Five to Follow MLB Betting: Saturday, April 16, 2016, Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 4/15/2016
Washington Nationals star and reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper seems to be one of those guys that you either love or hate. But Harper sure is interesting and fabulous player. How cool was his 100th career home run on Thursday? He became the eighth-youngest do to it but of course Harper did it in style: on a grand slam. Harper is the only major-leaguer whose first grand slam came on his 100th career home run. And I'm going to pat myself on the back here. On Thursday's Opening Line Report I recommended betting a Harper home-run prop because in his career he had killed Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. With the homer, Harper improved to 12-for-27 with five home runs off Teheran. Store that nugget for the next Braves-Nats series.
Angels at Twins (+108, 8.5)
A 2:10 p.m. ET matinee. These stories are posted before the games the day I write them are completed, so perhaps the Minnesota Twins will get their first win of the season on Friday. But I feel obligated to write about them just in case they didn't. The Twins actually got some good news Thursday when prized prospect Byron Buxton was hit on the hand against the White Sox. I say good news because it's not broken, just bruised. But Buxton is likely to miss a few days. The former No. 1 overall prospect is batting .167 with 13 strikeouts in 24 at-bats so maybe he needs to go back to Triple-A for a while. The Twins start Ricky Nolasco, who had been truly terrible with the team since signing as a free agent before the 2014 season. He was good in his 2016 debut, allowing a run and three hits over seven innings in a no-decision in Kansas City. He didn't face the Angels in 2015. Albert Pujols destroys him, going 13-for-25 with five doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs. It's Jered Weaver for the Angels. His debut went well Sunday in beating the Rangers, allowing a run over six innings. He didn't face the Twins last year.
Key trends: The Angels are 8-2 in Weaver's past 10 following a quality start in his last appearance. The Twins are 1-11 in their past 12 vs. right-handers. The "over/under" has gone over in 11 of Weaver's past 15 vs. the AL Central. The over is 6-1 in his past seven in Minnesota.
Early lean: Angels and over.
Reds at Cardinals (-179, 7)
A 2:15 p.m. ET matinee. The Reds look like they have a nice rotation piece going forward in young left-hander Brandon Finnegan (0-0, 2.84), who was part of last year's Johnny Cueto trade with Kansas City. The Chicago Cubs are crushing people in the young season but Finnegan no-hit them for 6.2 innings on Monday, but the bullpen then let both of Finnegan's inherited runners score after he lost the no-hitter and the Cubs would win. Finnegan struggled against St. Louis last year, going 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in 7.2 innings (one start, two relief appearances). Matt Carpenter is 2-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs off him. Former Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (0-1, 6.55) hasn't looked good thus far. He allowed five runs and walked five over five innings last time out against a very weak Atlanta offense. Wainwright missed most of last season but faced the Reds once, allowing a run in eight innings. Jay Bruce is 11-for-36 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Cards are 23-4 in Wainwright's past 27 with five days of rest. The under is 5-2 in the Cards' past seven vs. a lefty. St. Louis is 1-4 in Wainwright's past five at home vs. Cincy.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Nationals at Phillies (+170, 7)
I mentioned earlier this week that Philadelphia could be good soon with a lot of fine young pitching. On Thursday, that was on display as 23-year-old Vincent Velasquez threw a complete-game three-hitter vs. the Padres, striking out 16. In this game, it's Philly's top pitching prospect in 22-year-old Aaron Nola (0-1, 3.21). He hasn't gotten much run support yet and has 17 strikeouts in two starts without a walk. Nola was 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts last year vs. Washington. Harper has a solo homer off him in five at-bats. Jayson Werth is 2-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs. Ace Max Scherzer (1-0, 4.15) goes for Washington. Both his first two starts have come against the Braves. Scherzer was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts last year against the Phillies. Ryan Howard is 1-for-13 off him with eight strikeouts.
Key trends: The Nats are 4-0 in Scherzer's past four on the road. The Phillies are 0-5 in Nola's past five. The under is 3-0-2 in Scherzer's past five on the road. The under is 4-0 in Nola's past four.
Early lean: Nats and under.
Braves at Marlins (-171, 8)
This game will be shown on Fox Sports 1. As noted above, I feel obligated to write about the Braves in case they are 0-10 entering this one (and I think they will be) like the Twins. And I'm not super-confident about their chances here as Atlanta starts veteran journeyman Bud Norris (0-2, 6.00). Both of his starts have come against Washington. He has allowed 15 hits and four walks in 12 innings. Norris didn't face Miami in 2015. Just a few Marlins have ever faced him. Dee Gordon is 2-for-6 with a double. Giancarlo Stanton is 1-for-2 with an RBI. Tom Koehler gets the call for Miami. His debut was Sunday in Washington and he allowed two runs and eight hits over six innings. At Marlins Park, he is 15-16 with a 3.63 ERA in his career. Against the Braves, Koehler is 2-4 with a 3.36 ERA all-time. Nick Markakis hits him well, going 6-for-11. So does A.J. Pierzynski, going 7-for-15 with two homers.
Key trends: The Braves are 1-7 in their past eight Saturday games. The Marlins are 5-2 in Koehler's past seven. The over is 5-2 in his past seven at home.
Early lean: Marlins and over.
Diamondbacks at Padres (-117, 6.5)
I think it's fair to say the early returns on Arizona's grand offseason experiment have failed miserably. The trade for Shelby Miller (0-1, 8.18) looks more lopsided every day as he has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball thus far. To be fair, he has faced two terrific offenses in the Cubs and Rockies and both were at home. Maybe going to Petco Park helps -- and that Padres lineup is a joke. Miller threw seven shutout innings in his lone start vs. San Diego in 2015. Matt Kemp is 2-for-6 off him with a double. Melvin Upton is 0-for-8 with six whiffs. Andrew Cashner (0-1, 8.00) takes the bump for the Friars. Guy throws 98 mph at times but it obviously hasn't helped much yet. He was 2-3 with a 2.90 ERA in five starts last year vs. the Snakes. Paul Goldschmidt is 7-for-23 off him with a homer and five RBIs.
Key trends: San Diego is 1-4 in Cashner's past five at home. The over is 7-3-1 in his past 11 there. The Padres are 2-6 in his past eight vs. Arizona.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and under.
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