The injury bug has hit the incredibly unlucky Mets again as second baseman Neil Walker is dealing with a herniated disc -- the same type of problem that ended third baseman David Wright's year -- and has apparently opted for surgery instead of trying to play through it. That means Walker's season and perhaps Mets career is over as he will be a free agent this winter. He had played only four games since Aug.16 because of the injury and paternity leave. Walker experienced a similar issue, including foot weakness, back in 2012 while with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Walker would get some nice free-agent offers this winter if he can prove healthy as he's hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBIs this year. It's likely that Wilmer Flores will get most of the starts at second base going forward. Kelly Johnson also will get a few at-bats there.
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Cardinals at Reds (+108, 9)
I thought shingles only affected the elderly, but the Cardinals had to put starting pitcher Mike Leake on the disabled list earlier this week because of that problem. If you don't know what shingles is, you wouldn't want to wish it on your worst enemy. It's the same virus that causes chickenpox. With Leake out, Cardinals top pitching prospect Alex Reyes (1-0, 0.64) will get a second big-league start here and seventh overall appearance. Reyes pitched 4.2 innings vs. the A's last time out and allowed a run and two hits with four walks. His fastball hit triple digits a couple of times. Reyes' big-league debut was a scoreless inning of relief vs. the Reds on Aug. 9. Cincinnati's Anthony DeSclafani (8-2, 2.96) comes off the best start of his career, throwing his first complete game and allowing only four hits and no runs with nine strikeouts in Arizona. He lost in St. Louis in Aug. 10, allowing three runs and six hits over five innings. Matt Carpenter is 5-for-9 career off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Cards are 4-1 in their past five in Game 1 of a series. The Reds are 5-1 in DeSclafani's past six at home. The "over/under" has gone under in 12 of DeSclafani's past 17 vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Reds and under.
Nationals at Mets (-170, 7.5)
New York is playing a lot better lately despite all the injuries but has about zero percent chance of catching the Nats in the NL East barring a possible sweep here. The clubs play once more, Sept. 12-14 in D.C. A.J. Cole is on the mound for Washington here with Stephen Strasburg still on the disabled list. Cole (0-1, 4.97) made his second-big league start Saturday vs. Colorado and allowed three runs and four hits over 5.2 innings. This will be Cole's first career look at New York. The Mets counter with Noah Syndergaard (12-7, 2.55). He won a third straight start last time out, allowing one run and two hits with seven strikeouts vs. the Phillies. Syndergaard has owned Philly this year but is 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA in his past two starts vs. Washington. Anthony Rendon is 5-for-13 against him with a homer. Bryce Harper is 4-for-14 with five strikeouts.
Key trends: The Nats are 1-4 in their past five after an off day. The Mets are 7-3 in Syndergaard's past 10 on five days of rest. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Blue Jays at Rays (+138, 8.5)
Don't sleep on Tampa Bay contending next season if the Rays can get a good bat as they have had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball since the break. And the Rays welcome back one of their promising pitchers here in right-hander Alex Cobb, who hasn't pitched in the majors since the end of the 2014 season. He had a 10-9 record that year with a 2.87 ERA that year and was 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA the season before. If Cobb proves healthy and pitches well down the stretch, then the Rays might feel comfortable dealing another starter to add hitting this offseason. Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion is 3-for-9 career off Cobb with a homer. Josh Donaldson is 3-for-13 with four walks. Troy Tulowitzki is 1-for-3 with a dinger. Jays lefty Francisco Liriano (7-12, 5.22) comes off his first Toronto win since the trade from Pittsburgh, allowing three earned over five innings against the Twins. He hasn't faced the Rays this year. Evan Longoria is 5-for-16 career against him with two doubles. Matt Duffy is 3-for-6.
Key trends: The Jays are 5-2 in their past seven vs. teams with a losing record. The Rays are 2-5 in Cobb's past seven. The over is 9-4 in Tampa's past 13 at home.
Early lean: Blue Jays and over.
Tigers at Royals (-165, 8)
I'll eat crow when I'm totally wrong, but allow me to brag a bit when right. And I will do so here on Royals lefty and Cy Young candidate Danny Duffy (11-2, 3.01). The Royals had won 11 straight of his starts and he personally hadn't been beaten since early June, but I didn't like him against the Red Sox last Saturday in Boston and Duffy lost in a big way, allowing a season-high seven runs and nine hits (three homers) over five innings. He hadn't allowed more than two runs in an outing previously since July 27. Duffy is 2-0 with a 4.71 ERA in five appearances (three starts) vs. the Tigers this year. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 2-for-3 off him with two homers. Victor Martinez hits .323 off him with two homers in 31 at-bats. Detroit's Anibal Sanchez (7-13, 5.92) lost to the Angels on Sunday, giving up five runs over 5.2 innings. He threw seven one-hit shutout innings vs. Kansas City on Aug. 17 but took a no-decision. Sanchez hasn't beaten Kansas City since May 3, 2015. Eric Hosmer hits .306 off him in 36 at-bats. Jarrod Dyson is only 3-for-26 against Sanchez.
Key trends: The Tigers are 1-9 in Sanchez's past 10 on the road. The Royals are 4-0 in Duffy's past four series-opening games. The Royals are 4-1 in Duffy's past five vs. Detroit. The over is 3-1-1 in his past five against the Tigers. The over is 8-3 in the past 11 meetings in K.C.
Early lean: Royals and over.
Angels at Mariners (-140, 8.5)
Slumping Seattle expects to have designated hitter Nelson Cruz back in the lineup Friday. He hasn't played since Monday due to a hand injury caused by a check swing on Sunday. Cruz is hitting .280 with 32 homers and 79 RBIs, so the M's need him. They start rookie left-hander Ariel Miranda (1-1, 5.70) in this series opener. He has made four starts since being acquired in the Wade Miley trade with Baltimore. One of those was in Anaheim on Aug. 16 as he allowed three runs over five innings in a no-decision. Mike Trout is 0-for-0 against him but has two walks and an RBI; Trout was in a car accident on Wednesday but apparently is OK. Kole Calhoun is 2-for-2 with a double. The Halos go with lefty Brett Oberholtzer (3-2, 5.16). He made his first start and fourth appearance with the Angels since being picked up from Philly and lasted three innings and allowed a run and three hits on Saturday in Detroit. He has thrown one scoreless inning this year vs. Seattle. Cruz is 2-for-7 off him. Robinson Cano is 4-for-9 off him with three strikeouts.
Key trends: The Angels are 1-7 in their past eight in Game 1 of a series. The Mariners are 0-4 in Miranda's past four starts. The over is 9-4-1 in the past 14 meetings in Seattle.
Early lean: Mariners and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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