We are just past June 1, but I found some interesting stats for the day that I want to share. You often hear how first-place teams on Memorial Day usually make the playoffs. Well, since the advent of the wild card in 1996, 69 of 120 division champions held their division lead on June 1 (58 percent). There were 34 of those from the American League and 35 from the National League. Only twice overall in each league, however, have all three division leaders on June 1 gone on to win their division that season. Last year none did in the AL (they were Yankees, Twins and Astros on June 1). The last time all three division leaders in one league held on was eight years ago when the Rays, White Sox and Angels did it in the AL. And know this: In the last nine seasons, no NL team with a division lead on June 1 has gone on to win the World Series. The NL Central-leading Cubs are the current betting favorites to win the Fall Classic.
Royals at Indians (-147, 7.5)
Cleveland had a second outfielder suspended for PED use this season as on Wednesday it was announced that veteran Marlon Byrd was given a 162-game ban because it was the second time in his career he had been caught. That surely means the 38-year-old's career is over, and the cheater isn't even appealing. Byrd was hitting .270 with five homers and 19 RBIs and the Indians needed him because top outfielder Michael Brantley has barely played this season off shoulder surgery (currently back on DL) and Abraham Almonte got hit with an 80-game PED suspension in April. The Tribe start Danny Salazar (5-3, 2.39) here, and he's among the AL ERA leaders. He beat the Royals on May 6, shutting them out on four hits over a season-high 7.2 innings. Eric Hosmer is 8-for-23 with four doubles and two homers off him. Lorenzo Cain is 8-for-20. The Royals go with Edinson Volquez (5-4, 3.74). He lost in Cleveland on May 8, giving up five runs in 4.1 innings. Lonnie Chisenhall is 5-for-9 with three RBIs against him. Carlos Santana is 3-for-12 with two homers.
Key trends: The Royals are 1-5 in Volquez's past six road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Indians are 7-1 in Salazar's past eight at home. The "over/under" has gone under in nine of Salazar's past 14 overall.
Early lean: Indians and under.
Giants at Cardinals (-105, 7)
No NBA Finals or Stanley Cup Finals game on Friday night, so this is your lone national TV major sports broadcast (MLB Network) and will have live betting at sportsbooks. The Giants won't have outfielder Hunter Pence as he has been placed on the DL with a hamstring injury. San Francisco starts Johnny Cueto (8-1, 2.31), who would be a Cy Young candidate most other seasons. He won in Colorado on Sunday, allowing one earned run and six hits in six innings -- only his second time going fewer than seven. Cueto did have a stiff back during the start but is expected to start Friday. He hasn't faced the Cardinals this season. Matt Holliday is a career .300 hitter off him with seven RBIs in 40 at-bats. Yadier Molina is 10-for-37 with two homers and eight RBIs. It's Adam Wainwright (5-3, 5.71) for the Cards. They have won his past seven. He beat the Nationals on Saturday, allowing four runs (season-high three homers) in seven innings. Wainwright hasn't faced the Giants since 2014. Brandon Belt is 2-for-11 with two doubles against him.
Key trends: The Giants are 6-0 in Cueto's past six on the road. The Cardinals are 5-0 in Wainwright's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-1 in Cueto's past five. The over is 5-2 in Wainwright's past seven vs. the Giants.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
White Sox at Tigers (-132, 8.5)
The Detroit rotation is largely a mess, so the Tigers have to ensure that ace Jordan Zimmermann stays healthy the rest of the way. He hasn't pitched since suffering a groin injury May 22 against the Rays. He is 7-2 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in nine starts this season. He hadn't been on the DL since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2009 while with Washington. Zimmermann, who might be on an innings limit, hasn't faced the White Sox in his career. Todd Frazier is 2-for-8 off him with three strikeouts. Melky Cabrera is 1-for-6 with a double. White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon (2-4, 4.24) hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in each of his past three starts but has only one win to show for it. Last year as a rookie, Rodon made one start vs. Detroit and took a no-decision, allowing four runs in five innings. Ian Kinsler and J.D. Martinez both homered off him.
Key trends: The White Sox are 4-1 in Rodon's past five road starts vs. teams with a losing record. The Tigers are 2-8 in their past 10 against lefties. The under is 7-3-2 in Rodon's past 12.
Early lean: White Sox and under.
Mariners at Rangers (-134, 8.5)
Texas couldn't have been happier with the first big-league start of ace Yu Darvish in 659 days (off Tommy John surgery) on Saturday. Darvish beat a good Pirates team, allowing a run and three hits over five innings, striking out seven. He was pulled at 81 pitches and was clocked as high as 98 mph on his fastball. I'd call Texas the AL West favorite now. Seattle's Robinson Cano is 3-for-13 off him. Kyle Seager is 7-for-22 with four doubles and seven RBIs. Nelson Cruz has never faced his former teammate. The Mariners' Taijuan Walker (2-5, 3.31) lost a third straight outing Sunday against the Twins, allowing a season-high five runs in 4.1 innings. He was great in April but 0-5 with a 4.91 ERA in May. Walker took a no-decision on April 13 vs. Texas, allowing a run and five hits in six innings. Adrian Beltre is 5-for-11 with a double and three RBIs against him. Prince Fielder is also 5-for-11 with a double.
Key trends: The Mariners are 1-5 in Walker's past six starts. The Rangers are 5-1 in Darvish's past six at home. Texas is 4-1 in Darvish's past five at home vs. Seattle. The under is 6-1 in Walker's past seven series openers.
Early lean: Rangers and under.
Braves at Dodgers (-208, 7)
This was to be Clayton Kershaw's spot in the rotation, so I guess the Braves catch a break in that he won't go but that Japanese rookie Kenta Maeda will -- except Atlanta now has to face Kershaw on Saturday. Maeda was originally to start Thursday's series finale at the Cubs but had been dealing with a minor hand injury so he was pushed back a day. Maeda (4-3, 3.00) reverted back to his early-season form last Saturday at the Mets in shutting them out on two hits over five innings to end a three-start losing streak -- it was in that game he took a line drive off his pitching hand. Maeda has never faced Atlanta. The Braves start their best pitcher in Julio Teheran (1-5, 2.77), and he reportedly has been made available in a trade -- but it's going to take a ton because Teheran is only 25 and locked up through 2019. He is getting no run support this season. Teheran took a no-decision against the Dodgers on April 20, allowing two runs in 5.1 innings. Yasmani Grandal is 4-for-9 with three doubles against him. Yasiel Puig is 4-for-8 with a homer.
Key trends: The Braves are 14-3 in Teheran's past 17 on Friday. The Dodgers are 1-4 in Maeda's past five at home. The under is 4-1 in Teheran's past five.
Early lean: Braves in an upset and under (guess I like all the pitching on Friday).
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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