There is no such thing as the Home Run Derby curse! That's what paranoid New Yorkers are claiming has bitten now-struggling rookie superstar outfielder Aaron Judge since his stellar performance in winning the Derby last Monday in Miami. Sure, you can bring up how Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu hit 18 dingers in 323 pre-Derby at-bats in 2005, won the Derby and then hit just six more homers all season. Or how the Mets' David Wright the next year entered the Derby with 20 homers, finished runner-up and then had only six more in the second half. The Dodgers' Joc Pederson hit 20 homers before the break in 2015, then 39 more in the Derby but six the remainder of the season. All true. I could also give you several dozen other examples of guys who hit even better in the second half. Some of these guys were just hitting way above their pay grade before the Derby and it was a simple regression to the mean. Judge wasn't going to hit 60 bombs this year, and pitchers were bound to adjust to him at some point.
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Cubs at Braves ( +120, 10 )
MLB Network game at 12:10 p.m. ET. Will Cubs manager Joe Maddon keep lefty Mike Montgomery in the rotation or shift him back to the bullpen now that the team has added Jose Quintana? Certainly injures could help decide that as well as how Montgomery (1-6, 4.01) throws. He started the Cubs' first game out of the break in Baltimore and lasted only 4.1 innings and allowed four runs. I believe he'll head back to the pen. Only a handful of Braves have ever faced him. Atlanta knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (6-5, 4.08) has suddenly found the fountain of youth. He has allowed no more than one earned run in five straight starts. I have no explanation for this. Maybe the Braves could trade him for something now. Only a few Cubs have seen Dickey. Jason Heyward is 5-for-19 with two extra-base hits.
Key trends: The Cubs are 1-4 in Montgomery's past five on the road. The Braves are 6-0 in Dickey's past six at home. The "over/under" has gone under in three of Dickey's past four at home.
Early lean: Braves and under.
Rays at A's (-128, 8.5)
I think this could be the final start in an A's uniform for Sonny Gray. Now that Jose Quintana is off the market, Gray appears to be the top arm available. The Houston Astros badly wanted Quintana and they are reportedly determined not to let Gray get away. Wouldn't surprise me at all if Gray is scratched here if GM Billy Beane has something close to completion. Gray (5-4, 3.72) shut out the Indians on two hits over six innings last time out. It was his fourth straight quality start. Gray took a no-decision on June 10 at Tampa Bay (6 IP, 5 R). Evan Longoria is a career 8-for-23 batter against him. Tampa Bay's Jacob Faria (4-0, 2.00) has made seven starts in his career and they have all been quality. Too bad he was called up too late to get any Rookie of the Year love (Judge will win that regardless). Faria hasn't faced Oakland.
Key trends: The Rays are 6-1 in Faria's seven starts. The A's are 11-5 in Gray's past 16 at home vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 6-0-1 in Gray's past seven vs. Tampa.
Early lean: A's and under.
Indians at Giants (+190, 8.5)
Also on MLB Network at 3:45 p.m. ET. Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco (10-4, 3.65) was knocked around a little last time out in Oakland, allowing five runs in 6.1 innings. He did strike out 10, his third time in the past six with double-digit Ks. In 10 road starts (63 innings) this season, Carrasco is 7-2 with a 2.86 ERA and 70 strikeouts. The Giants had banished struggling Matt Cain (3-8, 5.56) to the bullpen but had to reinsert him into the rotation when Johnny Cueto landed on the disabled list. Cain's 9-15 with a 3.62 ERA in 31 career interleague outings. Only a few Indians have seen him. Edwin Encarnacion is 4-for-15 with a double. Michael Brantley is 2-for-3.
Key trends: The Indians are 7-2 in Carrasco's past nine vs. teams with a losing record. The Giants are 2-7 in Cain's past nine. The over is 5-0 in Cain's past five with at least nine days of rest.
Early lean: Indians on runline and over.
Cardinals at Mets (-160, 7.5)
First of an ESPN doubleheader. The Cardinals reportedly are on the fence ahead of the deadline, telling teams they are open to sell and buy at the same time. For example, they are shopping starting pitcher Lance Lynn. Here, it's Mike Leake (6-7, 3.14). He has just one win in his past five. Leake allowed two runs and seven hits over five innings last time out in Pittsburgh. Lucas Duda hammers Leake, going 6-for-8 with two homers and five RBIs. New York's Jacob deGrom (10-3, 3.48) has won six straight starts. He held the Rockies to one earned and struck out 11 over eight innings on Friday. DeGrom is 6-0 with a 1.53 ERA over his past six starts, going at least seven innings in all of them. He allowed four solo homers on July 7 in St. Louis but still got the victory. Randal Grichuk is 3-for-8 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Mets are 6-0 in deGrom's past six. The under is 6-2-1 in his past nine at home.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Nationals at Angels (+112, 9)
Second ESPN game.Not too often outside of an All-Star Game that we see Mike Trout and Bryce Harper compete against oneanother. Those two could sign contracts worth a combined $1 billion here in the next few years. If you asked any GM which player he would take No. 1 overall right now it would be Trout and No. 2 surely would be Harper. Yet if they were walking down the street, they'd probably go totally unnoticed. The Nats, who add the DH, go with lefty Gio Gonzalez (8-4, 2.66). He threw 8.1 scoreless innings on Friday at the Reds in his ninth straight quality start. Trout is 1-for-11 career against him. L.A.'s Ricky Nolasco (4-10, 4.82) dominated the Rays on Friday in allowing one run and two hits but took a no-decision. Harper is 11-for-23 career off him with two dingers.
Key trends: The Nats are 5-1 in Gonzalez's past six on the road. The Angels are 2-12 in Nolasco's past 14. The over is 9-4 in Gonzalez's past 13 away from home.
Early lean: Nationals and over.
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