Pirates at Dodgers Picks and MLB Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 4/6/2013
There have been four contracts worth at least $200 million given out in Major League Baseball history, and all were to position players: Alex Rodriguez (twice), Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. It seems only a matter of time that a pitcher joins that group, and it's almost certainly going to be the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
Tigers ace Justin Verlander's new deal could be worth $202 million if you count the vesting option in the eighth season. But in reality it's a seven-year, $180 million extension, the most ever for a pitcher after Felix Hernandez had set the mark earlier this year with a seven-year, $175 million extension with the Mariners.
Kershaw has a few things going for him to surpass Verlander and King Felix. First off, the Dodgers' ace is just 25 years old, a year younger than Hernandez and five younger than Verlander. Kershaw also is left-handed, and lefty aces are perhaps the biggest asset in Major League Baseball. Finally, Kershaw plays for a big-market behemoth that is awash in television money and more than willing to spend it.
The Dodgers might want to lock up Kershaw soon, because, if his opener this year is a precursor to what he will do this season, he might command $250 million. I'm exaggerating, but not by a ton. Kershaw, who takes the mound Saturday night against the Pirates, is in the second year of a two-year, $19 million deal and will set a record in arbitration this winter if he doesn't get a new deal beforehand. He would become a free agent following the 2014 season and create a bidding war unlike any we have seen. Doubt he gets there. Reportedly, the Dodgers and Kershaw's representatives have been talking, but nothing is close yet.
Pirates at Dodgers Betting Story Lines
All Kershaw did on Opening Day was pitch a complete-game four-hit shutout against the reigning World Series Champion Giants, striking out seven with no walks on 94 pitches. Kershaw's sixth career shutout was a masterpiece. Did I also mention Kershaw hit a solo homer to break a scoreless tie leading off the eighth inning (L.A. won 4-0)? It was the first dinger of his big-league career. He became the second pitcher ever to throw a shutout and hit a home run in an opener, joining Bob Lemon (Cleveland in 1953). Kershaw entered the game a career .146 hitter with one extra-base hit in 261 at-bats. He was the first pitcher anywhere to homer on Opening Day since Joe Magrane of St. Louis in 1988 and the first Dodger to do it since Hall of Famer Don Drysdale in 1965. It was fitting that Sandy Koufax threw out the first pitch that day as it was almost like a torch was passed.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, things went downhill in the final two games of the series as they lost both to the Giants and totaled three runs. Carl Crawford looks good so far, hitting .556 entering Friday's game. But Adrian Gonzalez was just 1-for-9 against San Francisco and Matt Kemp 0-for-10 with three strikeouts. Kemp also struggled in the spring (.250 average, just one homer), and it's worth wondering if he's really 100 percent healthy yet off shoulder surgery (Kemp says he is). The Dodgers went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position against the Giants.
The Dodgers, remember, are without shortstop Hanley Ramirez for the first two months of the season after he tore a ligament in his thumb in the World Baseball Classic. The team used Justin Sellers the first two games at short. He had been optioned to minor-league camp the morning of March 19, but then Ramirez was hurt that night and it changed Sellers' fortunes in a big way. Sellers is all glove (he did have two errors on Tuesday) and no bat (career .197 hitter), and the team then decided to shift Luis Cruz over from third to short in the series finale with the Giants. Juan Uribe played third. Manager Don Mattingly said not to read anything into that, but the team is certainly better offensively that way.
The Pirates were one of the pleasant surprises until early August last year as they were 16 games over .500 and in the hunt for the NL Central title and holding one of the wild-card spots. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen was a leading candidate for NL MVP, but then the wheels fell off and the Pirates finished under .500 for a record 20 straight seasons. McCutchen simply couldn't do it all with a weak lineup around him, and things don't look much different yet. Pittsburgh lost two of three at home to the Cubs to open the season, scoring three runs or fewer in every game and totaling only 13 hits. McCutchen is hitting .300 with two RBI and four steals, but no one else has done anything. In fact, McCutchen is the only player hitting better than .286.
Kershaw is scheduled to face right-hander A.J. Burnett in Saturday night's game. He lost to the Cubs on Opening Day, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out 10 in 5.2 innings. According to ESPN, Burnett was the first pitcher in the Live Ball era with at least 10 strikeouts in less than six innings on Opening Day. He faced the Dodgers once last season, getting the win despite allowing six runs in 6.2 innings. Kershaw was 1-0 with a 2.11 ERA in two starts against the Pirates but is just 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in six starts against them in his career.
Pirates at Dodgers Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline, the Dodgers have been opened at -210 and the Pirates +195 with the total at 6. All trends entering Friday: The Pirates are 0-3 “over/under” and are 1-2 as favorites. The Dodgers are 1-2 O/U and 1-2 as a favorite. Pittsburgh is 4-0 in its past four in Game 2 of a series. The Pirates are 1-9 in Burnett's past 10 starts. The Dodgers are 5-1 in their past six against righty starters. They are 13-3 in Kershaw's past 16 Saturday starts. The under is 4-0 in Pittsburgh's past four against southpaws. The under is 5-1 in Burnett's past six starts. The under is 5-0 in L.A.'s past five Saturday games. The under has hit in 19 of Kershaw's past 29 home starts.
Pirates at Dodgers Picks and Betting Predictions
The Pirates never play well at Dodger Stadium, losing four of their past 20 there. But if there is such a thing as a letdown game for L.A. and Kershaw, this is it (especially after Zack Greinke made his Dodger debut on Friday). Burnett is nasty enough to keep the Dodgers in check, and maybe McCutchen touches up Kershaw -- he is hitting .357 with a homer off Kershaw in his career. Thus, I believe it's worth rolling the dice and taking Pittsburgh at that great price (Kershaw can't win every game). Definitely like the under.
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