The Houston Astros were actively shopping for starting pitching as it was, but they might have a bit more urgency now in the wake of rookie right-hander David Paulino being suspended 80 after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. His penalty officially began on Saturday. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said Paulino "feels bad about it." Well, why did he do it then? It certainly wasn't an accident as the 23-year-old Dominican tested positive for Boldenone, a derivative of testosterone used on horses. Paulino, ranked as Houston's No. 3 overall prospect, was called up from the minors on May 30 to fill a hole in the injury-ravaged rotation. He is 2-0 with a 6.52 ERA in six starts.Paulino would be eligible to return for the final game of the regular season but wouldn't be eligible to pitch in the playoffs so his year is probably done. Paulino loses $266,585. It's the first such infraction by an active Astros player in franchise history. The team will need a starter for Wednesday and it likely will be Joe Musgrove, who was recently optioned to Triple-A.
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Mets at Nationals (-148, 9.5)
Nothing like morning baseball! It's an 11:05 a.m. ET start on the holiday and on the MLB Network. New York's Seth Lugo (3-1, 3.55) makes only his fifth start of the season as he began it on the disabled list. Lugo beat the Marlins last time out, allowing two earned over six innings. His loss came against Washington on June 17 (6.2 IP, 3 ER, 2 HRs). Bryce Harper is 1-for-7 off him. Ryan Zimmerman is 1-for-6. Washington's Joe Ross (4-3, 5.12) comes off a no-decision vs. the Cubs, allowing two runs over 6.2 innings. It was Ross' fourth quality start in the past five. He is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA in two starts this year against the Mets. Lucas Duda is 4-for-6 off him with two homers and a double. Jay Bruce is 3-for-8 with a homer.
Key trends: The Mets are 6-0 in Lugo's past six on the road. The Nats are 9-3 in Ross' past 12 at home. The "over/under" is 8-2-1 in his past 11 at home.
Early lean: Nats and under - this start time figures to affect the hitters a fair amount.
Pirates at Phillies (+108, 8.5)
ESPN game at 4 p.m. ET. You have to root for Pittsburgh pitcher Jameson Taillon (4-2, 2.97) to succeed after he was sidelined earlier this season after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer. Rather amazingly, he has been better since returning from that with a 2.42 ERA in four starts. Last time out, he blanked the Rays on seven hits over 6.1 innings. Taillon hasn't faced the Phillies in 2017. Odubel Herrera is 1-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs against him. Philadelphia's Mark Leiter Jr. (1-0, 4.20) makes his third start in place of right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained upper back.Leiter took a no-decision Wednesday vs. the Mariners, surrendering four runs (three homers) in five innings. Only a few Pirates have seen him. Adam Frazier is 1-for-1 with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Pirates are 6-2 in Taillon's past eight on the road. The under is 3-0-1 in his past four.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Red Sox at Rangers (-117, 9)
Also an ESPN game with a first pitch of 8 p.m. ET. What's going on with Red Sox lefty David Price (3-2, 4.61)? Last month, Price said he wasn't going to speak to the media any longer on days when he doesn't pitch. He also blew up at a reporter from CSNNE.com earlier this season after a game in New York. After beating the Twins last Thursday (7 IP, 3 ER), Price got into heated confrontation with NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley on the team's flight to Toronto. Apparently Price wasn't happy with something Eckersley said on that night's telecast. Eckersley has been filling in on Red Sox TV broadcasts for Jerry Remy, who recently underwent surgery on Monday to treat a recurrence of lung cancer. The Rangers' Elvis Andrus is a career .483 hitter off Price with eight RBIs in 29 at-bats. Mike Napoli is 8-for-36 against him with 21 strikeouts. Texas' Yu Darvish (6-6, 3.11) hasn't won in his past three starts. He is pitching against the Red Sox for the first time since 2014 and is 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA in three starts against them. Dustin Pedroia is 4-for-11 against him with three doubles.
Key trends: The Red Sox are 9-2 in Price's past 11 following a quality start in his most recent start. The Rangers are 1-6 in Darvish's past seven. The under is 4-0-1 in Darvish's past five at home.
Early lean: Rangers and under.
Padres at Indians (-315, 8.5)
I believe this is the biggest line I've seen all season on a favorite. And while it would be silly to say I expect a no-hitter in any game, it wouldn't even surprise me a little if Indians ace Corey Kluber no-hit the punchless Padres, who add the DH for the interleague matchup. Kluber (7-2, 3.02) probably will be named the AL Pitcher of June as he was 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 43 innings. Batters hit just .150 off him. Kluber brings a streak of four straight games with at least 10Ks into this one. He's headed to Miami for the All-Star Game. Only two Padres have seen him. Erick Aybar is 7-for-17 with two strikeouts. San Diego's Trevor Cahill (3-2, 3.27) is expected to come off the DL (shoulder). He last pitched May 13 at the White Sox (6 IP, 3 ER). Opposing hitters are batting .214 against Cahill, once thought to be the Padres' top trade asset before he hit the disabled list a second time. I still think he will be flipped by the end of the month. Cleveland's Michael Brantley is 3-for-6 off him.
Key trends: The Padres are 1-7 in their past eight interleague road games. The Indians are 10-1 in Kluber's past 11 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-0 in his past five on Tuesday.
Early lean: Indians on runline and under.
Diamondbacks at Dodgers (-300, 7)
Arizona could get back star outfielder A.J. Pollock for this one. He landed on the DL in mid-May with a groin injury and then had a setback a few weeks ago with a quad problem. Pollock was hitting .299 with two homers, 11 RBIs and 11 steals in 37 games. Unfortunately for Pollock, his return will come against Dodgers ace lefty Clayton Kershaw (12-2, 2.32). He dominated the Angels last time out, allowing one unearned run and three hits with 12 strikeouts over seven innings. The Dodgers haven't lost one of his starts since May 1. Kershaw beat Arizona on April 14, giving up one run over 8.1 innings. Pollock is 7-for-28 career off Kershaw with two extra-base hits. Snakes lefty Patrick Corbin (6-7, 4.76) has allowed three earned or fewer in each of his past four outings. He lost at the Dodgers on April 15 (6 IP, 3 ER). Yasiel Puig is 7-for-18 off him with a homer and five RBIs.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 5-1 in Kershaw's past six vs. Arizona. The Snakes are 0-4 in Corbin's previous four against L.A. The over is 4-0 in Kershaw's past four at home vs. the Diamondbacks.
Early lean: Dodgers and over.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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