Let me preface this by saying I doubt it, but could we see something in baseball this season that we haven't since 2004? The last qualifying player (so 502 plate appearances) to finish a season with more home runs than strikeouts was Barry Bonds that year with 45 bombs and 41 whiffs. Before that, the last to do it was Hall of Famer George Brett in 1980. Two pretty good players. Since 1901, only 65 qualifying hitters have managed more home runs than strikeouts over a full season. I mention this because entering Wednesday, Washington's Bryce Harper has nine homers and nine strikeouts and Colorado's Nolan Arenado has eight dingers and six whiffs. Harper finished 2015 at 42/131 and Arenado at 42/110 so that's why I doubt it. But worth keeping an eye on.
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Brewers at Cubs (-255, TBA)
A 2:20 p.m. ET getaway game for the Brewers; the Cubs get to stay home Friday. This is clearly the most lopsided pitching matchup of an abbreviated Thursday schedule. For Milwaukee, it's Zach Davies (0-2, 9.72), who might be sent back down if he struggles again. He has allowed 10 runs and 17 hits over 8.1 innings in his two starts. Things could get ugly against the high-scoring Cubs, although Davies allowed no runs in six innings against them last year. It's lefty Jon Lester (2-1, 1.98) for Chicago. He looks more comfortable in the National League these days as Lester has allowed more than one run in just one of his four starts. Lester was 2-0 with a 1.38 in two starts against the Brewers last season. Aaron Hill is 4-for-35 career off him with nine strikeouts. Ryan Braun is 5-for-13 with a double. You may see a lot of NFL types (media, etc.) at this game and all weekend at Wrigley with the NFL Draft in town.
Key trends: The Brewers are 1-6 in their past seven road games vs. a lefty. The Cubs are 4-0 in Lester's past four vs. teams with a losing record. The "over/under" has gone under in 13 of Lester's past 20 at home.
Early lean: Cubs and under if wind not blowing out.
Pirates at Rockies (-105, 11.5)
A 3:10 p.m. ET getaway game. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen had his second career three-homer game on Tuesday night, coming in Colorado. McCutchen, who also hit three homers Aug. 1, 2009, against the Nationals, had a chance to become the first Pirate to hit four in a game, but he grounded out to short in the eighth. McCutchen became the fourth Pirate to have a three-homer game more than once, joining Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner (four times), Willie Stargell (four) and Roberto Clemente (two). McCutchen hadn't even had multiple hits in a game since April 6 before Tuesday. It was the 19th three-homer game at Coors Field since the ballpark opened in 1995, the most in the majors since that time (no surprise). McCutchen will tee it up against Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood (2-2, 3.47). He has alternated strong starts with bad ones. Not coincidentally, both lousy ones have been at home. McCutchen has never faced him. Pittsburgh goes with former Rockie Juan Nicasio (2-2, 4.50), who is 13-9 with a 5.23 ERA in 48 appearances at Coors Field. Gerardo Parra is 4-for-14 off him with four doubles.
Key trends: The Rockies are 4-1 in Chatwood's past five vs. the NL Central. The under is 4-0 in his past four.
Early lean: Rockies and under.
Phillies at Nationals (-160, 8)
What will Washington's Tanner Roark do for an encore after the best start of his career? Roark (2-2, 2.63) struck out a career-high 15 Twins last time out, shutting them out on two hits over seven innings. He became the first pitcher in franchise history (including Expos) to strike out 15 or more batters in fewer than nine innings. Roark threw 121 pitches - the most he has thrown in his four-year major league career. So that's something to monitor here if it took a toll. Roark was 0-2 with a whopping 22.09 ERA last season in 3.2 innings vs. the Phillies. Ryan Howard is 3-for-9 with a homer and six RBIs off him. The Phillies go with Aaron Nola (1-2, 4.50). He allowed a career-high seven runs in five innings vs. Washington on April 16 but bounced back last time out to hold the Brewers to one run over seven innings. Harper loves facing the guy, going 5-for-7 with two homers and four RBIs.
Key trends: The Phillies are 0-6 in Nola's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The Nats are 1-6 in Roark's past seven vs. the NL East. The under is 5-1 in Nola's past six. The over is Roark's past seven on Thursday.
Early lean: Phillies and over -- call it a hunch that Roark might struggle.
White Sox at Orioles (-130, 9)
Chicago has had the best rotation in the American League thus far, but the clear weak link of that group goes in this series opener in lefty John Danks (0-3, 6.23). If he wasn't making $15 million or so, he wouldn't be in the rotation. Danks does actually come off a quality start, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings in a loss to the Angels. The White Sox would take that every time out for sure. Danks is 1-2 with a 4.25 ERA in five career starts at Camden Yards. J.J. Hardy is 9-for-25 off him with four doubles and a homer. Matt Wieters has two homers in 27 at-bats against Danks. With Yovani Gallardo on the DL, Tyler Wilson (1-0, 2.77) is back in the Baltimore rotation. He was decent in his first start, allowing three runs in five innings Saturday in Kansas City. Not many White Sox have faced him. Jose Abreu is 0-for-3.
Key trends: The Sox are 0-6 in Danks' past six starts. The over is 5-1 in his past six on the road. The over is 5-0 in Wilson's past five.
Early lean: Orioles and over.
Marlins at Dodgers (-140, 6.5)
Clearly the marquee pitching matchup of the night. It's Jose Fernandez (1-2, 4.37), probably a Dodger at some point in the future via trade, for Miami. He wasn't too sharp last time out, allowing four runs and seven hits in six innings in San Francisco. Fernandez is 2-0 in his career against the Dodgers with a 2.84 ERA. Carl Crawford, just activated off the DL, is 4-for-8 against him with two RBIs. Adrian Gonzalez has a homer in seven at-bats vs. Gonzalez. Meanwhile, it's the biggest pitching story of the National League thus far in Japanese rookie Kenta Maeda (3-0. 0.36) for Los Angeles. Let's be clear, the Dodgers thought this guy might be a good No. 3 or No. 4, not an ace. Only three other pitchers since 1900 have allowed one combined run in their first four career starts, including former Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela. Maeda has pitched at least six innings in all four starts. He's the fifth pitcher in the live-ball era to begin his career with four straight games of at least six innings and one run or fewer allowed. Obviously no Marlins have faced him yet.
Key trends: The Marlins are 1-4 in Fernandez's past five road starts. The over is 6-2 in his past eight on the road.
Early lean: Dodgers and under.
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