Daily Expert MLB Picks: Thursday, April 19, 2018, Opening Line Report
Were the San Diego Padres even going to be playoff contenders this season? No chance. But, I thought some decent improvement off last year's 71-win team was doable with the addition of free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and some really good young talent either already with the big club or on the way. Then, maybe, wild-card contention in 2019. However, one reason for that optimism was good-looking young pitcher Dinelson Lamet. Sadly, he won't pitch at all this year after some elbow pain in his final spring outing. The Friars didn't think anything was structurally wrong and Lamet had resumed throwing when the pain returned. But he's done following Tommy John surgery, which likely wrecks the first half of 2019 as well. Lamet was a little uneven at first last year as a rookie but posted a 2.44 ERA over a 10-start stretch from late July to mid-September. His overall rate of 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings would have ranked sixth in the majors had Lamet had enough innings to qualify. Ah well, there's always the Chargers?
Astros at Mariners ( +175, 9 )
A 3:40 p.m. ET getaway series finale from Seattle. How good is Houston's pitching staff right now? Charlie Morton (2-0, 1.00) is the No. 5 guy, and he'd probably be a No. 1 on some bad teams and a very capable No. 2 on some good ones. Morton has gone at least six in each of his first three starts - all at home. He didn't allow an earned run in his first two but two last time out in a no-decision vs. Texas while also striking out a season-high 12. Morton was 1-2 with a 3.80 ERA in four starts last year against the Mariners. Nelson Cruz is 3-for-14 off him with two RBIs. Jean Segura bats .242 off Morton in 33 at-bats. Seattle lefty Marco Gonzales (1-1, 8.25) might be pitching for his rotation spot already. He hasn't lasted more than 3.1 innings in the last two outings, allowing eight runs and 13 hits. Gonzales has thrown one scoreless inning of relief career vs. Houston.
Key trends: The Astros are 8-3 in Morton's past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in eight of his past 10.
Early lean: Astros and under.
Blue Jays at Yankees (-145, 9)
MLB Network game. Makes me nervous previewing this game and the Phillies one because of how weird the weather has been in the East and Midwest of late. I mean, Toronto couldn't even play in its own dome on Monday because of ice damage. It's young ace Aaron Sanchez (1-1, 3.66) for the Jays. He pitched Opening Day vs. the Yankees and allowed four runs and eight hits over 5.2 innings of a loss but has gotten consistently better in two starts since. The Yankees' Didi Gregorius is 5-for-13 off him with three extra-base hits. Aaron Judge has a single in six at-bats. Yankees lefty CC Sabathia (0-0, 4.00) is expected to be activated from the DL; he hasn't pitched since April 6 due to a hip injury. He took a no-decision on March 31 in Toronto, allowing one earned over five. Sabathia posted a 6.23 ERA over 21.2 innings against the Blue Jays last season. Justin Smoak is a career .345 hitter against him with two homers in 29 at-bats.
Key trends: The Yankees are 3-9 in Sabathia's past 12 vs. Toronto. The under is 4-0 in his previous four. The under is 7-0 in Sanchez's past seven series openers.
Early lean: Blue Jays and under.
Pirates at Phillies (-107, 7.5)
This weekend series should be fun considering the two hockey teams from these cities are currently battling in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bucs got some bad news this week when second baseman and leadoff hitter Josh Harrison was ruled out six weeks with a broken left hand. He was hit there by a pitch in Miami on Sunday. Adam Frazier should get most of the starts at second base, with Frazier batting leadoff when he's in there. Sean Rodriguez also could see some time at second. It's early Cy Young candidate Jameson Taillon for the Bucs, helping their fans forget about Gerrit Cole. Taillon (2-0, 0.89) leads the NL in ERA and hasn't allowed a run over 15 innings in his past two stars. No one has gotten a single hit off his curve yet in 2018. No Phillies player has more than five at-bats off him - Odubel Herrera is 3-for-5 with a homer. New Philadelphia pitcher Jake Arrieta (1-0, 3.38) was a little rusty in his debut on April 8 but much better last time out in Tampa. He has a long history with the Pirates from his Cubs days. Josh Bell is 7-fof-14 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Pirates are 4-1 in their past five in Philly. They are 7-0 in Taillon's past seven vs. the NL East. The under is 4-0 in his previous four on the road.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Mets at Braves (-105, 9)
A few years ago, Matt Harvey looked like the best of the young Mets pitchers and would become the biggest star on the team. Now? He's the only rotation guy in danger of getting bumped to the bullpen. Harvey (0-1, 4.80) has lasted just five innings in each start and allowed eight combined runs and 17 hits in the past two. Teams are hitting .290 off him. Last year, Harvey was 1-2 with a 5.91 ERA in four starts vs. Atlanta. Freddie Freeman struggles against him, going 5-for-26 with six strikeouts. The Braves' Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 1.29) was supposed to be washed up but has been a huge surprise. He threw six shutout innings last time out at the Cubs. The Mets' Todd Frazier is just 1-for-16 career off him with five strikeouts.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-6 in Harvey's past seven vs. the Braves. The over is 13-6-3 in his previous 22 starts overall.
Early lean: Braves and over.
Red Sox at Angels (+105, 9)
The ESPN+ game. With Shohei Ohtani pitching Tuesday, he should be back at DH for this one. Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (1-0, 3.72) struggled in his first start this season but was much better last time out, allowing one run and five hits over six vs. Baltimore. He pitches in Anaheim for the first time since July 20, 2015, when he got shelled for six hits and seven runs over 1 2/3 innings. Justin Upton is 0-for-5 off him with three Ks. Kole Calhoun is 1-for-2 with a homer. The Angels' Nick Tropeano had Tommy John surgery in August 2016 and made his return last Thursday in Kansas City and got the win, allowing no runs and six hits over 6.2 innings. He has never faced Boston, although Mitch Moreland is 1-for-7 with a homer against him.
Key trends: The Sox are 1-6 in Rodriguez's past seven on the road. The Angels are 7-1 in Tropeano's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0 in the Halos' previous four vs. a lefty.
Early lean: Angels and over.
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