Daily Expert MLB Picks: Thursday, July 12, 2018, Opening Line Report
The Tampa Bay Rays unveiled plans for their new ballpark on Tuesday. I used to live in the Tampa Bay area, so I can tell you that their current park, Tropicana Field, is a complete dump and located in the worst possible area in south St. Petersburg. Traffic makes it nearly impossible for fans living in Tampa to get there in a reasonable amount of time. The new park is in Tampa and it's cool looking with a fixed/translucent roof along with "sliding glass exterior walls to bring the outside in." No question, a massive upgrade. Now, who is paying the nearly $900 million? The Rays surely aren't. The Marlins were able to get public funding for their park and taxpayers in Miami-Dade are going to be paying the bill on that for decades. And still no one goes to Marlins games. Fans in Florida just don't care that much about baseball. They are all mostly from elsewhere as it is and can watch teams in spring training. If the Rays don't find the money for this, I do think they will be moving at some point. MLB's two next targets for expansion/relocation reportedly are Portland and Montreal. Ideally, the league gets to 32 teams so we don't have interleague action every single day and we can have a uniform DH rule.
A's at Astros ( -225, 8.5 )
First game of the day at 2:10 p.m. ET and on the MLB Network. Have you been paying attention to how good the A's have been playing for about a month? Alas, it's probably not going to matter because it would be a huge upset if the two wild-card teams in the AL aren't the Mariners and the AL East runner-up. Oakland would be leading a few other divisions. The A's go with Trevor Cahill (1-2, 2.77). He hasn't pitched in the majors since June 2 due to an Achilles injury but is expected to be activated. Cahill lost in Houston on April 29 (6 IP, 3 ER). George Springer is 2-for-4 with a homer against him. Houston's Charlie Morton (11-2, 2.83) comes off a rare poor start, allowing five runs in 5.2 innings vs. the White Sox but still got the win. He hasn't faced Oakland this year. Khris Davis is 3-for-11 with two homers off him.
Key trends: The A's are 5-2 in Cahill's past seven vs. the AL West. The Astros are 1-5 in Morton's past six on four days of rest. The "over/under" has gone under in 11 of Morton's past 15 at home.
Early lean: A's on runline and under.
Diamondbacks at Rockies (+103, 11)
Arizona lefty Robbie Ray (3-1, 5.23) was really good in his first start after missing two months on the disabled list but has not been so in the past two, allowing 10 runs and 13 hits over 9.1 innings. He was originally to pitch Friday with an easier assignment in Atlanta but was pushed up to here because original Thursday starter Zack Godley was used out of the bullpen Sunday. Ray's season debut was a win over Colorado despite allowing six runs and three homers over five innings. Charlie Blackmon murders him, going 15-for-30 with four homer and 11 RBIs. The Rockies' Kyle Freeland (8-6, 3.18) hasn't lost since June 10. The southpaw lost that night opposite Godley, allowing four runs over six. AJ Pollock is 3-for-6 with a double against Freeland.
Key trends: The Diamondbacks are 2-5 in Ray's past seven vs. the Rockies. The over is 5-1-1 in his past seven against them. The under is 19-4 in Freeland's past 23 at home.
Early lean: Rockies and under.
Nationals at Mets (+203, 7)
Will Max Scherzer (11-5, 2.33) start Tuesday's All-Star Game? I'd think there's a great chance because it's in Washington, D.C. Scherzer ended an incredibly rare four-start losing streak last time out but wasn't overly sharp in allowing four runs in seven against Miami with a season-low three strikeouts. Scherzer has yet to face the Mets in 2018. Jose Bautista is 9-for-29 off him with four doubles and a homer. Michael Conforto 6-for-18 with three homers. New York lefty Steven Matz (4-6, 3.31) was a tough-luck loser Saturday against the Rays, allowing one run over 6.1 innings. Four of the five hits Matz allowed went for extra bases. He has finished at least six innings in five of his last seven starts after accomplishing that only twice in his first 10 starts this year. Matz is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Nats. Anthony Rendon is just 3-for-14 off him with eight Ks.
Key trends: The Nats are 5-1 in Scherzer's past six vs. the Mets. The under is 5-2 in his previous seven in New York.
Early lean: Mets on runline and over.
Yankees at Indians (-121, 7)
This might be the pitching matchup of the 2018 season and could help determine who starts Tuesday's All-Star Game, although I'm pretty sure that will be New York's Luis Severino (14-2, 2.12). He has been the most profitable pitcher in the majors this year if you have bet $100 on each of his outings because the Yankees are 17-2 in them. He leads the AL in wins and is second in ERA, fifth in WHIP (0.96) and sixth in strikeouts (143). When the Yankees swept three at home vs. the Tribe earlier this season, Severino didn't pitch. He won Game 4 of last year's ALDS over the Indians. Jose Ramirez is 3-for-10 with two homers off him career in the regular season. Cleveland's Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.49) also missed the earlier series. He dominated New York in both regular-season starts last year but was lit up in both games of the ALDS. You may remember Didi Gregorius homered twice off him in Game 5. Somehow, neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton has faced Kluber in a regular-season game.
Key trends: The Yanks are 1-4 in their past five road games vs. a right-hander. The Indians are 6-1 in Kluber's past seven vs. New York. The under is 5-2 in Severino's previous seven road starts vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Indians and under.
Rays at Twins (-103, 8)
It's hard for major-league players to get too fired up over one particular game because, well, there are 162 of them. However, I'd bet the farm on Tampa Bay here because lefty Blake Snell was completely jobbed by being left off the AL All-Star roster and he says being named an alternate in place of someone else just isn't the same. He clearly is PO'd, as he should be. Snell (12-4, 2.09) is first in the AL in ERA and in the Top 8 or so in just about everything else. Snell is 8-1 with a 1.27 ERA in his last 10 starts dating to May 18 and leads the majors in ERA over that stretch. His 16 total starts of two runs allowed or fewer are tops in the majors. Snell beat the Twins on April 21 (7 IP, 1 ER). Brian Dozier is 4-for-8 off him with a homer. The Twins' Kyle Gibson (3-6, 3.59) beat the Orioles last time out, allowing three runs over seven. He lost opposite Snell back in May, surrendering four runs in 6.1 innings.
Key trends: The Rays are 5-2 in Snell's past seven road starts vs. teams with a losing record. The Twins are 2-5 in Gibson's previous seven at home. The under has hit in five straight Snell road starts.
Early lean: Rays and under.
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