Daily Expert MLB Picks: Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, Opening Line Report
Once again, MLB has blown a chance to get some national buzz. When the NFL or NBA release their next season schedules, it's huge news. Granted, it's hard to get too excited about MLB's regular-season schedule because there are so many games, but still. Why not release this during the dead period following the All-Star Game? That Wednesday night would be perfect. Ah well, MLB rolled it out quietly this past Wednesday afternoon. The 2019 season actually begins March 20 in Tokyo with the Opening Series between the A's and Mariners. The traditional Opening Day in the USA is Thursday, March 28, where every team will be in action. There will be two regular-season series in Monterrey, Mexico: The Reds will host the Cardinals for a two-game set on April 13-14, and the Angels and Astros will play a two-game series on May 4-5. However, if there's one series to circle, it's June 29-30 in London as the Red Sox "host" the Yankees - although we already did know this. Next year's Interleague slate features the AL East vs. the NL West, the AL Central vs. the NL East, and the AL West vs. the NL Central. One other interesting nugget: Some teams will have Fridays off next season, which never happens. It's part of the new CBA.
Reds at Cubs (TBA)
MLB Network game at 2:20 p.m. ET - maybe a return home will wake up those Cubs bats as they had been scuffling. New Cub Daniel Murphy absolutely rakes in his career at Wrigley Field. I generally avoid previewing games where it says "undecided" under a team's starting pitcher, but I'm fairly confident that the Cubs will call up Duane Underwood for this one. He made his MLB debut on June 25 at the Dodgers and allowed a run and two hits over four. Underwood was sent right back down. The Cubs are short a No. 5 in the rotation with Yu Darvish done, Mike Montgomery (shoulder) on the DL and Tyler Chatwood simply terrible. It's Matt Harvey (6-7, 4.91) for Cincinnati, and I still believe he's going somewhere by Aug. 31. Maybe the Cubs; in fact, Harvey has been claimed by some team on waivers. Harvey boosted his stock last Saturday in throwing 6.1 shutout innings vs. the Giants. He took a no-hitter into the sixth. Harvey is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Cubs. Murphy is 4-for-10 with two homers off him.
Key trends: The Reds are 5-1 in their past six on Friday. The "over/under" is 5-2 in Harvey's past seven vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Reds regardless.
Braves at Marlins (+172, 8)
Any team need a former All-Star second baseman? I'm frankly stunned that the Marlins still have Starlin Castro on their roster, but it's probably because he's owed $11 million next year and there's a club option for $16 million in 2020 (no chance any team exercises that) with a $1 million buyout. Castro has cleared waivers so could be dealt anywhere, although I doubt any club bites. It's Dan Straily (4-6, 4.60) for the Marlins. He hasn't been very good since the break with a 5.29 ERA in six starts. He has been OK vs. Atlanta this year with a 2-1 record and 4.02 ERA in three starts. Might want to bet a Nick Markakis prop as he hits .409 off Straily with two homers and seven RBIS in 22 at-bats. Ozzie Albies is 5-for-13 with two homers. Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz (10-7, 2.72) is fourth in the NL in ERA and fifth in strikeouts. He's 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts this year vs. Miami. Castro is 1-for-5 against him.
Key trends: The Braves are 8-1 in Foltynewicz's past nine vs. the Marlins. The under is 3-1-1 in his previous five against them. The over is 4-1-1 in Straily's previous six against Atlanta.
Early lean: Braves on runline and over.
Yankees at Orioles (+182, 8.5)
The Bombers will be without fire-balling closer Aroldis Chapman for a spell after he left Tuesday's game in Miami following just six pitches and was placed on the DL. The good news is that it wasn't elbow or shoulder pain but in his knee. You could tell something was wrong as Chapman's velocity was way down on those few pitches. Dellin Betances is the most likely choice to fill in at closer. New York gets lefty CC Sabathia (7-4, 3.32) off the DL. He had some knee inflammation but really it was about resting him. Sabathia has allowed only five runs combined over his past four starts. However, he has an 8.00 ERA in two starts this year vs. Baltimore. The Birds' Alex Cobb (4-15, 5.09) continued his turnaround this season with a complete-game win in Cleveland on Saturday, allowing two runs and five hits. He allowed one run over six innings in his only appearance against the Yankees on Aug 1.
Key trends: The Yanks are 2-8 in Sabathia's past 10 in Baltimore. The under is 7-3 in his previous 10 there. The under is 6-1 in Cobb's past seven.
Early lean: Orioles and under.
Cardinals at Rockies (-108, 10.5)
Arguably the series of the weekend as each team pushes for its division title (still don't see that happening for either) and a wild-card spot. Colorado lost three of four in St. Louis a few weeks ago. It's NL Comeback Player of the Year favorite and Cy Young contender (he won't win that) Miles Mikolas for St. Louis, which has been a different team since a managerial change. Mikolas (13-3, 2.80) hasn't lost since the end of June. He allowed one run over six Saturday vs. Milwaukee. Mikolas took a no-decision on Aug. 2 vs. the Rockies (7 IP, 1 ER). Gerardo Parra is 3-for-3 off him. The Rockies' Antonio Senzatela (4-3, 4.47) was opposite Mikolas on Aug. 2 and also took a no-decision (6 IP, 1 ER) in a game the Rockies blew in the bottom of the ninth.
Key trends: The Cards are 10-1 in their past 11 road games. The Rockies are 8-2 in Senzatela's past 10 at home. The under is 4-0 in his past four overall.
Early lean: Rockies and under.
Astros at Angels (+112, 8.5)
MLB Network late-night game. Not that it matters at this point, but the Angels have placed outfielder Justin Upton on the 10-day disabled list with a left index finger laceration. He was having a solid year, batting .267 with 26 homers and 74 RBIs - and a whopping 143 strikeouts in 122 games. The team could get back Mike Trout by Friday, though. Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel (9-10, 3.59) hasn't won in his past three and wasn't great last time out vs. Oakland in allowing five runs and nine hits over 5.2 innings. His lone start this year vs. the Angels was July 20 in Anaheim, and he allowed just two hits and an unearned run over 7.2. Angels southpaw Andrew Heaney (7-7, 4.11) has started fading a bit as he allowed six runs and 10 hits over 5.1 innings in Texas on Saturday. He's 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts this year vs. Houston.
Key trends: The Astros have won six straight Keuchel starts vs. the Angels. The over is 5-2 in Heaney's past seven.
Early lean: Go Angels if Trout returns. Houston if not.
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