The New York Mets were a wild-card team last year and expected to contend in the NL East in 2017. They lost ace Noah Syndergaard and are probably toast. The San Francisco Giants were a wild-card team last year and expected to contend in the NL West in 2017. They lost ace Madison Bumgarner and are probably toast. The Texas Rangers were AL West champions last year and expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2017. They might be toast after losing Cole Hamels for 8-10 weeks with a right oblique strain. Hamels (2-0, 3.03) was scratched from his Tuesday start vs. the Astros after experiencing tightness in his right oblique right before game time. The Rangers are struggling with Hamels as it was - third baseman Adrian Beltre hasn't played yet due to a calf injury and won't before late May -- and I don't see them recovering from this. It also makes it more likely that Texas puts co-ace Yu Darvish on the trade market because he's set for free agency this winter if he opts out (he will barring injury). At least Hamels' injury isn't a long-term thing, but it ends his MLB-best streak of seven straight seasons with at least 200 innings pitched.
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Red Sox at Twins ( +138, 9.5 )
MLB Network game at 2:10 p.m. between spring training neighbors in Fort Myers. Boston got bad news Thursday when knuckleballer Steven Wright, who was so good the first half of last season, was ruled out for the season due to knee surgery. Wright had been pounded in 2017. So getting David Price back, perhaps by late May, now takes on added significance. Meanwhile, monitor the status of Twins outfielder Byron Buxton as he was pulled from Thursday's game. He did pass initial concussion tests. The former No. 1 overall prospect is a spectacular outfielder, but he can't hit to save his life yet. The Sox go with Rick Porcello (1-4, 4.46) here. Boston has dropped his past four, but the previous three have been quality outings. He's just not seeing run support like last year when he got the most in MLB (7.6 rpg) on the way to winning the Cy Young. Minnesota's Brian Dozier is 8-for-37 off him with three homers and eight RBIs. The Twins' Nick Tepesch spent 2013-14 with Texas and was so-so. He missed all of 2015 and made just one MLB appearance last year with the Dodgers. This will be his Minnesota debut after a 2.00 ERA in three starts at Triple-A. He has never faced Boston.
Key trends: The Red Sox are 5-2 in Porcello's past seven on the road. The "over/under" is 5-2 in those.
Early lean: Red Sox and over.
Indians at Royals (-110, 8.5)
A 4:15 p.m. ET first pitch. I'm not quite sure what Cleveland has down in the minors, but the Tribe might have to replace struggling Josh Tomlin (2-3, 8.87) soon if he can't turn things around. He allowed four earned over five innings last time out vs. Seattle but got the win. It was his third outing this year of five innings or fewer and allowing at least four earned. In his career vs. the Royals, Tomlin is 9-4 with a 4.33 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings. Salvador Perez kills him, going 16-for-29 with eight doubles and a homer. Kansas City lefty Jason Vargas (4-1, 1.42) has turned into Chris Sale all of a sudden. He beat the White Sox in his last start and allowed one earned run - his fourth start this year allowing 1 ER or fewer. Jason Kipnis hits him well, going 8-for-23 with a homer.
Key trends: The Indians are 5-1 in Tomlin's past six vs. Kansas City. The over is 4-1-1 in his past six overall. The under is 11-1 in Vargas' past 12.
Early lean: Royals and under.
Nationals at Phillies (+100, 8.5)
Monitor the status of Bryce Harper here as he left Thursday's game with groin tightness. It's not thought to be serious. Washington surprised many around baseball by sending Joe Ross to Triple-A earlier this week. He had struggled this year with a 7.47 ERA in three starts but was terrific for the Nats the previous two years. Taking his spot for now is A.J. Cole, who was called up to take Ross' roster spot Tuesday. Cole, once a top prospect and still just 25, first had to serve the final three games of a five-game suspension he was issued for throwing at Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang at the end of last season. Cole made eight starts in 2016 with the Nats and was 1-2 with a 5.17 ERA. Philadelphia's Vince Velasquez (2-2, 5.47) made his 2017 debut vs. Washington and lasted only four innings in allowing four runs but striking out a season-high 10. He comes off his best outing of the season vs. the Cubs (5 IP, 1 ER). Harper is 2-for-3 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Phillies are 1-7 in Velasquez's past eight at home. The over is 6-0 in his past six.
Early lean: Phillies and over.
Yankees at Cubs (-130, TBA)
Fox prime-time game. Assuming no setbacks, the Yankees were expected to activate catcher Gary Sanchez off the DL for Friday's series opener. This is also the return to Chicago of Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. The Cubs don't win the World Series most likely without trading for him last summer, although it cost mega-prospect Gleyber Torres. Guess that trade worked for both franchises since Chapman returned to the Bombers in free agency. He will get his World Series ring this weekend. The Yanks go with rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.15). He hasn't allowed more than three earned in his four starts but doesn't go deep into games. Chicago lefty Brett Anderson (2-1, 6.23) has had three good starts and two terrible ones this season. He was bombed for seven runs in 1.1 innings Monday by the Phillies. Anderson hasn't faced the Yankees in six years.
Key trends: The Yankees are 8-1 in their past nine vs. a lefty. The Cubs are 4-0 in their past four at home vs. a lefty. The over is 5-1 in New York's previous six against southpaws.
Early lean: Yankees (and over unless the wind blowing in).
Dodgers at Padres (+146, 7.5)
The Dodgers were hoping to activate second baseman and offseason trade acquisition Logan Forsythe from the 10-day DL on Friday but have pushed that back. Forsythe left a rehab game Wednesday after again experiencing lingering tightness in his hamstring. He also was recovering from a fractured toe, which apparently is healed. L.A.'s Brandon McCarthy (3-0, 3.10) is off his worst start of 2017 in giving up four runs and eight hits, both season highs, in five innings against the Phillies in a no-decision. Lefties are hitting 100 points higher off him (.286) than right-handers. McCarthy beat the Padres on April 6 (6 IP, 2 ER). Wil Myers has two dingers in 15 at-bats against him. San Diego lefty Clayton Richard (2-3, 4.29) didn't get a decision for the first time in 2017 on Sunday in San Francisco, giving up two runs over 5.1 innings. His best start of the year and one of the best of his career was April 4 at the Dodgers when Richard threw eight shutout innings. Adrian Gonzalez is 11-for-20 off him with five RBIs.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 4-0 in McCarthy's past four vs. San Diego. The Padres are 4-1 in Richard's past four at home vs. the Dodgers. The under is 10-4 in McCarthy's past 14 overall.
Early lean: Padres and under.
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