Daily Expert MLB Picks: Friday, April 6, 2018, Opening Line Report
In the 2014 & '15 seasons, Cleveland's Michael Brantley was one of the best all-around outfielders in the American League. He hit for a high average, didn't strike out much, had a little pop and would steal some bases. Alas, injuries have hammered him since with Brantley limited to 11 games in 2016 and 90 last year. Good news for the Indians on Friday as Brantley is expected to be activated for the Tribe's home opener. He had major surgery last October to stabilize ligaments in his right ankle, and the team wanted to give him a bit more time to get ready. If Brantley can stay healthy, the Indians are that much more of a threat to end their long World Series drought.
Braves at Rockies ( -170, 11.5 )
It's Colorado's home opener at 4:10 p.m. ET. Drinks likely will be on Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon after the game as on Wednesday he agreed to a six-year, $108 million extension. He was set to become a free agent after this season. Blackmon no doubt saw how teams hoarded money this past offseason and wanted no part of that. Seems like a team-friendly deal for the next few seasons anyway. Those always end badly, though. The Rox start German Marquez, who was a pleasant surprise as a rookie last season but faded a bit. He took a no-decision in his 2018 opener in Arizona, shutting out the Diamondbacks over five innings but walking four. Marquez was 6-3 with a 4.59 ERA in 13 starts at Coors last year and has never faced the Braves. Atlanta acquired Brandon McCarthy from the Dodgers this offseason. Usually effective but almost always hurt. He beat the Phillies in his Braves debut, allowing two runs over 6.1 innings. Blackmon is 5-for-15 off him with six strikeouts.
Key trends: The Rockies are 9-2 in Marquez's past 11 at home. The "over/under" has gone under in 12 of this past 15 overall.
Early lean: Rockies and under.
Royals at Indians (-236, 8)
Cleveland's home opener, weather permitting, at 4:10 p.m. ET on the MLB Network. Brantley was off to a good start last year but injured his ankle while chasing a fly ball to left field during a game on Aug. 8. He did return late in the season and was on the playoff roster but did nothing (1-for-11) in the ALDS loss to the Yankees at clearly less than 100 percent. Brantley is 8-for-25 career with three RBIs against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy. The lefty was set to start Wednesday vs. Detroit but it was postponed. Duffy was rocked for five runs and three homers in four innings in his season debut vs. the White Sox. He was 0-3 with a 4.60 ERA last year vs. Cleveland. The Tribe's Carlos Carrasco didn't deserve a win in his opener in Seattle, allowing five runs over 5.2 innings, but got one nonetheless. The righty is 9-6 with a 3.58 ERA in 22 career games against Kansas City. Alex Gordon is just 4-for-33 off him with 15 strikeouts - but three homers.
Key trends: The Indians are 8-2 in Carrasco's past 10 vs. the Royals. The under is 7-2 in Duffy's past nine vs. the Tribe.
Early lean: Indians and under.
Reds at Pirates (+100, 8)
MLB Network game. Luis Castillo would have to be considered the ace of the Reds after an excellent rookie season (3.12 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in 15 starts). He was roughed up in his 2018 debut vs. Washington, tagged for six runs and six hits over five innings in a loss. Castillo was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA last year in two starts vs. the Bucs, who hit only .162 against him. Starling Marte is 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Pittsburgh's Trevor Williams was part of one of the oddest things to happen in the first week. Williams threw six no-hit innings against Detroit but was pulled because he had walked five and thrown 85 pitches. You can't really let someone throw 120 pitches in their first start of the year, no-no or not. Williams had a 3.31 ERA in 16 innings last year vs. the Reds. Joey Votto is 5-for-11 off him with three doubles.
Key trends: The Pirates are 1-5 in Williams' past six vs. the NL Central. The under is 5-2 in Castillo's past seven on the road.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Blue Jays at Rangers (+108, 9.5)
It's Toronto's first road game of the season. The Jays start Marco Estrada. He was wildly inconsistent last year, with terrible months (9.11 ERA in June, 6.48 in July) but then pretty good in others (2.70 in April, 3.68 in September). He took a no-decision vs. the Yankees in his 2018 debut, allowing three runs over seven innings. Estrada has a 3.74 ERA in six career starts vs. Texas. Adrian Beltre is 2-for-11 off him with three RBIs. The Rangers have lost outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. for 4-6 weeks after surgery for a broken hand on Monday. He was to be the everyday left fielder. It's lefty Matt Moore for Texas. He was awful last year for the Giants and not great in his Rangers debut vs. Houston, giving up four runs in four innings in a loss. Moore has made 10 career starts against the Blue Jays and is 5-2 with a 3.27 ERA. Russell Martin is 3-for-9 against Moore with two homers.
Key trends: The Jays are 5-1 in Estrada's past six vs. Texas. The over is 8-3-1 in the previous 12 meetings.
Early lean: Blue Jays and over.
Dodgers at Giants (+135, 8)
Monitor whether the Giants will have oft-injured outfielder Hunter Pence as he was scratched from Wednesday's game against the Mariners with a strained right thumb. Knowing Pence, he will miss six weeks even though the Giants are calling him day-to-day. It's Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers. He was very sharp in his season debut, shutting out these Giants on five hits with 10 strikeouts in five innings. Maeda became the first Dodgers pitcher to strike out 10 batters in his first start of a season while pitching five-or-fewer innings. Gregor Blanco, Pence's likely replacement, is 4-for-4 off him with two doubles. The Giants signed lefty Derek Holland to a minor-league flier this winter and he lost opposite Maeda last Saturday, allowing five runs (there earned) over five innings. No Dodger has more than five career at-bats against the long-time American Leaguer.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 10-4 in the past 14 meetings. The over is 4-1 in Maeda's past five vs. the Giants.
Early lean: Dodgers and over.
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