In the bottom of the ninth of a 6-6 tie at Cleveland's Progressive Field in last year's epic Game 7 of the World Series between the Cubs and Indians, gassed Chicago closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 1-1 hanging breaking ball with one out to Tribe batter Jason Kipnis. It looked at first like Kipnis got all of it and might have homered down the right-field line to send the Cubs to the most crushing of the franchise's many crushing losses. Even Cubs team president Theo Epstein thought it was gone at first. How fitting would it have been if Kipnis beat the Cubbies? He grew up a huge fan of the team in the Chicago area and was formerly neighbors with one Steve Bartman. The ball didn't quite have the distance and also went foul. Of course, the Cubs won in 10. I mention Kipnis because he's one of the best offensive second basemen in the majors and could make his season debut Friday for the Tribe.
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Indians at White Sox ( +136, 7.5 )
Kipnis has been working his way back from right shoulder inflammation that began during spring training. He has been rehabbing in Triple-A this week, and if all goes according to plan should be in there Friday. Kipnis played in a career-high 156 games last year and batted .275 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs. Kipnis is 15-for-51 career with five doubles and five RBIs off projected White Sox starter Jose Quintana. The lefty has hurt his trade value so far with a 0-3 record and 6.75 ERA. That's a tad misleading as 10 of his 13 runs allowed have come over two innings. He was 2-2 with a 2.41 ERA last year in five starts vs. Cleveland. The Tribe are scheduled to go with Corey Kluber (1-1, 6.38). Wednesday's rainout in Minnesota pushed him back a day. Might be just what Kluber needs as he was roughed up by Detroit last time out. Kluber was 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in two starts last year vs. the Pale Hose. Jose Abreu is 12-for-33 off him with three homers and seven RBIs.
Key trends: The Indians are 1-4 in Kluber's past five at Chicago. The "over/under" has gone under in his past seven overall vs. the White Sox. The under is 7-2 in Quintana's past nine vs. the Tribe.
Early lean: White Sox and over.
Yankees at Pirates (-123, 8)
New York loses the designated hitter for a rare trip to Pittsburgh; 1960 World Series anyone? The Yankees' DH is usually Matt Holliday, but he could potentially play the outfield or first base if the Bombers want his bat in there. The Yanks go with big lefty CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.47), so it might be fun to watch him try and hit. I thought Sabathia was washed up at 36, but he has been great, not allowing more than two earned in a start yet. The only current Pirate to ever face him is David Freese, who is 1-for-4. Pittsburgh goes with one of its prized young pitchers in Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 12.15). Perhaps the 23-year-old could be sent back down soon if he doesn't have a better outing. He has lasted just 6.2 innings in two starts and given up 11 runs and walked seven. Holliday is the only Yankee to have seen him, going 0-for-2.
Key trends: The Yankees are 4-1 in Sabathia's past five following a quality start in his last outing. The Pirates are 1-4 in Glasnow's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-1-1 in the Yankees' past seven.
Early lean: Yankees and over.
Braves at Phillies (-136, 8.5)
Atlanta opens a nine-game road trip here. The Braves opened the season with eight straight away from home and won just two of those. It's ageless Bartolo Colon (1-1, 4.24) on the mound. The 43-year-old is doing exactly what the Braves were hoping: pitch well enough to warrant trade interest. Colon had one bad start in Miami but has been dominant his other two with two total runs allowed over 13 innings. Last time out, Colon beat the Padres for his first victory with the Braves and the ninth team he's notched a win with. Last year with the Mets, Colon was 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts vs. the Phillies. Maikel Franco can't hit him, going 1-for-16. Neither can Michael Saunders, who is 2-for-16 with six strikeouts. Philadelphia's Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 1.59) has thus far proven his bounce-back 2016 season was no fluke. He hasn't allowed more than two earned in a start yet. Hellickson is another guy likely to be traded this summer. He was 1-0 with a 3.43 ERA in four starts last year vs. Atlanta.
Key trends: The Braves are 1-5 in their past six series openers. The Phils are 5-1 in Hellickson's past six at home. The under is 7-2-1 in Hellickson's past 10 at home.
Early lean: Phillies and under.
Nationals at Mets (-135, 7)
MLB Network game. First meeting between NL East rivals that definitely don't care for one another. Washington's Tanner Roark (2-0, 3.50) will be making his first road start of 2017. He hasn't allowed a homer in 18 innings yet this year. Roark was 1-2 with a 1.27 ERA in 21.1 innings vs. the Mets last year. Jay Bruce is 1-for-11 off him with three strikeouts. Yoenis Cespedes is 2-for-13. Travis d'Arnaud 1-for-13; he suffered a wrist contusion Wednesday and is day-to-day. New York's Jacob deGrom (0-0, 1.89) clearly has gotten little run support to go with that excellent ERA. DeGrom matched a career-high with 13 strikeouts last time out in Miami but the bullpen blew a lead. By some miracle, deGrom didn't face the Nationals last year. Bryce Harper is 7-for-18 with a homer off him. Jayson Werth is 1-for-12. Anthony Rendon is 0-for-10.
Key trends: The Mets are 4-0 in deGrom's past four vs. Washington. The under is 11-1 in the past 12 meetings.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Tigers at Twins (+123, 8)
Monitor the status of Detroit outfielder Justin Upton as he didn't play Wednesday and is called day-to-day after hurting his forearm in collision on Tuesday. Upton is having a so-so year, hitting .250 with two homers and 13 strikeouts in 36 at-bats. Justin Verlander (1-1, 5.71) takes the bump off getting blown up in Cleveland last Saturday, allowing nine runs (tying career high) and 11 hits over four innings. There was some talk that Verlander might have been tipping his pitches or that the Indians were stealing signs. Verlander owns a 17-8 record and 3.06 ERA in 33 career starts against the Twins and hasn't lost to them since 2014. Joe Mauer is a career .333 hitter off him with four homers in 75 at-bats. Minnesota lefty Hector Santiago (1-1, 1.47) shut out his former White Sox teammates on six hits over seven innings last time out. He lost in Detroit on April 11 in allowing two runs over 6.1 innings. Nick Castellanos is just 1-for-15 off him with six strikeouts.
Key trends: The Tigers are 7-2 in Verlander's past nine at Minnesota. The over is 8-3-1 in his previous 12 there.
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