Free MLB Picks for Thursday March 28, 2019
I'll give my MVP, pennant and World Series picks for Friday's Opening Line Report, but let's address what happened last week in Tokyo, where the Mariners won both against the division-rival A's to kick off the regular season. First off, you understand why MLB wants to play in baseball-mad Japan, but it's blatantly ridiculous to open the season a week early and with first pitches of 5:30 a.m. ET. Isn't this America's pastime? Send the teams over there ahead of the All-Star break or something for a series. The most notable thing that happened was Ichiro Suzuki coming out of pseudo-retirement, playing partially in both games and then officially calling it quits. That was pretty cool to see in front of his countryman. Counting his time in Japan, one could argue Ichiro is a Top 5 player in all of baseball history (easily the most popular globally), and he has surpassed Pete Rose in total hits. Mariano Rivera already became the first unanimous Hall of Famer. Maybe Derek Jeter becomes the second next year, but Ichiro better be in five years (playing those two games should push his clock back a year, but MLB probably just forgets about those two games so he'd be eligible in 2023).
Orioles at Yankees (-337, 9)
An ESPN game at 1 p.m. ET. Arguably the worst and best teams in the majors, although I tend to think the Yankees are a tad overrated like they usually are - especially with Luis Severino on the shelf for at least the first month. He otherwise would have started Opening Day. Excellent set-up man Dellin Betances and center fielder Aaron Hicks also will start the year on the shelf. Masahiro Tanaka gets his fourth career Opening Day start - the Yankees lost his first three and he had a 9.49 ERA. Tanaka was 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA in four 2018 starts vs. the horrid Birds. Baltimore, which opens with DH Mark Trumbo on the 60-day DL and full of guys you have never heard of, goes with Andrew Cashner, who was an ugly 4-15 with a 5.29 ERA last year, his first with the Orioles. Was to be Alex Cobb, but he injured his groin in his final spring start. Cashner was 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA last year in four starts vs. NYY.
Key trends: The Orioles are 1-6 in the past seven meetings. The "over/under" is 6-1 in Tanaka's past seven vs. Baltimore.
Early lean: Yankees on runline (get used to that often for top teams vs. Baltimore) and over.
Mets at Nationals (-138, 7)
Another 1 p.m. ET start, and how is this not nationally televised? It's one of the pitching matchups of the year and we're only at Opening Day. Max Scherzer appeared on the way to winning a third straight Cy Young last year and fourth overall, and in many seasons he would have done so. However, the Mets' Jacob deGrom stole it despite just a 10-9 record and the voting wasn't close. His 1.70 ERA was the sixth-best in baseball since MLB lowered the pitcher's mound to its current height in 1969. Believe it or not, it's deGrom's first Opening Day start. He carries in an MLB-record streak of 24 consecutive quality starts and 29 straight outings of three runs or fewer. DeGrom was 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in three starts vs. the Nats - who begin life without Bryce Harper - last year. DeGrom just got a massive extension this week. Scherzer was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts vs. the Mets, who will unveil second baseman Robinson Cano among a few other new faces.
Key trends: The Mets have won deGrom's past six in Washington. The Nats are 1-4 in Scherzer's past five at home vs. the Mets. The "over/under" is 5-1 in Scherzer's previous six vs. New York.
Early lean: Nationals and over.
Cardinals at Brewers (-113, 8.5)
First pitch of 2:10 p.m. ET at Miller Park (name is changing starting for 2021 season). It's the St. Louis debut of former Diamondbacks first baseman and perennial NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, who recently got a long-term extension from the Cardinals. Also note that manager Mike Schildt didn't name an official closer, but that it's likely to be Jordan Hicks getting most of the chances at first. The Cards did land Andrew Miller this offseason. They start one of last year's huge surprises, Miles Mikolas, who finished sixth in the Cy Young voting and earned himself a nice extension. Mikolas was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA vs. Milwaukee. The Brewers counter with Jhoulys Chacin, who himself was huge surprise in 2018 at 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA. However, he was 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA in five starts vs. St. Louis.
Key trends: The Brewers have won 10 of Chacin's past 11 series-opening starts. The over is 9-3 in Mikolas' past 12 on the road.
Early lean: Brewers and over.
Braves at Phillies (-181, 7.5)
A 3:03 p.m. ET matinee. Bryce Harper makes his Phillies debut, and he absolutely rakes at Citizens Bank Park over his career. Harper of course got a $330 million contract in free agency with no opt-outs, so he'll be in Philly the rest of his career barring a trade. Harper was hoping to lure Philly native Mike Trout after 2020 when Trout was set to become a free agent, but now Trout is the highest-paid player in sports history and won't be coming. Harper isn't the only All-Star making his Phillies debut, joining catcher JT Realmuto (Marlins) and shortstop Jean Segura (Mariners). The Phillies will be the first team in big-league history to start the season with three new position players who were all All-Stars the previous season. They start young ace Aaron Nola, who got a rich new deal this offseason and was third in the Cy Young race. He was 2-2 with a 2.30 ERA in five starts vs. Atlanta. The Braves' Julio Teheran will join Warren Spahn as the only Braves pitchers to make at least six consecutive Opening Day starts. Teheran was 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA in four 2018 starts vs. the Phillies.
Key trends: The Phillies are 5-1 in Nola's past six at home vs. Atlanta. The under is 5-2 in his past seven against the Braves overall.
Early lean: Phillies and under.
Astros at Rays (+122, 6.5)
A 4 p.m. ET start from dreary Tropicana Field. It's a matchup of former Cy Young winners in Houston's Justin Verlander and last year's winner, Rays left Blake Snell. The Rays looked cheap earlier this winter in giving Snell just a $15K raise but then eventually signed him to a $50 million extension. Snell, who makes his first Opening Day start, led the AL with 21 wins and a 1.89 ERA in 2018. Jose Altuve is 3-for-10 with two homers career off him. Verlander, who recently signed a two-year extension with Houston, finished second in last year's Cy Young voting after going 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA and leading the American League in strikeouts with 290. It's the 11 th career Opening Day start for the future Hall of Famer.
Key trends: The Rays have won Snell's past four vs. Houston. The under is 5-0-1 in the previous six meetings.
Early lean: Rays and under.
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