Free MLB Picks for Tuesday, August 27, 2019
In a recent Opening Line Report, we touched on how the Houston Astros are turning once-mediocre pitchers into much better ones thanks to their analytics department. We used Aaron Sanchez in that case. We definitely also could have used the example of Charlie Morton. When Morton became a free agent after the 2016 season with Philadelphia, he wasn't even sure he'd get a major-league offer because he was the definition of a journeyman and very injury-prone. The Astros took a chance on Morton and completely changed him. In his two seasons in Houston, Morton was one of the AL's best pitchers and also became the first pitcher to get a win in Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 7 of the World Series in the same postseason (2017). That said, perhaps the Astros goofed on letting Morton walk this past offseason as a free agent. He took a two-year, $30 million deal from Tampa Bay and has been even better. In retrospect, the Astros should have just signed Morton to that deal and then they wouldn't have had to give up a ton of prospects and pay Zack Greinke a bunch more money the rest of this season and the next two. Morton faces his former club in the marquee pitching matchup of Tuesday.
Cubs at Mets (-115, 8.5)
MLB Network prime-time game. Could be a Wild-Card preview. Cubs are hoping to have Anthony Rizzo back for this one. He left Saturday's game with mid-back tightness and got Sunday off. The Cubs have been great at home but were swept over the weekend there by Washington to fall out of first in the NL Central. It's Yu Darvish (4-6, 4.43) for Chicago. He was roughed up last time out by the Giants but sure has fixed his early-season wildness issues. Darvish is the first pitcher in MLB history to have five straight outings with at least eight strikeouts and zero walks. Marcus Stroman (7-1, 3.18) has one victory in four starts since his trade from Toronto to the Mets. He left his last outing after four with tightness in his hamstring. Only a few Cubs have seen him in a regular-season game.
Key trends: The Cubs have lost five straight Darvish road starts. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the Mets' past five at home.
Early lean: Mets and under.
Rays at Astros (-165, 8)
Could be an ALDS preview if the Rays get a Wild-Card spot and win that game. Morton (13-5, 2.85) has been worth every dollar and then some for Tampa Bay. The All-Star comes off a no-decision vs. Seattle, allowing three runs over five. His streak of three straight starts without a walk ended. Expect Martin Maldonado behind the plate for Houston because he's 7-for-13 with a double off his former teammate. It's Astros ace and AL Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander (15-5, 2.77). He allowed just two hits in a complete game last time out vs. Detroit but both hits were solo homers and Verlander lost in the biggest MLB moneyline upset of the past 15 years. Verlander did extend his franchise record of double-digit strikeout games to a career-best seven.
Key trends: The Astros are 16-5 in Verlander's past 21 on five days of rest. The over is 5-1 in Morton's previous six on the road.
Early lean: Rays on runline and under.
Reds at Marlins (+135, 7)
One of the Marlins' worst trades in franchise history was sending Luis Castillo (12-5, 3.04) to the Cincinnati Reds for Dan Straily in 2017. Straily was meh in his two seasons with Miami while Castillo has blossomed into one of the top young pitchers in the National League. Castillo, who has one of the game's best changeups, is off a victory against the Padres, allowing one run and five hits over six. Miami lefty Caleb Smith (8-7, 3.82) has been very up-and-down this month, going 1-3 with a 5.66 ERA in four starts. It's his first 2019 look at Cincinnati. Only a few Reds have seen him in their careers.
Key trends: The Reds are 4-1 in Castillo's past five starts vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 4-1 in Smith's previous five against the NL Central.
Early lean: Reds and under.
Twins at White Sox (+117, 8.5)
Minnesota is hoping for the return of outfielder Eddie Rosario on Tuesday. He has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. He's having a fine year, batting .282 with 27 homers and 85 RBIs. The Twins start Michael Pineda (9-5, 4.26) on the bump. He hasn't lost since July 17. Pineda allowed four runs over seven last time out against these White Sox. It was only the second time in his past 17 starts that Pineda allowed more than three earned runs. White Sox ace Lucas Giolito (14-6, 3.20) threw a complete-game three-hitter at Minnesota last week, striking out 12 and walking none. That improved him to 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts this year vs. the Twins. Nelson Cruz is 4-for-9 with three homers off Giolito.
Key trends: The Sox are 7-2 in Giolito's past nine vs. the AL Central. The under is 14-6 in Giolito's previous 20 overall.
Early lean: White Sox and under.
Rangers at Angels (-140, 8)
Fox Sports 1 late-night game. It's All-Star lefty Mike Minor (11-7, 3.17) for Texas. He wasn't sharp in his most recent outing vs. these Angels in allowing seven runs and 10 hits over 5.2 innings but he did avoid the loss and Texas won. Minor is 3-3 with a 4.75 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in his last nine starts. Mike Trout is 5-for-19 off him with a homer. David Fletcher 7-for-17 with three doubles. Halos southpaw Andrew Heaney (3-3, 4.31) won in Texas last Tuesday, allowing one run and four hits while striking out a career-high 14 and walking none. He was on extra rest and will be again here. Elvis Andrus is 7-for-20 against him with two home runs.
Key trends: The Angels are 4-1 in Heaney's past five vs. the Rangers. The over is 5-2 in Minor's previous seven on Tuesday.
Early lean: Angels and over.
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