Free MLB Picks for Thursday April 6th

by Taylor Smith
on April 6, 2017

Thursday hopes to bring a little more pop to the bats, as Wednesday left us wanting more from the very beginning. The Twins piled on nine runs on the Royals in a win to get the action started yesterday, but MLB fans were forced to endure some grueling pitcher duel’s the rest of the way.

Just six other teams in the entire league scored 6+ runs on Wednesday, leaving a lot to be desired when it came to offensive baseball. To make matters worse, two of those teams produced 6+ runs in the same game, with a battle between the Rangers and Indians without a doubt handing us the most explosive MLB contest of the slate.

We could see things blow up a bit on Thursday, as the Rockies spend their last day in Miller Park. That could be one explosive game, while Thursday’s MLB schedule fattens up with two extra games being added to the mix. The White Sox and Tigers will make up their second PPD game already this year, while the Cubs and Cardinals continue their own rivalry series after getting rained out yesterday.

It should be a fun day of MLB action and it gets going early with the first set of games blasting off at 1:10 pm ET:

Philadelphia Phillies (+1.5)
Cincinnati Reds (-1.5)
Total: 8.5
  • Clay Buchholz (8-10, 4.78 ERA) vs. Rookie Davis (MLB debut)
  • Moneyline: Phillies -110, Reds -110
  • Weather: 20 mph winds, high of 45 degrees, 46% chance of rain

The Reds and Phillies look to wrap up their season-opening series on Thursday, as veteran righty Clay Buchholz makes his debut with the Phillies after spending his entire career in Boston. Buchholz took a step back after a mild resurgence in 2015 and it’s fair to say Philadelphia won’t know what they have in the 32-year old hurler until he takes the mound.

He does have experience on his side, which can’t be said for Rookie Davis, who will toe the rubber for his first MLB start. Davis has proven to be an interesting prospect and shined in 2015, but after a shaky 2016, it’s unclear how he’ll deliver in the face of his first MLB action. Luckily, he’ll be at home against an inconsistent Phillies offense, which potentially helps him considerably.

Inexperience could be key here, however, as we know Buchholz is at least capable of slaying an erratic Cincinnati offense, but can’t know what to expect out of Davis in his debut. It’s not with much confidence (especially since the Phillies are 1-8 in their last 9 games in Cincy), but we’ll back the veteran pitcher in this one.


Kansas City Royals (+1.5)
Minnesota Twins (-1.5)
Total: 8
  • Jason Hammel (15-10, 3.83 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson 6-11, 5.07 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Royals -105, Twins -115
  • Weather: 10 mph winds, high of 51 degrees

After two of yesterday’s early games were PPD, Ian Kennedy probably wishes the same would have happened to Kansas City’s Wednesday contest. That didn’t happen, unfortunately, as Kennedy got slammed and the Royals could put up just one run in a 9-1 debacle in Minnesota. Kansas City’s offense struggled for the second straight game to open the year, dropping the Royals to 0-2.

Kansas City is in danger of getting swept by the Twins as the two AL Central rivals close out their season-opening series on Thursday. The Royals could get a jolt on offense, however, as the mediocre Kyle Gibson hits the mound. The veteran righty was a horrific 1-8 at Target Field a year ago and posted a nasty 6.75 ERA in three appearances against these Royals.

Jason Hammel has been a steadier presence on the other side, and he’ll look to get the year started off right as he makes his Royals debut. How Hammel fares may not necessarily matter here, as it may be time for Kansas City’s offense to show up in this spot.


Colorado Rockies (+1.5)
Milwaukee Brewers (-1.5)
Total: 9
  • Antonio Senzatela (MLB debut) vs. Chase Anderson (9-11, 4.39 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Rockies +105, Brewers -125
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Retractable Roof)

Colorado completes its four-game road trip in Milwaukee on Thursday, as they battle the Brew Crew in an effort to exit with a 3-1 series win. Antonio Senzatela will make his MLB debut for the Rockies, though, and it may be tough to know what to expect as he faces a powerful Brewers lineup in the ever hittable Miller Park.

The Brewers rode surprisingly strong pitching and some solid power to a big 6-1 wins last night and will be seeking a second straight win so they can escape this thing with a 2-2 tie. If they’re not overlooking this game in favor of a huge series with the rival Cubs this weekend, they just might be able to pull it off.

Veteran pitcher Chase Anderson will look to help them notch the series up. Anderson wasn’t terrible at home a year ago, as he was passable (7-5 at Miller Park) while posting a 3.82 ERA. He gave up three runs in five innings in his only game against the Rockies last year, but it’s worth noting he got slapped around (20 runs in five appearances) by this same team in 2015.

