Daily Expert MLB Picks: Saturday, July 28, 2018, Opening Line Report
When I read that the Nationals had placed Stephen Strasburg back on the disabled list, I figured Washington was done for this season. In some good news, though, Strasburg isn't having trouble with the shoulder that cost him six weeks earlier this season but just a pinched nerve in his neck (although those hurt like heck). So, theoretically, he might not be out long - although, can you really trust him to stay healthy the rest of the way? This weekend reportedly will determine if the Nationals are shockingly sellers ahead of Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline. If they can't win a series at sorry Miami, the team has to consider dumping some pending free agents with the NL East title and a wild-card spot both getting less and less likely. Will Bryce Harper be one of those guys dealt? No way because he helps fill the seats, but a few other guys possibly. Who would have thought the stripped-down Marlins would be within 10 games of the supposedly stacked Nationals at this point of the 2018 season?
Royals at Yankees ( -415, 8.5 )
MLB Network game (and ESPN+) at 1 p.m. ET. Only game in that time window. New York made two pieces of big news on Thursday, good and bad: They acquired pitcher J.A. Happ from the Blue Jays but lost likely team MVP Aaron Judge for at least three weeks with a chip fracture in his right wrist. The latter should all but hand the AL East to Boston. The Royals are in full-blown tank mode the rest of the way as they try to catch Baltimore for the top pick in the 2019 draft (not likely happening). They start 24-year-old rookie Heath Fillmyer, who wasn't even very good in Triple-A this year with a 4-5 record and 5.75 ERA. Fillmyer has pitched six times in 2018 for the big club, twice starting, and the Royals have managed to lose them all. He was good last time out in a start vs. Detroit (6.2 IP, 2 ER). Yankees ace Luis Severino (14-3, 2.63) could be tiring a bit as he has allowed 10 runs and 20 hits over 10 innings in his past two and failed to go more than five in three straight. He won in Kansas City on May 19 (6 IP, 3 ER).
Key trends: The Yankees have won eight straight Severino starts vs. teams with a losing record. The "over/under" has gone under in six of his eight at home.
Early lean: This is the biggest I've seen a team favored all season. I honestly can't remember a -400 or higher except for perhaps a couple of times on Clayton Kershaw starting back in his prime. Such a thing as a trap game in MLB? If so, this might be it. Take Royals on runline or, shoot, you may still get underdog value on the alternate runline (+2.5).
Cubs at Cardinals (-105, 9)
Fox Sports 1 national TV game at 4:05 p.m. ET. As expected, Chicago put third baseman Kris Bryant on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to July 24, with left shoulder inflammation. He missed three weeks earlier and surgery hasn't been ruled out. Some combination of David Bote, Ian Happ and Tommy La Stella will fill in at the hot corner. Chicago did trade for Cole Hamels on Thursday. Cubs lefty Jose Quintana (9-6, 3.87) has won his past three starts, all quality. He's 1-2 this year vs. the Cardinals with a 2.25 ERA. Dexter Fowler is 7-for-16 off him with six walks. Matt Carpenter 2-for-15. The Cards' Miles Mikolas (10-3, 2.82) hasn't lasted more than five in his past two; is the league starting to figure him out? He's 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts vs. the Cubs. Ian Happ is 2-for-3 with two doubles off him.
Key trends: The Cubs are 5-2 in Quintana's past seven on the road. The Cards are 6-2 in Mikolas' past eight on five days of rest. The under is 3-1-1 in Quintana's past five vs. St. Louis.
Early lean: Cubs and under.
Phillies at Reds (+107, 9.5)
I believe this is the last start in a Reds uniform for Matt Harvey, who has rebuilt a semblance of some value since the trade from the Mets - that's what small-market teams need to do: Take a risk on a big-time talent and hope you can flip him. Harvey is 5-4 with a 4.50 ERA with Cincinnati, which isn't great but way better than he was in New York. Shoot, the Reds might flip him before this start in case Harvey wrecks his value. He didn't help last time out, getting routed for eight runs and four homers in 3.2 innings vs. Pittsburgh. His season debut with the Mets was five shutout innings April 3 vs. the Phillies. They counter with Vince Velasquez (7-8, 4.05), who has a 2.38 ERA over his last six starts. He got the win with an inning of relief Tuesday in Philly's 16-inning victory over the Dodgers. Since he went just that inning, he's apparently fine to start here.
Key trends: The Phillies are 2-6 in Velasquez's past eight vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 8-1 in his past nine vs. the NL Central. The over is 4-0 in Harvey's past four.
Early lean: Reds and over.
Nationals at Marlins (+135, 8)
One National having a good season is third baseman Anthony Rendon, who is hitting .287 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs. Alas, he's likely to sit Saturday again as he's on the paternity list. Players get three games off maximum for that and Saturday would be the third - hey, free paid day off from work you don't come back early. On the off chance the Nationals do sell by Tuesday, lefty Gio Gonzalez, a Miami native, could be a candidate as he's set for free agency. Gonzalez (6-7, 3.94) started the season great but hasn't won since late May. He has a career 1.93 ERA against his hometown team. Miami rookie Trevor Richards (3-5, 4.41) has allowed just one run over 12.2 innings in his past two. He took a no-decision in Washington on July 8 (3.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 BB).
Key trends: The Nationals have won five straight Gonzalez starts vs. Miami. The under is 5-2-1 in his previous eight against them.
Early lean: Marlins on runline and under.
Brewers at Giants (-122, 8)
The Giants will be without first baseman Brandon Belt for a while after he suffered a hyper-extended right knee Wednesday vs. Seattle. Belt, who landed on the DL Thursday, was hurt reaching on an infield single in the seventh inning when he took a hard step after reaching first base. Belt is hitting .278 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs. Potentially one less worry for Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin (9-3, 3.58) has been one of the NL's big surprises. He had a season-high nine strikeouts in just 5.2 innings Monday in a win over Washington. Chacin has a 2.02 ERA in eight career starts in San Francisco. The Giants' Johnny Cueto (3-1, 2.76) has been so-so in three starts since a long DL stint. He hasn't regained full velocity from that sprained elbow. Christian Yelich is 5-for-15 off him with three doubles and a dinger.
Key trends: The Brewers are 1-6 in their past seven on Saturday. The Giants are 5-1 in Cueto's past six at home. The over is 7-0 in Cueto's past seven on five days of rest.
Early lean: Giants and over.
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