Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 8/19/2017, Opening Line Report
I'll be previewing five games from Saturday in this space per usual, but Major League Baseball is doing something interesting for the Sunday night ESPN game (7 p.m. this week) as the Cardinals and Pirates will play in Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series - and plenty of Little Leaguers will be in attendance. In fact, no tickets were officially made available to the public. The 16 teams participating in the LL World Series and their families will be guests. Another 500 free tickets are being distributed to winners of an online lottery. It's the conclusion of a four-game series where Pittsburgh is at home - Williamsport is approximately 165 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. This is meant as a celebration of Little League Baseball, but the pros can't play it at the field you see the kids competing on when shown on ESPN. The main stadium in the LLWS complex, Howard J. Lamade Stadium, is two-thirds the size of a professional field. So Cards-Pirates will be held at nearby BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, which normally seats 2,500 and has been renovated for the occasion. The New York-Penn League's Williamsport Crosscutters, a Phillies affiliate, play there, and it's the second-oldest ballpark in the minors. Great idea for MLB, but you will hear howling from Pirates fans if Pittsburgh loses this "home" game and misses the playoffs by just that game (I highly doubt that will be the case).
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Blue Jays at Cubs ( -252, TBA )
MLB Network game at 2:20 p.m. ET with the Jays losing the DH. Toronto starts journeyman right-hander Nick Tepesch (1-2, 5.25). He started this season with the Twins, made one start back in early May, was crushed and released. He has since made two with Toronto. The last was by far his best of the year, allowing one run and four hits over six innings in a victory over Tampa Bay. Only a few Cubs have seen him. Anthony Rizzo is 1-for-2 with two RBIs. Chicago lefty Jose Quintana (7-10, 4.33) has been rather inconsistent since his trade from the White Sox. He was so-so Monday in beating the Reds as he lasted only five innings despite a huge lead because of a high pitch count. While with the Sox, he won in Toronto on June 16 (7 IP, 2 ER). Former Cubs farmhand Josh Donaldson is 6-for-13 off him with a homer. Steve Pearce is 5-for-11 with two dingers.
Key trends: The Jays are 8-1 in their past nine interleague games. The Cubs are 1-4 in their past five in Game 2 of a series. The "over/under" is 6-1-1 in the Cubs' past eight vs. a right-hander.
Early lean: Jays on runline (and likely over).
Dodgers at Tigers (+142, 10)
Fox Sports 1 matchup at 4:05 p.m. ET. Los Angeles adds the designated hitter for this interleague game. The Dodgers were rumored to be among the teams calling Detroit about Justin Verlander before L.A. got Yu Darvish. Here, the Dodgers go with lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-6, 3.63). He hasn't personally lost since June 5, but that's mostly because his team is crazy good. Ryu allowed a career-high seven earned runs on 10 hits in 2 1/3 innings in Detroit on July 8, 2014, in his lone start against the Tigers. Justin Upton is 2-for-8 off him with two RBIs. The Tigers' Michael Fulmer (10-10, 3.78) might be wearing down as he has lost four in a row and surrendered 23 innings in them. He had been briefly put on the DL with an elbow issue, so perhaps Fulmer could be shut down soon as a precaution. He has never faced the Dodgers.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 2-8 in Ryu's past 10 on the road. The Tigers are 10-3 in Fulmer's past 13 at home vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 7-1 in Detroit's past eight interleague games vs. a lefty.
Early lean: Tigers and over.
Cardinals at Pirates (-105, 9)
The Cards' Trevor Rosenthal was one of the NL's best closers in 2014-15, lost that job last year and didn't have it to start this season but had regained it from a scuffling Seung Hwan Oh. Alas, Rosenthal is being examined for arm tightness after he gave up a homer and walk to the first two Red Sox batters he faced on Wednesday and with his velocity way down. That's clearly an ominous sign, and he's going to miss at least some time. Plus, Adam Wainwright is hurt now too. If the Cards miss the playoffs by one game, they could look to Wednesday when they took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth in Fenway but allowed three runs. St. Louis' Michael Wacha (9-5, 3.85) has seen the Pirates once this year and beat them on April 19, surrendering one run over 6.2 innings. Andrew McCutchen is a .429 hitter off him in 28 at-bats. Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl (5-8, 4.64) is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Cardinals. Matt Carpenter is 3-for-6 against him.
Key trends: The Cards are 7-3 in their past 10 in Pittsburgh. The under is 7-0 in the Pirates' past seven on Saturday. The under is 5-1-1 in the Cards' past seven on the day.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Mariners at Rays (-124, 9)
The Mariners removed closer Edwin Diaz from that role earlier this season when he struggled, and it sounds as if Manager Scott Servais is about to do it again after Diaz was roughed up on Wednesday against the Orioles - the second time in three outings he was pounded. Marc Rzepczynski saved Diaz's bacon vs. Baltimore, got the save and could be the guy going forward. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is expecting back center fielder Kevin Kiermaier this weekend. He has been out since June 8 with hip and back injuries. Tampa has lost the past three of Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 4.30), although his last outing was quality in Toronto. Seattle's Danny Valencia is 3-for-10 with two homers against him. Mariners lefty Ariel Miranda (7-6, 4.75) is 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA and 12 home runs over his past seven starts. One of the best starts of his young career was a complete-game June 4 vs. the Rays, allowing one run and striking out nine.
Key trends: The Mariners are 2-5 in Miranda's past seven vs. teams with a losing record. The Rays are 0-5 in Odorizzi's past five at home. The over is 6-2 in Miranda's past eight. It's 6-0 in Odorizzi's previous six at home.
Early lean: Rays and over.
Brewers at Rockies (-164, 12)
Milwaukee will activate catcher Stephen Vogt from the DL for this series. He had been a great waiver-wire pickup from Oakland, batting .250 with four homers and nine RBIs in 12 games with the Brew Crew before going down with a knee injury in mid-July. One of the feel-good stories of the MLB season happened Monday in Denver when Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis pitched in his first major-league game since being diagnosed with testicular cancer in November. He had surgery to remove a testicle back then, but in March a biopsy revealed the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. So it was back in chemotherapy. All Betts did Monday vs. Atlanta was throw seven scoreless innings - alas, in a no-decision. After the game, Bettis would say he was fighting back tears until he took the mound. I'll be rooting for that guy the rest of his career. New Brewer Neil Walker is 4-for-11 career off him. Milwaukee rookie Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 1.50) makes his third big-league start. He had his turn in the rotation skipped last time out.
Key trends: The Rockies are 5-1 in Bettis' past six vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 8-1 in his previous nine.
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