Welcome to my first Opening Line Report of the 2016 baseball season. I will give you the early lines on five specific games every Tuesday-Saturday -- not Mondays because that's usually the lightest day of the week and no Sundays as the games are all early except for the ESPN Sunday night matchup -- with occasional exceptions. Needless to say, it will focus on the starting pitchers for the games, their recent history and guys who might hit them well or poorly. Any potential injury news available at the time of the early lines moving will also be included. I will try to do national TV games where possible because those almost always have live betting at sportsbooks. Sometimes you can really find some good early value if paying attention. I almost always bet against teams in a getaway day game at the end of a long road trip, for example. And I generally like hitting the under totals early on as hitters are usually behind pitchers.
Mets at Royals (+105, 7.5)
Early start at 4:15 p.m. ET, which could mean some shadow problems for the hitters. Interleague game in an AL park, so Mets get to add designated hitter. On Sunday, the Royals got their World Series rings and then beat the Mets 4-3. Noah Syndergaard gets the call here and I think he's a legit Cy Young contender and is the nastiest guy on that stellar Mets rotation. He was great value at +1800 to win the Cy when the season opened. "Thor" was 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 150 innings as a rookie. He was largely unhittable at home and a bit shaky on the road, however. New York's lone World Series win over the Royals was behind Syndergaard in Game 3 as he allowed three runs and struck out six over six innings. He also sent a message pitch on his first throw, buzzing the head of Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar. The K.C. players very much remember that -- it's a good thing Syndergaard isn't batting here because he'd get drilled. I still think a Mets player will. Kansas City was to start its big free-agent addition, former Padre Ian Kennedy. But he's dealing with a hamstring issue so it's Chris Young instead. The 6-foot-10 Young was 11-6 with a 3.06 ERA last year. He got the win in relief in Game 1 of the World Series.
Key trends: The Mets are 4-9 in Syndergaard's past 13 road starts. The Royals are 5-0 in Young's past five starts. The "over/under" is 10-3 in Syndergaard's past 13 overall.
Early lean: Royals and under.
Cardinals at Pirates (-105, 7.5)
These two played the first game of the 2016 season Sunday afternoon and the Pirates won 4-1 behind a dominating effort from Francisco Liriano. St. Louis goes with Michael Wacha here. He was 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA last season but did fade late because of heavy innings. He had a 7.88 ERA in September and then was roughed up in his lone NLDS start against the Cubs. Wacha was 2-1 with a 3.97 ERA in four starts against the Pirates in 2015. Andrew McCutchen is 8-for-16 with a homer career off him. Gregory Polanco, who just got a five-year, $35 million extension, is 6-for-12. Pittsburgh counters with lefty Jonathon Niese, who was acquired from the Mets this winter for second baseman Neil Walker. Niese went 9-10 with a 4.13 ERA in 33 appearances (29 starts) for the Mets in 2015. New Cardinal Jedd Gyorko is 5-for-9 career off Niese. Matt Carpenter is 4-for-8 with two doubles.
Key trends: The Cards are 5-2 in Wacha's past seven vs. Pittsburgh. The under is 6-1 in the Pirates' past seven after a win. The under is 4-1 in the Cards' past five after an off day.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Tigers at Marlins (+100, 7.5)
Detroit won't have its DH for the teams' season opener, meaning Victor Martinez will be relegated to pinch-hitting. Justin Verlander gets the call for the Tigers, his eighth career Opening Day start. Verlander started last season late off injury and struggled at first but posted a 2.27 ERA and allowed a .207 batting average over his final 14 starts, surrendering 74 hits over 99 1/3 innings. His was just 5-5 over those because the Tigers scored two runs or fewer in seven of the 14 starts. Not too many Marlins have seen him. Giancarlo Stanton, the betting favorite to lead the majors homers, is 0-for-3 with three punchouts against Verlander. I'm not sure why new Marlins manager Don Mattingly is starting free-agent acquisition Wei-Yin Chen over Jose Fernandez on Opening Day. Well, it's actually tied to getting Fernandez more rest over the course of the season. Chen was 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA last year with Baltimore. He allowed six runs and 10 hits over 3.1 innings in his lone 2015 start vs. Detroit.
Key trends: The Tigers are 4-1 in their past five interleague games vs. lefty starters. The Marlins are 2-7 in their past nine interleague games. The under is 5-2-1 in Detroit's past seven against lefties.
Early lean: Tigers and under.
Giants at Brewers (+125, 8)
It's the San Francisco debut for Johnny Cueto, who got a six-year, $130 million free-agent deal this offseason. He was generally regarded as the No. 3 pitcher on the market after David Price and Zack Greinke -- both those guys got more than $200 million. Cueto was 11-13 with a 3.44 ERA overall last season with Cincinnati and Kansas City. But he was just 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts with the Royals in the tougher AL, although he was very good in the postseason. Against NL teams last year, Cueto had a 2.30 ERA and a WHIP of just 0.86. He doesn't seem to like Miller Park, however, going 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in seven starts there. I have little positive to say about the Brewers, but 26-year-old starter Jimmy Nelson (11-13, 4.11) could be a keeper. He was either great or terrible last year. He had 13 quality starts in which he recorded a 1.08 ERA. In all his other starts, he had a 7.32 ERA. Nelson didn't face the Giants and only a few have faced him in regular-season action.
Key trends: The Brewers are 1-4 in Nelson's past five starts. The over is 6-0 in his past six.
Early lean: Giants and over.
Rockies at Diamondbacks (-155, 8.5)
Chad Bettis (8-6, 4.23 in 20 starts) is sadly Colorado's No. 2 starter. He did look very good this spring with a 2-0 record and 1.21 ERA in 17.1 innings. And Bettis had a solid 3.35 ERA away from Coors Field in 2015. He was 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts vs. Arizona. MVP candidate and 2015 runner-up Paul Goldschmidt is 3-for-7 career off Bettis with two doubles. A.J. Pollock is 2-for-6 with a homer. It's the Arizona debut of Shelby Miller, and he better be good because the Snakes paid a fortune to get him from Atlanta -- nearly every expert said it was a robbery for the Braves. Miller was an All-Star last season and had a career-best 3.02 ERA. Forget that 6-17 record as no team was worse in the second half of last season than the Braves. Miller's worst ERA against any team in 2015 was his 6.94 mark in two starts vs. the Rockies. Nolan Arenado is just 1-for-9 off him.
Key trends: The under is 6-1 in Bettis' past seven starts. Colorado is 1-5 in its past six Tuesday games.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and under.
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