The Atlanta Braves have been just about unwatchable so far this season, but there will be a sellout crowd on Friday night when the team plays its first game at the new SunTrust Park, which is nowhere near downtown Atlanta and the old Turner Field but in a northern Cobb County suburb. The park looks beautiful, but I'm still not clear why the team would move away from a 20-year-old stadium in the heart of the city. Oh yeah, for money. It's going to be a traffic nightmare getting to the new stadium. In perhaps a bad omen Wednesday, several boxes carrying foam Braves tomahawks fell off a truck in Atlanta and blocked two lanes of traffic on a busy interstate. Those are being given out Friday. SunTrust Park seats 41,149, roughly a 20 percent drop from Turner Field's capacity.
Pirates at Cubs ( -168, TBA )
A 2:20 matinee on the North Side and a nice pitching matchup. The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks won the NL ERA title last year and was third in the Cy Young voting largely due to what he did at Wrigley Field, going 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA there in 15 starts. Hendricks wasn't overly sharp in his 2017 debut in Milwaukee in giving up four runs and five hits (uncharacteristic two homers) over six innings, but he did win. Hendricks was 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three starts last year vs. the Bucs. Gregory Polanco can hit him, going 7-for-16 with two doubles and a homer. Pirates ace Gerrit Cole (0-1, 6.55) was roughed up in Boston in his season debut but had a quality start Sunday against the Braves in a no-decision. Cole likes Wrigley too, going 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA in seven career starts there. Anthony Rizzo is 8-for-23 off him with three doubles. Javier Baez may sit this one out as he's 1-for-9 with three strikeouts off Cole.
Key trends: The Cubs are 5-0 in Hendricks' past five vs. the Pirates. Pittsburgh is 6-1 in Cole's past seven in Chicago. The "over/under" is 9-2 in the past 11 meetings.
Early lean: Cubs (under regardless of number unless wind blowing out).
Cardinals at Yankees (-130, 8)
The marquee series of the weekend, at least in terms of history as the Yankees own the most World Series titles with 27 and the Cardinals have the most among NL clubs with 11. Struggling St. Louis will add the designated hitter. The Cards go with Michael Wacha, who looked great in his season debut last Saturday in beating the Reds and just one run crossing the plate on three hits over six innings. He's a rare early bright spot. Not many Yankees have seen him. Starlin Castro has by far the most, going 10-for-22 with two homers and seven RBIs. Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 11.74) was bombed in his season debut in Tampa Bay but better last time out in Baltimore, going five innings and allowing three runs. He did walk four and hit two. No Cardinals batter has faced him.
Key trends: The Cards are 6-0 in Wacha's past six starts. The Yankees are 19-7 in Tanaka's past 26 at home. The over is 7-2 in Tanaka's past seven on five days of rest.
Early lean: Cardinals and over.
Padres at Braves (-150, 7.5)
We will have to wait and see whether SunTrust Park favors pitchers or hitters. It does join Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, Texas' Globe Life Park and Detroit's Comerica Park as the only major league stadiums that will face southeast (from home plate toward the outfield). The dimensions are 335 down the left-field line, 402 to center and 335 to right. The wall is as short as six feet in some parts to 16 feet high from right-center to the right-field line.Braves ace Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00) gets the honor of throwing the first pitch in the new park. You see those numbers and perhaps think he's making his 2017 debut, but he hasn't allowed an earned run and just 10 hits in 13 innings. Teheran was 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA last year vs. the Padres. Wil Myers has two solo homers off him in 10 at-bats. San Diego's Jhoulys Chacin (1-1, 8.10) was torched in his debut vs. the Dodgers but blanked the Giants over 6.2 innings last time out. He spent the first month of the 2015 season with Atlanta, posting a 5.40 ERA in five starts. Brandon Phillips is 2-for-13 off him.
Key trends: The Padres are 1-8 in their past nine after an off day. The Braves are 0-6 in Teheran's past six on Friday. The over is 9-3 in Teheran's past 12.
Early lean: Braves and under (love the under).
Astros at A's (+120, 7.5)
Houston is going to win the AL West if lefty Dallas Keuchel pitches like he did in his 2015 Cy Young campaign and not like last year. Thus far, it has been Cy Keuchel as he has allowed just one run and four hits over 14 innings in games vs. the Royals and Mariners. He is the fourth pitcher in MLB history to go at least seven innings and allow two hits or fewer in each of his first two games of a season, joining Nolan Ryan (1979), Tom Phoebus (1970) and Lon Warneke (1934). This will be Keuchel's first road start of the year. He didn't get a decision in two starts last year vs. the A's with a 2.03 ERA. Oakland goes with Kendall Graveman (2-0, 2.08), now the team's ace with Sonny Gray's injury problems. Graveman has given up three runs and nine hits over 13 innings. He was 2-1 with a 4.10 ERA in four 2016 starts against Houston. Nori Aoki is 7-for-14 career off him with three doubles.
Key trends: The Astros are 7-2 in Keuchel's past nine vs. Oakland. The under is 4-0 in his previous four against the A's.
Early lean: Astros and under.
Rangers at Mariners (-140, 8)
Seattle had to put shortstop Jean Segura on the 10-day DL earlier this week with a right hamstring strain. Segura was great last year with Arizona and was hitting .313 with a homer and three RBIs this year. That's the last thing the struggling Mariners need. Segura cost the M's Taijuan Walker. Taylor Motter will fill in at shortstop while Segura is out. It's the first road start of the year for Rangers lefty Martin Perez (1-1, 2.38). He was 2-8 with a 5.78 ERA in 15 road starts last year but also 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts against the Mariners. Kyle Seager is a .400 hitter off him with four homers and seven RBIs in 30 at-bats. Seattle's Felix Hernandez (0-1, 4.09) is still a good pitcher but clearly not a Cy Young candidate any longer. This will be his home debut. King Felix was 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA in 13 starts at Safeco in 2016. Rougned Odor is a .167 hitter off him with nine strikeouts in 24 at-bats.
Key trends: The Mariners are 6-2 in Hernandez's past eight vs. Texas. The under is 4-1 in his past five at home in the series. The Rangers are 7-2 in Perez's past nine vs. Seattle.
Early lean: Rangers and under.
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