I really didn't understand why many experts were picking the Los Angeles Dodgers as the NL pennant winners in 2017. Yes, I expected L.A. to win the NL West for a fifth straight year, but injuries ravaged their pitching staff a year ago, so why wouldn't it happen again? It's like everyone assumed L.A. would stay healthy this time and that the Cubs' staff would get hit with injuries because it was so healthy in 2016. Well, L.A. already is down two guys. Scott Kazmir opened the season on the DL and now Rich Hill has joined him. He is dealing with a blister on his left middle finger. That sounds minor, but the same issue cost Hill several weeks last year. I'm not a pro pitcher, but it seems like there would be a way to prevent these types of things with doctors at your beck and call. MLB won't let pitchers throw with, say, a band-aid or something on, however. Alex Wood took Hill's spot Monday at the Cubs. Hill will throw a bullpen session this Thursday to see if he can return on April 16.
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Twins at Tigers ( -144, 9 )
Your first start of the day at 1:10 p.m. ET. The Twins go with lefty Hector Santiago, who was acquired last summer from the Angels in a pretty good trade for Minnesota. The lefty beat the Royals in his 2017 debut, allowing one run and four hits over five innings. Santiago was on a pitch count for that one, but that has been lifted already. He was 1-1 with a 6.62 ERA in three starts last year vs. Detroit. Miguel Cabrera is 5-for-22 off him with two homers. Nick Castellanos is just 1-for-12 with six strikeouts. Tigers lefty Matt Boyd was moved up two days for his season debut and he struggled in the chilly elements in Chicago, allowing five runs and five hits, walking four, over 2.1 innings in a loss to the White Sox. Boyd was 3-1 last year vs. the Twins with a 4.18 ERA in four starts. He pitched more innings against them than any team. Brian Dozier is 5-for-14 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Twins are 5-1 in Santiago's past six vs. the AL Central. The Tigers are 9-3 in Boyd's past 12 at home. They are 4-1 in Boyd's past five vs. Minnesota. The over is 7-2-2 in the Tigers' past 11 on Tuesday.
Early lean: Twins and over.
White Sox at Indians (-222, 8.5)
A 4:10 p.m. ET first pitch on the MLB Network, and I'm assuming the Tribe will put up an AL Champions banner at Progressive Field in their home opener. Of course the Indians' last game there was arguably the greatest Game 7 in World Series history. The team drew flies most of the 2016 regular season, so hopefully this year the fans will come out in droves. Carlos Carrasco, who missed last year's postseason with a broken hand, gets the call. He won in Texas in his first start this season, allowing two runs and four hits with seven strikeouts over 5.2 innings. He was on a pitch count but should be allowed to hit 90 or so here. Carrasco was 0-1 with a 5.09 ERA in three starts last year vs. the Pale Hose. Melky Cabrera is 9-for-26 off him with two homers and eight RBIs. It's James Shields for Chicago. He was awful for the Sox last year after coming over from San Diego, but won his 2017 debut in allowing one run and two hits over 5.1 innings vs. the Tigers. He was 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in three starts vs. Minnesota. Edwin Encarnacion is 8-for-32 off him with three homers.
Key trends: The Sox are 1-7 in Shields' past eight on the road. The Tribe are 1-5 in Carrasco's past six vs. the White Sox. The over is 4-1-1 in his past six against Chicago.
Early lean: Indians and under.
Cardinals at Nationals (-138, 8.5)
ESPN game. The Cards start Lance Lynn. He was a durable, very good pitcher from 2012-15 but missed all of last year following Tommy John surgery. Lynn looked good in his 2017 debut in allowing two runs and five hits over 5.1 innings in a no-decision vs. the Cubs. He threw 98 pitches. Lynn last faced the Nats in 2015 and allowed one run in 6.1 innings against them. Daniel Murphy is 6-for-17 against him with two doubles and three RBIs. Bryce Harper has a homer in eight at-bats. Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez was great in his season debut vs. Miami in shutting out the Marlins on seven strikeouts and seven hits over six innings but took a no-decision. He was rocked for six runs in 4.2 innings in his lone 2016 start vs. St. Louis. New Cardinal Dexter Fowler is 10-for-20 career off him with four extra-base hits and three RBIs.
Key trends: The Cards are 2-5 in Lynn's past seven. The Nats are 6-2 in Gonzalez's past eight at home. The under is 12-3-1 in Lynn's past 16 vs. the NL East.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Mets at Phillies (+121, 8)
The Dark Knight Rises? Mets fans and those holding futures tickets on them had to be giddy as Matt Harvey looked nearly in 2015 form last Thursday vs. the Braves in allowing two runs and three hits over 6.2 innings in a victory. That would have been one of his five-best starts of last year, which was cut short in July. Calm down, Mets fans. It was the Braves. Harvey lost his lone 2016 start against the Phillies, giving up three runs over six innings. Odubel Herrera is 2-for-12 off him with a homer. Clay Buchholz made his Philadelphia and National League debut Thursday in Cincinnati and wasn't too sharp in a no-decision, allowing four runs and seven hits over five innings. Buchholz's fastball sat 88-90 mph against the Reds. Not too many Mets have seen him. Curtis Granderson is just 2-for-17 vs. Buchholz with nine strikeouts. Asdrubal Cabrera is 6-for-14 with two solo homers.
Key trends: The Mets are 5-2 in Harvey's past seven vs. the Phillies. The over is 5-2 in those.
Early lean: Mets and over.
Orioles at Red Sox (-116, 9)
The Red Sox got damaged goods from the Padres when Boston acquired lefty Drew Pomeranz last season as the Padres hid some medical procedures that he had done with the team. He cost Boston one of its top pitching prospects, but the Sox opted not to void the deal. Pomeranz opened this season on the DL with a forearm strain, but he never was shut down from throwing. Pomeranz ended last season with a strained forearm, and in October received an injection of stem cells to aid in healing. He seems like a season-ending injury waiting to happen. Pomeranz was great in San Diego but 3-5 with a 4.59 ERA in 68.2 innings with Boston. He was shelled in his lone start vs. Baltimore. J.J. Hardy is 1-for-2 off him with a three-run homer. Baltimore's Dylan Bundy could be the breakout starting pitching star in the AL this year. He showed signs in 2016 as a rookie and dominated the Blue Jays last Wednesday in a win, allowing a run and four hits over seven innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. Bundy was 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 20 innings vs. Boston last year. Mookie Betts is 4-for-9 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Orioles are 5-1 in Bundy's past six series openers. The Sox are 1-4 in Pomeranz's past five at home. The under is 6-0 in Bundy's past six in Game 1 of a series.
Early lean: Orioles and under.
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