Free MLB Picks for Wednesday, April 5th

by Taylor Smith
on April 5, 2017

Day four of the 2017 MLB season gets going on Wednesday, as baseball jumps up from an 8-game slate to 15 games. Wednesday night has some interesting matchups on the docket, as aces like Chris Sale, Cole Hamels and Jacob deGrom all toe the rubber in an effort to help their team get a win.

Beyond the big name arms hitting the mounds, we still have some explosive matchups with the Blue Jays and Orioles continuing their rivalry series in Baltimore, while the Cubs and Cardinals wage war in St. Louis and the Mariners and Astros face off in Houston.

That’s just bits and pieces of a fun MLB slate on Wednesday. Let’s dive into each matchup to see which way we may want to lean with our MLB bets:

Kansas City Royals -1.5
VS
Minnesota Twins +1.5
Total: 8.5
  • Ian Kennedy (11-11, 3.68 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (13-10, 4.70 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Royals -120, Twins EVEN
  • Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 55 degrees. 20% chance of rain.

These two teams were embroiled in a pitcher’s duel on Opening Day before the Twins really tattooed the Royals’ bullpen. Once Danny Duffy was replaced to start the seventh, the floodgates opened for Minnesota. They wound up scoring six runs on four hits in the bottom of the seventh alone, with three of those tallies coming on bases loaded walks via relievers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood. The Twins wound up winning rather easily, 7-1.

Here we have a matchup between a pair of veteran arms in Ian Kennedy and Hector Santiago. Kennedy was fairly impressive last season in his first campaign with the Royals, though he continues to be prone to giving up the gopher ball. Kennedy surrendered an MLB-high 33 home runs last season, four of which came across his five starts against these Twins.

Santiago was acquired from the Angels last season in exchange for Ricky Nolasco. He was awful in 11 starts for Minnesota after the trade, posting a record of 3-6 with a bloated 5.58 ERA. He allowed a hard contact rate of 37.3 percent for the entire season, which was one of the worst marks among qualified starting pitchers. On the bright side, he’ll get to face a KC lineup that mustered just three hits and a run in the opener.

Santiago was terrible last season, but he has historically been a decent starter at the big league level. With so many lefty bats that struggle to hit fellow southpaws, Kansas City’s lineup isn’t exactly built to enjoy much success against left-handers. This game has a fairly sizable over/under of 8.5, but it wouldn’t be particularly shocking to see the under get hit in this spot.

Pick
Royals
4
Twins
3
Chicago Cubs -1.5
VS
St. Louis Cardinals +1.5
Total: 8
  • John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (2015 stats: 12-11, 3.03 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Cubs -130, Cardinals +110
  • Weather: Showers and thunderstorms, high of 63 degrees. 80% chance of rain.

This game looks to have some pretty serious weather concerns, so keep an eye on that as we get closer to first pitch. In the meantime, we’ll just act like the weather will be fair enough to get the game in.

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 Lacky 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.

Pick
Cubs
5
Cardinals
2
Detroit Tigers -1.5
VS
Chicago White Sox +1.5
Total: 8
  • Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 4.87 ERA) vs. James Shields (6-19, 5.85 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Tigers -135, White Sox +115
  • Weather: Rainy and windy, high of 41 degrees. 100% chance of rain.

After these two teams were rained out on Monday, the Tigers came back and earned the win in the make-up game on Tuesday afternoon in dreary Chicago. The two will do battle again this afternoon in a matchup between a pair of pitchers that struggled mightily last season.

Zimmermann got off to a great start in his first season with the Tigers, but injuries ultimately derailed him. The big right-hander was limited to just 18 starts, and his struggles over the season’s latter months contributed largely to his bloated 4.87 ERA.

On the other side we have Shields, who was one of the most hittable pitchers in baseball just about all season long. He was mediocre with the Padres before being traded to the White Sox, where he struggled even more. The veteran went just 4-12 with a miserable 6.77 ERA with Chicago, though he wasn’t as dreadful in September.

The weather is looking bad here again today, which could negatively affect hitters in what would otherwise be a potentially high-scoring game. Regardless, it’s hard not to give the edge to the Tigers’ rather beefy lineup in this spot. Shields started four games against this team a season ago and surrendered a whopping 16 earned runs in just 22 innings.

The Tigers should get off to a 2-0 start.

Pick
Tigers
8
White Sox
3
Toronto Blue Jays -1.5
VS
Baltimore Orioles +1.5
Total: 9
  • JA Happ (20-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (10-6, 4.02 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Blue Jays -120, Orioles EVEN
  • Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 69 degrees. 0% chance of rain.

The Blue Jays’ ended the Orioles’ 2016 campaign with a walk-off home run in the AL Wild Card Game, and the O’s returned the favor on Monday afternoon with Mark Trumbo blasting a game-winner in extra innings off of Jason Grilli. These two teams don’t like each other, which makes for a competitive atmosphere any time they go head-to-head.

On the hill for Toronto, we have southpaw JA Happ, who enjoyed his finest pro season to date in 2016 when he won 20 games and near career-best 3.18 ERA. He was solid in three meetings with Baltimore last season, going 2-0 with a 3.54 ERA in just over 20 innings of action. The Orioles weren’t great as a team against lefties last season, and Happ certainly exploited that weakness.

