Daily Expert MLB Picks: Saturday, July 14, 2018, Opening Line Report
It's not too often that you see a World Series favorite reach the All-Star break with questions at closer, but it happens: the 2016 Cubs, for example, had a gaping hole, added Aroldis Chapman around the trading deadline and he likely was the difference in the team winning it all. The Houston Astros almost surely will be dealing for bullpen help by July 31 in the wake of sending combustible closer Ken Giles to Triple-A. Giles was 0-2 with a career-high 4.99 ERA in 34 appearances this season. He has only one save in nine appearances since June 17. Most closers are a bit high-strung, but Giles really was. Earlier this year, he punched himself in the face while being pulled from a game. On Tuesday after being knocked around, he was yanked by Manager A.J. Hinch and cameras caught Giles cursing at his manager. Hector Rondon figures to get most of the closing opportunities going forward. Two closers already are off the trade market: Alex Colome (dealt from Tampa to Seattle) and Kelvin Herrera (sent from Kansas City to Washington).
Rays at Twins (-132, 8)
A 2:10 p.m. ET first pitch. Logan Morrison had a big 2017 season for Tampa Bay, but the team never made much of an effort to re-sign him so he inked a one-year deal with the Twins. Morrison opted for the one year to prove himself again and hope for a multi-year contract next offseason. While he does have 11 homers and 31 RBIs, Morrison is hitting just .193 and is now on the DL with a hip issue. It's All-Star Jose Berrios for the Twins. Berrios (9-7, 3.41) is a fine young pitcher but didn't deserve to go over Tampa's Blake Snell. Every team has to have one player and that's Berrios for Minnesota. He has a 2.70 ERA over his last seven outings. Only a few Rays have seen him. Tampa's Chris Archer (3-4, 4.41), who was publicly vocal about Snell's snub, returned from more than a month on the DL Monday and lasted only 3.1 innings vs. Detroit, allowing three runs and six hits. He took a ND vs. the Twins on April 20 (5.2 IP, 2 ER).
Key trends: The Rays are 7-1 in Archer's past eight vs. the Twins. The "over/under" 4-1 in his previous five against them. Minnesota is 18-3 in Berrios' past 21 at home.
Early lean: Twins and under.
Diamondbacks at Braves (-106, 8.5)
Arizona's Zack Greinke was added to the NL All-Star roster to replace the Cubs' Jon Lester because Lester's next start was pushed from Saturday to Sunday. Greinke (9-5, 3.39) had a four-start losing streak snapped on Sunday, taking a no-decision after allowing two runs and six hits over 4.1 innings vs. the Padres. It was Greinke's shortest outing of the season. Fellow All-Star Freddie Freeman is just 3-for-21 off him career with nine strikeouts. Tyler Flowers is 4-for-7 with two RBIs. Atlanta lefty Sean Newcomb (8-4, 3.44) looked like he might be an All-Star not long ago but has dropped back-to-back starts, allowing 10 runs over 6.1 innings. He hasn't personally won since June 16. It's his first career look at the Diamondbacks.
Key trends: The Diamondbacks are 9-2 in Greinke's past 11 vs. the NL East. The Braves are 1-6 in Newcomb's past seven at home vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in Arizona's past five on the road vs. a lefty.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and under.
Phillies at Marlins (+174, 8)
Kudos to the Phillies organization. Young ace Aaron Nola was named to his first All-Star team, and very deservedly so. The Phillies had the option of pitching him Sunday, but by letting him start Saturday it made him eligible to pitch in the All-Star Game. With a franchise-type player like Nola, you want as much goodwill as possible for when it comes contract time. Nola (12-2, 2.27) is in the conversation to start for the NL, but I'm assuming it goes to the Nationals' Max Scherzer with the game in his ballpark. Nola hasn't lost since May 20. He blanked the Marlins over 7.1 innings in his lone start against them on May 2 in Miami. The Marlins' Trevor Richards (2-5, 5.24) hasn't lasted more than five in his past three. He lost in Philadelphia on April 8 (4 IP, 3 ER). Odubel Herrera is 2-for-2 with a double off him.
Key trends: The Phillies have won eight straight Nola starts vs. teams with a losing record. The Marlins are 1-5 in Richards' past six vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-0 in Nola's past four.
Early lean: Phillies on runline and under.
A's at Giants (-113, 8.5)
Oakland loses the DH - Khris Davis, but his bat is likely too good to leave out of the lineup so perhaps he's hidden in left field - for this Bay area interleague matchup. Injury-plagued A's left-hander Brett Anderson (1-2, 5.75) makes his sixth start of the season and second since, naturally, spending six weeks or so on the DL with a shoulder strain. Anderson looked very good in his return, shutting out the Indians on three hits over five. The Giants' Brandon Crawford is 5-for-11 with a double off him. San Francisco's Jeff Samardzija (1-5, 6.42) also returned from about six weeks on the DL last time out and took the loss vs. St. Louis, surrendering three runs over five. Samardzija, who was with the A's briefly, is 5-13 with a 5.24 ERA in 27 career interleague appearances. Marcus Semien is 7-for-17 with a homer against him.
Key trends: The A's are 3-7 in Anderson's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The Giants are 0-6 in Samardzija's past six. The over is 6-2-1 in his previous nine.
Early lean: Giants and over.
Cubs at Padres (+149, 8)
As noted above, Lester was originally to start here, but by moving him to Sunday the Cubs give their ace a bit of extra rest and, frankly, an out to not have to pitch in the All-Star Game. At this point in his career, Lester doesn't care and would rather spend time with his family in Atlanta. Plus, the Cubs want to keep Kyle Hendricks (5-8, 3.93) on normal routine because he's coming off his best start of an uneven season. Hendricks went a season-high 8.1 innings and set a season high with eight strikeouts Monday in allowing one unearned run but took a no-decision in San Francisco. The Padres' Freddy Galvis is 4-for-9 with three doubles off him. San Diego's Luis Perdomo (1-3, 7.09) would rank last among qualified starters in ERA but doesn't have enough innings (26.2) to qualify. He allowed six runs over seven Monday in a loss to the Dodgers. No Cub has more than four at-bats off him.
Key trends: The Cubs are 16-3 in Hendricks' past 19 on Saturday. The Padres are 1-6 in Perdomo's previous seven vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0 in his past four at home.
Early lean: Cubs and over.
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