A little more than three weeks ago, Major League Baseball announced that
Pittsburgh's best all-around position player, Gold Glove outfielder
Starling Marte, was suspended 80 games for PED use. I wrote then that the
Bucs were pretty much toast for the 2017 playoffs, and I stick with that
with the team in last place in the NL Central. Unfortunately, the Bucs have
gotten another gut-punch for their season as young pitcher Jameson Taillon,
the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft and a future ace, was revealed to
have had surgery for suspected testicular cancer on Monday. He had been
placed on the 10-day DL on Saturday after he apparently alerted the team to
a problem down there. Needless to say, Taillon's mind is probably far from
baseball right now and there's no clear-cut timetable for his return. He
might miss the entire season depending on what tests show. While any type
of cancer is scary, the prognosis looks very good regarding his age and the
success rate of beating testicular cancer. It's the latest setback for
Taillon, who missed two seasons because of Tommy John surgery in 2014 and a
sports-hernia surgery in 2015.
He was 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA this year. This news on top of Marte could affect whether the Pirates waive the white flag on 2017 at some point and perhaps trade a guy or two later this summer.
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Red Sox at Brewers ( +122, 9.5 )
Getaway day game at 1:10 p.m. ET and the Red Sox again without the DH. Boston goes with young lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1, 3.07). After a shaky start to the season, he has been very good over his past three in allowing just four combined runs and striking out 22 over 18 innings in his past three. Alas, he has just one win in that stretch. Rodriguez has never faced the Brewers. Milwaukee's Jimmy Nelson (1-2, 4.83) pitched three no-hit innings last time out vs. Pittsburgh but didn't go any further because of a long rain delay. It was thus his fourth straight non-quality start, although hardly his fault. Nelson has never faced Boston. Chris Young is 2-for-2 off him with two doubles. Mitch Moreland is 0-for-2.
Key trends: The Brewers are 2-7 in Nelson's past nine at home vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in Rodriguez's past four interleague starts. The under is 9-4-2 in Nelson's past 15 at home.
Early lean: Red Sox and under.
Royals at Rays (-117, 7.5)
Another 1:10 p.m. ET series finale. Monitor the status of one of the Rays' best hitters, outfielder Steven Souza. He didn't start Tuesday vs. Kansas City after leaving Monday's game with a thumb injury after being jammed on a pitch. Souza is day-to-day. I'm sure that Royals lefty and AL ERA leader Jason Vargas (4-1, 1.19) would prefer that Souza sit this one out. Vargas was brilliant again last time out in shutting out Cleveland over six innings, his third start not allowing a run this year. Evan Longoria hits him well, going 7-for-23 with a homer and four RBIs. Brad Miller is 0-for-4 against him. Tampa's Jake Odorizzi (2-1, 2.88) dominated the Blue Jays in his last start in giving up one run and three hits over seven innings. He is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against the Royals. Alex Gordon is 3-for-9 off him with a homer and five RBIs. Eric Hosmer is 5-for-12 with a dinger.
Key trends: The Royals are 7-1 in Vargas' past eight vs. teams with a losing record. The Rays are 7-3 in Odorrizi's past 10 at home. The under is 12-1 in Vargas' past 13. It's 8-1 in Odorizzi's past nine.
Early lean: Lean the under ahead of the side (Royals).
Astros at Yankees (-112, 8)
MLB Network game and the clear series of the weekend. Houston is scheduled to start lefty Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 1.88), the AL Pitcher of the Month for April. He comes off his worst outing of the season, allowing five runs and seven hits over eight innings at the Angels, but his teammates bailed him out of a loss. You may remember that Keuchel won the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium in throwing six shutout innings. The Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury is 2-for-14 off him in his regular-season career. Starlin Castro is 1-for-11 with seven strikeouts. New York's Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.12) took a no-decision at the Cubs last time out (6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER). He left with a 2-0 deficit but the Yankees won with a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer in the top of the ninth. Houston's Carlos Correa is 5-for-8 off Pineda with two homers.
Key trends: The Astros are 8-0 in their past eight series openers. Houston is 1-4 in its past five vs. the Yankees. The over is 5-1 in the past six in New York.
Early lean: Astros and under.
Pirates at Diamondbacks (-125, 8.5)
Keep in mind that the Pirates have also been without good-hitting Korean third baseman Jung Ho Kang all season. Kang, 30, remains in Seoul because he has been unable to procure a United States work visa due to a third DUI conviction in his native South Korea. Kang's appeals hearing has been set for May 25 at Seoul Central District Court. The Bucs go with Gerrit Cole (1-3, 3.14), who has gotten almost no run support in his past five starts - in which he has allowed two earned runs or fewer in each. I've heard rumors the Yankees lust after him and the Taillon news might make the Pirates prepared to make such a deal and reboot for 2018. Arizona's Chris Owings is 3-for-6 career off Cole with two doubles. The Snakes' Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.09) is very available on the trade market with his monster contract. He won in the thin air of Denver last time out and gave up just two earned over seven. Andrew McCutchen is a career .296 hitter of Greinke with six extra-base hits in 27 at-bats.
Key trends: The Pirates are 1-5 in Cole's past six on the road. The under is 4-0 in his past four there. Pittsburgh is 5-1 in its past six in the desert.
Early lean: Like the under here more than the side (Diamondbacks).
Reds at Giants (-130, 8)
San Francisco should have shortstop Brandon Crawford back from his minor-league rehab assignment by Thursday. Crawford, a two-time Gold Glover, hasn't played in a major-league game since April 25, when he strained his groin while rounding first base.Crawford would face Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (3-2, 6.53). The Reds have won his past four even though Arroyo has lasted more than five innings once in that stretch. Arroyo beat these Giants on Friday in allowing two earned over 5.1 innings. Crawford is 2-for-11 off him. Buster Posey is 7-for-15 with a homer. San Francisco lefty Ty Blach (0-2, 5.66) made a third straight start Saturday for Madison Bumgarner and was bombed for 10 runs and 11 hits in three innings in Cincinnati. Blach became the first Giants pitcher to allow 10 runs in one game since San Diego scored 10 in 5 1/3 innings against Jamey Wright during a 10-4 win at San Francisco on May 1, 2006.
Key trends: The Reds are 4-0 in Arroyo's past four vs. the Giants. The over is 4-0-1 in his past five against them.
Early lean: Giants and over.
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