The first managerial domino has fallen in Major League Baseball, and not surprisingly it was the worst team in the majors, the Atlanta Braves, dumping Manager Fredi Gonzalez. This had been rumored coming for a while. There was never any chance of Gonzalez following the team to its new Cobb County stadium next season. Not sure what the point of firing him now is and installing Triple-A manager Brian Snitker as the interim guy. Why not leave Snitker there and wait until after this lost season to hire your full-time choice? But what do I know?
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Obviously the Braves front office knew the team was going to struggle this season in a full-bore rebuild, but just not as much as they had. The Braves are off to a worse start than the historically inept 1962 New York Mets. Freddie Freeman is the only player who started for the Braves on Opening Day in 2011 who is still with the team. Gonzalez was in his sixth season as Braves manager after replacing his mentor, Bobby Cox, when Cox retired after the 2010 season.
Braves at Pirates (-190, 8)
Some early candidates you hear for Atlanta's next full-time manager: Snitker, Eddie Perez, Terry Pendleton (both kept from Gonzalez's staff; Pendleton was moved from first-base coach to bench coach in this shakeup) and current MLB Network analyst and former Brave Mark DeRosa. I've heard Chipper Jones' name, and that would certainly be interesting, but the Braves' legend apparently doesn't have interest in managing right now. Many think DeRosa is the favorite. The Braves start former top prospect Mike Foltynewicz (1-1, 2.89) here. This will be his fourth start of the season after being called up early this month. He was great last time out, shutting out the Royals on seven hits over eight innings. He has never faced Pittsburgh. It's lefty Jeff Locke (1-3, 5.45) for the Bucs. His string of three straight quality starts ended Saturday at the Cubs, allowing six runs in 5.1 innings. Atlanta's Freeman is 2-for-7 off him with three RBIs.
Key trends: The Braves are 1-7 in Foltynewicz's past eight road starts. The Pirates are 6-2 in Locke's past eight on Thursday. The "over/under" is 6-0 in Locke's past six at home.
Early lean: Pirates and over.
Nationals at Mets (+100, 6.5)
MLB Network game and should have live betting at sportsbooks, and it's certainly the pitching matchup of the night. Monitor the status of Mets third baseman David Wright. He was scratched from Tuesday's game vs. Washington with a flare-up of the spinal stenosis in his lower back. That problem cost him much of last season. Wright doesn't think it's serious this time but admits that Manager Terry Collins forcing him to sit Tuesday might have saved Wright a trip to the DL. New York goes with Matt Harvey (3-5, 4.93), who really hasn't been himself at times this season. He was touched up for five runs and 11 hits in 5.2 innings last time out in Colorado. Harvey was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts vs. Washington last season. Bryce Harper can't hit the guy, going 0-for-20 with seven strikeouts. The Nats go with Cy Young candidate Stephen Strasburg (6-0, 2.95). The Nats have won all his starts this season whether he got a decision or not. Strasburg was 1-2 with a 4.00 ERA last season in three starts vs. New York. Wright, if he plays, is 6-for-22 off him with nine strikeouts. Neil Walker is 3-for-11 with a homer.
Key trends: The Nationals are 7-0 in Strasburg's past seven road starts. The Mets are 3-7 in Harvey's past 10 starts. Washington is 5-1 in Strasburg's past six in New York. The under is 8-2 in his past 10 on the road overall.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Astros at White Sox (-180, 7)
Pale Hose GM Rick Hahn said Tuesday that he's prepared to make a big move to improve his team and already is talking to teams. A left-handed bat and starting pitcher would appear to be the two biggest needs. The Sox are starting to fade a bit, so they seem likely to do something. They go with ace lefty Chris Sale (8-0, 1.67) here, the fourth starter in franchise history to win his first eight starts. He threw a complete game Friday at the Yankees, allowing one run and six hits. Sale faced Houston once last year and allowed one earned run and five hits in eight innings. Jose Altuve is 5-for-14 off him with a double. It's Collin McHugh (4-3, 5.58) for Houston. He had a three-start winning streak end Saturday in Boston, allowing four runs and 10 hits over six innings. He didn't face the White Sox in 2015. Brett Lawrie is 1-for-12 off him with eight strikeouts.
Key trends: The Astros are 2-8 in their past 10 against southpaws. The White Sox are 8-0 in Sale's past eight following a quality start in his most recent appearance. The under is 8-3 in McHugh's past 11 on four days of rest. The under is 12-4 in Sale's past 16 at home.
Early lean: White Sox and under.
Blue Jays at Twins (+128, 8.5)
Toronto will remain without Manager John Gibbons, who will serve the finale of a three-game suspension for his role in Sunday's brawl with Texas. Jays slugger Jose Bautista was suspended for a game but is appealing. Just keep in mind he could drop that at any time and take a game off. The Jays go with Marco Estrada (1-2, 2.89), whose only win came in his first start of the season despite that fine ERA. He comes off his worst start of 2016, allowing five runs in six innings at Texas. Toronto scored five runs for him in that game as he avoided a loss, but prior to that the Jays had scored just 12 runs in his previous six games. Minnesota's Joe Mauer is 3-for-12 off him with two doubles and three RBIs. The Twins' Ervin Santana (1-2, 3.38) finally got a win Saturday in Cleveland, allowing a run and five hits over six innings. Bautista is 8-for-29 off him with two homers. Josh Donaldson is 5-for-14 with two homers.
Key trends: The Jays are 0-4 in Estrada's past four on the road. The Twins are 1-4 in Santana's past five at home. The under is 6-1-1 in Estrada's past eight on the road. The under is 4-0-1 in Santana's past five in Game 1 of a series.
Early lean: Twins and under.
Yankees at A's (+100, 8)
New York was planning to activate Alex Rodriguez off the DL for this game. He has been out since straining a hamstring on May 3. A-Rod is hitting .194 with five homers and 12 RBIs but had been on a mini-hot streak before going down. Alas, he had a setback while running on Tuesday and now won't play Thursday and maybe not this series. The A's, meanwhile, have lost first baseman/outfielder Mark Canha to season-ending hip surgery. In a platoon role, he was hitting .122 with three homers and six RBIs. The Yanks start Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.70) here. He beat the White Sox last time out, allowing a run and four hits over 5.2 innings. Nova pitched one scoreless inning of relief on April 20 vs. the A's -- Oakland swept three games in the Bronx. It's Kendall Graveman (1-5, 5.84) for the A's. He has struggled since beating the Yankees on April 20, allowing a run and three hits over 6.1 innings. Didi Gregorius is 1-for-4 with a homer against him.
Key trends: The Yankees are 1-8 in Nova's past nine Thursday starts. The A's are 1-6 in Graveman's past seven at home. The over is 4-0 in Graveman's past four on four days of rest.
Early lean: Yankees and over.
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