It may be a wash defensively unless Senzatela can come out and impress in his MLB debut. Per FanGraphs, Senzatela has a lethal fastball/slider combination, but it’s not clear yet if he has what it takes to be a regular big league starter.

The lack of confidence in Colorado’s young pup has us favoring the Brew Crew in this one, as they’re at home obviously and should be gaining confidence after stepping up last night. They know this weekend’s series could be problematic, so getting a win here against an inexperienced arm is a must.


Chicago Cubs (-1.5)
St. Louis Cardinals (+1.5)
Total: 7.5
  • John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (2015 stats: 12-11, 3.03 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Cubs -135, Cardinals +115
  • Weather: 20 mph winds, high of 55 degrees

Here we have veteran right-hander John Lackey going up against his former team. Lackey was shockingly excellent last season in his first year with the Cubs, as he posted a solid 3.35 ERA and inexplicably racked up strikeouts. Lackey’s strikeout rate last season was just over 24 percent, which was one of the better marks in the league. Considering he set a career high in that category in his age-37 season, it’s safe to say there’s some regression coming for him.

On the other side, we have Lance Lynn, who will be making his first appearance since 2015 after missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. At his peak, Lynn was a very solid middle-of-the-rotation arm that actually earned an All-Star nod in 2012. He was a very solid strikeout pitcher that effectively limited hard contact, as well. Coming off Tommy John, though, there’s no way we can really know what to expect. The Cardinals figure to be careful in monitoring his innings in the early going.

We have to give the ageless wonder Lackey the edge here considering the uncertainty surrounding Lynn, but this game feels fairly unpredictable. Lackey is going to decline at some point, though obviously, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen this season.


Detroit Tigers (-1.5)
Chicago White Sox (+1.5)
Total: 9
  • Matt Boyd (6-5, 4.53 ERA) vs. James Shields (6-19, 5.85 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Tigers -124, White Sox +104
  • Weather: 25 mph winds, high of 47 degrees, 3% chance of rain

We get another makeup game in what has been an ugly series when it comes to weather. Chicago and Detroit suffered their second PPD game of this series on Wednesday and will try again on Thursday to to close out a three-game series to begin 2017.

The good news is it doesn’t look like this game is will get cancelled, but it will be very windy. That could help the pitchers, but with the wind blowing hard out to right, Shields and Boyd may want to play it careful with the power lefties on either side.

The pitching is already not special in this matchup, as Shields was once a very strong starting pitcher but has regressed sharply into a human home run machine. It might not be impossible for him to bounce back in 2017, but expecting him to suddenly look like an ace against a loaded Tigers offense might not be fair. Detroit does come in without heavy hitter J.D. Martinez, however, so perhaps Shields could get a mild break here.

That’s doubtful, while Boyd isn’t getting it overly easy, either. That might be mostly just because Boyd’s game runs incredibly hot and cold. Boyd has great velocity and command but hasn’t been able to consistently produce yet in the pros. Being asked to do so on the road to start the year against a team batting .328 versus him could be asking a lot.

The confidence isn’t in Boyd here and it certainly isn’t in Shields. Rather, we’re banking on the Tigers livening this one up and scoring a couple more runs than an erratic Chicago offense.


White Sox
San Diego Padres (+1.5)
Los Angeles Dodgers (-1.5)
Total: 8.5
  • Jered Weaver (12-12, 5.06 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy (2-3, 4.95 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Padres +185, Dodgers -215
  • Weather: 4 mph winds, high of 78 degrees

The Dodgers look to put the finishing touches on their four-game series with the rival Padres on Thursday. L.A. came out firing on Opening Day with a 14-run effort, before oddly tripping up in a 4-0 shutout loss on Tuesday. The offense did just enough (3-1) to escape with their second win of the year last night and Thursday offers a chance to close out the series a little stronger.

The pitching is not great in this game, as the barely passable Jered Weaver tries to breathe life into San Diego’s defense. Weaver has lost virtually all of his fastball, yet surprisingly continues to give competent efforts on the mound in spurts. Banking on the decent version of Weaver showing up against a dangerous L.A. offense on the road, of course, is probably a mistake.

McCarthy makes his season debut on the other side for the Dodgers, who have looked solid defensively overall through their first three games. That’s typically not all that hard to do against a bad Padres team, but McCarthy certainly has the matchup working in his favor in that regard. The 33-year old McCarthy actually was solid to start 2016 but dealt with injuries and there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to rock in this one.

