Daily Expert MLB Picks: Friday, April 27, 2018, Opening Line Report
I have been writing these MLB Opening Line Reports for a few years, and if you read them daily then you know I'm essentially contractually obligated to mention Johnny Vander Meer when a pitcher has a chance at a second straight no-hitter. Do I think I will see this happen in my lifetime? No. But Oakland's Sean Manaea goes for history on Friday night. On June 11, 1938, the Reds left-hander Vander Meer no-hit Boston, walking three. Four days later in the first night MLB game in New York history, Vander Meer ho-hit the Brooklyn Dodgers (but walked a whopping eight) at Ebbets Field in front of a sellout crowd of 48,000. If you are wondering, and I was, Vander Meer pitched the next time out vs. Boston and allowed just four hits and one run in a complete-game victory.
Brewers at Cubs ( -182, TBA )
Lone matinee on the schedule with a 2:20 ET first pitch from Wrigley on the MLB Network. The Brewers will be without first baseman Eric Thames for a while due to a torn ligament in his thumb that likely will need surgery. That means 6-8 weeks on the shelf. Thames left Tuesday's game due to the problem. He's off to a nice start with seven homers and a .976 OPS. Could be one fewer concern for inconsistent Cubs starter Yu Darvish (0-2, 6.86). He has had just one quality start - that came in Milwaukee on April 7 (6 IP, 1 ER) -- and seems to get mentally rattled very easily. Not looking like a wise investment thus far, but it's early. The Brewers' Lorenzo Cain is 1-for-12 off him. Ryan Braun is 0-for-2 with two Ks. Milwaukee lefty Brent Suter (1-2, 5.68) was knocked around by the Cubs on April 5 for five runs and eight hits in five innings. He hasn't won since his season debut in San Diego. Suter has allowed 31 hits over 25 1/3 innings and opponents are batting .295 against him. Willson Contreras is 4-for-7 off him with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Brewers have won their past four in Chicago. The "over/under" is 7-2 in the previous nine there.
Early lean: Brewers on runline.
Diamondbacks at Nationals (-157, 7.5)
You hate to speculate, but the career could be over for Washington set-up man Shawn Kelley. He left a game earlier this week due to irritation in the ulnar nerve in his elbow and has landed on the DL. What makes that triply worrisome is that Kelly already has had two Tommy John surgeries. It's Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 2.97) on the bump here. He was a tough-luck loser at the Dodgers last Saturday, striking out a season-high 10 and allowing two runs and five hits over seven. Strasburg has allowed six dingers this year after 13 in all of 2017. Arizona's David Peralta is 4-for-7 off him with a homer. The Diamondbacks' Zack Godley (3-1, 3.09) beat the Padres on Saturday, surrendering two runs over 5.1 innings. The Nats' Bryce Harper is 3-for-8 off him with two doubles.
Key trends: The Nats are 10-4 in Strasburg's past 14 at home vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 8-2 in Godley's past 10 road starts. It's 5-2 in Strasburg's past seven vs. the NL West.
Early lean: Nats and under.
Rangers at Blue Jays (-170, 9)
Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre has been placed on the disabled list after suffering a hamstring strain running the bases Tuesday. It is the fifth time since joining the Rangers in 2011 that the 39-year-old Beltre has gone on the DL because of leg issues. He is the third Opening Day infielder (Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor) the Rangers have lost to injury so far this year. It's lefty Mike Minor (1-1, 3.86) on the mound for Texas. He beat the Blue Jays on April 7, allowing one run and two hits over six to improve to 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances in his career against Toronto. Curtis Granderson is 4-for-15 off him with a homer. Toronto's Marco Estrada (2-1, 5.32) won at Texas on April 6, giving up a run and five hits over six. Estrada has been roughed up in his two outings since. Shin-Soo Choo is 5-for-14 against him with two homers.
Key trends: The Rangers have lost 11 straight series openers. The Jays are 11-5 in Stroman's previous 16 at home. The over is 5-1 in his previous six on Friday.
Early lean: Blue Jays and over.
A's at Astros (-190, 8)
Last Saturday against Boston, Manaea (3-2, 1.23) struck out a season-high 10 and walked two over his nine no-hit innings. He is a good young pitcher - no more than two earned in any start this season -- so it's not a total shock that the lefty threw a no-hitter, but it was surprising it came against the Red Sox, who entered that game bashing opposing pitching and at 17-2. In addition, the Red Sox hadn't been no-hit since April 22, 1993, the second-longest streak in MLB. Incidentally, no team that has been no-hit during a season has gone on to win the World Series since the 1988 Dodgers. Manaea is 1-3 with a 2.45 ERA in eight career starts vs. Houston. Carlos Correa is just 2-for-14 off him with six strikeouts. Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel (1-3, 3.10) has been the victim of lousy run support so far. Well, except for last time when Houston led 8-0 after two innings vs. the White Sox. Keuchel threw six innings of one-run ball. He has been arguably the AL's best April pitcher since 2014.
Key trends: The A's are 1-6 in Manaea's past seven vs. Houston. The Astros have won their past seven Keuchel starts at home vs. Oakland. The under is 4-1 in his past five at home vs. the A's.
Early lean: Astros and under.
Mets at Padres (+145, 7.5)
San Diego is hoping to have third baseman Christian Villanueva back in the lineup Friday from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him this week. He's having a huge start to the season, batting .355 with seven homers and 16 RBIs. Christian Villanueva!? He has never faced Mets starter Jacob deGrom (2-0, 2.53). He has taken a no-decision in his past three outings. The former NL Rookie of the Year shut out the Braves on four hits over seven innings with 10 Ks on Saturday. Freddy Galvis has seen him by far the most of any Padre, going 8-for-25 with six strikeouts. San Diego lefty Clayton Richard (1-2, 5.67) has gone exactly five innings in each of his past four and walked three in each. The Mets' Adrian Gonzalez is 11-for-20 off him with five RBIs.
Key trends: The Mets are 13-3 in deGrom's past 16 series openers. The Padres are 1-5 in Richard's previous six vs. the Mets. The under is 15-5-1 in his previous 21 vs. the NL East.
Early lean: Mets on runline and under.
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