Daily Expert MLB Picks: Saturday, July 21, 2018, Opening Line Report
Clearly the biggest news during the All-Star break was the rich getting richer with the Los Angeles Dodgers all but cementing a sixth straight NL West title by landing Orioles All-Star shortstop Manny Machado for five prospects. I would say there's only about a 10 percent chance that Machado re-signs with L.A. this offseason; not that the Dodgers can't afford him but they are set at both shortstop (Corey Seager; but out for 2018 season) and third base (Justin Turner). Plus, Machado already has said he wants to play short going forward, and Seager might actually be better - he's certainly younger and cheaper. No matter, this deal is all about 2018 for L.A. as it looks to win its first World Series since 1988. The Dodgers have jumped the Cubs as NL pennant favorites at most of the Doc's-affiliated sportsbooks, although the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox all have better odds to win the World Series. The Yankees, Phillies and Brewers were all the losers in the Machado sweepstakes, but they'll likely all still do something ahead of the July 31 deadline.
Mets at Yankees ( -225, 9 )
MLB Network game at 1:05 p.m. ET. So will these city rivals make a deal involving Jacob deGrom? His agent suggested the Mets should trade deGrom if they aren't planning on signing him to a long-term deal. I thought at first it was unlikely that deGrom is dealt by July 31 but now think it is possible and that it could be the Yankees if they blow away the Mets - the Yanks will have to pay an extra "tax" simply because it's the Mets. On reason the Yankees especially need a starting pitcher is because Sonny Gray (6-7, 5.46), last year's big addition, has disappointed. He does come off a great outing in Baltimore on July 11, throwing six shutout innings. But the Orioles stink. The Mets' Yoenis Cespedes is 3-for-6 off him career. Cespedes is expected to be activated off the DL on Friday. He has been out since May 13 and surely will DH this series to protect him at first. Mets lefty Steven Matz (4-7, 3.38) has lost his past two but both were quality. Matz posted a 2.91 ERA over his final 13 first-half starts. Maybe the Mets should trade him while his value is sky high.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-5 in Matz's past six interleague starts. The Yanks have lost four straight Gray home starts. The "over/under" is 9-2 in Gray's past 11 at home.
Early lean: Mets on runline and over.
Braves at Nationals (-139, 8.5)
While Bryce Harper is among the NL home run leaders, his season has overall been a disappointment with a low average and a ton of strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe, his excellent Home Run Derby performance will get him going. Or, maybe, just maybe, the Home Run Derby curse strikes. That has largely been debunked, though. It's lefty Gio Gonzalez for Washington, which was likely to activate first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and closer Sean Doolittle from the DL on Friday. Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72) hasn't won since May 28 but has allowed three earned or fewer in his past three. He took a no-decision in Atlanta on June 2 (7 IP, 3 ER). Freddie Freeman is a .313 hitter off him with four homers and 17 RBIs in 48 at-bats. Braves lefty Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51) hasn't won since June 16 and hasn't lasted six innings in his past three. The break likely came at a good time for him. Newcomb is 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two starts vs. the Nats this year. Harper is 2-for-5 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Nats are 6-13 in Gonzalez's past 19 vs. Atlanta. The Braves have won Newcomb's past four vs. the NL East. The under is 6-1 in Gonzalez's past seven vs. the NL East.
Early lean: Braves and under.
Pirates at Reds (-120, 9.5)
Might surprise you to know how good the Reds have been since firing Bryan Price back in April. They might be relevant again as soon as 2019. Cincinnati begins the second half without outfielder Scott Schebler as he was placed on the DL, retroactive to July 15, with an AC sprain in his right shoulder. Schebler is having a nice season, batting .278 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs. One less worry for Pittsburgh starter Nick Kingham (4-4, 4.26), who finished the first half with back-to-back quality starts. It's his first career look at the Reds. Cincinnati counters with Anthony DeSclafani (4-2, 5.32). His first half didn't end well, allowing six runs in a season-low 3.1 innings in St. Louis. He won in Pittsburgh on June 17 (5.2 IP, 2 ER). Jordy Mercer is 4-for-12 off him with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Bucs are 2-5 in Kingham's past seven. The Reds are 2-5 in DeSclafani's past seven at home. The over has hit in his past six.
Early lean: Reds and over.
Astros at Angels (+148, 8)
Yet another fabulous All-Star Game for Mike Trout, although he didn't win a third MVP Award from that game. Interesting during the break how Commissioner Rob Manfred somewhat criticized Trout for not helping MLB market him more. Apparently, Trout doesn't care about building his Q rating. That's not great, though, when it's your sport's best player. The Halos will activate Nick Tropeano (3-4, 4.83) for this one. He last pitched in the majors on June 10 due to shoulder inflammation. Tropeano lost in Houston on April 25 (5.1 IP, 4 ER). Jose Altuve is 5-for-9 off him with a homer. Houston's Justin Verlander (9-5, 2.29) pitched last Sunday and thus didn't participate in the All-Star Game. Verlander was rocked for six runs and four homers against the Tigers in a loss but did strike out 12. Verlander went 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in his final six starts before the break and might be tiring. He's 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts this year vs. L.A.
Key trends: Houston has won four straight Verlander starts vs. the Angels. The over is 4-0-1 in Tropeano's past five.
Early lean: Astros and over.
Indians at Rangers (+180, 10)
Cleveland's bullpen has been shockingly bad this season, in part because Andrew Miller has been hurt. The Tribe have addressed their weakness by acquiring Padres closer Brad Hand and a second arm, Adam Cimber, for Francisco Mejia, who is considered the top catching prospect in MLB and Top 15 overall. Hand, a lefty, is 2-4 with 24 saves and a 3.05 ERA. Remains to be seen if he will get closing chances with Cody Allen in that role. The Indians go with Carlos Carrasco (11-5, 4.12) here. He pitched one inning of relief Sunday and got the win against the Yankees. In his most recent start, Carrasco gave up a run and five hits in five innings against the Reds on July 11. Texas' Bartolo Colon (5-7, 4.64) does what he does: throws about six innings and allows at least three runs. He'd be a cheap trade acquisition just to fill out the back end of the rotation for the rest of the regular season. However, Colon has a 6.23 ERA since the beginning of June. Jason Kipnis is 4-for-11 off him with two homers.
Key trends: The Indians are 21-7 in Carrasco's 28 vs. teams with a losing record. The Rangers are 1-4 in Colon's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 6-0 in Carrasco's past six on Saturday.
Early lean: Indians on runline and over.
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