Daily Expert MLB Picks: Wednesday, July 25, 2018, Opening Line Report
The Minnesota Twins were a surprise playoff team last year, losing to the New York Yankees in the AL Wild-Card Game. Many experts thought the Twins would be even better this year with a step forward from a few of their good-looking young players and the pitching additions of Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn. However, one could make an argument that Minnesota's season went down the tubes before the team reported to spring training when ace Ervin Santana had surgery on the middle finger of his throwing hand to remove calcium deposits. He had an MRI on the finger after last season, but an injection, not surgery, was chosen as the best option to relieve it. Santana was 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 211 1/3 innings in 2017 and earned his second All-Star selection. Originally, Santana was thought likely to return sometime in mid-April but had a setback and saw a few specialists. He's finally ready to make his season debut Wednesday in Toronto. Now, I'm not saying the Twins would be in playoff contention had Santana been healthy all year (some of those young players have taken big steps back), but they likely would have been better than they are.
Yankees at Rays ( +137, 8.5 )
A 12:10 p.m. ET first pitch on the MLB Network. Tampa Bay is listening on just about everyone, and it's more likely than not the Rays will deal pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26) as the 28-year-old has looked dominant at times in his return from Tommy John surgery. He allowed one run with eight strikeouts in six innings last time out in a no-decision vs. the Marlins. Eovaldi lost to the Yankees, one of his former teams, on June 15 in the Bronx (7.1 IP, 5 ER). Didi Gregorius is 5-for-9 off him with a homer. New York's Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00) is taking the rotation spot of Domingo German, who was recently demoted to Triple-A. Cessa had made six appearances in the majors this year and two starts. He last pitched July 9 in Baltimore and shut out the Birds over six. Tampa's Carlos Gomez is 1-for-3 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Yanks are 2-5 in Cessa's past seven on the road. The Rays are 1-4 in Eovaldi's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of Cessa's past eight starts.
Early lean: Rays and under.
Diamondbacks at Cubs (-135, TBA)
A 2:20 p.m. ET start from Wrigley. Cubs All-Star lefty Jon Lester (12-3, 3.14) isn't getting much Cy Young love; hard to believe as good as Lester has been that he has never won the award - he was a distant second two years ago to Max Scherzer. Lester comes off easily his worst start of the year, allowing eight runs with five walks over three innings in a loss to St. Louis. Lester hadn't allowed more than four earned runs in any of his previous appearances. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt is 5-for-9 with a homer off him. Snakes lefty Robbie Ray (3-2, 5.37) has taken a bit step back from last year's All-Star form. He hasn't gone more than 5.1 innings in his past four. Chicago's Jason Heyward is 2-for-4 career against him with three RBIs.
Key trends: The Diamondbacks are 6-15 in Ray's past 21 road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Cubs are 16-5 in Lester's past 21 at home vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 13-6 in his previous 19 vs. the NL West.
Early lean: Cubs (and surely under unless wind blowing out hard).
Twins at Blue Jays (-122, 9)
This one starts at 4:07 p.m. ET from north of the border. Santana tossed six innings of one-run ball in his final rehab game Friday. He had a 3.72 ERA across seven starts at three levels in the minors. The 35-year-old should be duly motivated to pitch well as he's set for free agency after the season. Wouldn't actually shock me if the Twins were to trade Santana by the end of August in a waiver deal. Minnesota holds a $14 million club option for '19, but it's not expected to be picked up. Toronto's Justin Smoak is 7-fof-27 against him with a home run. The Blue Jays' Sam Gaviglio (2-3, 4.59) hasn't won since May 25. He went a season-high 7.2 innings last time out and struck out a career-high eight Orioles in a no-decision. Minnesota's Joe Mauer is 3-for-5 against him.
Key trends: The Twins are 1-4 in Santana's past five vs. the AL East. The Jays are 4-0 in Gaviglio's past four at home. The under is 8-1 in Santana's past nine on Wednesday.
Early lean: Jays and over.
Red Sox at Orioles (+170, 9)
ESPN prime-time game. Reports are that a few teams are scouting Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy (6-9, 4.57). It would surely take a pretty mammoth package to get the 25-year-old. He is trending down right now, allowing five earned runs in three straight starts to see his season ERA rise from 3.75. Bundy is 0-2 vs. Boston this year despite a 2.29 ERA. Brock Holt is 6-for-11 off him with two doubles. Andrew Benintendi hits .348 off Bundy in 23 at-bats. Boston lefty David Price (11-6, 4.17) blanked Detroit on four hits over six innings on Friday. That was his third scoreless outing of the year. He beat Baltimore on May 17 with a complete game, allowing two runs. Adam Jones hits .217 career with 18 strikeouts in 69 at-bats off Price.
Key trends: The Sox are 5-0 in Price's past five vs. Baltimore. The Orioles are 1-5 in Bundy's past six at home vs. Boston. The under is 7-1-2 in Bundy's past 10 vs. Boston.
Early lean: Orioles on runline and under.
White Sox at Angels (-227, 8.5)
Only late-night game on the schedule (10:07 p.m. ET) and on the MLB Network. I'm predicting this to be the final start in a White Sox uniform for James Shields (4-11, 4.26), a free-agent-to-be. Shields wouldn't get the Pale Hose much in return other than salary relief, but he'd add value to a contender as a No. 5 guy who goes six innings pretty much every time out. Mike Trout is 3-for-11 with two homers off Shields. Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs (7-6, 2.68) has the lowest ERA in the majors over his past seven, allowing just seven earned runs over that stretch. He comes off a loss against Houston (6 IP, 3 ER). Skaggs hasn't faced the White Sox since 2014 and only Jose Abreu (0-for-2) has seen him.
Key trends: The Sox are 5-21 in Shields' past 21 on the road. The Angels are 9-4 in Skaggs' past 13 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-2 in Skaggs' past seven.
Early lean: Angels on runline and under.
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