Daily Expert MLB Picks: Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, Opening Line Report
If you happen to watch some baseball this weekend - the last weekend you might until the playoffs with college football starting in force next weekend and then the NFL after that - you might be puzzled with the unique uniforms the teams are wearing and the strange last names on the back of them. That's because it's Players' Weekend. I've ripped MLB a few times of late for not being very forward thinking, but this was a pretty good idea instituted last year (helps sell merchandise). It definitely wouldn't work all season, but one weekend it's interesting. All players have the option of putting some sort of nickname on the back of their jerseys, although I'm sure MLB has to OK it to make sure it's politically correct or not a Spanish swear word or something. I'm guessing some guys have tried to put a sponsor on the back to make some extra cash, but that wouldn't be allowed. Doubt anyone's nickname was "Nike" or the like growing up. Two of the best nicknames I've seen are Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer (who rarely plays) going with "La Pinata" because he gets hit by pitches often and teammate Shane Bieber with "Not Justin" for obvious reasons. Letting the players express themselves (cleats can also be personalized) can only help MLB long term.
Nationals at Mets ( +107, 8 )
Fox Sports 1 game at 4:05 p.m. ET. Washington's teardown could continue as starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman have all cleared waivers. No one is touching Zimmerman with his contract, but Gonzalez probably goes somewhere by Aug. 31 since he's a free agent after the season as is Wieters. Frankly, I'm surprised no contender claimed the southpaw Gonzalez. Washington's Tanner Roark (8-12, 4.05) has been a completely new pitcher in the second half but lasted only three scoreless innings Tuesday vs. the Phillies due to a long rain delay. Apparently because he didn't go deep the team is OK bringing him back on three days of rest. Roark is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts this year vs. the Mets. New York's Zack Wheeler (8-6, 3.63) has been spectacular in his past five with a 0.92 ERA and 40 strikeouts against just seven walks. He's 1-1 with a 4.61 ERA in two starts this year vs. Washington.
Key trends: The Nats are 1-4 in Roark's past five in New York. The Mets are 1-6 in Wheeler's past seven at home vs. Washington. The "over/under" has gone under in 13 of Roark's past 17 on Saturday.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Phillies at Blue Jays (+111, 9)
Crazy baseball injury alert! We now know why young Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.52), who was so good in 2016 but hasn't been able to stay healthy since, hasn't pitched since June 21: He bruised an index finger around then when it got caught in a falling suitcase. Come on, man! Only a freaking baseball player. Sanchez only came clean this week. He also endured multiple stints on the disabled list because of blister and fingernail issues last season. The Phillies, who will add the designated hitter, go with Nick Pivetta (7-10, 4.66), who is from British Columbia. He was bombed Sunday by the Mets and lost at home to the Blue Jays on May 27, allowing two runs over five.
Key trends: The Phillies are 2-6 in Pivetta's past eight on five days of rest. The over is 8-3-1 in his previous 12 overall.
Early lean: Blue Jays and over.
Indians at Royals (+277, 8.5)
Bit of a pitching mismatch here between two teams with nothing to play for - the Indians for a good reason (the AL Central title is a formality) and the Royals because they are putrid. Corey Kluber can make a push to catch Chris Sale as the Cy Young favorite right now because Sale is back on the DL and the Red Sox are going to be so cautious with him. Kluber (16-6, 2.74) leads the AL in wins and innings pitched but isn't striking out guys as much as he used to. Nothing wrong with letting your defense do some of the work. He's 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Royals. Alex Gordon is just 7-for-47 off him with 20 Ks. Kansas City rookie Heath Fillmyer (1-1, 4.57) was still a reliever on July 4 when he threw three scoreless innings vs. Cleveland.
Key trends: The Indians have won five straight Kluber starts vs. the Royals. The over is 11-1 in his past 12 vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Indians runline and over.
Cardinals at Rockies (-128, 11)
The rolling Cardinals have placed outfielder Marcell Ozuna on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Ozuna is having a good but not great year, hitting .275 with 16 homers and 69 RBIs. Tyler O'Neill likely will get the majority of playing time in left field while Ozuna is out, although new addition Matt Adams can play there (albeit badly). The Cards go with John Gant (5-5, 3.76). Solid enough guy but doesn't go deep into games with 33 walks in 79 innings. It's his first career look at Colorado. The Rockies' German Marquez (11-9, 4.42) dominated the first-place Braves and Astros, both on the road, in his past two starts. Marquez has pitched into the seventh inning seven times this year and his team has won six of those.
Key trends: The Cards are 3-8 in Gant's past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The Rockies are 7-2 in Marquez's past nine vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in his previous five overall.
Early lean: Rockies and under.
Padres at Dodgers (-390, 7.5)
One underrated Padre is rookie third baseman Christian Villanueva, but his season might be finished as he was placed on the DL with a fractured right middle finger. I'm not saying he's an All-Star, but the 27-year-old from Mexico had 20 homers and 46 RBIs this year and was hitting .356 this month. One less worry for Dodgers ace lefty Clayton Kershaw (6-5, 2.40). He looks back to Cy Young form in allowing two earned or fewer in six straight starts. Kershaw threw six shutout innings in San Diego on July 9 in his only game against the Friars this year. Padres rookie Brett Kennedy (0-2, 8.36) makes his fourth big-league start. He has gotten a bit better each time out and hasn't faced the Dodgers.
Key trends: The Dodgers have won seven straight Kershaw home starts vs. the Padres. The over is 8-2 in his previous 10 against them.
Early lean: Dodgers on alternate runline (-2.5) and under.
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