Daily Expert MLB Picks: Friday, March 30, 2018, Opening Line Report
I gave my division, pennant and World Series winner in my first Opening Line Report story for Thursday, and now my individual award winners for the season with odds from BetOnline : the Angels' Garrett Richards (+5000) as a longer-shot AL Cy Young winner; the Mets' Noah Syndergaard (+500) for the NL Cy Young; the Orioles' Manny Machado (+2000) as the AL MVP right before he hits free agency and as long as he's not traded during the year to an NL team; and the Nationals' Anthony Rendon (+2500) as the NL MVP.
Nationals at Reds (+175, 8.5)
A 4:10 p.m. ET first pitch. All 30 teams were set to open on Thursday but apparently the weather was predicted to be so lousy in Cincinnati that the opener was postponed Wednesday and pushed back a day. Washington will open the season without All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy, who had knee surgery shortly after last season ended and was widely expected to start 2018 on the DL. Can Max Scherzer become the first NL pitcher to win three straight Cy Youngs since Hall of Famer Randy Johnson won four in a row from 1999-2002? Quite possible and Scherzer opened as the +250 second-favorite at BetOnline behind Clayton Kershaw (+200). Scherzer shows no signs of slowing down at age 33 (34 in July) as he was 16-6 with a 2.68 ERA last year, leading the NL in strikeouts (268) and WHIP (0.90) to edge Kershaw for the Cy Young. He shut out the Reds over six innings in his lone start against them in 2017. Cincinnati veteran Homer Bailey gets his first career Opening Day start despite ugly numbers (6-9, 6.43 ERA) last year. He's getting the chance in part because Anthony DeSclafani is sidelined with another injury. My boy Rendon is 2-for-5 off Bailey with a double. Cincinnati will be without closer Raisel Iglesias, who was placed on the paternity list.
Key trends: The Reds are 1-5 in Bailey's past six vs. Washington. The Nats are 5-0 in the past five in Cincinnati. The "over/under" is 9-4-1 in the previous 14 meetings.
Early lean: Nats on runline and over.
Yankees at Blue Jays (+127, 9)
MLB Network game - the Bombers are going to be nationally televised a ton this season (like always) thanks to their power-packed lineup with the addition of Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees start Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74). He could have opted out of his contract this offseason, but with his shoulder history it's probably smart he didn't. Tanaka likely wouldn't have made near as much in this free-agent period. His 4.74 ERA was a career-worst as were the 35 dingers allowed. Tanaka's first MLB start in 2014 was in Toronto and he beat the Jays. Justin Smoak can't hit him, going 1-for-18 with seven strikeouts. The Jays' Aaron Sanchez was one of the best pitchers in the AL in 2016 but had his 2017 season limited to seven starts largely due to blisters, and he was 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA. Stanton has never faced Sanchez.
Key trends: The Yankees are 5-1 in Tanaka's past six vs. the Jays. The under is 6-1 in Sanchez's previous seven vs. the AL East.
Early lean: Jays and under.
Red Sox at Rays (+154, 7.5)
I was pondering picking Boston lefty David Price to win his second career Cy Young, and he should have a big season with the chance to opt out of his contract after it (although, again, in the current climate I doubt he can do better). Price had issues with the Boston media in his first season with the Red Sox and was limited to 74.2 innings due to injury, going 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA. When Price returned from the DL in September, he was used in relief so this will be his first start since July 22 of last year when he was shelled at the Angels. The former Ray had a 2.25 ERA against Tampa Bay last year in two starts with no decisions. Young Rays lefty Blake Snell (5-7, 4.04) could be in line for a big season as the franchise's former No. 1 prospect really came on late last year, going 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his final 10 starts. Snell was 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts vs. Boston. Mookie Betts is 3-for-11 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Rays are 5-1 in Snell's past six at home. The under is 5-2 in his previous seven vs. there.
Early lean: Rays on runline and under.
Astros at Rangers ( +175, 9.5 )
Wondering who the Texas closer might be this year? Rangers manager Jeff Banister hasn't named a dedicated ninth-inning man yet but most believe it will be Keone Kela who gets the first shot. The 24-year-old had two saves and a 2.79 ERA last year in 39 appearances. Texas starts retread Doug Fister in the second game of the season, which tells you all you need to know about the Rangers' rotation. Fister pitched for Houston in 2016 and is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in three career starts vs. the Astros. Alex Bregman is 3-for-3 off him with a homer. Fister was 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 90.1 innings last year with Boston. Houston lefty and former AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel went 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in the 2017 regular season and was 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA in five postseason starts. He was 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts vs. Texas. Rougned Odor is just 3-for-35 career off him.
Key trends: The Astros are 4-1 in Keuchel's past five vs. Texas. The over is 8-2-1 in his previous 11 in Arlington.
Early lean: Astros and over.
Giants at Dodgers (-176, 7)
As if the Giants need more pitching issues with starters Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija opening on the DL, they apparently have it with closer Mark Melancon. Arm issues derailed his first season in San Francisco as Melancon had just 11 saves and a 4.50 ERA in 32 appearances and he's apparently still not feeling right in said arm. If Melancon is ultimately forced to open the year on the DL, Sam Dyson would likely step in as the team's closer. The Giants start Johnny Cueto, now the ace with MadBum hurt again. Cueto wasn't ace-like last year in going 8-8 with a 4.52 ERA. It was his worst year since Cueto was a rookie in 2008 with the Reds. He's 4-5 with a 2.67 ERA in nine career starts at Dodger Stadium. L.A.'s Alex Wood has decided to pitch 100 percent out of the stretch. He was a breakout star last year, going 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA but faded a bit in the second half. Wood was 2-0 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts vs. the Giants.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 10-2 in Wood's past 12 at home. The over is 4-0 in Cueto's past four vs. L.A. and Wood's previous four vs. San Francisco.
Early lean: Giants and over.
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