If the Cincinnati Reds have a lead in the top of the ninth inning of Thursday's home series opener against the Chicago Cubs, it's not clear who might close things out. Cincy's closer has been J.J. Hoover, but he nearly blew a lead in the ninth inning Tuesday against Colorado, allowing a two-run home run to inflate his ERA to 15.19. Hoover has a WHIP of 2.25 and is giving up five home runs per nine innings. He has walked as many as he's struck out. So Manager Bryan Price has admitted he's thinking about a change. If so, it's likely to be a combination of right-hander Caleb Cotham or lefty Tony Cingrani. The Reds had no such closer worries the past few years with Aroldis Chapman around. Of course he was traded to the Yankees this offseason.
Dodgers at Braves (+233, 6.5)
On the MLB Network. I'm obviously not in the business of predicting no-hitters because that's nearly impossible to do. But I will say that it wouldn't surprise me even a little if Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw throws one here against a very non-descript Atlanta offense. And it's a getaway early start of 12:10 p.m. ET, so Atlanta might not even start the few guys you have heard of like Freddie Freeman. Kershaw (2-0, 1.64) has yet to allow more than two earned runs in his three starts and just 10 total hits in 22 innings. Kershaw threw seven scoreless innings vs. Atlanta in 2015. Freeman is 2-for-9 off him with a homer and five strikeouts. Erick Aybar is 3-for-21 with four strikeouts. It's Matt Wisler (0-1, 4.61) for Atlanta. He was originally to pitch Tuesday but had to be used in relief on Sunday. Wisler allowed four runs over six innings in his lone start vs. the Dodgers last year. Adrian Gonzalez is 1-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 5-0 in Kershaw's past five on the road. The Braves are 3-7 in Wisler's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in 11 of Kershaw's past 12 vs. the NL East.
Early lean: Dodgers and under.
Nationals at Marlins (+166, 7)
Washington leads the majors in ERA, and that figures to drop a bit here with Max Scherzer (2-0, 3.15) on the mound in a 1:10 p.m. ET getaway game. Scherzer allowed a run and five hits over seven innings last time out against the Phillies. Scherzer faced the Marlins more than any team in 2015, going 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA in five starts. He struck out 36 in 36 innings, allowing 29 hits. Only three current Marlins are hitting over .250 in their careers: Martin Prado, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon. Prado is 9-for-19 off him. It's Tom Koehler (0-2, 6.30) for Miami. He pitched in Washington to open the season and allowed two runs in 6.1 innings. But he was hit hard last time out vs. Atlanta. Bryce Harper, off to a red-hot start, is 8-for-26 off Koehler with five homers and 10 RBIs. Ryan Zimmerman is 6-for-20 against him with two homers. The Nats hit four seventh-inning homers vs. the Marlins on Tuesday, going back-to-back twice. The last time Washington went deep four times in an inning was as Montreal in 1986.
Key trends: The Nats are 6-0 in Scherzer's past six vs. the NL East. The Marlins are 2-6 in Koehler's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-1 in Scherzer's past five road starts vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Rays at Red Sox (-165, 8)
Another getaway game at 1:35 p.m. ET. Will the real David Price (2-0, 4.50) stand up? The lefty and former Tampa Bay pitcher hasn't been terrible but hasn't certainly lived up to his massive free-agent contract yet. The Red Sox need him to because the rest of their rotation is very shaky. Price pitched well last time out against another former team, Toronto, allowing two runs over seven innings and striking out nine. Price has made three career starts against the Rays, going 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA. Evan Longoria is 0-for-9 off him. Curt Casali is 3-for-6 with two homers. Tampa's Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 2.41) shut out the White Sox over seven innings on four hits last time out but took a no decision. Odorizzi retired the final 11 batters he faced. He was 1-0 with a 2.29 ERA in three starts vs. Boston in 2015. Big Papi is 3-for-18 off him with five strikeouts. Xander Bogaerts is 5-for-14 with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Rays are 4-1 in their past five vs. a lefty. The under is 4-0 in Tampa's past four on Thursday and 12-2 in Boston's past 14 at home.
Early lean: Red Sox and under.
Diamondbacks at Giants (-172, 7)
Another getaway game at 3:45 p.m. ET. When Arizona was able to sign free-agent Zack Greinke this past offseason, the Giants turned to Plan B and inked Johnny Cueto -- he may well have been a Diamondback if Greinke signed elsewhere. Cueto (3-0, 3.38) has sandwiched two excellent starts around one bad one. He hasn't allowed a homer in his 21.1 innings and only 19 hits. One more victory will give Cueto 100 for his career. He is 6-1 with a 2.54 ERA in eight career starts against Arizona. Paul Goldschmidt is 3-for-9 off him with a homer. Jean Segura is 3-for-20. It's another new Diamondback on the mound in Shelby Miller (0-1, 8.53), and he has been flat-out lousy. Miller lasted only 1.2 innings last time out against the Padres, allowing two runs and leaving with a lacerated finger. He has allowed 17 hits and five homers in 12.2 innings. Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt are a combined 3-for-32 off him.
Key trends: The Snakes are 1-4 in their past five Thursday games. The under is 13-3 in the past 16 meetings.
Early lean: Giants and under.
Cubs at Reds (+202, 7)
This could be a bit of a letdown series for the Cubs off their potential sweep in St. Louis depending on what happened in Wednesday's finale. Either way, really, that was an emotional series for the Cubs. I might expect a potential loss here if ace and reigning NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (3-0, 1.23) wasn't on the mound. He has had two starts this season where he has gone at least seven innings and not allowed a run. Arrieta, who has made a franchise-record 23 straight quality starts, was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in two starts last year vs. the Reds. Brandon Phillips is 4-for-11 off him with two doubles. Jay Bruce is 2-for-11 with six strikeouts. It's lefty Brandon Finnegan (1-0, 2.04) for Cincinnati. He was roughed up for four runs over five innings last time out in St. Louis but no-hit the Cubs for 6.2 innings at Wrigley the start before that.
Key trends: The Cubs are 9-0 in Arrieta's past nine vs. the NL Central. The under is 5-2-1 in his past eight on the road. The Cubs have won four straight in Cincinnati.
Early lean: Let's complete the home/under sweep with Cubs and under.
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