Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 8/18/2017, Opening Line Report
I almost feel obligated to address the scorching-hot Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins in this space again as he's putting on a power display that we haven't seen since the Bonds/McGwire/Sosa steroids era. Being a journalist, I know a handful of voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and most of them will never vote for Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa. There are also plenty around baseball who believe that the "real" single-season home run record remains 61 by Roger Maris in 1961 and not Bonds' 73 in 2001. Stanton could surpass Maris if he keeps raking and stays healthy. I've yet to see a prop on whether Stanton reaches 60, but I'm sure it's coming at the sportsbooks. He is now the huge -1600 favorite to lead the majors in homers, and that's essentially a lock. He could miss the rest of the season and perhaps still do so. Stanton is also climbing on the NL MVP odds, currently +600, which is fourth-best. I don't believe you give a guy on a bad team the MVP just because he was hot for half a season.
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Blue Jays at Cubs ( -174, TBA )
Lone matinee of the day at 2:20 p.m. ET and on the MLB Network. Rare visit to Wrigley for the Jays, who lose the designated hitter (Kendrys Morales usually). I'm betting there will be plenty of fans from north of the border in attendance to see a baseball mecca. It's lefty J.A. Happ (6-8, 3.63) on the bump for the Jays, who aren't dead in the wild-card chase despite being last in the AL East. Happ has been terrific in winning his past three, allowing one earned in each. This will matter to Happ as he's from Illinois and went to Northwestern. The Cubs' Ben Zobrist is 6-for-19 off him with three doubles and four RBIs. Chicago's Jake Arrieta (12-8, 3.73) has been a different guy since the start of July as he has allowed more than two earned just once. Jose Bautista is 0-for-13 career against Arrieta.
Key trends: The Jays are 2-6 in Happ's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The Cubs are 6-1 in Arrieta's past seven interleague starts. The "over/under" has gone under in eight of Happ's past 11 on the road.
Early lean: Blue Jays and under if wind's not blowing out.
Angels at Orioles (-133, 10)
I still don't see how the Angels have enough pitching to earn a wild-card spot - especially with Ricky Nolasco leaving Wednesday's start with some sort of issue - but the return of lefty Andrew Heaney from the disabled list could certainly be a boost. The former top prospect was a very solid 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 18 starts for the Halos in 2015 but had just one outing last year before Tommy John surgery. He pitched well in a minor-league rehab this year with a 2.60 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 27 2/3 innings in six appearances. Needless to say, the Angels aren't going to let him throw eight innings a night. Baltimore's Jonathan Schoop is 2-for-3 with a homer against him. The Orioles' Jeremy Hellickson (7-7, 4.70) has made three starts since being traded from Philly to Baltimore. One was terrible and two were quality, including on Aug. 8 at the Angels (6 IP, 3 ER). Mike Trout is 3-for-8 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Angels are 1-6 in their past seven following an off day. The Orioles have won four of their past five series openers. The over is 4-1 in Baltimore's past five.
Early lean: Orioles and over.
Yankees at Red Sox (-145, 9)
An MLB Network prime-time game because of course it is. Remember when New York's Aaron Judge led the majors in homers? He has been horrid since the break in hitting below the Mendoza Line. Pitchers eventually adjust to rookies. Judge should be a fine player for his career, but he's not Mickey Mantle. The Bombers start rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery (7-6, 3.94). The plan was to shift him to the bullpen after landing Sonny Gray, but other rotation injuries scuttled that. He took a no-decision vs. Boston on Sunday, allowing one run over 5.1 innings. Hanley Ramirez is 1-for-4 with a homer against him. Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz (12-4, 3.39) won in the Bronx on Saturday, surrendering three runs over 6.2 innings. He has won six straight decisions. Gary Sanchez is 6-for-13 off him with three dingers.
Key trends: The Yanks are 5-2 in their past seven vs. the AL East. The Sox are 8-1 in their past nine at home. The under is 5-1-1 in the previous seven meetings in Boston.
Early lean: Red Sox and under.
A's at Astros (-220, 8.5)
If Astros ace lefty Dallas Keuchel struggles here, Houston better go get Justin Verlander or some other starting pitcher. Keuchel was not sharp at all for three straight starts but then much better last time out at Texas, allowing one run over 6.2 innings. If Keuchel isn't strong the rest of the way, Houston could cough up the AL's top seed. He's 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in two starts this year vs. Oakland. Jed Lowrie is a career .314 hitter off him in 35 at-bats. Rajai Davis is 0-for-14. Oakland lefty Sean Manaea (8-7, 4.59) had one of the worst starts of any pitcher this season last time out in lasting one-third of an inning vs. Baltimore and giving up six runs. It was his third straight outing lasting 3.1 innings or fewer. Manaea is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts in 2017 vs. Houston. Jose Altuve is just 3-for-17 vs. Manaea.
Key trends: The A's are 6-0 in Manaea's past six on the road vs. teams with a winning record. Houston is 1-6 in its past seven vs. a lefty. The under is 5-2 in Houston's past seven against lefties.
Early lean: Astros on runline and under.
Nationals at Padres (+190, 7.5)
Washington is down another outfielder - Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth already out - as Brian Goodwin was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left groin strain. Goodwin has been one of the better fourth outfielders in MLB but was playing plenty with all the injuries and hitting .251 with 13 homers, 30 RBIs and six steals in 251 at-bats. No-hitter alert here with Max Scherzer (12-5, 2.25) on the mound against the punchless Padres. He comes off a no-decision vs. the Giants, allowing two runs with 10 strikeouts over seven. Scherzer beat the Padres on May 26 (8.2 IP, 1 ER, 13 Ks). San Diego's Luis Perdomo (6-7, 4.95) has gone at least six innings in each of his past five starts. He lost opposite Scherzer in May (6 IP, 3 ER). Howie Kendrick is 4-for-12 off him with three doubles.
Key trends: Washington is 5-2 in its past seven in San Diego. The Padres are 1-6 in Perdomo's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-1 in his past six on Friday.
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