Daily Expert MLB Picks: Wednesday, July 4, 2018, Opening Line Report
No day on the calendar is most closely tied to baseball than the Independence Day holiday in the USA. It's also considered the unofficial halfway point of the season, although almost every club will have played more than half its schedule by Wednesday. How important is it to be leading your division on July 4 in order to reach the playoffs? In the Wild-Card Era around 60 percent of division leaders on the holiday go on to win it. Almost 70 percent get into the playoffs in one form or another. Last year, the division leaders were the Red Sox (AL East), Indians (AL Central), Astros (AL West), Nationals (NL East), Brewers (NL Central) and Dodgers (NL West). All but Milwaukee won their division, with the Cubs taking the Central. This year, I'd say the division leader in the most jeopardy would be Arizona out West - especially if the Dodgers trade for Manny Machado has been rumored. Then again, the Diamondbacks have been linked to him as well. The Dodgers are +130 West favorites at Bovada .
Red Sox at Nationals ( +121, 9 )
It's an 11:05 a.m. ET first pitch; I believe this is the only morning start time on the 2018 schedule. The Red Sox play at that time on Patriots' Day but that was rained out this year. The Nats are 4-2 on the day since the 11:05 a.m. July 4 tradition began in 2012. If these teams play again after Wednesday, it would only be in the World Series. With such an early start after a night game, one would think a starter or two on each side might sit out, although guys tend to like playing on the holiday. It's lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (9-3, 4.11) for Boston. He had been one of the most profitable pitchers in the league but has dropped his past two, allowing five runs in each. It's his first career look at Washington. The Nationals counter with Erick Fedde (1-3, 6.00). He won in Philadelphia last Tuesday, allowing five runs in five innings. He hasn't faced Boston.
Key trends: The Red Sox have won seven straight of Rodriguez's interleague starts. The Nats are 0-5 in Fedde's past five at home. The "over/under" has gone under in 8-1 of Rodriguez's past nine interleague starts.
Early lean: I absolutely love the under here with that start time; huge advantage to the starting pitchers. Take Boston.
Tigers at Cubs (-226, TBA)
Detroit has lost outfielder Leonys Martin to the disabled list with a hamstring injury. It's his second time on the DL this year with that problem. Martin has been a solid free-agent addition for Detroit, playing good defense and hitting .257 with nine homers and 29 RBIs. Close Shane Greene has joined him on the DL. Detroit, which also loses the DH, goes with veteran lefty Francisco Liriano (3-4, 3.99), who hasn't won since April 28 - although he did miss almost a month on the DL. He threw a quality start last time out vs. Toronto (6 IP, 3 ER). Anthony Rizzo can't hit him, going 5-for-29 with 10 strikeouts. Chicago lefty Jose Quintana (6-6, 4.31) hasn't won since May 31 and yet again failed to last six innings last Thursday, going 5.1 in a no-decision at the Dodgers. It was his 11th straight outing with multiple walks. The Tigers' Nicholas Castellanos is 10-for-35 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Tigers have lost Liriano's past five on the road. The Cubs are 7-1 in Quintana's past eight at home vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 5-2 in Quintana's past seven at home.
Early lean: Cubs on runline.
Orioles at Phillies (TBA)
ESPN game at 4 p.m. ET. Little has gone right this year for the Orioles, and now they've lost a potential trade chip in reliever Darren O'Day. He's expected to miss the rest of the season following surgery on his left hamstring injury. O'Day had a 3.60 ERA in 20 innings as a set-up man. The Birds go with David Hess (2-5, 5.94). He lost to the Angels in his last outing, allowing six runs over 5.2 innings. It was his fourth straight start allowing at least five runs. The rookie hasn't faced the Phillies. They start ace Aaron Nola (10-2, 2.48), who not only seems a lock for an All-Star spot but might start the game for the National League. He hasn't personally lost since May 20 and gave up a run over 7.2 innings last Wednesday in a victory over Washington. Only a few Orioles (who lose the DH) have seen him.
Key trends: The Phillies have won six straight Nola starts vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 11-4-1 in his previous 16 overall.
Early lean: Opening TBA because Orioles haven't officially named Hess yet, but I like the Phils on the runline regardless of the number.
White Sox at Reds (-180, 10)
ESPN prime-time game with Chicago losing the designated hitter, usually Matt Davidson. However, he can also play third and manger Rick Renteria likely wants to keep his big bat in there as Davidson leads the team in homers and OBP. The Sox start Dylan Covey (3-3, 4.82). He's just not very good was bombed for nine runs over 2.1 innings last Thursday in a loss at Texas. It's the 26-year-old's first career look at Cincinnati. The Reds' Sal Romano (4-8, 5.30) frankly isn't very good, either - hence the big total here. He was OK last time out, allowing two runs over five in a loss to the Brewers. Romano has never faced the White Sox, who might not have Jose Abreu (day-to-day with bruised ankle).
Key trends: The Sox are 1-11 in Covey's past 12 on the road. The Reds are 4-1 in Romano's past five at home vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 3-0-2 in Romano's previous five at home.
Early lean: Reds and over.
Cardinals at Diamondbacks (-130, 8)
The last of an ESPN tripleheader and the late game on the schedule with a 10 p.m. ET start time. St. Louis should get back center fielder Dexter Fowler off the paternity list as players are allowed to miss three games and Tuesday would have been the third. Fowler has been shockingly bad this year, hitting .171. The Cards start NL Comeback of the Year candidate Miles Mikolas (8-3, 2.61). He was a tough-luck loser Friday against Atlanta, allowing one run over 6.1 innings. Only a couple of Diamondbacks have seen him. Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin (6-3, 3.14) is looking for his first win since June 5. He comes off a good outing vs. San Francisco, surrendering a run and four hits over six in a no-decision. The Cards' Marcell Ozuna is 3-for-13 with a homer off Corbin.
Key trends: The Cards have lost six straight on Wednesday. The Diamondbacks are 1-5 in Corbin's past six at home. The under is 4-1 in his past five.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and under.
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