Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 9/1/2017, Opening Line Report
Sept. 1 is always an important day around Major League Baseball because it's when rosters expand for the rest of the regular season. For the first five months of the season, each team has a 25-man active roster, which is composed of players on its 40-man roster. At any point from Sept. 1 on, any player on the expanded roster Aug. 31 can play for the big-league team. No team is going to have 40 players in the big-league dugout, but pretty much every club will call up at least a guy or two -- often relievers or players who can be defensive replacements late in games or pinch-runners -- here and there simply to give some regulars a bit of rest. For bad teams, they can call up some top prospects to give fans a reason to come to the ballpark and potential hope in future seasons. For a guy to maintain rookie status for 2018, he must not have reached 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors. He also must not have spent 45 days on an active MLB roster except during post-Sept. 1 periods of roster expansion. So September at-bats and innings count against rookie eligibility, but days on the roster do not. Keep that in mind for potential winners of the 2018 AL & NL Rookie of the Year Awards.
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Braves at Cubs ( -220, TBA )
A 2:20 p.m. ET matinee and on the MLB Network. Usually, Cubs home games are the only matinees on a Friday, but the Indians & Tigers play Game 1 of a doubleheader in Detroit at 1:10 p.m. ET. Atlanta catcher Tyler Flowers is one of the most improved players in the NL this year but has landed on the DL with a left wrist contusion. Flowers, who missed time earlier this year with a broken hand, is hitting .279 with 11 homers and 43 RBIs in just 280 at-bats. Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was set to be activated from the DL here but has soreness in his foot and thus he won't be. The Braves start Mike Foltynewicz (10-10, 4.84) on the mound. He has lost four straight starts and allowed at least six runs in three of those. Only a few Cubs have seen him. Anthony Rizzo is 1-for-2 with a homer. Chicago's John Lackey (10-10, 4.98) - this has to be a very rare matchup of 10-10 pitchers in MLB history - has been roughed up for 11 runs over 10 innings in his past two. He faced the Braves in Atlanta on July 18 and got the win, giving up one run over five innings. Nick Markakis is a career .333 hitter off him in 72 at-bats.
Key trends: The Braves are 8-3 in Foltynewicz's past 11 road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Cubs are 2-5 in Lackey's previous seven vs. the NL East. The "over/under" is 7-1-1 in Foltynewicz's past nine.
Early lean: Braves and over if wind cooperates.
Reds at Pirates (-127, 8)
I guess Pittsburgh has officially given up on the season as the Pirates have placed reliever Juan Nicasio on irrevocable outright waivers. That means if a team claims him, and Philadelphia did, he's theirs for only whatever is left of his salary this season. Not sure I understand this move for Pittsburgh as Nicasio was has only about $600K owed the rest of this year and had a 2.85 ERA in 65 appearances while ranking among the NL leaders in holds. He had been arguably the team's second-best reliever, so why just give him away? The Bucs start Gerrit Cole (11-8, 3.99). He won in Cincinnati last Saturday in shutting out the Reds over seven innings and homering for the game's only run. The Pirates have played over 20,000 games, but that was the first in which they won 1-0 on a home run by a pitcher. Reds rookie Luis Castillo (2-7, 3.26) has been a bright spot this year. He was a tough-luck loser opposite Cole in giving up just that homer and three total hits in seven innings.
Key trends: The Pirates are 1-9 in Cole's past 10 vs. Cincinnati. The under is 8-3 in his past 11 at home.
Early lean: Reds (they usually own Cole for whatever reason) and under.
Dodgers at Padres (+221, 7)
Huge news for the Dodgers as they will activate outfielder Andre Ethier from the 60-day disabled list. Oh, and Clayton Kershaw comes off the DL too. Ethier has been on the DL all season with a herniated disc but could platoon in the outfield or simply serve as a pinch-hitter. If you already have wagered on the Dodgers to win the World Series, better hold your breath that Kershaw (15-2, 2.04) doesn't leave this start with a recurrence of his back problems because that would change everything in the NL. He hasn't pitched in the majors since July 23 but looked sharp in one rehab start and felt good. Kershaw is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Friars. Wil Myers is just 1-for-21 off him with nine strikeouts. Padres rookie lefty Dinelson Lamet (7-5, 4.60) has allowed three earned or fewer in seven straight starts. He hasn't faced the Dodgers.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 4-0 in Kershaw's past four in San Diego. The over is 7-1 in his past eight there. The under is 5-2 in Lamet's previous seven.
Early lean: Padres on runline and under.
A's at Mariners (-115, 9.5)
Interesting move by injury-ravaged Seattle as it has acquired pitcher Mike Leake from the Cardinals for a minor-leaguer and $750,000 in international spending money. Leake (7-12, 4.21) got off to the best start of his career in 2017 but had lost 10 of his past 12 decisions. He's owed at least $48 million over the next three seasons. But the Mariners apparently were OK with that salary because starting pitchers Felix Hernandez,James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly are all on the DL. Seattle, which has given at least one start to 16 different pitchers overall this year, clearly is trying to end the majors' longest playoff drought. Seattle goes with Yovani Gallardo (5-10, 5.78) here. He's 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in four games, including three starts, vs. Oakland this year. A's lefty Sean Manaea (9-8, 4.55) won for the first time since July 16 last time out, holding the Rangers to two runs over five. He's 1-2 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts vs. Seattle in 2017. Nelson Cruz is 6-for-11 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The A's are 1-10 in Manaea's past 11 road starts vs. teams with a losing record. The Mariners are 3-7 in Gallardo's past 10 at home. The over is 8-1 in Manaea's past nine.
Early lean: Mariners and over.
Cardinals at Giants (-101, 8.5)
I'd say the Cardinals are giving up on the wild card or the NL Central by trading Leake, but he was about to lose his job as it was - and the fact St. Louis got out of that contract is amazing. Great trade. The guy who was about to take Leake's spot will go here in top right-handed prospect Jack Flaherty. In 25 minor-league starts this year split between Double-A and Triple-A, he was 14-4 with a 2.18 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 148.2 innings. The 21-year-old was the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft and ranked as the game's No. 53 prospect on MLB.com's midseason top 100 list. The Giants' Johnny Cueto (6-7, 4.59) makes his first MLB appearance since July 14 as he's been on the DL with a strained right flexor tendon. He hasn't faced the Cardinals this season. Dexter Fowler is just 3-for-16 off him with eight strikeouts.
Key trends: The Giants are 4-1 in Cueto's past five on Friday. The over is 9-2-2 in his previous 13 at home.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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