Free MLB Picks: Saturday, June 22, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
Barring about 25 percent of the big-league roster going down for the rest of the season due to injury, the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to win a seventh straight NL West title. Their talent level is simply head and shoulders above any other club in the division - although the Padres are closing that gap - and they have money to spend on whatever they need. The Dodgers are more focused on winning the franchise's World Series since 1988. L.A. might need to address its rotation to win the pennant again, though. Hyun-Jin Ryu is having easily his best season, and Clayton Kershaw has been very good, but both are very injury-prone. And the most injury-prone guy in the rotation is now hurt: lefty Rich Hill. He has landed on the injured list (come on, this was a formality at least twice this year) with left forearm discomfort, which can lead to Tommy John surgery. We won't see Hill until August … if again in 2019 (or ever?). Hill said he had elbow tightness in his two previous starts - perhaps something he should have let the team know about? The 39-year-old remains a very productive pitcher with a 2.55 ERA in 10 starts, but I don't see how the Dodgers can realistically count on him going forward.
Angels at Cardinals (-155, 8.5)
A 2:15 p.m. ET start from Busch Stadium, and this entire weekend should be a lovefest around Albert Pujols as he returns to St. Louis for the first time since leaving for the Angels as a free agent in December 2011 - Pujols is probably the second-best Cardinals hitter of all-time (Stan Musial), but the team looks brilliant in hindsight for not coughing up all the money that the Angels did. Pujols will face off against young Dakota Hudson (5-3, 3.55). He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in every start since mid-April. Hudson hasn't seen the Angels, who lose the DH (Shohei Ohtani). L.A.'s Felix Pena (5-1, 4.70) has shuffled between the bullpen and rotation this season. He won in Toronto last time out, allowing four runs over six. He used to pitch for the Cubs so a handful of Cardinals have seen him.
Key trends: The Angels are 3-8 in Pena's past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in five of Hudson's past six.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Mets at Cubs (-155, TBA)
MLB Network game at 2:20 p.m. ET. With White Sox rookie Eloy Jimenez starting to go nuts, including beating the Cubs with a ninth-inning homer earlier this week, the Cubs' decision to trade Jimenez and a top pitching prospect to the Pale Hose a couple of summers ago for lefty Jose Quintana looks worse and worse. Quintana (4-6, 3.87) is a solid pitcher, but he wasn't worth giving up all that. He hasn't won since May 5. The Mets' Robinson Cano is 7-for-19 career off him with a dinger. New York's Zack Wheeler (5-5, 4.94) is becoming a top trade candidate with the Mets likely going nowhere and Wheeler a pending free agent. Wheeler hasn't won in his past three outings, although only one of those was subpar. Jason Heyward has seen him by far the most of any Cub, going 8-for-24 with two homers.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-5 in Wheeler's past six on the road. The over is 7-3 in Quintana's past 10 at home vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Cubs on runline.
Padres at Pirates (+103, 9)
A 4:05 p.m. ET first pitch from PNC Park. I criticized the Padres for sending down ace rookie pitcher Chris Paddack (4-4, 3.15) last week with the team still in wild-card contention. The Friars did so simply to help limit his innings while not taking up a roster spot with the big club. San Diego will recall Paddack for Saturday's start. The 23-year-old might have hit a rookie wall with the team dropping his past three outings and Paddack allowing 13 runs over 14.1 innings. It's his first-ever look at the Bucs. Pittsburgh's Chris Archer (3-6, 5.85) has allowed at least four runs in four of his past five starts. He has a 7.33 ERA with only one quality start over his last nine appearances.
Key trends: The Pirates have lost Archer's past five against the NL West. The under is 5-1-1 in his previous seven on five days of rest.
Early lean: Padres and over.
Rays at A's (TBA)
This one starts at 4:07 p.m. ET from what will no doubt be a largely empty Oakland Coliseum. The Rays seemingly always make smart trades, and they were wise to land infielder Yandy Diaz from Cleveland in a three-way deal last winter that also included Seattle. Diaz is having a breakout season, his first as a regular, in hitting .286 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs but has landed on the injured list with a right hamstring strain. Should make things a bit easier on Saturday for Oakland's Mike Fiers (7-3, 4.28), who hasn't personally lost since May 1. Fiers won at the Rays two starts ago, allowing two earned over six. Always dangerous to preview a Rays game because they use an opener so often, but it should be Yonny Chirinos (7-3, 3.00) here. He has made a nice transition from the bullpen to the rotation with three straight quality starts. Chirinos allowed two runs over six on June 12 vs. the A's.
Key trends: The A's are 11-3 in Fiers' past 14 at home. The under is 5-2 in his previous seven there.
Early lean: TBA as Rays haven't made Chirinos official yet … because they like to screw with handicappers! Go Oakland and under what should be a total of 8.5-9.
Rockies at Dodgers (-255, 7.5)
One of three Fox national TV games at 7:15 p.m. ET - just depends where you live on which you get. Barring injury, it seems almost a sure thing that the lefty Ryu (9-1, 1.26) will start the All-Star Game for the National League considering he leads the NL in wins, ERA and WHIP (0.82). Ryu has had back-to-back no-decisions despite allowing just one earned run over 13 innings with 14 strikeouts and no walks. It's his first look this season at the Rockies. Nolan Arenado hammers him, going 11-for-19 with three homers and seven RBIs. The Rox have lost shortstop Trevor Story to the injured list for at least a few weeks. Colorado rookie Peter Lambert (2-0, 6.00) looked sensational in his first two starts, both against the Cubs, but was rocked for eight runs in three innings Sunday against the Padres. It's his first outing vs. the Dodgers, and he's from the L.A. area.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 1-4 in Ryu's past five against the Rockies. The under is 5-2-2 in his previous nine against them.
Early lean: Dodgers on runline and under.
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