Count me among those who were on the Kyle Schwarber bandwagon this season. I figured he was good for 30 homers (not a great average, though) and could help redefine a leadoff hitter as a power guy who could also get on base by walking plenty. The Cubs gave up on the struggling Schwarber hitting leadoff a few weeks ago, and now a guy who was among the spring betting favorites to lead the majors in homers is headed to Triple-A. Frankly, this had to be done. While Schwarber has a solid 12 homers and 28 RBIs, he's hitting .171 with a .295 on-base percentage in 222 at-bats with 75 strikeouts. The Cubs don't expect him to be down there long; they just want Schwarber to rebuild confidence. I think everyone thought Schwarber would be a monster this season after his shocking return in last season's World Series and how good he was at the plate against the Indians (he couldn't play the field yet). But it's also important to remember that while this guy has been a big-leaguer since 2015, he's still basically a rookie with only 135 games played and 458 at-bats. Perhaps Chicago should have traded him this offseason, though, to the American League for a top-level pitcher as Schwarber is never going to be a good defensive outfielder and should be a full-time DH. Now his value has dropped temporarily.
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Blue Jays at Royals ( -115, 9 )
These teams are much in the same boat as both started the season terribly but have played better to hover around .500 and stay in the division and wild-card races. But both could still be sellers by the end of next month with some veteran free agents if things fall off again. It's Cy Young candidate and lefty Jason Vargas for the Royals, and he could be one of the top guys available at the deadline. Vargas (10-3, 2.27) leads the AL in wins and is second in ERA but he's not a strikeout guy. He benefits playing in huge Kauffman Stadium as Vargas is an extreme fly-ball pitcher. He hasn't faced the Jays in a few years. Jose Bautista, now hitting leadoff, is 4-for-15 off him with three homers. Toronto's Marco Estrada (4-5, 4.98) was one of the AL's better pitchers for the first six weeks or so but in June he's a ghastly 0-3 with a 12.67 ERA. The Royals' Eric Hosmer is 4-for-5 against him.
Key trends: The Royals are 2-6 in their past eight at home vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Royals and under.
Reds at Nationals (-162, 9.5)
Cincinnati's rotation is truly awful and missing a few guys due to injury. Help is on the way Saturday, perhaps, in Homer Bailey. Hard to know what to expect from Bailey as he pitched in just two games in 2015 and six (for just 23 innings) in 2016 due to Tommy John surgery in May 2015. This February, he had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right elbow. In three minor-league rehab starts at three different levels this year, he went 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA.Bailey, 31, has a 60-54 record and a 4.24 ERA in 174 career starts. He threw no-hitters in 2012 and 2013. Washington's Adam Lind doesn't start every day but might here as he's 3-for-3 career off Bailey with a double and a homer. The Nats' Joe Ross (3-3, 5.98) comes off a quality outing but loss against the Mets, allowing two earned over six innings. Cincinnati's Adam Duvall is 2-for-3 off Ross with two doubles. Scooter Gennett is 3-for-6 with two doubles.
Key trends: The Reds are 1-7 in their past eight road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The over is 9-1-2 in their past 12 in that scenario.
Early lean: Nationals and over.
Cubs at Marlins (+138, 9)
Chicago could well be down three outfielders for this entire series. I mentioned Schwarber, and the Cubbies put Jason Heyward on the 10-day DL Thursday with a lacerated hand. Heyward, who is third among outfielders in the National League All-Star voting, is batting .258 with 29 RBIs in 55 games. OF/2B Ben Zobrist already was on the DL with a hand injury and there was hope he would be activated at some point this weekend but it's now unlikely. The Cubs go with lefty Jon Lester (4-4, 3.83). He had a three-start stretch that was a bit rough but has followed it with back-to-back quality outings. Lester missed the Marlins earlier this season. Giancarlo Stanton is 2-for-6 with two solo homers against him. Miami lefty Justin Nicolino (0-1, 5.06) returned from the DL Monday vs. Washington and lasted only three innings and allowed six runs (three earned). He has never faced the Cubs.
Key trends: The Cubs are 11-4 in their past 15 vs. the NL East. The Marlins are 7-15 in their past 22 vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 5-1-1 in the Marlins' past seven at home.
Early lean: Cubs and over.
Pirates at Cardinals (-123, 9)
Pittsburgh has lost catcher Francisco Cervelli to the seven-day concussion list. He suffered it way back on June 6 and hasn't been able to get right. This is the third time in the past 15 months and the second time this month that Cervelli has been placed on Pittsburgh's disabled list.Chris Stewart and Elias Diaz will should continue to split time behind the plate. The Pirates start Gerrit Cole (5-6, 4.28). He was terrible in a four-start stretch but has gone seven innings and allowed one run and three hits in each of his past two. Cole lost in St. Louis on April 19 (6 IP, 2 ER). Matt Carpenter is a career .379 hitter vs. Cole with three homers in 29 at-bats. The Cards' Lance Lynn (5-4, 3.33) was shelled for even runs and four homers in 4.2 innings of a loss in Baltimore last time out. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen can't hit him, going 8-for-47 with 19 strikeouts.
Key trends: The Pirates are 11-28 in their past 39 in St. Louis. The under is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Rockies at Dodgers (-267, 7)
I expect a dominating effort from Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw here as he just about always follows up a rare clunker with one. Kershaw (10-2, 2.61) was roughed up for six runs and six hits, four homers, over six innings Monday vs. the Mets but struck out 10 and got the win. He has allowed a very uncharacteristic 17 dingers already. The last two times this season Kershaw surrendered at least four runs, he gave up just one in his next outing and whiffed at least nine. Kershaw is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA this year vs. Colorado. Nolan Arenado hits .310 off him career with two homers in 42 at-bats. The Rockies' Tyler Chatwood (6-7, 4.08) has turned his season around by giving up just five runs combined over his past four starts to drop his ERA by about a run. He lost his lone 2017 start vs. the Dodgers on May 12 (4.1 IP, 5 ER). Yasmani Grandal is 5-for-9 off him with three extra-base hits.
Key trends: The Rockies are 4-0 in their past four vs. a lefty. The under is 9-1 in their past 10 against one. The under is 13-3 in the past 16 meetings in L.A.
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