Daily Expert MLB Picks: Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Opening Line Report
In this writer's humble opinion, the best and most important baseball game in the past 40 years or so was Game 7 of the 2016 World Series when the Cubs and Indians - the two teams with the longest championship droughts in the sport - played an epic 10-inning affair at Cleveland's Progressive Field; I believe no MLB game going forward will ever approach the TV ratings of that one (all standard TV ratings are decreasing in every genre). Of course, the Cubs won in 10 innings, aided in part by a brief rain delay that seemed straight from the gods, to end their 108-year championship drought. The Cubbies return to Progressive Field on Tuesday night to open a quick two-game interleague set in the series of the early week. It's certainly conceivable the teams play there again this October.
Cubs at Indians ( -129, 8.5 )
MLB Network game at 6:10 p.m. ET. Chicago adds the designated hitter, which surely will be Kyle Schwarber with his fielding adventures in left field. Will Chicago have third baseman and former NL MVP Kris Bryant for this game? He was hit in the head by a pitch on Sunday in Colorado but did pass initial concussion tests. That doesn't mean he's in the clear yet. It's Tyler Chatwood (0-3, 4.60) for the Cubs; he wasn't on that 2016 team. The former Colorado Rockie lasted just 4.2 innings last time out and walked a whopping seven in a loss to the Cardinals. He has walked 14 across 15.2 innings. Cleveland's Yonder Alonso is 2-for-3 off him with a homer. The Indians' Josh Tomlin has been dealing with a back issue but threw on the side Saturday and is expected to start here. Tomlin (0-2, 8.00) came out of the bullpen last Wednesday in Minnesota and allowed a run on three hits over an inning in Minnesota. The only Cub to have seen him in a regular-season game is Ben Zobrist, who is just 2-for-19.
Key trends: The Cubs have lost four straight Tuesday games. The Tribe are 3-12 in their past 15 interleague games vs. a righty. The "over/under" has gone over in Cleveland's past seven interleague home games vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Indians and over.
Twins at Yankees (-136, 8.5)
This is a playoff rematch from last year as Minnesota lost 8-4 in the AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium. Interesting Yankees note from Sunday as mega-prospect Gleyber Torres made his MLB debut. The entire starting lineup was under 30 in that game. It was the first time the Bombers didn't have a player 30 or older in the lineup in an April game since 1942. On the mound here for the Yankees is lefty CC Sabathia (0-0, 2.70). He returned from a DL stint last Thursday and allowed two runs over 4.1 innings vs. the Blue Jays. Joe Mauer is just 9-for-46 off Sabathia with 17 strikeouts. Minnesota's Jose Berrios (2-1, 1.63) threw seven scoreless innings in his native Puerto Rico last time out vs. the Indians but didn't factor in the decision. Berrios has walked just one batter all season with 29 strikeouts. The Yanks' Brett Gardner is 4-for-7 against him with three RBIs.
Key trends: The Twins are 2-8 in their past 10 vs. the AL East. The under is 5-1 in Minnesota's previous six vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Twins and under.
Rays at Orioles (-130, 8.5)
Late in spring training, the Orioles signed former Rays right-hander Alex Cobb (0-2, 15.43) to a four-year, $57 million deal with some money deferred - a lot less than Cobb surely thought he was going to get on the free-agent market. Cobb, who was 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA in 115 starts with Tampa, began the season in the minors to get stretched out. He has been awful so far, throwing just seven total innings in two starts and allowing 15 runs. This will be his Orioles Camden Yards debut. A few Rays have seen him while with other teams. Carlos Gomez is 1-for-6 with three Ks. Tampa's Jacob Faria (1-1, 5.82) got his first win since last July 25 last time out, allowing one run over a season-high six innings vs. Texas. He is 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA in four appearances in his career against the Orioles. Adam Jones is 4-for-10 off him with a dinger.
Key trends: The Rays have dropped eight straight vs. the AL East. The Orioles have lost six in a row on Tuesday. The over is 7-1 in the Rays' past eight overall.
Early lean: Orioles and over.
Angels at Astros (-141, 8.5)
The sensation that is Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound on Tuesday as he gets his first career look at the defending champion Astros. The Japanese right-hander left his last start vs. Boston after two innings due to a blister. He had allowed three runs and four hits with two walks. Ohtani threw on Friday with no problems so is good to go here. Houston's Charlie Morton (3-0, 0.72) leads the American League in ERA. He shut out the Mariners in Seattle over seven innings last Thursday. It was his third start in four this year not allowing an earned run. Albert Pujols, nearing 3,000 career hits, is 7-for-29 off Morton with five RBIs. Justin Upton is just 3-for-16. Zack Cozart 1-for-14.
Key trends: The Angels are 2-9 in their past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 8-3 in the previous 11 meetings in Houston.
Early lean: Astros and under.
Nationals at Giants (-115, 8)
ESPN+ game. Can't say it ever occurred to me to wonder about what the longest at-bat in MLB history was, but now I have my answer: 21 pitches. That's how long the at-bats of the Giants' Brandon Belt was Sunday against the Angels' Jaime Barria. Belt's at-bat in the top of the first lasted 12 minutes and 45 seconds. He fouled off 16 pitches, including 10 in a row before finally flying out. Belt is 4-for-11 career with four strikeouts vs. Washington starter Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24). He took a no-decision last Wednesday at the Mets, allowing two runs over seven. It was his third quality start of the year. Buster Posey is 6-for-14 off him with three doubles. Giants lefty Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10) went six Thursday at the Diamondbacks, surrendering two runs. He has never faced Washington but Howie Kendrick is 2-for-8 against him.
Key trends: The Nats are 2-5 in their past seven vs. the NL West. The under is 5-0 in their previous five Game 2s. It's 5-1 in the Giants' past six overall.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
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