Daily Expert MLB Picks: Friday, May 18, 2018, Opening Line Report
Don’t kill the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West just yet. L.A., which has won the West each of the past five years, just got two key components back off the DL, but perhaps more important the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks are fading and just lost arguably their second-most important position player (after Paul Goldschmidt). That would be center fielder A.J. Pollock, who will miss 4-8 weeks with a broken left thumb suffered on an unsuccessful diving catch Monday that resulted in a Brewers inside-the-park home run. The 30-year-old Pollock leads the team with a .293 batting average, 11 home runs and 33 RBIs and is a fabulous defender. He has been injury-prone, though, since a breakout 2015 All-Star season. Manager Torey Lovullo said Jarrod Dyson and Chris Owings would fill in for Pollock depending on the matchup; Owings can play just about everywhere.
Diamondbacks at Mets (-145, 7)
This starts a nine-game road trip for Arizona, which could well be knocked out of first in the NL West by the time it returns to Phoenix. Colorado and San Francisco also are winners with the Pollock injury. The Snakes start Zack Godley (4-2, 4.08). He had a 3.09 ERA not long ago but has allowed four runs in three of his past four starts. Walks and homers have been a problem. New York’s Michael Conforto is 2-for-6 career off him. Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez are each 1-for-8. No Met has homered off him. The Mets’ Jacob deGrom (3-0, 1.83) threw just one inning Sunday vs. the Phillies in his return from a short DL stint. The Mets say deGrom was fine but that he was pulled because of a pitch count. Um, 45 pitches? The 45 pitches were deGrom's most in a big-league inning, topping his 37 at a rookie in the first inning at Atlanta on July 2, 2014. No Diamondbacks batter has gone yard off deGrom.
Key trends: The Snakes have lost their past five vs. the NL East. The Mets are 1-7 in deGrom’s past eight at home. The “over/under” has gone under in his past four overall.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Dodgers at Nationals (-200, 7.5)
MLB Network game and certainly a series that was circled when the schedule was released; I think we all expected both teams to be leading their respective divisions by May 18. The Dodgers got hosed here in a way because they were set to avoid Nationals ace Max Scherzer. He was to pitch Wednesday’s series finale vs. the Yankees, but that was postponed by rain and Washington was off Thursday so Scherzer (7-1, 1.69) slots in here. He won at the Dodgers on April 20, allowing one run and four hits with nine strikeouts in six innings. Matt Kemp might get the night off as he’s 6-for-46 off Scherzer with 14 Ks. Yasiel Puig is 4-for-12 with two doubles. L.A.’s Ross Stripling (0-1, 2.20) took a no decision vs. the Reds last Saturday (5.1 IP, 2 ER). No Nationals batter has more than five at-bats off Stripling; Bryce Harper hasn’t faced him.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 1-5 in their past six series openers. The Nats are 14-3 in Scherzer’s previous 17 vs. the NL West. The over is 5-1 in his previous six.
Early lean: Nats on runline and over.
Indians at Astros (-150, 8.5)
Here’s another one of those series you circled that featured division winners from last year, and I fully expect both to repeat. They should have met in the ALCS, but the Tribe couldn’t hold a 2-0 ALDS lead over the Yankees. Monitor the status of Indians slugger Edwin Encarnacion after he missed Tuesday and Wednesday with back and neck issues. He may be fine by Friday with the Tribe off Thursday. They start Mike Clevinger (3-0, 2.70), who has been probably the second-most consistent starter on the team behind Corey Kluber. Clevinger beat the Royals on Saturday, giving up two runs over 7.2 innings. Houston’s Jose Altuve is 2-for-4 off him with a double. The Astros’ Charlie Morton (5-0, 2.03) continues to roll along in relative anonymity. He beat Texas on Saturday with a career-high 14 strikeouts in seven innings and is on a personal eight-game winning streak, a career best. Encarnacion is 1-for-3 against him with a dinger.
Key trends: The Indians have lost five straight series openers. The Astros are 8-3 in Morton’s past 11 at home. The total has gone under in five of Clevinger’s past seven on five days of rest. The under is 8-2 in Morton’s past 10 at home.
Early lean: Astros and under.
Marlins at Braves (-188, 9.5)
The hottest pitcher in the National League right now is Braves lefty Sean Newcomb (4-1, 2.51). He has beaten the Marlins, Rays and Mets (granted, not great offensive teams) in his past three starts, all on the road, and hasn’t allowed a run with just five hits over 19 innings. He’s the only Braves pitcher in modern history to allow two hits or less and zero runs in three straight starts. While Newcomb will still walk some guys, batters are hitting a scant .083 against him this month. Newcomb has been throwing his change-up a lot more of late. The Marlins’ Justin Bour is 1-for-2 off him career with a homer. It’s Dan Straily for the Marlins. He was supposed to start Thursday, but the Marlins gave Elieser Hernandez a spot start Wednesday and moved that day’s starter, Caleb Smith to Thursday, pushing Straily (1-0, 5.54) to here. Straily beat Atlanta last Friday, allowing two earned over five. Nick Markakis is 5-for-17 off him with three doubles and a homer.
Key trends: The Braves are 7-2 in Newcomb’s past nine vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 12-3 in his previous 15 against clubs below .500.
Early lean: Braves and under.
Brewers at Twins (-127, 9.5)
Monitor the status of Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun as he missed a third straight start Wednesday due to a back issue and is probably headed to the DL. With the Brewers adding the DH in this interleague game, he probably would have slotted there if healthy. Milwaukee lefty Brent Suter (2-3, 5.14) had been booted from the rotation but has been be a fill-in starter his past two outings for injured/ill other guys. Suter went five innings and allowed four runs Saturday in a loss at Colorado. No Twins batter has more than three at-bats off him. Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson (1-1, 3.43) hasn’t won since his first start of the year on March 31. He has thrown quality starts in three of his past four trips to the mound. Braun is 1-for-4 career off him. Lorenzo Cain is 6-for-32 with seven strikeouts.
Key trends: The Brewers are 3-9 in Suter’s past 12 on the road. The Twins are 6-1 in Gibson’s previous seven at home. The over is 8-3 in Gibson’s past 11 series openers.
Early lean: Twins and over.
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