Free MLB Picks for Friday, June 21, 2019
The Atlanta Braves already have passed the Philadelphia Phillies for first place in the NL East and as the Bovada betting favorites (-200) to win the division for a second year in a row. And the Braves should only get stronger on Friday night with the expected Atlanta debut of lefty and former AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. The Braves won the bidding for the free agent over the likes of the Yankees and Twins, although Keuchel only got a deal for this year as he hopes to re-establish value and land a long-term contract next winter when there's no draft compensation attached to him. Keuchel isn't as good as he used to be, but a move to the National League often energizes pitchers because they don't have to face the DH every day. Plus, Keuchel does eat innings and should be a perfect veteran stabilizer for an otherwise young rotation. He also has plenty of postseason experience. Really a no-lose situation for Atlanta.
Mets at Cubs (-160, TBA)
Per usual on a Friday when the Cubs are home, it's a 2:20 p.m. ET first pitch from Wrigley and on the MLB Network. What has gotten into veteran Mets lefty Jason Vargas (3-3, 3.74)? He was terrible all of last season and early this year but has now allowed three earned runs or fewer in nine straight outings with an overall ERA of 2.39 in that stretch. He did leave his most recent start after four innings due to a calf cramp but is expected to pitch here. Vargas is 2-0 in his career at Wrigley Field. Willson Contreras is 1-for-2 with a double off him. Yu Darvish (2-3, 4.65) comes off one of his best starts as a Cub, which isn't saying much. On Saturday in L.A. in facing the Dodgers for the first time since he left as a free agent, he allowed one run and two hits with 10 strikeouts over seven. Yet amazingly, he still hasn't gotten a decision since April 27.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-9 in the past 10 meetings. The "over/under" is 4-1 in Darvish's past five at home.
Early lean: Mets on runline.
Braves at Nationals (-136, 9)
The southpaw Keuchel was 12-11 with a 2.74 ERA last year. The reason he didn't draw a ton of free-agent interest initially was because of that draft-pick compensation and the fact he'll be 32 on New Year's Day and doesn't throw very hard. GMs will always prefer guys who throw hard because they age better. Keuchel has pitched twice in the Braves' farm system since being signed, throwing 77 pitches in seven innings for Single-A Rome on June 10 and 106 pitches in seven innings for Double-A Mississippi five days later. He was dominant in the former and not so much the latter. Washington's Brian Dozier is 6-for-12 with a homer off him. The Nats pushed Stephen Strasburg (7-4, 3.75) back a day in the wake of playing a doubleheader on Wednesday. Strasburg tied a career high in allowing four homers last time out in a loss to Arizona. He was terrific in Atlanta on May 28 (7 IP, 2 ER, 11 Ks).
Key trends: The Nats are 4-9 in Strasburg's past 13 at home vs. the Braves. The over is 6-1 in his previous seven in D.C. against Atlanta.
Early lean: Nationals and under.
Astros at Yankees (-147, 9.5)
MLB Network prime-time game. Houston got second baseman Jose Altuve back Wednesday, and outfielder George Springer began a rehab assignment Thursday and thus is close. The Yankees, meanwhile, likely will get back outfielder Aaron Judge on Friday even though he has struggled offensively in the minors this week. Houston's Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67) come off a loss to Toronto, allowing four runs over five; he has surrendered two homers in back-to-back starts. The Yanks' Gleyber Torres is 2-for-2 with three RBIs against him. New York lefty James Paxton (4-3, 3.93) comes off his first quality start since April 21, allowing two runs over six in winning at the White Sox. Paxton lost in Houston on April 10 (4 IP, 5 ER). Altuve is a .321 hitter off him with two homers in 28 at-bats.
Key trends: The Yankees are 4-1 in Paxton's previous five at home. The over is 7-1 in Peacock's past eight vs. the AL East.
Early lean: Yankees and over.
Twins at Royals (+154, 10)
Minnesota has placed center fielder Byron Buxton on the injured list with a right wrist contusion. It appears Buxton will never be the superstar he was once projected as, but he's having a solid year after a horrid 2018. Monitor young Royals star shortstop Adalberto Mondesi as he's dealing with groin tightness. He leads the majors in steals and may be the team's All-Star representative. Twins lefty Martin Perez (7-3, 4.09) has come crashing back to earth in allowing at least four runs in four straight starts and not winning any of them. He lost to these Royals on Sunday (6.2 IP, 4 ER). Kansas City's Jakob Junis (4-6, 5.33) took a no-decision Sunday at Minnesota, giving up two runs over 3.2 innings. Miguel Sano is 3-for-6 with two homers off him.
Key trends: The Royals are 5-1 in Junis' past six vs. the AL Central. The over has hit in five straight Perez starts.
Early lean: Royals and over.
Blue Jays at Red Sox (-340, 8.5)
Already without closer Ken Giles (elbow), the Jays added first baseman Justin Smoak to the 10-day injured list with a quad injury. He was an All-Star last year but is hitting just .225 in 2019. Smoak probably would have sat Friday regardless against Red Sox ace lefty Chris Sale (3-7, 3.49), who has struck out at least 10 in four straight starts and eight of his past nine. His 22-inning scoreless streak ended Saturday in Baltimore where he allowed two runs over six. Sale was shelled by the Jays on April 9 (4 IP, 5 ER) but he was a different pitcher then. Toronto's Trent Thornton (2-5, 4.36) won for the first time in a month Sunday, blanking the Astros on six hits over 6.2 innings in Houston. Thornton has never faced the Red Sox.
Key trends: The Red Sox have lost eight straight series openers started by Sale. The under is 5-2-1 in Thornton's previous eight on the road.
Early lean: Red Sox on runline and under.
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