There is no doubt McCarthy’s form will be called into question until he shows up big, but it may not matter here. Weaver is certainly no easier to trust, especially when his performance last year against the Dodgers (10 hits, 3 earned runs in 7 innings) is probably his ceiling in this matchup. We’re banking on L.A. taking advantage of him considerably more than that.


Los Angeles Angels (-1.5)
Oakland Athletics (+1.5)
Total: 8
  • Tyler Skaggs (3-4, 4.17 ERA) vs. Andrew Triggs (1-1, 4.31 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Angels -112, Athletics -108
  • Weather: Potential showers, should come after the game.

Led by a strong effort from Garrett Richards and four relievers, the Angels won for the second time in the first three games on Wednesday night against the Athletics. The bats got to Jharel Cotton early and never looked back. Now, they’ll look to win their first series of 2017 on Thursday afternoon with Tyler Skaggs set to duel with Andrew Triggs.

Skaggs’ strikeout numbers were solid last season after returning from Tommy John surgery, but his walks were a problem. He walked 4.2 hitters per nine innings, which really helped drive up his pitch counts and made it difficult for him to go deep into games. The A’s were one of the worst teams in the league against southpaws last season with a wOBA of just .300 (26th).

Triggs saw mixed results in his first season with Oakland last year. He was terrible out of the bullpen (5.79 ERA), but was excellent in his appearances as a starter (2.81 ERA). We have a fairly limited sample size there (seven starts), but Triggs’ low release point makes it tougher for right-handed hitters to pick him up. He held righties to an average of .233, an on-base percentage of .278 and a wOBA of .281.

While there are typically a couple of lefties sprinkled in, the Halos’ lineup tends to be very right-hand heavy. If Triggs is on his game, it could be a long afternoon for the likes of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and CJ Cron, among others. We’re fairly confident the A’s get out of this series with a split.


Miami Marlins (+1.5)
Washington Nationals (-1.5)
Total: 9
  • Tom Koehler (9-13, 4.33 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (11-11, 4.57 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Marlins +145, Nationals -170
  • Weather: Afternoon showers, possible delay to start. Should still play.

The Nationals will be looking to get their 2017 season off on the right foot by sweeping the Miami Marlins on Thursday afternoon. They have rallied from early deficits in each of the first two games as Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark were both roughed up early by the Marlins’ bats. After injuries derailed him last season, 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper looks like he’s back to 100 percent.

Harper is 3-7 at the plate in the early stages of this season with a home run and three runs batted in. He’s back to lashing the ball, which could mean problems for Marlins starter Tom Koehler. Koehler has been a serviceable starter over the last couple of seasons for Miami, but he’s struggled a bit against Harper’s Nats. He went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA against Washington last season, and has surrendered six homers in 31 career showdowns against Harper.

On the flip side we have Gio Gonzalez, who endured one of the worst seasons of his career in 2016. The 31-year-old’s decline has been fairly steady over the last four years, and his ERA has risen every season since posting a 2.89 ERA in 2012. He’s still striking out a good number of batters, but he’s also steadily lost some velocity.

There should be some runs scored in this one. The Marlins do have some serious thunder in the heart of the lineup that prefers feasting on left-handed pitching. Giancarlo Stanton (.391 wOBA) and Marcell Ozuna (.384) absolutely crushed southpaws all of last season, so it could be a dicey evening for Mr. Gonzalez.


Atlanta Braves (+1.5)
New York Mets (-1.5)
Total: 8
  • Jaime Garcia (10-13, 4.67 ERA) vs. Matt Harvey (4-10, 4.86 ERA
  • Moneyline: Braves +142, Mets -164
  • Weather: Showers should be clear around first pitch. Low of 45 degrees.

The Braves earned a hard-fought 3-1 win in extra innings on Wednesday night. Bartolo Colon, facing his former team for the first time since leaving over the winter, was stellar, going six innings while allowing just two hits and a run while striking out six. Jacob deGrom essentially matched him pitch-for-pitch, as he gave up only two hits without a run along with 6 Ks.

Another Brave, Jaime Garcia, will be making his debut with the club this evening. Garcia has been a calming presence in the middle of the Cardinals’ rotation for the last several years, and Atlanta will be hoping the veteran can provide that kind of stability for them this season. Garcia really struggled in ‘16, though, posting a career-worst 4.67 ERA. He thrives in getting hitters to pound his pitches into the ground for easy outs.

