Daily Expert MLB Picks: Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, Opening Line Report
Have any big-league managerial experience? May want to send your resume to the office of Mike Rizzo, general manager of the disappointing Washington Nationals. It's starting to look more and more like Rizzo goofed by firing Dusty Baker after last year's crushing NLDS loss to the Cubs and replacing him with Dave Martinez. He had tons of experience as a coach in MLB but not as a manager. Martinez looks simply overwhelmed at times. The Nats suffered one of the most gut-wrenching losses in MLB regular-season history on Sunday in Chicago and then dealt with another walk-off loss Monday in St. Louis. Martinez's bullpen has been a gas can, in part because Rizzo (his job is safe) traded away Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley for nothing. After Monday's loss, Martinez simply said: "I don't know what else to do." Probably not what a GM wants his manager to say publicly.
Rays at Yankees ( -190, 8 )
MLB Network game at 1:05 p.m. ET - we can't preview many Rays games here because they use those "openers" half the time and the books don't release lines when they do. That will seriously have to be addressed this offseason. We hope it's Rays ace lefty Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18) actually starting here. He threw five perfect innings Friday in Toronto but was pulled because it was only his second start since coming off the DL. He's 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Yankees. Giancarlo Stanton's lone hit in eight at-bats off him is a homer. New York's Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08) was rocked for six runs (three homers) in five innings Friday in a loss to Texas. He had a 1.78 ERA in his previous six outings combined. Tanaka threw a complete-game shutout at Tampa Bay on July 24.
Key trends: The Yanks have won six straight Tanaka home starts in this series. The Rays have dropped their past seven Snell starts at NYY. The "over/under" has gone under in three of Snell's past five in series.
Early lean: All streaks must end at some point: Go Rays and under.
Mets at Phillies, Game 1 (TBA)
Facebook Watch matchup at 4:05 p.m. ET and first game of a twinbill. Philadelphia is about to see the debut of All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos. He was acquired from the Rays at the trade deadline even though Ramos was on the DL at the time with a fairly serious hamstring injury. Ramos was off to a fine offensive start prior to that. He should definitely help the Phillies. They start Zach Elfin (8-4, 3.57). It a not cool move, the Phils sent him to Triple-A following his last start in a bit of roster maneuvering. Alas, it cost Elfin nine days of service time and $20K. His agent obviously wasn't happy, and you'd think the team could have found someone less valuable to piss off. Elfin took a ND at the Mets in July 9 (5 IP, 3 ER). New York lefty Steven Matz (5-9, 4.35) is set to come off the DL. He last pitched in the majors on July 31. Matz allowed one run in Philly over five on May 11.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-4 in Matz's past five. The Phils are 2-12 in their past 14 DH opening games. The over is 4-0 in Matz's past four.
Early lean: Should have known better than to pick a DH game as those often don't have early lines. All indications are this will be the pitching matchup for the opener and I like the Phillies.
Cubs at Pirates (+104, 8.5)
Very important start here for Cubs ace lefty Jon Lester (12-5, 3.89) as I believe the team will put him on the 10-day DL after with some mystery injury if he struggles again. Lester has posted a 10.32 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break and batters are hitting .383 off him in those. Sometimes just a week or two off will do the trick. Lester is 2-1 with a 4.70 ERA this year in four starts vs. Pittsburgh. Jordy Mercer hits .333 off him with a homer and three doubles in 21 at-bats. Starling Marte is 5-for-22 with five Ks. The Pirates' Ivan Nova (7-6, 4.42) won in San Francisco last Thursday, allowing two runs and three hits over six. He's 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts in 2018 vs. Chicago. Ian Happ is 3-for-8 with two homers off him.
Key trends: The Pirates are 4-1 in Nova's past six in the series. The over is 6-1 in Lester's past seven against Pittsburgh.
Early lean: Pirates and over.
Nationals at Cardinals (-130, 8.5)
A 7:05 p.m. ET MLB Network game between very disappointing teams - of course, the Cardinals already made a managerial change. They go with good-looking rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty (6-6, 3.22). He has won two straight, allowing just two runs and six combined hits over 13 innings. He also has struck out at least seven in all five starts post-break. It's his first look at Washington. The Nats' Tanner Roark (7-12, 4.12) has completely transformed himself in the past four starts, winning them all and allowing just four total runs. Roark's ERA was 4.87 before that stretch. Marcell Ozuna has seen him by far the most of any Cardinal, batting .286 with a homer and nine Ks in 35 at-bats.
Key trends: The Nats are 4-0 in Roark's past four vs. the NL Central. The over is 5-2 in his past seven. It's 6-1 in Flaherty's past seven.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Diamondbacks at Padres (+120, 8)
MLB Network late-night game. You may not have noticed because it's the anonymous Padres, but they have played pretty well this month - they were swept in three at home by Arizona from July 27-29. San Diego starts Jacob Nix (1-0, 0.00). The rookie made his big-league debut Friday against the visiting Phillies and shut them out over six innings on four hits. Nix became only the seventh Padre to work at least six scoreless frames in his debut. Arizona's Clay Buchholz (5-2, 2.67) had a four-start winning streak snapped Friday in Cincinnati, surrendering two earned over seven. He took a no-decision at Petco Park on July 29 (5.2 IP, 3 ER). Eric Hosmer is 3-for-10 off him with two RBIs.
Key trends: The Padres are 3-13 in their past 16 at home vs. a right-hander. The under is 5-2 in Buchholz's past seven on the road.
Early lean: Padres and under.
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