Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 9/2/2017, Opening Line Report
Well, the AL playoffs just got potentially much more interesting on Thursday as two Junior Circuit contenders got better. Houston made the biggest splash in trading prospects to Detroit for Tigers ace Justin Verlander. In 28 starts this season, Verlander is 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA. Since May 30, Verlander has a 3.24 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 111 innings. He had to waive his no-trade clause to make it happen. He's owed about $56 million combined the next two seasons. Now the Astros have the co-ace they needed along with Dallas Keuchel. It was the second move made by Houston as it acquired outfielder Cameron Maybin off waivers from the Angels. As of Friday, Maybin and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve were tied for the AL lead in stolen bases with 29 each.
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The Halos didn't need Maybin because they landed slugging outfielder Justin Upton from the tanking Tigers for a minor-leaguer and a PTBNL or cash considerations. Upton is typical of a modern-day slugger: He'll either homer or strikeout most of the time. Entering the weekend, he was hitting .279 with 28 homers, 94 RBIs and 147 strikeouts in 125 games. For this year, it's a good move for the Angels as they push for one of the AL wild-card spots. For the future, perhaps not. Upton is owed $88 million over the next four seasons but has the option to opt out of the deal in November. I doubt he can get more than $22 million a year as a free agent, so the Angels are probably stuck with another bad contract - they already have maybe the worst one belonging to Albert Pujols. L.A. also traded for Atlanta second baseman Brandon Phillips. He was solid for the Braves, batting .291 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs. Left field and second base were the two biggest problem areas for the Angels. Now they have a much better chance to earn a wild-card spot, although I still worry about that pitching staff.
Mets at Astros ( -188, 9 )
It's Game 1 of a doubleheader as the Astros return to their flood-ravaged city. Wondering how many fans will/can show up, but I'm sure the players wanted to get back to their families too. Since Friday's game was postponed, presumably Maybin will debut here. Meanwhile, DH Carlos Beltran was pulled from Thursday's game against the Rangers with a foot injury. He was hit on the right foot and removed for a pinch-hitter. There's a chance the Astros will activate star shortstop Carlos Correa on Saturday. He was an MVP candidate before going down with a thumb injury on July 17. I've read conflicting reports that Correa will be activated or that the team will check his status Saturday after some rehab games and activate him Sunday. It will be the return of the Mets' Matt Harvey (4-3, 5.25). The former ace has been out since June 14 with a shoulder injury and almost looks like a lost cause at this point. Houston is expected to counter with Charlie Morton (10-6, 3.88) in the opener. He's 0-3 with a 3.80 ERA in eight career appearances vs. the Mets.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-10 in Harvey's past 11 road starts vs. teams with a winning record. Houston is 2-5 in its past seven series openers. The "over/under" is 9-3-2 in Harvey's past 14.
Early lean: Astros and over.
Braves at Cubs (-265, TBA)
There are some reports that the Cubs wanted to trade for Reds shortstop Zack Cozart ahead of the Aug. 31 waiver deadline with the questions surrounding Addison Russell's return this season, but Cozart was claimed by some team below the Cubs (and maybe Diamondbacks wanted him too) - essentially blocking the move. The Reds pulled him back and thus Cozart now will finish the season with them. Cardinals or Brewers perhaps with the block? It's a big afternoon for the Cubbies as lefty Jon Lester (8-7, 4.37) returns from the disabled list. He was blistered in 1.2 innings vs. Cincinnati on Aug. 17 and went on the DL with shoulder fatigue. Even if Lester hasn't been as good as last year, Chicago can't afford to lose him again now. Lester won in Atlanta on July 17 (7 IP, 1 ER). Braves rookie Lucas Sims (2-4, 4.41) is pitching for a 2018 rotation spot. He went a career-high 6.1 innings last time out vs. the Phillies, allowing four runs.
