Daily Expert MLB Picks: Tuesday, May 22, 2018, Opening Line Report
Tuesday is likely going to be a rather painful experience for Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and any other guys who were on his 2016 team as the Tribe visit the Chicago Cubs in interleague action. On Oct. 29, 2016, the Indians won 7-2 at Wrigley Field to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series. All of a sudden, title-starved Cleveland was going to become the City of Champions after LeBron James had led his Cavaliers back from a 3-1 series deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals that June to stun Golden State. However, the Cubs eked out a 3-2 win on Oct. 30 at Wrigley and of course went to Cleveland and took the final two games to end the longest title drought in American sports. The Indians, meanwhile, remain without a World Series championship since 1948, longest in the sport, and don't seem all that likely to win it this year, either, at least how they are playing currently.
Indians at Cubs ( +102, TBA )
First of an ESPN doubleheader. Cleveland loses the DH, which is slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who was with Toronto in 2016. He could play first base ahead of Yonder Alonso, though, depending on how Francona likes the individual matchup against Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood, who was with the Rockies two years ago. Chatwood (3-3, 3.14) has been a much better offseason addition than high-priced Yu Darvish, although Chatwood has walked an astonishing 34 batters (NL high) in just 40 innings. He was pulled after just 79 pitches last Wednesday in Atlanta, allowing a run and four hits. Chatwood won in Cleveland on April 24 (6 IP, 1 ER, 5 BB). Alonso is 2-for-6 off him with a homer and four RBIs, so he might not sit. Encarnacion is 0-for-3. Cleveland's Trevor Bauer (3-3, 2.59) dominated the Tigers last Wednesday in Detroit, throwing eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts. He beat the Cubs on April 25, allowing one run over 6.2 innings. Bauer pitched three times in that World Series, losing both starts and throwing two-thirds of an inning in relief.
Key trends: The Indians are 1-8 in Bauer's past nine interleague starts. The Cubs are 6-1 in their past seven interleague home games. The "over/under" has gone under in nine of Bauer's past 13 vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Cubs.
Pirates at Reds (+115, 9)
ESPN+ game. OK, maybe Matt Harvey's trade to the Reds didn't fix anything. Harvey (0-2, 6.17) looked good in his first Cincinnati outing in throwing four scoreless innings. He went four again last Wednesday in San Francisco but wasn't near as sharp in allowing seven hits and three runs. Batters are now hitting .293 off the former Dark Knight. He hasn't faced the Pirates this year. Josh Bell is 3-for-6 off Harvey with a homer. Gregory Polanco has gone yard once in nine at-bats off him. Pittsburgh's Jameson Taillon (2-3, 3.97) may or may not had to urinate on a cut on his finger (don't ask) in order to make his start last Wednesday, but he was out there and took a no decision in allowing two runs over 5.2 innings vs. the White Sox. The game of Taillon's life was April 8 vs. the Reds as he threw a complete-game one-hitter with 11 strikeouts. Cincinnati's only hit came on a single to center by starting pitcher Tyler Mahle with one out in the third.
Key trends: The Bucs are 7-2 in Taillon's past nine vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 8-3-1 in his past 12 overall.
Early lean: Pirates and under.
Marlins at Mets (-145, 8)
I'm not a Mets fan, but it sure feels like that team is hit by injuries more than any other - I know the club changed up its conditioning programs this offseason under new manager Mickey Callaway. Alas, that hasn't helped center fielder Juan Lagares, who is likely to miss the season with a toe injury. He generally only played against left-handed starting pitchers but was hitting a team-best .339 in 59 at-bats. Zack Wheeler (2-3, 5.92) gets the call here on the mound. He tends to alternate good and bad starts and comes off a lousy one, giving up six runs in four innings off a loss to Toronto. His season debut was an April 11 win in Miami (7 IP, 1 ER). Marlins lefty Caleb Smith (2-5, 4.22) lasted only three innings in his most recent start, surrendering four runs in a loss to the Dodgers. He took a ND vs. the Mets on April 10 (5 IP, 3 ER). Asdrubal Cabrera is 1-for-2 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Marlins are 2-6 in Smith's past eight. The Mets are 1-4 in Wheeler's past five at home. The over is 10-2-2 in his previous 14 at Citi Field.
Early lean: Mets and over.
Giants at Astros (-242, 8)
When you think of second basemen, do you think of athletic-type players? Javier Baez, Robbie Alomar just two random examples. When you think of athleticism, I'm guessing that San Francisco's Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval doesn't come to mind. However, the team could start using him at second base with Joe Panik out due to a torn UCL in his left thumb and backup Alen Hanson sidelined with a left hamstring strain. It's lefty Andrew Suarez (1-3, 4.88) on the hill for the Giants. He allowed five runs over six innings off a loss to the Reds last time out. Suarez hasn't faced the Astros. Houston's Gerrit Cole (4-1, 1.75) actually looked mortal in his most recent start, allowing three runs, two homers, over five of a no decision at the Angels. The innings were a season low. The Giants' Brandon Belt is 4-for-16 against him with a homer and five RBIs. San Francisco will add the DH.
Key trends: The Giants are 1-4 in Suarez's past five at home. The Astros are 16-7 in their past 23 series openers. The under is 3-1-1 in Cole's past five.
Early lean: Astros on runline and under.
Rockies at Dodgers (TBA)
Second ESPN game. Perhaps Dodgers lefty Rich Hill should consider another line of business. Never heard of a pitcher having so much trouble with blisters in his career, but Hill is set to miss a month with a recurrence of that problem on the middle finger of his pitching hand. He lasted all of two pitches vs. Washington on Saturday before leaving. It's expected to be Kenta Maeda (3-3, 3.89) here. He comes off easily his best start of the year, going a season-high eight innings and shutting out the Marlins on two hits. It was only the second time in 65 big-league starts that Maeda completed eight frames. He hasn't faced Colorado this year. The Rockies' Chad Bettis (4-1, 3.27) took a no decision Thursday in San Francisco (6 IP, 3 ER) and faces the Dodgers for the first time this season. Justin Turner is 8-for-15 off him with five RBIs.
Key trends: The Rockies are 5-1 in Betts' past five on the road. The over is 5-2 in his previous seven vs. the Dodgers.
Early lean: TBA as Maeda hasn't been made official yet, but all signs point to him. Rockies will be underdogs and I'd back them.
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