Voting for the National League and American League starters in next month’s All-Star Game at Marlins Park in Miami closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday. Remember, the ASG no longer decides home-field advantage in the World Series and thus the rosters have been shrunk by a couple of spots since a lack of competitiveness, presumably, will lead to fewer players into the game. So the thinking goes, anyway.
The Nationals are poised to have three position players start as outfielder Bryce Harper leads the majors in voting. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman and second baseman Daniel Murphy also lead their positions. They all deserve to start. The closest battle in the NL is at third between Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant. Arenado has been the better player in 2017. In the AL, Yankees rookie outfielder Aaron Judge is a lock to start as he tops all AL players in voting. Mike Trout also is going to get a starting spot even though he has missed several weeks. Honestly, it looks like the fans are getting it right this year as there are no undeserving guys leading their positions. The All-Star starters will be unveiled on Sunday night.
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Rangers at Indians (-243, 9)
Here we have a 12:10 p.m. EST first pitch. With such an early start in a getaway game and a nasty pitcher on the mound, the Rangers might seriously just punt on this game and rest as many regulars as their bench allows. Sometimes it’s OK to presume a loss in the 162-game MLB grind and get guys some rest. That’s because it’s Tribe ace Corey Kluber (6-2, 3.24). After a slow start partly due to injuries, he looks like the Cy Young winner of a few years ago with five straight quality starts and no earned runs allowed in his past two with 24 strikeouts and just six hits over 16 innings. That guy can be filthy. His season debut was shaky in Texas (6 IP, 5 ER) in a no-decision. Rougned Odor is 3-for-6 off him with two homers. The Rangers’ Andrew Cashner (3-6, 3.50) will come off the DL to make this start. He last pitched June 14 in Houston, giving up four runs and 10 hits in a loss. No Indian has more than three career at-bats off him and none have homered.
Key trends: The Indians are 7-1 in Kluber’s past eight vs. the AL West. The Indians are 4-1 in Kluber’s past five vs. Texas. The “over/under” is 4-0 in his past four against the Rangers.
Early lean: Indians on runline and under.
Cubs at Nationals (+109, 9)
It’s Chicago’s final game in D.C. barring a playoff matchup and a 4:05 p.m. ET first pitch. The Cubs probably will be very glad to see Washington’s Joe Ross after dealing with Max Scherzer on Tuesday and Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday. Ross (4-3, 5.40) has been largely the weak link in the rotation this year but looked good Saturday in a win over the Reds, allowing one run over seven. The Nats scored 18 runs in that game and have scored 104 runs in the 10 games started by Ross this season. The only other time since 1900 that a pitcher received at least 100 runs of support within his first 10 starts of a season came in 1923 when the New York Giants scored 104 runs in Rosy Ryan’s first 10 starts. Kris Bryant is 2-for-6 off Ross. Anthony Rizzo is 2-for-5. Chicago lefty Jon Lester (5-4, 3.83) is working on three straight quality starts, all Cubs wins. He hasn't faced the Nationals since 2015. Matt Wieters is a career .340 hitter off him in 47 at-bats.
Key trends: The Cubs are 4-0 in Lester’s past four vs. the NL East. The Nats are 6-1 in Ross’ past eight at home. The over is 5-1-1 in Lester’s previous seven on the road.
Early lean: Cubs and over.
Twins at Red Sox (-206, 9.5)
This is the ESPN national TV game. Minnesota’s Miguel Sano is in line to win the voting to start at third for the AL in the All-Star Game, and he deserves it. The Twins go with gas can Kyle Gibson (4-5, 6.23) in this one. He lasted 4.2 innings last time out in Cleveland, allowing one run and walking four. That lowered his ERA quite a bit. In three career starts against Boston, Gibson is 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings pitched. Jackie Bradley Jr. is 1-for-7 with a homer off him. Mookie Betts is 2-for-5 with a dinger. Boston lefty David Price (2-2, 4.76) comes off a loss to the Angels, giving up two earned over six innings. He was dealing with a cracked fingernail on his pitching hand but played catch early this week and was fine. Sano is 1-for-8 career against him with four Ks.
Key trends: The Twins are 8-18 in Gibson’s past 26 vs. teams with a winning record. The Red Sox are 5-2 in Price’s past seven at home. The over is 11-3 in Gibson’s past 14 on four days of rest.
Early lean: Red Sox on runline and over.
Brewers at Reds (-107, 10)
The Cubs might regret not putting some distance between themselves and the Brewers when they had the chance as Milwaukee just welcomed back second baseman Jonathan Villar and, more important, outfielder Ryan Braun from the DL. Braun had been out a month with a calf strain. Villar was great last year but has struggled in 2017 and might lose time to Eric Sogard. Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson (5-4, 3.50) lost for the first time since May 23 in his last outing as Atlanta tagged him for four runs in five innings. Nelson might have been a bit tired after throwing a 118-pitch complete game the start previous. He beat the Reds on April 7 in his lone start against them (6 IP, 1 ER). Adam Duvall is 6-for-12 off him. Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey (0-1, 43.20) was terrible in his season debut Saturday in Washington, getting rocked for eight runs and walking three in 1.2 innings. Braun is 12-for-37 with two homers off him.
Key trends: The Brewers are 4-1 in Nelson’s past five in Cincinnati. The over is 5-1 in his previous six there. The over is 4-1 in Bailey’s past five.
Early lean: Brewers and over.
Dodgers at Angels (+181, 8)
Finale of the Freeway Series and the Dodgers again will have the designated hitter. I previewed Clayton Kershaw’s start Saturday vs. Colorado and mentioned I expected a dominating effort considering Kershaw was roughed up the start before. I was right as Kershaw shut out the Rockies on four hits with eight strikeouts over six. It also ended a five-start streak with at least one homer allowed. Fellow future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is 11-for-29 off him with four doubles. Cameron Maybin is just 3-for-27. The Angels’ JC Ramirez (7-5, 4.38) won in Boston on Saturday, allowing one run over six. He hasn’t faced the Dodgers since 2015 while with Seattle. No Dodger has more than three official at-bats vs. Ramirez (or a hit).
Key trends: The Dodgers are 4-0 in Kershaw’s past seven vs. the Angels. The Angels are 4-1 in Ramirez’s past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 14-5-1 in Kershaw’s past 20 on the road.
Early lean: Angels on runline and under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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