I've been previewing the starts of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw all season. He was scheduled to start Friday at home against Colorado but now won't. Kershaw (11-2, 1.79) wasn't sharp in his last outing, allowing four runs and nine hits over six innings in a loss in Pittsburgh. Afterward, it was revealed that Kershaw was having lower-back stiffness. The Dodgers apparently are going to place him on the disabled list after Kershaw was checked out by doctors on Wednesday. Smart move as you simply can't mess around with your most valuable asset. Los Angeles is 14-2 when Kershaw starts and, entering Thursday, 29-35 when he doesn't. It surely means Kershaw won't be available for the All-Star Game. Also monitor the status of Dodgers outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson for Friday's game. Both are day-to-day with minor injuries. Pederson (shoulder) sat Wednesday and Puig (knee) was pulled from that game.
Indians at Blue Jays (-125, 9)
Friday is Canada Day north of the border, so it's a 1:07 p.m. ET start for this game. If the Indians win the series opener in Toronto on Thursday, and they appeared to have the starting pitching edge, then they will go for a franchise-record 14th straight win in this game. The Tribe start the underrated Josh Tomlin (9-1, 3.32). He's working on a string of five straight quality starts since his lone loss on May 30 vs. Texas. Last time out, Tomlin allowed three runs over eight innings vs. the Tigers. Tomlin is 1-0 with a 5.19 ERA in three career starts against the Blue Jays. Michael Saunders is 2-for-7 off him with a double. Josh Donaldson is 2-for-3 with an RBI. Toronto's Marcus Stroman (6-4, 5.33) continues to struggle. He lost at the White Sox last time out, allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings. He has allowed at least four runs in six of the past eight and lasted more than six innings twice. Mike Napoli has seen him more than any Indians batter, going 0-for-6. Rajai Davis is 2-for-4.
Key trends: The Indians are 10-1 in Tomlin's past 11 on the road. The Jays are 1-4 in Stroman's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" is 4-1-1 in Tomlin's past six on the road. The over is 5-1 in Stroman's past six.
Early lean: Blue Jays -- it's an important day in the country so they will be jacked up -- and over. I love Toronto even more if the Indians lose Thursday as they will be really flat.
Royals at Phillies (+103, 8)
Kansas City will lose the designated hitter -- usually Kendrys Morales -- for this interleague game. The Royals have also lost 2015 AL MVP finalist and outfielder Lorenzo Cain to the 15-day disabled list. He injured his hamstring Tuesday vs. the Cardinals. Cain is batting .290 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs. Kansas City starts Ian Kennedy (6-6, 3.96). He comes off one of his best starts of the year, allowing one run and three hits while striking out 11 over seven innings against Houston. Kennedy hasn't won back-to-back starts since early May. The Phillies' Ryan Howard (if he actually plays) is 3-for-19 career off Kennedy. Carlos Ruiz is 2-for-10 with a double. Philadelphia's Jeremy Hellickson (5-6, 4.23) won for the first time since May 18 on Saturday, allowing one earned over six innings against the Giants. Hellickson tweaked his back while batting but is apparently fine. Alex Gordon is 8-for-16 career off him with three RBIs. Eric Hosmer is 3-for-15 with five strikeouts.
Key trends: The Royals are 1-4 in Kennedy's past five on the road. The Phillies are 0-4 in Hellickson's past four at home. The under is 7-3 in Hellickson's past 10.
Early lean: Royals and under.
Tigers at Rays (-109, 8)
Tampa Bay apparently only needed to face Boston to end its losing ways as the Rays took an 11-game losing streak into this week and then promptly won two of three against the struggling Sox. The Rays have lost closer Alex Colome, however. He has landed on the DL with biceps tendinitis. Colome was 19-for-19 in save chances this year with a 1.76 ERA. Manager Kevin Cash likely will use a committee of Xavier Cedeno, Matt Andriese and Erasmo Ramirez (although he's rumored to be traded to the Dodgers) to take his spot. Tampa starts former Tiger Drew Smyly here -- he came over in the David Price deal in July 2014. That trade is really working out for the Rays as one of their top position player prospects (Willy Adames) also came from the Tigers. Smyly (2-8, 5.32) is way better than his numbers show. He was torched last time out in Baltimore, allowing eight runs and 10 hits over five innings. Smyly lost in Detroit on May 21, allowing three runs in 6.1 innings. Miguel Cabrera is 0-for-5 career against him. James McCann is 4-for-5 with two homers. Detroit counters with rookie sensation Michael Fulmer (7-2, 2.40). His 33.1-inning scoreless streak ended two starts ago. He lasted only 4.1 innings in his most recent start vs. Seattle despite allowing one run and three hits. Fulmer dominated the Rays on May 21, allowing one run with 11 strikeouts in seven innings in a win.
Key trends: The Tigers are 5-1 in Fulmer's past six on the road. The Rays are 5-2 in Smyly's past seven at home vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 8-1-1 in Smyly's past 10.
Early lean: Tigers and under.
Cubs at Mets (Mets -119, 7.5)
To no surprise, this game is nationally televised for a second straight night by the MLB Network and will feature live betting at sportsbooks. The Cubs start Jason Hammel (7-4, 2.58). He lost in Miami last time out, allowing two runs in six innings. Hammel hasn't won since June 4. He's 0-3 with a 4.91 ERA in five career starts vs. the Mets. That doesn't include the clinching Game 4 of last year's NLCS, in which the Mets tagged him for five runs in 1.1 innings to complete the sweep. In regular-season play, James Loney is a career .317 hitter off Hammel with three homers and nine RBIs in 41 at-bats. New York starts Jacob deGrom (3-4, 2.67), pushed back an extra day. He threw eight shutout innings in his last start in Atlanta but still didn't get his first win since the end of April. In a rather amazing statistic, the Mets have gone 21 consecutive innings without scoring a run while deGrom has been in the game. DeGrom beat the Cubs in Game 3 of the NLCS, allowing two runs in seven innings. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant both have regular-season homers off him.
Key trends: The Cubs are 1-4 in Hammel's past five on the road. The Mets are 4-1 in deGrom's past five on Friday. The under is 5-0 in his past five.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Yankees at Padres (+126, 8)
New York DH Alex Rodriguez will take a seat for this interleague game. San Diego has lost one of its best hitters and a potential trade chip in outfielder Jon Jay. He has a broken forearm and likely to miss at least a month. So he won't be back until right after the trade deadline, which all but kills his value. Jay is hitting .296 on the season and plays solid center-field defense. The Yankees are expected to start Nathan Eovaldi (6-5, 5.19). He has been lousy for five starts in a row; his ERA was 3.71 before that stretch. The Padres' Melvin Upton is 4-for-20 career off him with six strikeouts. Alexei Ramirez is 1-for-3. The Friars' Colin Rea (4-3, 5.05) won for the first time in about seven weeks last Friday in Cincinnati, allowing three earned in five innings. Rea has never faced a member of the Yankees.
Key trends: The Yankees are 1-4 in Eovaldi's past five. The Padres are 4-1 in Rea's past five at home vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 9-4 in Eovaldi's past 13 on the road.
Early lean: Padres and over.
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