My spring training pick for National League MVP this season was Cubs second-year player Kris Bryant. I'm feeling pretty good about his chances now. The 2015 NL Rookie of the Year had a night for the ages in Monday's win in Cincinnati. He became the first batter in baseball's modern era (since 1900) with three homers and two doubles in one game. Bryant, 24, also is the youngest Cub ever with a three-homer game; he was 10 days younger than when Mr. Cub and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks did it in 1955. Bryant's five extra-base hits were the most by a Cub since 1885, and his 16 total bases were the most in a game since Josh Hamilton's 18 (four home runs, one double) in May 2012. The MLB record is 19 by Shawn Green. Bryant nearly got a chance to get to bat in the ninth inning with a shot at breaking that. As of Tuesday, Bryant is tied for the NL lead with 21 homers and third with 57 RBIs. Either he or Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has to be your first-half MVP (I refuse to consider pitchers, but I guess Clayton Kershaw has to be in there). I wonder how much the Houston Astros continue to regret taking Stanford pitcher Mark Appel at No. 1 overall in 2013, one spot ahead of Bryant. My AL MVP pick in the spring was Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. Looks like that one will be wrong.
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Marlins at Tigers (-128, 9.5)
A 1:10 p.m. ET first pitch from Motown and should have live betting at sportsbooks with it televised by the MLB Network. Miami adds the DH. The Marlins were to start lefty Wei-Yen Chen on the mound, but with Monday's day off they decided to push him back to Thursday. So it's Tom Koehler (6-6, 4.07). He has been consistent, lasting exactly six innings in each of his past five. Koehler took a no-decision vs. the Cubs last time out, giving up four runs (all in the first inning) and seven hits. Not many Tigers have faced him. Miguel Cabrera is 2-for-3. Justin Upton is 6-for-16 with a triple and homer. Detroit starts lefty Daniel Norris (0-0, 4.50) as he makes only his third big-league appearance and second start of the year. Norris took a no-decision Thursday vs. the Mariners, allowing three runs -- all solo homers -- in five innings. Norris has never faced the Marlins.
Key trends: The Marlins are 1-7 in their past eight interleague road games vs. a lefty. They are 1-9 in Koehler's past 10 on Wednesday. The Tigers are 6-1 in Norris' past seven starts dating to last year. The "over/under" is 4-0 in Norris' past four vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Tigers and over.
Mets at Nationals (-162, 7.5)
ESPN2 national TV game. New York is scheduled to throw lefty Steven Matz (7-3, 3.29), but that's not 100 percent guaranteed. He has been dealing with some left elbow tightness, and the Mets recently had him checked out. A bone spur was found in there. He could undergo surgery if he is unable to effectively pitch through it. But doctors say he can't make it worse by continuing to pitch. It's basically a comfort issue. Matz wasn't sharp in his most recent outing, allowing a season-high six runs and nine hits in 4.1 innings in Atlanta. Matz repeatedly rubbed his pitching elbow while in the dugout before taking the mound for the bottom of the fifth inning. His velocity dipped as he surrendered six runs and recorded only one out in the inning. Matz beat Washington on May 25, shutting out the host Nats on four hits over eight innings. Bryce Harper is 0-for-1 career off him. The Nationals throw Max Scherzer (8-5, 3.52). He was roughed up in Milwaukee last time out, allowing five runs in six innings. Homers have killed Scherzer this year as he's allowed 20 of them. Scherzer lost at the Mets on May 17, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings.
Key trends: The Mets are 8-2 in Matz's past 10 on the road. The Nats are 8-3 in Scherzer's past 11 vs. the NL East. The under is 4-1 in his past five vs. New York.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Twins at White Sox (-114, 9.5)
Maybe the Pale Hose can start to breathe a little easier about the Human Torch who had been James Shields (2-9, 6.22). His first three starts in a White Sox uniform had been historically bad, but he was decent Thursday in Boston, allowing three runs and five hits in five innings of a no-decision. Shields recorded his first scoreless first inning since joining the White Sox. He was rolling into the sixth before walking the first two batters. The Twins' Brian Dozier is 8-for-22 career off him with four doubles, two homers and eight RBIs. Joe Mauer hits .349 off him with a homer and 10 RBIs in 43 at-bats. Minnesota's Ricky Nolasco (3-5, 4.95) lost to the Phillies in his most recent outing, allowing four runs and 10 hits over 6.2 innings. He lost at the White Sox on May 6, allowing seven run in five innings. Jose Abreu is 4-for-11 off him with two homers. Dioner Navarro likely will start behind the plate for Chicago as he's 7-for-18 off Nolasco with a homer.
Key trends: The Twins are 0-5 in Nolasco's past five vs. the AL Central. The over is 4-0-s in his past six on the road.
Early lean: White Sox and over.
Giants at A's (+117, 8.5)
San Francisco adds the DH for this interleague Battle of the Bay Area. The Giants start Jake Peavy (4-6, 5.22). His numbers don't look good but consider that his ERA was 8.21 six starts ago. Peavy beat the Phillies in his last start, allowing two runs and seven hits in a season-high-tying seven innings. Peavy has allowed eight runs over his last six starts compared to the 38 he yielded in his first nine outings of the year. He hasn't faced Oakland in 2016. Billy Butler hits him well, going 16-for-36 with three homers and eight RBIs. Coco Crisp is 3-for-13 off him. Josh Reddick is 1-for-6 off Peavy. Reddick was to be activated from the DL on Tuesday. He had been out since May 19. Oakland is going to activate lefty top prospect Sean Manaea (2-4, 6.02) off the DL for this one. He last pitched June 13 and allowed two runs in 4.1 innings vs. Texas. He suffered a strained forearm in the game. Manaea has never faced the Giants.
Key trends: The Giants are 8-3 in Peavy's past 11 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-1 in his past six against them.
Early lean: Giants and under.
Pirates at Mariners (-132, 8)
Pittsburgh will have the DH here. The Pirates start their top pitching prospect in Jameson Taillon (1-1, 4.50), and he is making his fifth career start. His last two starts, against the Cubs and Dodgers, have been the same: four innings, eight hits and four hits allowed. Well, the Pirates beat the Dodgers but lost to the Cubs. Taillon has never faced Seattle. The Mariners go with lefty Wade Miley (6-3, 5.28). He is set to be activated off the DL. Miley (shoulder) threw a rehab assignment on Friday and had four shutout innings. He last pitched in the majors June 12, allowing three runs in five innings against Texas. Plenty of Pirates have seen the former Diamondback. Starling Marte is 5-for-13 against off him. Andrew McCutchen is 2-for-12 with four walks. Jordy Mercer is 3-for-6.
Key trends: The Pirates have lost four straight on Wednesday. The Mariners are 8-2 in Miley's past 10. The over is 5-2-1 in his past eight.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
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