If you have read these stories over the past few years, you know how much the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry irritates me. As I'm sure you can guess, I'm not from the Northeast. It's a great, passionate rivalry, no doubt. But the way ESPN and the MLB Network fawn over every game often makes me want to barf. But I would be remiss if I didn't say the two play for the first time this season on Friday at Fenway Park. And of course the first two games are on the MLB Network and the finale is on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Ugh. The Yankees have won the season series the past two years.
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Yankees at Red Sox (-105, 8.5)
New York enters having lost the final two of a three-game series in Texas, but at least Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing the first two games with oblique stiffness. And A-Rod, who has been terrible this season, was 3-for-3 with a homer. Now he's hitting all of .190. The Bombers start ace Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 2.92) here. He has allowed exactly two earned runs in each start, lasting seven innings in the past two. Tanaka was 3-0 against Boston in four starts last year despite a 5.64 ERA. David Ortiz is 4-for-15 off him with a homer. The Sox give young lefty Henry Owens his second start of the season with Joe Kelly still on the DL. Owens wasn't good Sunday in Houston, allowing three runs and five hits, walking four, in 3.1 innings in Houston. He was 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA last year vs. New York. A-Rod is 2-for-4 off him with a double and two RBIs.
Key trends: The Yankees are 10-3 in Tanaka's past 13 vs. the AL East. The Sox are 8-3 in their past 11 series openers. The "over/under" is 5-0 in Tanaka's past five vs. Boston.
Early lean: Yankees and over.
Nationals at Cardinals (-105, 7)
Washington's Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17) had his first non-quality start of the season last time out, allowing four runs and seven hits over 7.1 innings vs. Minnesota. He also allowed his first homer of the season. But Strasburg struck out 10 for a second straight game and didn't walk anyone for the first time in 2016. He didn't face St. Louis last year. Matt Adams is 3-for-6 off him with two doubles and a homer. Matt Holliday is 4-for-9 with a double. For the Cards, it's Mike Leake (0-2, 5.64). He has allowed at least three runs in each of his first four starts as a Cardinal. That's what $80 million gets you. Leake didn't face the Nationals last year. Bryce Harper is 2-for-7 off him with a homer. Jayson Werth hits .368 against Leake with a homer in 19 at-bats.
Key trends: The Nationals are 6-1 in their past seven road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The Cards are 3-8 in their past 11 on Friday. St. Louis is 20-7 in the past 27 meetings. The under has hit in 12 of the past 19.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Astros at A's (+105, 7.5)
The big story here is that Oakland's top pitching prospect, lefty Sean Manaea, will make his big-league debut. Originally the team was going to call up Jesse Hahn from Triple-A to take the demoted Eric Surkamp's spot here, but Hahn is dealing with a blister. Manaea was the prize of the Ben Zobrist trade to Kansas City last summer. The 24-year-old had a 1.50 ERA with 21 strikeouts and four walks in 18 Triple-A innings this season. Left-handed hitters were batting just .077 against him . In 214 career minor-league innings, Manaea has 257 strikeouts. The only knock on him so far is that Manaea is a bit injury-prone. We've reached the point of the season where any player who is called up from the minors for the first time will not accrue a full season of service time, so other top prospects could be on the way soon. Houston goes with Mike Fiers (2-1, 5.73). He has lasted six innings just once in four starts. Fiers was 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA in three starts vs. Oakland in 2015.
Key trends: Houston is 2-5 in Fiers' past seven. It is 0-5 in its past five vs. a lefty. Oakland is 2-6 in its past eight at home vs. a righty. The over is 5-1 in Fiers' past six.
Early lean: A's and over.
Angels at Rangers (-110, 9)
If Los Angeles has a lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, closer Huston Street won't be the guy to finish it. He will be headed to the disabled list with an oblique strain, and those can take quite a while to heal. Street has a 1.17 ERA and five saves. Joe Smith (3.00 ERA, one save) takes over as closer, and got the save Wednesday. The Halos start lefty Hector Santiago (2-0, 2.70) here. His first start of the season was against Texas, and he allowed three runs (two earned) over six innings in a no-decision. He has a 2.23 ERA in seven starts against the Rangers since 2015. Adrian Beltre is 8-for-31 off him with three doubles and three solo homers. Rougned Odor bats .474 off him in 19 at-bats. The Rangers go with Colby Lewis (1-0, 3.38). He hasn't faced the Angels this season but has made 17 starts against them this decade and is 3-10 with a 6.58 ERA. Mike Trout is 12-for-30 off him with four homers and 11 RBIs. Albert Pujols bats .346 against him with three dingers in 26 at-bats.
Key trends: The Angels are 10-1 in Santiago's past 11. Texas is 8-2 in Lewis' past 10 series openers. The over is 4-0 in Santiago's past four in Texas. The over is 8-1-1 in Lewis' past 10 at home vs. L.A.
Early lean: Angels and over.
Royals at Mariners (-160, 7)
Kansas City's Kris Medlen (1-1, 6.00) had been pretty good in his first two starts this season but was rocked for seven runs and nine hits in just 3.2 innings against Baltimore last time out. He has had a bit of a control problem, walking at least three batters in each start. Medlen has allowed at least six runs in three of his last nine regular-season outings dating back to last September. Few Mariners have ever faced him. Seattle's Felix Hernandez (1-2, 1.80) is getting little run support as usual. He hasn't allowed more than three earned in a start yet and one or fewer in three of the four. The Mariners have totaled eight runs in his four starts. His next win would be No. 145, tying him with Jamie Moyer for the franchise lead. King Felix is 4-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 12 career starts against the Royals. Alex Gordon is 4-for-23 off him with eight strikeouts. Alcides Escobar is 6-for-12 with three RBIs.
Key trends: The Royals are 0-5 in their past five vs. a righty. The Mariners are 13-6 in Hernandez's past 19 series openers. The under is 4-1 in Hernandez's past five vs. K.C.
Early lean: Mariners and under.
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