Daily Expert MLB Picks: Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, Opening Line Report
Want to know why baseball is falling in popularity more and more each year? Because it's stuck in the 1950-60s in terms of innovation and "unwritten rules." The NFL, NBA and NHL all have made drastic changes to their game to make them more fan-friendly (and the "unwritten rules" are gone). Not baseball. I bring this up because of what happened in Wednesday's Marlins-Braves game. Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. was having a historic stretch and was looking to homer to lead off a game for the fourth straight time. Except, Marlins pitcher Jose Urena hit him on the elbow with his first pitch. Urena, who was ejected, said it was an accident … but it was the hardest pitch (literally) he has ever thrown to open a game (97.5 mph). Seems fishy (pun intended). During a Mets telecast that night a few innings after the incident, former Mets great Keith Hernandez said the Marlins absolutely should have hit Acuna because he had been killing them all week. That's patently absurd. Braves legend Chipper Jones fired back at Hernandez, saying he wonders what Hernandez might have said if the Braves decided to throw at Jacob deGrom just because he was on a historic hot streak. HBPs happen, and Urena has a history of control problems as he has hit 11 guys on the season. Still, MLB could have sent a message and suspended Urena a decent amount of games as he ruined a rare time that baseball was actually trending in the news because of Acuna. Naturally, Urena only got six games (one start).
Blue Jays at Yankees ( -262, 8.5 )
A 1 p.m. ET start on ESPN+ and the only game to start before 4 p.m. this Saturday. Hugely important start for Yankees ace Luis Severino as New York is not going anywhere in the AL playoffs if he doesn't shake his second-half doldrums. Actually, his issues started before that. On July 1, Severino threw 6.2 shutout innings vs. Boston and the Yankees had the AL East lead. Severino was 13-2 with a 1.98 ERA then and your AL Cy Young favorite. Now, he's 15-6 with a 3.27 ERA after lasting a season-low four innings Monday vs. the Mets. He's 1-4 with a 7.96 ERA since the break. Everyone in New York (except those Yankees who make the decisions) want the Yankees to throw Severino on the 10-day DL to get him rest. Maybe they will if he struggles again here. Severino is 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA in three starts vs. the Jays this year. It's the second career start for Toronto rookie Sean Reid-Foley (0-1, 5.40), one of the team's top pitching prospects. He allowed three runs over five Monday in Kansas City.
Key trends: The Yankees are 2-5 in Severino's past seven vs. the Jays. The "over/under" is 7-1 in Severino's past eight overall.
Early lean: I'll roll the dice on the Jays at around +240. Go over.
Orioles at Indians (-230, 9.5)
Fox Sports 1 telecast at 4:05 p.m. ET. Sometimes a pitcher's records can be misleading, especially when you play on a team as horrid as the Orioles, which aren't far off the pace for the most losses in MLB single-season history. In that regard, I give you Alex Cobb (3-15, 5.31). He was as bad as that record indicates through June but has been a different guy since. Cobb has allowed three earned or fewer in every start since but one and just one earned in each of his past three. No way the Orioles allow him to become the first pitcher to lose 20 games in 15 years if it gets near to that point. I mentioned in Friday's Opening Line Report that excellent Cleveland pitcher Trevor Bauer landed on the DL, and his replacement is rookie Adam Plutko (4-2, 4.75). He last pitched in the majors on July 29.
Key trends: The Orioles are 1-4 in Cobb's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-1 in his previous six.
Early lean: Orioles on runline and under.
Brewers at Cardinals (-135, 8)
Fox Sports 1 game at 7:15 p.m. ET. If the Cardinals were to sneak into the playoffs, Matt Carpenter could get MVP consideration as he has been scorching hot since about mid-May (when he was hitting. 140 on the season). Carpenter was hit on the right hand by a pitch Wednesday, but X-rays came back negative. That would have all but ended St. Louis' postseason chances if it were broken. The Cards go with Miles Mikolas (12-3, 2.85). He still hasn't lost since June 29 but allowed four earned on Monday vs. Washington, his most since mid-June. Mikolas is one of four qualified starters in the majors to not allow more than four runs in a game this season. He's 2-0 with a 4.82 ERA in three starts vs. Milwaukee. Brewers lefty Wade Miley (2-1, 2.23) comes off a no-decision in Atlanta, allowing two runs over six. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his eight starts. Miley hasn't seen the Cards this year.
Key trends: The Brewers are 4-1 in Miley's past five on the road. The Cards have won four straight Miley starts at home. The under is 8-2 in his previous 10 at home.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Giants at Reds (+115, 8.5)
Three years ago, this would have been a can't-miss pitching matchup, but things change fast in baseball. Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 2.71) is still very good but can't seem to avoid fluky injuries any longer. He dueled Clayton Kershaw on Monday and took a no-decision, giving up two runs over six. Bumgarner has made three career starts at Great American Ball Park, where he's 2-1 with a 3.79 ERA. Joey Votto is 6-for-17 with a homer and five Ks against him. Cincinnati's Matt Harvey (5-7, 5.19) is still a candidate to be traded by Aug. 31. He threw a season-high seven innings Saturday vs. Arizona, surrendering two runs in a no-decision. Harvey took a ND in San Francisco on May 16 (4 IP, 3 ER).
Key trends: The Giants are 4-11 in Bumgarner's past 15 on the road. The Reds are 4-1 in Harvey's past 15 at home. The over is 5-2 in his past seven overall.
Early lean: Reds and over.
Rays at Red Sox (-225, 8.5)
Hey, we can preview another Rays game! It's nice looking ahead under Tampa Bay and not seeing "undecided." It's Tyler Glasnow here. It's still very early, but that Chris Archer trade to Pittsburgh already looks like a giant win for the Rays because Archer has been meh with the Pirates and Glasnow, a former highly-touted prospect, has a 2.25 ERA and 20 strikeouts in three starts with Tampa. Then again, he hasn't seen an offense like the Red Sox's. Glasnow has never faced Boston. Sox lefty David Price (12-6, 3.75) hasn't lost since July 1 in Kansas City. He blanked Baltimore on five hits over six last Saturday with 10 Ks. Price has thrown five straight quality starts, posting a 1.64 ERA over that stretch. He's 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts this year against his former team.
Key trends: The Sox are 5-2 in Price's past seven vs. Tampa. The under is 9-4-2 in his previous 15 at home.
Early lean: Rays on runline and under.
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