One of the most anticipated series in the National League this season began Monday night when the Cubs and Nationals opened a four-game set in D.C. in a potential playoff preview - the Nats almost met the Cubs in last year's NLCS, but Washington dropped the final two games of the NLDS against the Dodgers, blowing a late one-run lead in Game 5. Keep an eye on how Cubs manager Joe Maddon deals with Bryce Harper, although he's not even the team's best hitter this year; Ryan Zimmerman is. Maddon essentially broke Harper last season in a series at Wrigley by having Harper walked a whopping 13 times in the four games - including six in the finale. That tied an MLB record, last done by Jeff Bagwell in 1999. In the 10th inning and again in the 12th, the Cubs intentionally walked him with runners on first and second and two outs. Harper was really never the same hitter after that in 2016. Maddon can't really do that this time, I would imagine, because Zimmerman is hitting so well behind Harper. But we shall see.
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Cubs at Nationals ( -158, 8 )
MLB Network game and matchup of the past two Cy Young winners in Chicago's Jake Arrieta and Washington's Max Scherzer. Arrieta (7-5, 4.36) has rarely looked this year like he did in his dominating 2015 Cy Young campaign. But he does come off one of his better outings, allowing one run and six hits over seven innings in a win at Miami. That tied his season high in innings. His last start vs. the Nats was May 8, 2016 (no decision). Harper is 4-for-12 off him with five walks. Zimmerman is 5-for-19 with nine strikeouts. Washington's Max Scherzer (8-5, 2.09) could repeat as the Cy Young winner as he leads the NL in strikeouts (145), ERA and WHIP (0.81). He was a tough-luck loser last time out in Miami, allowing two unearned runs over eight innings and striking out 11 - his sixth straight game with at least 10. That's two shy of the MLB record. The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is 3-for-8 off him with a solo homer.
Key betting trends: The Cubs are 0-4 in Arrieta's past four road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Nats are 5-1 in Scherzer's past six on five days of rest. The "over/under" has gone under in six of his past seven.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Yankees at White Sox (+122, 8.5)
New York has lost outfielder Aaron Hicks for 3-4 weeks after he left Sunday's game with a ribcage injury. Hicks is having a fine season, batting .290 with 10 homers, 37 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .398. But Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees might activate outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list for their game against the White Sox on Monday. The Bombers start Luis Severino (5-3, 3.30) in Game 2. He hasn't been good his past two starts, allowing 10 runs over 12 innings, both Yankees losses. Chicago's Jose Abreu is 3-for-8 against Severino with two RBIs. Avisail Garcia is 1-for-5 with a dinger. Sox lefty Jose Quintana (4-8, 4.69) appears to be rounding into form with a 2.25 ERA in four starts this month. He shut out the Twins over 6.2 innings last time out. Quintana is a former Yankees farmhand. New York's Didi Gregorius is 3-for-3 off him.
Key betting trends: The Yankees are 1-8 in Severino's past nine vs. teams with a losing record. The Sox are 1-7 in Quintana's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 7-3 in his previous 10 at home.
Early lean: Yankees and over.
Mets at Marlins (-138, 9)
You almost had to assume that the Mets were going to get bad news on outfielder Michael Conforto after he was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Giants due to being hit on the wrist by a pitch. That's just the way this season has gone for the Mets, but X-rays were negative and he was diagnosed with only a contusion. He could miss a game or two, though. New York starts Robert Gsellman (5-5, 6.04). He has been bombed for 15 runs and 20 hits over 9.1 innings in his past two. Gsellman is 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA in two starts this year vs. Miami. Marcell Ozuna is 4-for-8 vs. Gsellman with three homers and seven RBIs. The Marlins' Dan Straily (5-4, 3.43) has been excellent in his past two, giving up just one run over 12.1 innings. He threw 5.1 shutout innings in a no-decision vs. the Mets on April 16. Jay Bruce is 1-for-4 off Straily with a homer.
Key betting trends: The Mets are 5-2 in Gsellman's past seven series openers. The Marlins are 5-0 in Straily's past five vs. the NL East. The over is 10-3 in Gsellman's past 13.
Early lean: Marlins and over.
Braves at Padres (-119, 8.5)
Atlanta lefty Sean Newcomb (0-2, 1.96) has shown why he was such a highly-touted prospect in his first three big-league starts, going at least six in each and allowing just four runs. He hasn't won yet because the Braves aren't scoring much for him. It's his first career look at the Padres. He barely avoided becoming the first pitcher since the St. Louis Browns' Nels Potters in 1947 to lose three quality starts to begin a career. Newcomb took a no-decision vs. the Giants last time out. San Diego's Jhoulys Chacin (6-6, 4.95) has tossed four quality starts in a row to up his trade value. He has been great at home this year with a 1.72 ERA and .161 batting average against at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Former Padre Matt Kemp is 9-for-39 off him with three homers and 10 strikeouts. Matt Adams is 3-for-6 with a homer.
Key betting trends: The Braves are 1-4 in their past five following an off day. The Padres are 4-1 in Chacin's past five vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-1-2 in Atlanta's past eight vs. a right-handed starter.
Early lean: Padres and under.
Angels at Dodgers (-191, 9)
L.A.'s Yasiel Puig and Corey Seager are both dealing with hamstring issues, although as of now the team doesn't think it will land either on the disabled list. The Dodgers did just put outfielder Franklin Gutierrez on the DL. They start Kenta Maeda (5-3, 4.62), who has been moved to the bullpen but will make a spot start to give all the other starters an extra day of rest. Maeda has a 4.87 ERA in his 11 starts. Albert Pujols is 1-for-2 off him. but Pujols might sit because there's no DH for the Halos. They start Jesse Chavez (5-7, 5.15), fittingly, in Chavez Ravine. He comes off a no-decision vs. the Yankees (4 IP, 5 ER). The former Dodgerhas a 3.32 ERA in 11 career appearances against his old club.Puig, if he can play, is 2-for-3 with a homer off him. Yasmani Grandal is 0-for-6.
Key betting trends: The Dodgers are 6-1 in Maeda's past seven starts. The over is 4-1 in Chavez's past five on the road. The over is 10-2 in Maeda's past 12 at home.
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