Daily Expert MLB Picks: Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, Opening Line Report
The last thing I wanted to do in this space was talk about the Washington Nationals again, but they gave me no choice on Tuesday. In fairly stunning news, they let former All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy go in a waiver trade (for a very low-level prospect) to the Cubs and did the same with Matt Adams (for cash) to Adams' former Cardinals team. So, what does this all mean in D.C.? Time to look toward the Redskins, Wizards and Capitals. The Nats have waived the white flag and are simply saving a few dollars now. If you are wondering, yes, the team also ran Bryce Harper through waivers. He was claimed by the Dodgers, but apparently the sides either couldn't work out a deal or Washington pulled him back. In an open letter to the team's fans, Nationals owner Mark D. Lerner explained the reasoning behind the trades, writing that Washington "gambled" (and clearly lost) at the July 31 trade deadline by not trading some players then. The other players might revolt over this, so I'd be fading the Nationals just about anytime that Max Scherzer isn't on the mound for a while.
Phillies at Nationals ( -175, 7 )
MLB Network game at 1 p.m. ET and a spectacular pitching matchup between Cy Young candidates in Philadelphia's Aaron Nola and Scherzer. Nola (14-3, 2.24) is making a big push for that award as he beat the Mets last time out with a season-high 11 strikeouts over seven innings. It was his fourth straight quality start. He's 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two starts this year vs. Washington. Harper is 9-for-23 off him with two homers and seven strikeouts. Ryan Zimmerman just 3-for-20 with six Ks. Scherzer (16-5, 2.11) isn't exactly fading, not allowing a run over 13 innings in his past two. He has faced the Phillies only once this year, allowing one run over 6.1 in a win on May 6. Odubel Herrera is a .333 hitter against him in 36 at-bats.
Key trends: The Nats are 12-1 in Scherzer's past 13 vs. the Phillies. The "over/under" has gone under in Nola's past five against Washington.
Early lean: Phillies on runline and under.
Indians at Red Sox (-174, 9.5)
A 1:05 p.m. ET start from Fenway and the last time these teams play before potentially October. Thing is, I'm not sure that will happen because Boston is going to open against the wild-card winner and the Tribe vs. AL West champion - and I'd take Houston over Cleveland. Tribe rookie Adam Plutko (4-3, 4.62) returned to the majors Saturday and allowed three runs over seven innings in a loss to the Orioles. He hasn't faced Boston. Red Sox lefty David Price (13-6, 3.69) beat Tampa Bay on Saturday, surrendering two runs over seven. That's six straight quality starts for the former Cy Young winner. Lifetime against the Indians, Price is 10-2 with a 2.24 ERA. Melky Cabrera hits .313 off him with two homers in 32 at-bats.
Key trends: The Indians are 2-5 in their past seven vs. a lefty. The Sox have won six straight Price starts vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-0-1 in his past five overall.
Early lean: Red Sox on runline and under.
White Sox at Tigers (-125, 9)
A 1:10 p.m. ET start from Motown. I've heard some rumblings that the Cubs could also have interest in a waiver deal for the White Sox's James Shields considering the Cubbies aren't getting Yu Darvish back in 2018. Shields (5-14, 4.39) won for the first time since July 13 last Friday, allowing three runs over seven vs. Kansas City. Shields is 6-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 12 career starts at Comerica Park. Victor Martinez is a .274 hitter against him in 62 at-bats. Detroit lefty Matthew Boyd (7-11, 4.27) lost at the Twins on Friday, allowing four runs over 6.1 innings. He had a shutout through five. Boyd somehow has avoided the division-rival White Sox in 2018. Jose Abreu hammers Boyd, but the Sox will now be without their slugger for at least two weeks following abdominal surgery.
Key trends: The Sox are 2-6 in Shields' past eight vs. Detroit. The over is 6-2-1 in his previous nine road starts vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Tigers and over.
Giants at Mets (-145, 7)
Another great pitching matchup (1:10 p.m. ET start) between a former World Series MVP in the Giants' Madison Bumgarner and another Cy Young candidate in the Mets' Jacob deGrom. Bumgarner (4-5, 3.05) wasn't sharp on Saturday in Cincinnati, allowing six runs and eight hits over six. That was his worst outing of an injury-shortened season. DeGrom (8-7, 1.71) leads the majors in ERA and is second in the NL in innings, strikeouts and WHIP. He comes off a complete game vs. the Phillies with one unearned run allowed and seven hits to no walks. It was deGrom's third straight win. Brandon Crawford is 3-for-14 with six Ks against him.
Key trends: The Giants are 4-12 in Bumgarner's past 16 road starts. The Mets are 5-13 in deGrom's previous 18 at home. The under is 15-5-1 in deGrom's past 21 overall.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Reds at Cubs (-225, TBA)
MLB Network prime-time game. If Murphy didn't make it to Detroit in time to debut with the Cubs on Wednesday, then he should here. He presumably will play second base most of the time, with Javier Baez moving to either shortstop (Addison Russell is banged up and struggling) or third base (Kris Bryant remains out). Murphy can also play some third if necessary or even first if Anthony Rizzo needs a day off. Should the Cubs make the World Series, they now have two DH candidates as well in Murphy and Kyle Schwarber. It's lefty Cole Hamels (8-9, 4.00) for the Cubs, and he has been a godsend for that iffy rotation. Hamels blanked Pittsburgh on five hits over seven Friday. He hasn't seen the Reds this year. Cincinnati's Anthony DeSclafani (6-3, 4.12) has thrown three straight quality starts, going at least seven in each. He beat the Cubs on June 23 (6.1 IP, 2 ER).
Key trends: The Reds are 4-1 in DeSclafani's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-0 in his previous four in Chicago.
Early lean: Reds on runline.
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