The Texas Rangers' recent surge to get back above .500 was nice, but I believe that was fool's gold. Most of the team's success came against dregs of MLB like Oakland, San Diego and Philadelphia. No AL team has had a softer schedule to this point in the season than Texas, which only has one other good team in its own division (Houston) and finally played an AL East club this week in the Red Sox. The Rangers' only interleague matchups have come against the aforementioned Padres and Phillies. As of this writing and entering the current Boston series, the only teams the Rangers have played that are over .500 were Houston, Cleveland and Minnesota, and Texas was a combined 2-8 against them. Starting Thursday, all but two of the Rangers' next 19 games are all against clubs in the AL East or a team currently in first place (six against the Astros, three on the road against the Nationals). The only break in there is two at home vs. the Mets from June 6-7. So I wouldn't go jumping back on that Texas bandwagon quite yet.
Free $60 in Member MLB Picks No Obligation Click Here
Pirates at Braves ( -103, 9.5 )
A 12:10 p.m. ET getaway game. One of the best trades made by any team last season was Pittsburgh sending two lower-tier prospects to the Yankees for Ivan Nova. A change of scenery has worked wonders on that guy. He was very good after coming over in 2016, re-signed as a free agent and has built on that this year with a 4-3 record and 2.63 ERA. Nova has had quality starts in eight of nine outings. He first of 2017 was a win over the Braves, allowing one unearned run over six innings on April 7. Nick Markakis hits him well, going 13-for-38 with a homer. Atlanta's Bartolo Colon (2-4, 6.38) hasn't lasted more than 5.2 innings in his past five outings but has been a bit better in the past two. He hasn't faced Pittsburgh this year. Andrew McCutchen is 5-for-12 off him.
Key trends: The Bucs are 4-1 in Nova's past five following a quality start in his most recent appearance. The "over/under" has gone under in four his past five on the road. The over is 4-1 in Colon's past five.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Giants at Cubs (-130, TBA)
A 2:20 p.m. ET first pitch as the Giants play their final game of the season at Wrigley. It's on the MLB Network. It's former Cub Jeff Samardzija (1-5, 4.57) for the Giants. He continues to be wildly inconsistent but was great last time out in shutting out the Cardinals on five hits with no walks - he hasn't walked anyone in his past four - and eight strikeouts. The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is 1-for-4 with a homer off his former teammate. Jon Jay hits .400 off him in 30 at-bats. Chicago's Eddie Butler (1-0, 2.00) tries to keep hold of the No. 5 starter's spot. He was very good in his debut on May 12 in St. Louis but lasted only three innings last time out vs. the Brewers thanks to five walks and two runs allowed. He's 3-0 with a 3.22 ERA in four career starts vs. the Giants. San Francisco's Brandon Belt is 3-for-7 against him.
Key trends: The Giants are 4-1 in Samardzija's past five. The under is 11-1 in his past 12 on four days of rest.
Early lean: Giants.
Rangers at Red Sox (-195, 10)
Normal start time for this MLB Network game. Texas might be trying to avoid a sweep here considering it had to face Chris Sale on Wednesday night and lost the series opener Tuesday. The Rangers go with Nick Martinez (1-2, 4.33). He got that first win in his sixth start Friday, allowing one unearned run in five innings at Detroit. It was his first victory as a starter since Aug. 5, 2015. He is 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox. Hanley Ramirez is 4-for-6 with two doubles and two homers against Martinez. Boston lefty Drew Pomeranz (3-3, 4.97) has lasted four innings or fewer in three straight outings and the Sox lost them all. He is 3-1 with a 4.38 ERA at home this year. The Rangers' Mike Napoli is 3-for-6 with a double and two RBIs off Pomeranz.
Key trends: The Rangers are 2-10 in Martinez's past 12 on the road. The Sox are 5-1 in Pomeranz's past six at home. The over is 4-1 in Martinez's previous five vs. the AL East. The over is 4-1 in Pomeranz's past five overall.
Early lean: Red Sox and over (despite biggest total on board).
Diamondbacks at Brewers (+103, 9)
This is a rare series opener on Thursday. Arizona star outfielder A.J. Pollock is eligible to be activate off the 10-day DL Thursday, but he's not fully recovered yet from his Grade 1 groin strain. He might not be back until early next month. Fox's Ken Rosenthal has reported the team would listen on Pollock at the July 31 trade deadline if the Snakes fall out of contention. That's because the team is a bit cash-strapped and likely won't be able to afford Pollock when he hits free agency after the 2018 season. The Snakes start lefty Robbie Ray (3-3, 3.91). Arizona had lost his previous four, but Ray dominated the Padres on Saturday in throwing 7.2 shutout innings and allowing two hits. He sports a 1.03 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 11.6 K/9 over four road outings this season. Milwaukee's Zach Davies (5-2, 5.44) hasn't lost since April 9 and has allowed more than two earned runs just once in his past five. Arizona's Yasmany Tomas is 2-for-3 against him.
Key trends: The Diamondbacks are 1-4 in their past five in Milwaukee. The over is 4-1-1 in the past six meetings.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and under.
Cardinals at Dodgers (-145, 7.5)
Another MLB Network game and easily the latest start time of the day at 10:10 p.m. ET. The Cardinals' Michael Wacha (2-1, 2.74) was given 11 days off before his previous start and it worked wonders as Wacha threw six shutout innings vs. San Francisco, although he took a fourth straight no-decision. The Dodgers' Yasmani Grandal is 3-for-8 off him with a homer. Corey Seager is 3-for-6. L.A.'s Kenta Maeda (3-2, 5.03) is expected to come off the DL for this one. He last pitched on May 10 and allowed two runs in a season-high 8.1 innings in a win over Pittsburgh. Maeda probably wasn't really hurt but stashed on the DL to skip a start and so the Dodgers could replace him on the roster. Maeda faced the Cardinals once last year as a rookie and got the win, giving up two runs over 5.2 innings.
Key trends: The Cards are 8-1 in Wacha's past nine on Thursday. The Dodgers are 9-3 in Maeda's past 12 at home. The over is 14-1-1 in Wacha's past 16 road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 10-2-1 in Maeda's past 13.
Early lean: Cardinals and over.
Great offer! Try $60 worth of member's baseball picks absolutely free - no obligation, no sales people - you don't even have to enter credit card information. Get your winning baseball picks here now . Get free baseball picks today at Doc's Sports baseball predictions page .
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Most Recent Baseball Handicapping Articles
- MLB Betting Advice for 2018 Season: Possible Surprise Teams
- 2018 MLB Season Win Totals Predictions
- 2018 World Series Predictions
- 2017 World Series Predictions
- Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 9/2/2017, Opening Line Report
- Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 9/1/2017, Opening Line Report
- Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 8/31/2017, Opening Line Report
- Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 8/30/2017, Opening Line Report
- Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 8/29/2017, Opening Line Report
- Five to Follow Expert MLB Betting Picks: 8/26/2017, Opening Line Report