes to hit as many home runs as he can. In the last minute, the timer will stop on a home run and not start again until the batter swings and doesn't hit a home run. You can also get bonus time for distance. Interesting.
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Rangers at Orioles (-141, 8.5)
If Josh Hamilton isn't activated off the disabled list for Monday's game by Texas then he will be here. He has been out since May 31 with a hamstring injury. Hamilton hit .273 with two homers and five RBIs in seven games this season. The team will keep promising rookie Joey Gallo on the big-league roster even with Hamilton's return. Colby Lewis (7-3, 4.10) is on the mound for Texas. He has had a good month of June with five quality starts, a 3-0 record and 3.08 ERA. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is 5-for-15 with two homers and four RBIs against Lewis. Baltimore starts Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.58). He returned from a two-week disabled list stint last time out and allowed four runs and eight hits over five innings vs. Boston. Hamilton is 1-for-11 with five strikeouts career vs. Gonzalez.
Key trends: The Rangers are 6-1 in Lewis' past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The Orioles are 4-0 in Gonzalez's past four on Tuesday. The "over/under" has gone under in eight of Gonzalez's past 10 at home. Texas is 0-4 in Lewis' past four in Baltimore.
Early lean: Orioles and over.
Red Sox at Blue Jays (-139, 8.5)
Boston outfielder Hanley Ramirez is undergoing an MRI on his bruised left hand on Monday -- he was hit in the hand by a line drive off the bat of teammate Xander Bogaerts last Wednesday -- and could be headed to the disabled list. Ramirez has been pretty good this season, batting .283 with 15 homers and 38 RBIs. The Sox lost starting second baseman Dustin Pedroia to the DL a few days ago. The Sox start lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (3-2, 4.33) here. He faced the Jays on June 14 and had the worst start of his young career, allowing nine runs and eight hits over 4.2 innings. Ryan Goins was 1-for-2 off him with a three-run homer. Russell Martin had two hits and two RBIs. Toronto's Marco Estrada (5-3, 3.45) became the first pitcher since Dave Stieb (a former Blue Jay) in 1988 to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning in back-to-back starts. He is 2-0 with a 5.63 ERA vs. Boston this season. David Ortiz is 2-for-7 with a homer and three RBIs vs. Estrada.
Key trends: Toronto is 4-0 in its past four at home vs. a lefty. The over is 4-1 in Estrada's past five.
Early lean: Jays and over.
Cubs at Mets (-110, 7)
This could be a pseudo-job interview for Mets lefty pitcher Jonathan Niese (3-7, 4.12) and it's an ESPN game so will have live betting at the sportsbooks. The Mets are awash in young pitching and prepared to trade Niese. The Cubs and Dodgers are both very interested. The 29-year-old hasn't won since May 9 when his ERA was at 1.95. He has given up three or fewer earned runs and pitched at least six innings in each of his last four starts. Niese pitched at the Cubs on May 14 and allowed six runs in 6.1 innings. Starlin Castro is 5-for-22 with a homer and five RBIs off Niese. Chicago's Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 4.46) hasn't lasted more than five innings in any of his past four outings. He hasn't faced the Mets in 2015.
Key trends: The Cubs are 2-5 in Hendricks' past seven on the road. The Mets are 2-5 in Niese's past seven at home vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 8-0 in Hendricks' past eight road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 5-1-1 in Niese's past seven vs. Chicago.
Early lean: Mets and over.
Pirates at Tigers (-118, 7.5)
Like this pitching matchup because Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole reminds me of the good version of Justin Verlander of Detroit. Cole (11-3, 2.16) is probably your NL Cy Young favorite right now. He did have a six-start winning streak snapped last time out, allowing five runs in 4.2 innings against the Reds. Only a handful of Tigers have seen him. Yoenis Cespedes is 2-for-6. Ian Kinsler is 0-for-6. Verlander (0-1, 6.17) had his last start skipped due to back troubles but was fine after a bullpen session Saturday. Andrew McCutchen is 2-for-13 with two doubles and two RBIs against him. Pedro Alvarez is 1-for-10 with six strikeouts.
Key trends: The Pirates are 6-1 in Cole's past seven on the road. The Tigers are 3-7 in Verlander's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 6-2 in Cole's past eight interleague starts.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Giants at Marlins (-105, 7.5)
The loss of Stanton for 4-6 weeks just about ends this season for the disappointing Marlins so I expect them to start selling off pieces soon. Stanton broke the hamate bone in his left wrist during the Marlins' 7-1 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night and had surgery Sunday. He leads the majors with 27 homers and 67 RBIs. One of those guys who could be dealt is Tuesday starter Mat Latos (2-5, 5.49), who will be a free agent after the season. Latos pitched in San Francisco on May 10 and allowed one run over seven innings in arguably his best start of the year. Buster Posey is 3-for-13 with a homer off him. The Giants' Ryan Vogelsong has thrown 12.2 scoreless innings over his past two starts. He also pitched May 10 vs. Miami and allowed a run and four hits over seven innings. Dee Gordon is a career .344 hitter off him in 32 at-bats.
Key trends: The Giants are 4-1 in Vogelsong's past five on the road. The over has hit in eight of his past 11 road starts. The over is 4-1 in Latos' past five. The under is 5-1 in Vogelsong's past six vs. Miami.
Early lean: Giants and under (fade Marlins until Stanton gets back).
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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