Daily Expert MLB Picks: Thursday, June 21, 2018, Opening Line Report
Did the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals just kick off the trade market? They might have as on Tuesday the Royals, who are in full-blown tank/selloff mode, shipped excellent closer Kelvin Herrera to Washington for some prospects - but not the Nats' best ones because Herrera will be a free agent after the season. Herrera was 1-1 with 14 saves, a 1.05 ERA and 0.82 WHIP this year on a bad, bad team. He surely won't close in Washington as Sean Doolittle has been exceptional, but this helps shorten the game for the Nationals. This is what teams do these days around baseball, try to stack the bullpen to where they only need a starting pitcher to go six innings before handing it off. Herrera probably takes the eighth inning, and the Nats also have Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler back there, although both have had some injury problems in 2018. Kevin McCarthy is expected to take over the closing role in Kansas City, although that team won't have many ninth-inning leads.
Mariners at Yankees ( -197, 7 )
First pitch of the day, and it's a spectacular pitching matchup; in fact, if these teams meet in the Wild-Card Game or Game 1 of an ALDS/ALCS, this would surely be the matchup presuming each pitcher was on normal rest and able to go. It's lefty James Paxton (6-1, 3.44) for the Mariners. His ERA looks a little higher than it should because Paxton comes off a rare bad start, allowing six runs in 2.1 innings vs. Boston -- although his teammates got him out of a loss. He was 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his previous nine starts. Just one Yankee has ever faced him, and he may not play: Neil Walker, who is 0-for-2. New York's Luis Severino (10-2, 2.09) could be the AL starter in the All-Star Game. He comes off eight shutout innings against Tampa Bay, striking out nine. Severino hasn't allowed more than three earned since May 19. Seattle's Nelson Cruz is 2-for-6 off him.
Key trends: The Mariners are 13-3 in Paxton's past 16 road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Yankees are 22-5 in Severino's past 27 at home. The "over/under" has gone under in eight of Paxton's past 11. It's 8-2-1 in Severino's previous 11.
Early lean: Mariners on runline and under.
Orioles at Nationals (-280, 7)
Now that Washington has acquired Herrera, that presumably takes the Nationals out of the running to acquire Orioles closer Zach Britton, who is a lock goner by July 31. Not sure these two franchises would trade with one another regardless since they essentially battle for the same market. Baltimore starts Kevin Gausman (3-6, 4.48) as he looks for his first victory since May 11. He was decent Friday vs. Miami, allowing two runs over 5.2 innings, but Baltimore lost for the sixth straight time with him on the mound. Struggling Bryce Harper is 3-for-7 against him but hasn't homered. Washington ace Max Scherzer (10-3, 2.06) has lost two straight for the first time since August 2015, although he has allowed only two runs in each - Washington was shut out in both. He dominated in Baltimore on May 30 with eight shutout innings and 12 strikeouts. Adam Jones hits him well, going 13-for-32 with four homers. Manny Machado doesn't (2-for-12, 12 Ks).
Key trends: The Nats are 15-5 in Scherzer's past 20 at home. The under is 4-0 in his previous four interleague starts.
Early lean: Nats on runline (maybe even the -2.5 additional runline) and under.
Cubs at Reds (+155, 9.5)
Could be a bit of a letdown game for Chicago after opening the week with a big series and NLCS rematch against the Dodgers. MLB Network is carrying this one. The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 3.55) gets among the worst run support in the National League. He ended a three-start losing streak, in which the Cubs scored one run in each, by throwing six innings and surrendering three runs in St. Louis on Saturday. He took a no-decision in Cincinnati on May 19 (5 IP, 3 ER). Joey Votto is 8-for-16 with two homers and 10 walks off him. The Reds' Matt Harvey (1-5, 5.92) has been a little better since his trade from the Mets in early May. He lost Friday in Pittsburgh, allowing three runs over five. He opened the sixth inning giving up back-to-back singles, was pulled and the bullpen let both runners score. The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is 2-for-7 with a homer off Harvey from his Mets days.
Key trends: The Cubs are 1-5 in Hendricks' past six road starts vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 7-1 in his previous eight against Cincinnati.
Early lean: Reds and over.
A's at White Sox (+131, 10)
How much longer can the White Sox keep throwing Lucas Giolito (4-7, 7.19) out there? True, the Sox don't really care about winning 2018, but they could ruin Giolito's confidence. He not only has the worst ERA of any qualified starter in the majors, but no one else is even as high as 6.00. Giolito has more walks (45) than strikeouts (40). He lost to Detroit last time out (5.1 IP, 5 ER). It's his first career look at Oakland. The A's counter with Chris Bassitt (0-2, 2.45), who pitched in six games for the White Sox in 2014 and then missed most of 2016 and all of 2017 with Oakland due to Tommy John surgery. He's in the majors due to an injury to Trevor Cahill and has had one good start since being called up and one bad one. Only two White Sox have faced him; one is Avisail Garcia (0-for-3), who could be activated Thursday after nearly two months on the DL due to a hamstring injury.
Key trends: The A's are 1-7 in Bassitt's past eight on the road. The Sox are 1-6 in Giolito's previous seven at home. The over has hit in six straight Oakland games.
Early lean: White Sox and over.
Blue Jays at Angels (-170, 8)
MLB Network late game. The Jays start a seven-game road trip here, and they have been putrid away from home of late in dropping eight of nine with every one of those losses by one by multiple runs. They start Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.35), who perhaps won't ever get back to his 2016 version when he was one of the AL's best pitchers. He's still just 25, though. Sanchez is also working on three straight quality starts, all Jays wins (just one for him personally). He took a no-decision vs. the Angels on May 23 (5 IP, 0 ER). Justin Upton is 5-for-10 with two doubles off him. L.A. lefty Tyler Skaggs (6-4, 2.81) has won his past three and allowed just one earned run over 20 innings. He was opposite Sanchez on May 23 and also took a ND (5 IP, 3 ER). Yangervis Solarte is 2-for-3 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Jays have lost seven straight road games vs. lefties. The Angels are 9-4 in Skaggs' past 13 at home vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 6-1 in his past seven series openers.
Early lean: Angels and under.
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