Daily Expert MLB Picks: Saturday, June 23, 2018, Opening Line Report
I like baseball, but I'm not a millennial and they clearly aren't huge fans of the sport with how ratings and attendance are dropping around the majors. It's because baseball isn't all that fun, frankly. Great tradition, but boring. What would have been fun and drawn some unique fans, for one night at least, was Shohei Ohtani in the Home Run Derby the night before the All-Star Game. That's not happening now with Ohtani injured. Well, there's another (probably not realistic) option nearly as good: Ichiro Suzuki competing in the Derby. On Wednesday, Mariners manager Scott Servais made an off-hand joke about that happening, and it has caught on virally. Will this happen? Likely not because Ichiro is temporarily retired and in the Seattle front office, but he still takes BP with the team and hasn't ruled out playing in 2019. MLB needs to use a special waiver or whatever and get Ichiro into that Derby. Ichiro, who never hit more than 15 homers in a season but because he wasn't trying to, was invited to the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008 but didn't go because he injured his finger. Make. This. Happen!
Rangers at Twins ( -164, 9.5 )
MLB Network game at 2:10 p.m. ET. Might the Twins be without likely All-Star Eduardo Escobar for a bit? He left Thursday's game after being hit on the elbow by a pitch. Even if it's not serious, those things can swell up and sideline a guy for a few days. Go look at Escobar's numbers, they are great. Funny how guys put up career numbers in a contract year. The Rangers start Yovani Gallardo. He made three early-season appearances with the Reds, was released and signed a minor-league contract with Texas. He debuted with the Rangers last Sunday and allowed five runs in five innings of a no-decision vs. Colorado. Gallardo is 4-2 with a 3.49 ERA all time in 11 starts against the Twins. Minnesota's Jake Odorizzi (3-4, 4.38) hasn't won since May 8 in St. Louis and hasn't lasted six innings until May 14. Texas' Rougned Odor is 2-for-9 with two homers against him.
Key trends: The Twins are 4-1 in Odorizzi's past five in Game 2 of a series. The "over/under" has gone under in six of his past seven at home.
Early lean: Twins and over.
Yankees at Rays (+154, 8.5)
Fox Sports 1 game at 4:10 p.m. ET. MLB is going to have to change what a starting pitcher is if the Rays keep doing what they are doing and other teams follow. Tampa Bay goes with an "opener" here in Wilmer Font (0-3, 7.56). His first 14 appearances this year were as a normal reliever and his past three as an "opener." It somewhat screws over Font statistically because he'll never qualify for a victory in that scenario as you need to go at least five innings. Font has gone longer in each outing, so perhaps the team is transitioning him to a starting role. He went 4.2 innings last time out vs. the Yankees and allowed one run. New York's Sonny Gray (5-4, 4.89) has yet to win back-to-back starts personally as a Yankee but will try again here after beating Washington on Monday, allowing two runs over five. Gray hasn't faced the Rays in 2018. Kevin Kiermaier is 4-for-16 with two homers against him.
Key trends: The Yankees are 5-1 in Gray's past six vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 4-0 in his past four.
Early lean: Yankees and under.
Diamondbacks at Pirates (+100, 8)
Be aware that things could get very chippy in this game. Why? When young Pirates right-hander Joe Musgrove (2-2, 3.68) took a no-decision in Arizona on June 11 (6 IP, 2 ER), he threw at the Diamondbacks' Chris Owings in response for teammate Josh Harrison getting plunked earlier. OK, normally no big deal. Except, Musgrove admitted afterward that that he did it to "protect" his teammate because "that's how [he] was raised to play the game." Very rare to hear a guy flat-out admit that, which earned him a $1K fine from MLB. Wouldn't shock me if the Diamondbacks retaliate somehow. Arizona's Zack Greinke (6-5, 3.90) lost on June 13 to Pittsburgh (4.2 IP, 5 ER) but bounced back with a victory Monday at the Angels (6.1 IP, 3 ER). He has usually been much worse on the road this year with a 5.66 ERA.
Key trends: The Snakes are 12-5 in Greinke's past 17 road starts vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 9-4 in his previous 13 with four days of rest.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Mariners at Red Sox (-200, 9)
It's two of the most profitable pitchers in baseball this season in Seattle's Mike Leake and Boston lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. If you bet $100 on every Rodriguez (9-1, 3.59) start this season, you are up $1,133, the biggest number of any pitcher in baseball. Boston is 13-1 in his 14, with that loss May 15 vs. Oakland. In six starts since, Rodriguez has personally gotten the win in each and hasn't given up more than two earned in any. That includes last Sunday in Seattle (6 IP, 2 ER). Dee Gordon is 4-for-5 off him with a homer. Leake (7-4, 4.47) isn't a guy you would think would be too profitable, but he's been worth $915 on $100 bets as the Mariners are 11-4 in his outings. Leake did lose opposite Rodriguez last Sunday (6 IP, 5 ER). J.D. Martinez is 4-for-11 with a homer against him.
Key trends: The Mariners are 4-1 in Leake's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Sox are 16-5 in Rodriguez's past 21 at home. The over is 5-1 in Leake's past six on the road.
Early lean: Red Sox on runline and over.
Blue Jays at Angels (-145, 8.5)
There are many reasons why the Blue Jays aren't very good this year, but one major one is certainly Marcus Stroman (0-5, 7.71). He was excellent last year at 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA and looked like a future ace. Stroman hasn't pitched in the majors since May 8 because of a right shoulder injury (maybe that's why the struggles) but will be activated following three rehab appearances in the minors. Red-hot Mike Trout is 5-for-10 career off Stroman with two doubles. Angels rookie Jaime Barria (5-3, 3.57) faces the Blue Jays for the first time. It's the Panamanian's 10th start and he comes off his worst, allowing six runs in four innings against Arizona. He's 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in five home outings.
Key trends: The Jays are 2-8 in their past 10 on Saturday. The over is 5-2-1 in Stroman's past eight vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Angels and over.
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