Daily Expert MLB Picks: Friday, June 1, 2018, Opening Line Report
The Cubs and Mets are playing this weekend, so it behooves me to bring something up I have in previous years: It's much safer & smarter to build your franchise around young hitters than young pitchers. The Cubs did the former and have made three straight NLCS appearances and won a World Series. They found pitching via free agency (Jon Lester) and trades (Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta). The Mets did the latter and beat the Cubs in the 2015 NLCS but haven't been back to the playoffs since largely because their young rotation can't stay healthy. That's the case again with both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz both dealing this week with finger injuries. Neither is serious, and Matz didn't even go on the DL (Syndergaard did), but it simply reinforces that starting pitchers staying healthy every year is almost the exception rather than the rule these days. I would NEVER throw huge longer-term contracts at pitchers. The industry is starting to move in that direction.
Cubs at Mets ( +119, 8.5 )
Chicago got some good news on Wednesday when the MRI of free-agent bust (it's still early) Yu Darvish came back negative for structural damage in his triceps. He's still likely out until the middle of June. Another free-agent bust, Tyler Chatwood, is on the mound here. He might be pitching for his job, at least temporarily. Chatwood (3-4, 4.10) has good stuff and gets outs - when he doesn't walk guys. However, Chatwood has an astonishing 45 walks in 48.1 innings. He has lasted 2.2 innings each of the past two starts, walking a combined 11. It's mental with this guy. New York's Jay Bruce is 4-for-9 with two homers off him. The Mets' Zack Wheeler (2-4, 5.40) hasn't been the same guy since missing 2015-16 with injuries. New York has lost his past five outings, and Wheeler is 1-1 in three career starts against the Cubs. Jason Heyward is 8-for-21 against him with two homers.
Key trends: The Mets are 0-6 in Wheeler's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" is 4-1 in Chatwood's past five. The over is 5-2 in Wheeler's past seven.
Early lean: Mets and over.
Blue Jays at Tigers (-105, 10)
Toronto really blew it by not trading former AL MVP Josh Donaldson last year. The Jays were hoping for one last run this year before Donaldson hit free agency, but he can't stay on the field and isn't hitting much when he is playing. Remains to be seen if Donaldson will return from a calf injury Friday. He's not worth much now in trade. Toronto goes with veteran lefty Jaime Garcia (2-3, 5.52). He hasn't won since April 17. He was good last time out (7 IP, 1 ER) in a no-decision vs. the Phillies. He hasn't faced Detroit in 2018. Tigers lefty Blaine Hardy (1-0, 2.70) has pitched in the majors since 2014 but hadn't started until this season - three of his seven appearances are as a starter. He's only in there because Jordan Zimmermann is out. Hardy went a career-high seven innings Sunday in a win over the White Sox. Donaldson, if he plays, is 1-for-2 off him with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Jays are 3-13 in their past 16 against a lefty. The Tigers are 5-1 in their past six series openers. The over is 10-4 in Detroit's past 14 vs. a lefty.
Early lean: Tigers and over.
Red Sox at Astros (-122, 7)
One of the better pitching matchups we may see this season. Red Sox lefty Chris Sale (5-2, 2.76) saw his ERA jump about half a run Sunday when he was raked for six runs in a season-low 4.1 innings vs. Atlanta. He did strike out eight and is second in the AL with 104 Ks. Sale has been a bit more wild than usual lately with nine walks in his past three. Jose Altuve is 8-for-21 with a homer against him. Carlos Correa is 2-for-10 with two RBIs. Houston's Gerrit Cole (5-1, 2.05) leads the AL with 109 strikeouts. The Astros lost for just the second time Cole has taken the mound Sunday when he took a ND in Cleveland (7 IP, 3 ER). No Red Sox batter has more than six at-bats off him. Andrew Benintendi is 1-for-3 with a homer.
Key trends: The Sox are 1-6 in Sale's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 6-1 in those. The under is 4-1-1 in Houston's previous six vs. a lefty.
Early lean: Red Sox (rare to get Sale as a dog) and under.
Pirates at Cardinals (-140, 8.5)
I promise you that Cardinals journeyman right-hander Miles Mikolas wasn't available to bet to win the Cy Young back in the spring; now he's +2500. The 29-year-old continues the most amazing comeback of the 2018 season with a 6-0 record, 2.58 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He simply throws strikes - leading MLB in strike percentage. Mikolas hasn't gotten a decision in two starts this year vs. Pittsburgh with a 4.15 ERA. Austin Meadows is 2-for-2 with an RBI off him. The Pirates Jameson Taillon (2-4, 4.53) looks for his first victory since April 8. He faced these Cardinals opposite Mikolas on Sunday and took a ND in allowing three runs over 6.1 innings. Matt Carpenter is 7-for-16 against him with a homer.
Key trends: The Bucs are 0-4 in Taillon's past four on the road. The under is 9-4-1 in his previous 14 overall.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Marlins at Diamondbacks (-160, 9)
Some bad news for Arizona this week as X-rays taken Tuesday on A.J. Pollock's left thumb showed that his avulsion fracture is not yet fully healed. That means he's expected to miss the long end of his original 4-8-week timeline. Arizona signed former Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz off the scrap heap this spring, and he has made two effective starts, allowing just two runs and four hits over 11 innings - but is 0-1. His career looked over last year with Boston and two ugly outings with Philadelphia before injury. Only a few Marlins have seen him. Cameron Maybin is 2-for-4. Marlins rookie Elieser Hernandez (0-2, 2.50) hasn't allowed more than two earned in his three starts (also two relief appearances). He has just one walk in 18 innings. It's his first look at Arizona.
Key trends: The Marlins are 8-20 in their past 28 series openers. The Snakes have lost eight straight vs. the NL East. The under is 18-7-2 in the Diamondbacks' past 27 at home.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and under.
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