The biggest trade of the MLB offseason happened early in December when the Red Sox stole the thunder at the Winter Meetings by sending their top two prospects, as well as two other minor leaguers, to the Chicago White Sox for lefty Chris Sale, a perennial Cy Young candidate. Sale did open the season as the 2017 betting favorite to win his first Cy Young. I'm interested to see how he fares in Boston because Sale is a bit of a hothead at times - remember how he cut up all those uniforms last year? - and it's a lot different playing under the microscope in Boston than it is on the South Side of Chicago. I do expect Sale to reach 20 wins for the first time if he stays healthy with that terrific lineup behind him.
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Blue Jays at Orioles ( -104, 9)
Keep in mind if the Jays have a save situation for the first week or so that closer Roberto Osuna started the season on the 10-day disabled list - it's 10 days this year, not 15. Osuna is only expected to miss the minimum time with a neck issue. The Jays go with lefty J.A. Happ, who was one of the biggest surprises in baseball last year at 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA. An argument could be made that Happ was better than Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, but Happ, a former journeyman, only finished sixth. Happ's ERA was his lowest since 2009 and his 195 innings were a career high. He was 2-0 with a 3.54 ERA vs. Baltimore. Manny Machado is 6-for-21 off him with two homers. Dylan Bundy was long the Orioles' top pitching prospect and he finally stayed healthy in 2016 and showed some very promising signs with a 10-6 record and 4.02 ERA his rookie year (he pitched two games in 2012). Bundy only threw 3.2 innings vs. the Jays and didn't allow a run.
Key trends: The Jays are 10-2 in Happ's past 12 on the road. The Orioles are 2-5 in Bundy's past seven vs. the AL East. The "over/under" has gone under in Happ's previous nine vs. Baltimore.
Early lean: Orioles and under.
Pirates at Red Sox (-195, 8.5)
Pittsburgh will have the designated hitter for this interleague game. The Bucs go with one of their top pitching prospects in Jameson Taillon, although he no longer has rookie status after making 18 starts and going 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 2016. Taillon was the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, taken one spot before Baltimore took Manny Machado. Bryce Harper went No. 1. Taillon has never faced the Red Sox. Sale has been just so-so in his career as a starter at Fenway Park with the White Sox, going 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA. He was 17-10 with a 3.34 ERA in a career-high 226.2 innings last year. He pitched a bit more to contact and let his defense do the work, although Sale still had 233 strikeouts. Only a couple of Pirates have faced Sale in a regular-season game.
Key trends: The Pirates are 4-1 in Taillon's past five road starts. The over is 4-1-1 in his past six on the road.
Early lean: Red Sox and under.
Braves at Mets (-194, 7)
This should be fun. It usually is whenever 43-year-old rotund pitcher Bartolo Colon takes the mound, and he does so as an Atlanta Brave for the first time. The team took a one-year flier on him and could look to flip Colon this summer if he pitches well. Colon was a Met from 2014-16 and was remarkably good for his age in 2016 with a 15-8 record and 3.43 ERA. Colon late this year could become the all-time winningest Latin American-born pitcher. He has a career 232-162 record over 19 major league seasons.That win total ranks third all-time among Latin American-born pitchers, trailing only Nicaraguan Dennis Martinez (245) and fellow Dominican Juan Marichal (243). The Mets' Curtis Granderson is 4-for-13 with two homers off his former teammate. New York counters with Jacob deGrom. His season was cut a bit short last year to remove a nerve in his elbow. DeGrom had a 7-8 record despite a 3.04 ERA. He was 1-1 with a 1.83 ERA in three starts vs. the Braves. Freddie Freeman is 4-for-19 off him with seven strikeouts.
Key trends: The Mets are 23-11 in deGrom's past 34 at home. The over is 4-1 in his past five in Game 2 of a series.
Early lean: Mets and over.
Marlins at Nationals (-175, 8.5)
Miami unfortunately has a gaping hole in its rotation with the death late last season of young ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. To help fill that, the Marlins traded for Reds right-hander Dan Straily, who makes his team debut here. The former journeyman had a career year in 2016. Picked up off waivers by Cincinnati last April 1, Straily went 14-8 with a 3.76 ERA in 191 1/3 innings. He did tie for the league lead in homers allowed at 31. Straily had a 3.21 ERA but didn't get a decision in two starts vs. the Nats. New Washington catcher Matt Wieters is 3-for-4 off him with two solo homers. Washington goes with Tanner Roark. Teammate Max Scherzer won the Cy Young, but Roark led the Nationals starters with a 2.83 ERA and threw a career-high 210 innings. He was 2-4 with a 4.46 ERA in six starts vs. the Marlins. Giancarlo Stanton is 6-for-25 against him with three homers.
Key trends: The Marlins are 2-9 in their past 11 in Game 2 of a series. The under is 13-5-1 in the past 19 meetings.
Early lean: Nationals and over.
Giants at Diamondbacks (+115, 9)
Giants fans had to be cringing on Sunday when new closer Mark Melancon blew a save in a loss to Arizona after San Francisco blew a league-high 30 of them last year. The Giants might have taken out the Cubs in the NLDS if not for a blown save in Game 4. They go with lefty Matt Moore, a trade acquisition last summer from the Rays - Moore was spectacular in that Game 4 before his bullpen imploded. He was 6-5 with a 4.08 overall in 12 regular-season starts with San Francisco. He was 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts vs. the Snakes. Paul Goldschmidt is 5-for-9 off him with a homer. One of Arizona's big offseason moves was trading for once-heralded Seattle pitching prospect Taijuan Walker. It cost the Diamondbacks Jean Segura. Walker, still just 24, was 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 25 starts. A handful of Giants have seen him. Brandon Crawford is 2-for-3 with a double.
Key trends: The Giants are 5-2 in Moore's past seven vs. the NL West. Arizona is 6-2 in its past eight vs. a lefty. The under is 5-1 in Moore's past six on the road.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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