Key trends: The Cubs are 22-5 in Lester's past 27 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 7-3 in his previous 10 against teams below .500.
Early lean: Braves on runline.
Royals at Twins (TBA)
Minnesota avoided disaster on the hand of center fielder Byron Buxton. There was concern he broke it on Wednesday night, but an MRI showed no fractures and he should be back in the lineup. Buxton is blossoming into the all-around superstar that was expected of him with a big August offensively. The news isn't as good for All-Star third baseman Miguel Sano, who landed on the DL Aug. 20 with a stress reaction in his left shin. It apparently has not improved as Sano was headed for more tests. The Twins start Kyle Gibson (8-10, 5.59). He had been one of the AL's worst pitchers but is working on back-to-back quality starts. He hasn't gotten a decision in two starts vs. the Royals this year with a 5.23 ERA. Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon both hit better than .310 career against him. Kansas City's Ian Kennedy (4-10, 5.47) has seen his ERA rise more than a run in his past six starts, not winning any of them. He's 0-2 with a 7.30 ERA in three 2017 starts vs. Minnesota. Joe Mauer is only 3-for-19 against him.
Key trends: The Royals are 2-6 in their past eight on Saturday. The Twins are 4-0 Gibson's past four against Kansas City. The over is 4-0-1 in Gibson's past five vs. the Royals.
Early lean: K.C. hasn't officially announced Kennedy yet but it should be him. Twins will be favored but I'd go over what should be a total of 9.5.
Angels at Rangers (+101, 11)
Fox Sports 1 game. Texas' slim wild-card hopes could rest on the MRI of Adrian Beltre's left hamstring. He left Thursday's game with what is now called a strain. Beltre, who said it "wasn't good,"is hitting .317 with 16 home runs and 66 RBIs on the season and already spent a big chunk of the season on the DL with a strained calf.If Upton and/or Phillips didn't get to the Angels in time to play Friday, he/they should here. L.A. starts Ricky Nolasco (6-12, 5.09), who allowed four runs over six innings in his last start against the Astros on Sunday. He's 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA in five career starts against Texas. Carlos Gomez is 5-for-14 with two homers against him. The Rangers' A.J. Griffin (6-5, 5.26) lasted only 3.1 innings last time out, surrendering three runs and three walks in Oakland. He is 4-2 with a 4.26 ERA in nine career starts against the Angels. Upton is 1-for-5 against him. Pujols is 2-for-17.
Key trends: The Angels are 3-8 in Nolasco's past 11 on the road. The Rangers are 7-1 in Griffin's previous eight at home. The over is 6-1-1 in Nolasco's past eight and 10-4 in Griffin's past 14.
Early lean: Rangers and over.
Dodgers at Padres (TBA)
Game 2 of this doubleheader is also nationally televised on Fox Sports 1 (late game of night at 10:10 ET). Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said shortstop Corey Seager won't start any games this weekend as he's bothered by discomfort in his right elbow that bothers him when he throws. He can pinch-hit. Yu Darvish (8-10, 3.88) makes his second start since a DL stint. He's 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA in four starts since coming over from Texas but has gotten progressively worse. Darvish lost at home to Milwaukee (5 IP, 3 ER) last time out. He took a no-decision while with the Rangers vs. San Diego on May 10 (6 IP, 3 ER). The Padres' Jhoulys Chacin (11-10, 4.03) hasn't won since Aug. 1 and hasn't lasted more than five innings in his past four. He's 1-1 with a 5.30 ERA in four starts this year vs. the Dodgers. Newly-activated Andre Ethier should start this game considering he's 14-for-33 career off Chacin with 12 walks.
Key trends: The Dodgers have won five in a row in Game 2 of a doubleheader. The Padres are 1-5 in Chacin's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-2-1 in his previous eight at home.
Early lean: I'd go Padres on runline and under what should be a total of 8.5 (I love unders in second of DH as players as position players are tired but starting pitchers aren't).
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