Free MLB Picks for Saturday, May 18, 2019
Once again in the Saturday Opening Line Report this week, we're going to address a starting pitcher who is going Sunday since we don't write those days. That would be Red Sox lefty Chris Sale, who is scheduled to take the mound against the visiting Astros. The baseball world is still buzzing about Sale's start Tuesday when he had 17 strikeouts through seven innings against the Colorado Rockies. That's an MLB record through seven innings, while the overall record is 20 by Max Scherzer, Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens (twice). The big question everyone is asking is whether Boston manager Alex Cora was wise to pull Sale after 108 pitches instead of giving him a shot to tie or break the record. Most Red Sox fans say it was the right move because Sale has had a history of arm troubles later in the season and just signed a long-term contract. Obviously, Sox fans care more about having Sale at 100 percent the next five years. As a non-Red Sox fan, I clearly wanted Sale to go back out there and hopefully break the mark. With strikeouts way up again this year, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if someone does whiff 21.
Rays at Yankees (+100, 8)
First game of day at 1:05 p.m. ET and on the MLB Network. The Yankees' injury news just got worse but it wasn't unexpected that third baseman/DH Miguel Andujar, so good as a rookie in 2018, has elected to have season-ending shoulder surgery. He was out from April 1-May 3 with a small labrum tear in his right shoulder, returned for a bit and went just 3-for-34 and then was placed back on the injured list. Last year, he hit .297 with 27 home runs and 92 RBIs in being named AL Rookie of the Year runner-up. Gio Urshela has been manning third in his place. It's Masahiro Tanaka (3-3, 3.44) on the bump. Last Sunday, he won at the Rays, allowing one run over seven. He was opposed that day by Rays ace Blake Snell (3-4, 3.56), who allowed two runs with 12 strikeouts in just 5.2 innings in the loss. That was the deepest Snell has ever gone vs. New York.
Key trends: The Rays are 1-7 in Snell's past eight at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks are 6-1 in Tanaka's previous seven at home vs. Tampa. The "over/under" has gone under in four of Tanaka's past five at home in series.
Early lean: Yankees on runline (be a sweet price as slight dogs) and under.
Blue Jays at White Sox (TBA)
Chicago hasn't had much good news in its rotation this year but one bright spot of late has been former Top 10 MLB prospect Lucas Giolito (4-1, 3.55). Maybe the 24-year-old is figuring things out as he hasn't allowed more than three earned in three starts since returning from the injured list. Giolito won in Toronto last Sunday, allowing one run and four hits over seven. However, Giolito is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA over three starts at home this year. Toronto's Daniel Hudson (2-1, 3.48) began his career in 2009 with the White Sox and once was a top prospect himself. He has pitched for a few teams since then, mostly in relief in recent years. Hudson should be used simply as an opener here as the Jays are dealing with injuries in their rotation.
Key trends: The Sox are 1-6 in Giolito's past seven at home. The over is 7-3 in his previous 10 overall.
Early lean: At some point, I'm going to keep including these games with an "opener" just to protest no opening line. The books are costing themselves money. I'd go Toronto here regardless.
Rockies at Phillies (-177, 8.5)
Colorado apparently avoided disaster on slugging shortstop Trevor Story when he collided awkwardly with outfielder Raimel Tapia chasing a ball against the Red Sox on Wednesday. Story only suffered a bruised knee when it looked much worse. Story enters the weekend batting .276 with nine homers and 28 RBIs. The team still called up top shortstop prospect Brendan Rodgers, but he could simply play second base. Not clear if Story will be good to face Phillies ace Aaron Nola (3-0, 4.86). After a slow start, Nola has been much better of late but lasted only three innings last time out vs. the Brewers because of a rain delay. Nola won in Colorado on April 20 (5.2 IP, 3 ER). Story is 3-for-9 off him with five strikeouts. Colorado's Antonio Senzatela (3-2, 5.35) lost to the Phillies opposite Nola on April 20 (6 IP, 4 ER). Maikel Franco is 2-for-3 with a homer off him.
Key trends: The Phillies have won seven straight Nola starts vs. the NL West. The under is 8-2 in Senzatela's previous 10 on the road.
Early lean: Phillies on runline and under.
Cubs at Nationals (-142, 8)
One of three Fox games at 7:15 p.m. ET - just depends on where you live on which you get. We now know why the Cubs have been without outfielder/second baseman Ben Zobrist for a while - he's getting divorced. He has been on personal leave since May 8. His wife Julianna is a fairly well-known singer. When Zobrist, the MVP of the 2016 World Series, returns is up in the air. Great pitching matchup here. It's lefty Jon Lester (3-1, 1.16) for Chicago. He's just shy of qualifying for the ERA title but would lead the majors if so. Lester hasn't allowed an earned run in his past three outings. Washington's Stephen Strasburg (3-3, 3.63) has gone at least six innings in six straight starts but has lost his past two. He's among the NL leaders with 75 strikeouts. Jason Heyward is a career .405 hitter against him in 37 at-bats.
Key trends: The Cubs are 1-4 in Lester's past five vs. the Nats. The over is 4-1 in Strasburg's previous vs. against the Cubs.
Early lean: Nationals and over.
Astros at Red Sox (-105, 11)
Also on Fox and a rematch of last year's ALCS, won by Boston in five games - after dropping Game 1 at home. Not exactly the sexiest pitching matchup here considering some of the big names on the respective staffs. It's Corbin Martin (1-0, 3.38) for Houston. The 23-year-old Houston native made his big-league debut on Sunday and allowed two runs with nine strikeouts over 5.1 innings vs. Texas. He was considered the franchise's No. 4 overall prospect. Boston's Hector Velazquez (1-2, 3.95) beat the Mariners on Sunday, allowing two runs over a season-high five innings as he has bounced between the bullpen and rotation. No Astros hitter has more than two regular-season at-bats against him.
Key trends: The Red Sox have won their past five in Game 2 of a series. The over is 6-1-1 in Houston's previous eight Game 2s.
Early lean: Astros and over.
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