Atlanta’s bats will have to deal with Matt Harvey, who was absolutely horrid last season. The former ace will be hopeful to recapture his old form on the heels of what was easily the worst year of his brief career. Harvey’s fastball velocity dropped a bit last season, but he was also likely the victim of some bad luck (.353 BABIP against). He wasn’t exactly electrifying in the spring, but if he’s truly healthy the Mets should be optimistic about the 28-year-old moving forward.

Harvey may not be the ace of the Mets’ staff anymore, but he should have enough in the tank to have his way against a rather mediocre Atlanta lineup.


Toronto Blue Jays (-1.5)
Tampa Bay Rays (+1.5)
Total: 8
  • Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (6-8, 3.54 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Blue Jays -131, Rays +111
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Dome)

Here we have the first game of a four-game set between the Rays and Jays from Tampa. Toronto came up short in each of their first two games of the season in Baltimore, while Tampa Bay beat the Yankees last night and have started the season 2-1.

This could actually be one of the better pitching matchups of the night. Marcus Stroman is coming off a strong showing for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic and he’ll be looking to build on that in the regular season. The right-hander won’t blow you away with velocity, but he has emerged as one of the league’s elite ground ball pitchers. His GB% above 60 percent last season was tops among all qualified starters.

Snell has been one of the Rays’ top prospects over the last few years, and it’s easy to see why. He has an electrifying heater and a big curveball, though at times he’ll struggle to harness everything. Walks were an issue for him last season at the big league level (12.7% BB rate) but he also struck out 24.4%.

The Jays’ lineup historically owns left-handed pitching, and should continue to do so even without Edwin Encarnacion in the fold anymore. Snell was far better at home than he was on the road last season, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Jays’ bats can get to him early and rattle his confidence a bit.


Blue Jays
Seattle Mariners (+1.5)
Houston Astros (-1.5)
Total: 8.5
  • Ariel Miranda (5-2, 3.88 ERA) vs. Joe Musgrove (4-4, 4.06 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Mariners +142, Astros -164
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Retractable roof)

The Astros will be looking for a series-opening four-game sweep of the Mariners on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park. Houston came from behind in the 13th inning late last night to win on a walk-off, three-run bomb into the Crawford Boxes by George Springer. Springer drove in all five runs for the Astros in the game, and is currently tied with Francisco Lindor for the league lead in RBI (6).

These teams both boast strong offenses, but the first three games have been dominated by pitching. Seattle southpaw Ariel Miranda will be looking to continue that trend here tonight. Miranda pitched decently for the Mariners down the stretch of the season after coming over from Baltimore, but his extreme fly ball nature means he’s going to give up lots of home runs. In this ballpark against this lineup, that could be problematic.

Joe Musgrove also made his MLB debut last season and had his fair share of ups and downs. The big right-hander was dominant in each of his first three appearances before being roughed up a bit by the Orioles and Pirates in lopsided defeats. Homers were also a problem for him, but if he can harness his deadly sinker those should come down for him this season.

Is this the day one (or both) of the offenses finally breaks out? We think so.


San Francisco Giants (+1.5)
Arizona Diamondbacks (-1.5)
Total: 9.5
  • Jeff Samarzija (12-11, 3.81 ERA) vs. Robbie Ray (8-15, 4.90 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Giants -110, Diamondbacks -110
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Retractable roof)

We expected some offensive fireworks in this spot last night, and these teams certainly delivered. Matt Moore was touched up for six runs in 5.1 innings of work, while Taijuan Walker allowed four in his six frames. We could see more of the same with a couple of fairly hittable arms taking the mound at Chase Field.

Samardzija was solid overall in his first season in San Francisco. His splits were fairly even (3.53 ERA at home, 4.03 on the road), and he managed to allow just five runs in over 16 innings of work across two starts in this ballpark a season ago. The Shark struggles against lefty bats, which could mean problems against guys like David Peralta and Jake Lamb. Still, Arizona has a pretty righty-heavy lineup.

Ray’s 15 losses and ERA of nearly 5.00 don’t scream “POTENTIAL!”, but a deeper dive into his peripherals indicates there’s a pretty good pitcher potentially here. While he certainly struggles with command, Ray’s K-rate of 28.1% was one of the very best marks in the league in 2016. He may be a better fantasy pitcher than actual pitcher, but it’s worth noting that the Giants haven’t exactly dominated southpaws over the last couple of years.

Samardzija and Ray are each capable of completely taking over a game, but this is still the best environment for hitters of any game on the slate. It’s probably worth hammering the over.


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