Free MLB Picks for Saturday, August 17, 2019
The news just keeps getting better for the Cleveland Indians. Once double-digit games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, the teams are now neck-and-neck. And if you look at the rosters, the Tribe should prevail barring injuries. Speaking of injuries, the reason the Indians got off to a slow start was because their rotation was ravaged. Soon, it could be at full strength. Two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, out since early May with a fractured right ulna, made his second rehab start on Tuesday and probably returns to the big club after one more. Carlos Carrasco, who was diagnosed with leukemia a few months ago, was cleared to begin throwing to live hitters this Friday. That's great news for someone dealing with a potentially life-threatening illness. Carrasco obviously will have to take it slow, but he could be ready sometime next month and still be a contributor down the stretch. All of a sudden, it's not so far-fetched to see the Indians end the longest World Series title drought in the sport.
Indians at Yankees (-162, 11)
MLB Network game at 1:05 p.m. ET. Rookie Zach Plesac (6-3, 3.27) helped keep the Tribe afloat when most of their rotation was out injured but probably will be transitioning to the bullpen sooner rather than later. Plesac hasn't lost since June 29 in Baltimore and the Indians haven't lost one of his starts since then, either. He allowed two runs over seven in a win over the Yankees on June 7. Didi Gregorius was 2-for-3 off him. New York lefty James Paxton (8-6, 4.40) has won three straight starts, going at least six in each. Opponents are hitting just .182 off him this month. Paxton hasn't seen the Tribe this year. Jason Kipnis is 5-for-10 off him with a double and two walks.
Key trends: The Yankees are 8-3 in Paxton's past 11 at home. The "over/under" is 7-3 in Plesac's past 10.
Early lean: Yankees on runline and under.
Cubs at Pirates (+125, 10)
A 1:35 p.m. ET first pitch from PNC Park. Cubs lefty Jon Lester (9-8, 4.43) recently speculated he was the weak link in the Chicago rotation right now. The borderline Hall of Famer might be right. He hasn't won since July 13, although he wasn't terrible last time out against the Reds (5 IP, 3 ER). Lester is 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA in two starts this year against the Pirates. Josh Bell is 6-for-22 with a homer and six Ks off him. Bucs southpaw Steven Brault (3-1, 4.33) has made two starts since about a month on the injured list and has yet to last more than 5.1 innings. He has not thrown more than 86 pitches in a start since June 30. Brault allowed four runs over three innings in his lone start vs. Chicago in 2019. Javier Baez is 5-for-9 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Cubs have won four straight Lester starts in Pittsburgh. The over is 8-3 in his previous 11 vs. the Pirates.
Early lean: Pirates and over.
Brewers at Nationals (TBA)
Fox Sports 1 prime-time matchup. Milwaukee's only major trade addition to the rotation ahead of the deadline was Jordan Lyles (7-8, 4.71) from Pittsburgh. He was pretty bad in his final few starts with the Bucs but has allowed one earned run in each of his three with the Brewers. Opponents are hitting .143 off him since the change of scenery. Lyles hasn't seen the Nats in 2019. Trea Turner is 4-for-7 with a double and homer off him. Washington's Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 3.75) hasn't lost since May 10. He comes off a no-decision at the Mets (5 IP, 3 ER) and hasn't seen Milwaukee this year. Mike Moustakas is 6-for-28 off him with two doubles and a homer.
Key trends: The Nats are 10-4 in their past 14 at home vs. right-handers. The over is 4-1 in Milwaukee's previous five against teams with a winning record.
Early lean: TBA as Nats haven't made Sanchez official yet but should be him - frankly, I like Washington on runline regardless.
Padres at Phillies (-110, 10)
The Phillies' chances of landing a Wild-Card spot took a hit this week with the news that pitcher Jake Arrieta landed on the injured list with bone spurs that he's been trying to pitch through for weeks - we have speculated numerous times in this space that he was going to have season-ending surgery at some point and that time apparently has arrived. Arrieta just wasn't the same guy dealing with those. It's Zach Eflin (7-11, 4.49) here taking Arrieta's spot after Eflin had been demoted to the bullpen. Eflin got the demotion thanks to a 12.64 ERA in four July starts. San Diego's Dinelson Lamet (1-2, 3.86) has been a bit wild in his seven starts since Tommy John surgery as he has walked 16 but batters are hitting only .214 off him. Only a few Phillies have seen him and Bryce Harper isn't one of them.
Key trends: The Padres have lost 11 straight Lamet starts vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 5-1 in Eflin's past six.
Early lean: Phillies and over.
Dodgers at Braves (+132, 10)
The NL Cy Young is probably Hyun-Jin Ryu's to lose. Ryu (12-2, 1.45), the Dodgers lefty, returned from a brief injured list stint Sunday and blanked the Diamondbacks over seven innings - his second straight start not allowing a run and sixth in a row allowing one or fewer. Ryu has three career complete games and one was May 7 vs. Atlanta when he blanked the Braves on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Freddie Freeman is 4-for-10 off him with a double. Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz (4-5, 6.24) allowed four runs over six last time out in a win at Miami. The hard-throwing right-hander has a 7.41 ERA over four starts against the Dodgers since the start of 2018, including the postseason. AJ Pollock is 6-for-10 off him with a solo shot.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 4-1 in Ryu's past five against Atlanta. The under is 7-3-2 in the Braves' past 11 vs. a lefty.
Early lean: Dodgers and under.
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