It's my final regular-season "Five To Follow" betting story, and I hope you have found these helpful for wagering on those early lines for games. Sometimes it can be very profitable betting an MLB game the day before it begins. I will continue occasionally in the playoffs when there are multiple games on a day. What individual races should you be monitoring on the final weekend? Locked up are the AL batting title (Houston's Jose Altuve) and almost surely the home-run crown (Baltimore's Mark Trumbo will lead the majors). Boston's Rick Porcello will top the AL in wins. The NL batting title is between the Rockies' DJ LeMahieu and Nationals' Daniel Murphy. Colorado's Nolan Arenado will win the NL RBI title (probably lead the majors) and is battling the Cubs' Kris Bryant and Brewers' Chris Carter for the home-run crown. Washington's Max Scherzer and the Cubs' Jon Lester are tied for the NL lead with 19 wins. A lot of TBAs as of now as there are many things up in the air Saturday, but here are the best projections.
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Mets at Phillies (TBA)
First pitch at 1:05 p.m. ET and part of a split national broadcast on Fox. Will this be the final start in the colorful and very successful career of 43-year-old Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon? He is the last former Montreal Expo playing in the majors, and Colon hasn't said he's retiring. If the Mets don't bring him back and he wants to keep playing, surely some club would sign Colon considering he's 14-8 with a 3.42 ERA even though he basically just throws mid-80s fastballs on every pitch. He probably would start Game 1 of the NLDS if the Mets get there because Noah Syndergaard is set to start Sunday's season finale -- unless the Mets don't need to use him then and can pitch Syndergaard in the wild-card game if they are in it (that scenario is looking good). They could clinch a spot in this game if they don't Friday. Colon comes off his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs and eight hits on Monday in Miami. He's 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts vs. the Phillies this year. Ryan Howard is 6-for-30 career off him with three homers. Philly's Phil Klein (0-1, 8.22) is just a bullpen guy who will go a few innings here and the Phillies will have a committee pitching in this game.
Key trends: The Mets are 5-2 in Colon's past seven in Philadelphia. The "over/under" is 9-4 in his past 13 starts against the Phillies.
Early lean: Mets will be favored and will win -- earning the top wild-card spot still matters.
Orioles at Yankees (TBA)
A 4:05 p.m. ET first pitch. Will Baltimore be able to clinch a wild-card spot in this game? Depends on what they and Tigers do on Friday. The Birds are scheduled to start lefty Wade Miley (9-13, 5.40). He comes off easily his best start since being traded from Seattle, allowing one run and striking out a season-high 11 in 8.2 innings against Arizona. Before that, Miley was 1-5 with a 7.55 ERA since coming over from the Mariners. He lost his lone start vs. the Yankees, giving up four runs over five innings on Sept. 4. Brian McCann is 5-for-13 against him with a homer. Brett Gardner is 5-for-14 with three RBIs. Not sure why the Yankees would let Masahiro Tanaka (14-4, 3.07) pitch this game considering his last one was skipped due to a minor forearm issue. But Tanaka wants to go and was fine after a bullpen session Tuesday. He threw eight shutout innings in his lone start vs. Baltimore this year. Jonathan Schoop is 3-for-15 off him with two homers career. Trumbo is 0-for-3.
Key trends: The Orioles are 8-1 in their past nine in Game 2 of a series. The Yanks are 9-3 in their past 12 in Game 2. The under is 7-2 in the past nine meetings in New York.
Early lean: If this is indeed the pitching matchup, go Yankees.
Marlins at Nationals (TBA)
Also starts at 4:05 p.m. ET. This series presents a betting dilemma. Neither team has anything to play for in very different circumstances. The Marlins probably want nothing to do with baseball in the wake of Jose Fernandez's death and his funeral Thursday. The Nationals are locked into their NLDS matchup with the Dodgers and could rest some guys. Murphy and Bryce Harper are both banged up and have been sitting this week and probably will continue to do so. Perhaps Murphy can back into a batting title. The Marlins will go with lefty Wei-Yen Chen (5-4, 5.02), who has thus far been a free-agent bust. He has been on a pitch count in his two starts since returning from a long DL stint. Chen is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Nationals. Ryan Zimmerman is 5-for-14 off him with two doubles. Danny Espinosa has a homer in 15 at-bats. Washington's Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.86) likely starts Game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers unless Manager Dusty Baker wants to slot lefty Gio Gonzalez in between the right-handers Scherzer (the Game 1 guy) and Roark, who is 1-4 with a 5.02 ERA in five starts this year against Miami. Giancarlo Stanton has three homers in 25 at-bats against him. Martin Prado is 10-for-23 with a homer.
Key trends: The Marlins are 5-0 in Chen's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Nationals are 8-3 in Roark's past 11 at home. The under is 4-1-1 in his past six.
Early lean: This pitching matchup is set but it's TBA because Washington might have clinched the No. 2 seed by this game and thus truly have nothing to play for. I still like Roark better.
Cubs at Reds (+185, 8.5)
Game begins at 4:10 p.m. ET. Meaningless for everyone other than the Cubs' Lester and Bryant. Lester (19-4, 2.28) looks for the first 20-win season of his career and might be the only guy to reach that number in the NL. Scherzer is scheduled for Sunday, but I don't know why Washington would start him. Lester can afford to go here because he won't pitch again until Friday in Game 1 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. Lester has been amazing since the All-Star break with a 10-0 record and 1.34 ERA. He hasn't allowed more than an earned run in seven straight starts. Lester is 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts vs. the Reds. Joey Votto is 5-for-21 off Lester. Adam Duvall is 2-for-13. Cincinnati's Tim Adleman (3-4, 3.90) comes off one of the best starts of his rookie year, allowing two runs over seven innings in a win at St. Louis. Adleman faced the Cubs the start before that and took a no-decision (6.1 IP, 2 ER).
Key trends: The Cubs are 9-0 in Lester's past nine road starts vs. teams with a losing record. The Reds are 1-4 in Adleman's past five at home. The under is 9-0 in Lester's past nine.
Early lean: Cubs and under.
Blue Jays at Red Sox (TBA)
Remains to be seen if Boston has anything to care about here -- i.e. the top seed in the American League. That could be decided on Friday in the Rangers' favor and thus may affect Saturday's starting pitcher. For now, it's lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.68). He comes off a very strong outing at Tampa Bay, striking out a career-high 13 in 5.1 innings in a no-decision. Rodriguez and reliever Heath Hembree combined to strike out an MLB-record 11 straight batters, breaking the mark of 10 straight set by Tom Seaver in 1970. Rodriguez is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA vs. Toronto. Russell Martin is 3-for-7 vs. Rodriguez with a homer. Josh Donaldson is 1-for-10. Jays lefty J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.20) is probably looking at Top-3 finish in the Cy Young voting in what could be his final start of the year. He comes off a no-decision vs. the Yankees (7.1 IP, 1 ER). He's 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA vs. Boston this year. Xander Bogaerts is 1-for-15 against him. David Ortiz is 3-for-16 with no homers.
Key trends: The Jays are 7-2 in their past nine vs. a lefty. The Sox are 1-7 in Rodriguez's past eight at home. The under is 13-3 in Rodriguez's past 16 vs. the AL East.
Early lean: Blue Jays as they need it regardless.
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