Happ will be squaring off against Dylan Bundy, who has been rated as one of the Orioles’ top prospects for quite some time now. Tommy John surgery has slowed his progression a bit, and he was a mixed bag after being promoted into the starting rotation about halfway through the 2016 campaign.

Happ’s 2016 season seems like a bit of an anomaly, and he certainly benefited from a freakishly low .268 BABIP against. Still, Baltimore is going to have to show that they’re over their struggles against southpaws from last season. We’ll give Toronto a slight edge in this one, especially because Bundy remains a question mark.

Pick
Blue Jays
6
Orioles
4
Miami Marlins +1.5
VS
Washington Nationals -1.5
Total: 8.5
  • Dan Straily (14-8, 3.76 ERA) vs. Tanner Roark (16-10, 2.83 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Marlins +144, Nationals -168
  • Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 70 degrees. 0% chance of rain.

Stephen Strasburg didn’t mow through the Marlins’ lineup as many had expected, but Washington was still able to rally for the victory behind a clutch, pinch-hit two-run bomb from newcomer Adam Lind in the late innings. The Nats’ offense unexpectedly struggled against Edinson Volquez, who looked resurgent in his first start as a Marlin.

We’ll be seeing another Marlins debut as Dan Straily toes the rubber for the first time since coming over from the Reds. Straily has bounced around in the past, but he enjoyed a quietly solid season in Cincinnati, going 14-8 with a 3.76 ERA for one of the worst teams in all of baseball. As is the case with JA Happ, there certainly appears to have been quite a bit of luck involved with Straily’s success. He gave up a decent amount of hard contact (32%) and the BABIP against him was an insane .239. That suggests some regression could be coming.

Roark was a bit of an unsung hero for the Nats last season. His 2.83 ERA was the sixth-best mark in all of baseball, better than teammate and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. However, he struggled a bit against the Marlins. He made six starts against Miami – more than against any other club – and went just 2-4 with a 4.46 ERA. Roark allowed 17 earned runs against the Marlins, which was the only single team that scored double-digits against him.

Despite struggling to hit Volquez, Washington has an offense that has too many elite bats to stay dormant for long. Straily’s 2016 seems to be fool’s gold, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see him faceplant in this spot.

Pick
Nationals
7
Marlins
4
Pittsburgh Pirates +1.5
VS
Boston Red Sox -1.5
Total: 8
  • Jameson Taillon (5-4, 3.38 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (17-10, 3.34 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Pirates +165, Red Sox -190
  • Weather: Cloudy, high of 43 degrees. 10% chance of rain.

Here we what is perhaps the most-anticipated game of the day with fireballer Chris Sale set to make his debut in a Red Sox uniform. He came over in the offseason deal that sent Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and others to the White Sox, and his presence at the top of Boston’s rotation is the primary reason they enter the season as American League favorites.

Sale’s strikeouts were down on the whole last season, as the White Sox curiously decided to try to get him to pitch to contact. One would imagine the Red Sox will be less cautious with their new ace and will be eager to let him fly. He posted strikeout rates north of 30 percent in both 2014 and 2015, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get there for the third time in four years this season.

We have Jameson Taillon taking the mound for the Pirates coming off of his debut campaign in 2016. He was up-and-down, as most rookie pitchers will be, but the results were largely encouraging. He finished with a 3.38 ERA across his 18 starts and had a K-rate of about 20 percent.

While Taillon was excellent against righties last year, the Red Sox lineups boasts several left-handers capable of doing some serious damage. Fenway Park will be electric in this one with Sale on the mound, and he should be eager to get off on the right foot against a Pirates lineup that was prone to striking out a season ago.

Pick
Red Sox
6
Pirates
1
Philadelphia Phillies -1.5
VS
Cincinnati Reds +1.5
Total: 9
  • Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.65 ERA) vs. Brandon Finnegan (10-11, 3.98 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Phillies -110, Reds -110
  • Weather: Afternoon thunderstorms, high of 73 degrees. 80% chance of rain.

This is another game with weather concerns, as rain is expected to be in the Cincinnati forecast for the afternoon and evening hours.

If the game plays, we have a matchup between two of the more interesting young arms in the National League. Nobody paid much attention to the Phillies last season, but they got solid production out of several of their young starters, Eickhoff included. He struck out nearly 21 percent of all hitters he faced and was particularly nightmarish against fellow righties. Right-handed bats had a wOBA of just .273 against him.

Finnegan was volatile in his first season with the Reds, but comes with good strikeout upside from the left side. His overall K-rate of about 19 percent last season doesn’t jump off the page, but he did have games with 12, 9 and 8 strikeouts down-the-stretch of the season. The former TCU Horned Frog was excellent in his first start of the 2016 season against these Phillies, as he allowed three runs across six innings and struck out nine.

Great American Ballpark is typically a hitter’s haven, but the potential rain could put a damper on the run scoring totals here. Finnegan struggled a bit at home last season, and the Phils do have a couple of lefty mashers in Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph in the middle of the order that could give him some problems.

Pick
Phillies
5
Reds
4
Atlanta Braves +1.5
VS
New York Mets -1.5
Total: 7
  • Bartolo Colon (15-8, 3.43 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (7-8, 3.04 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Braves +170, Mets -200
  • Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 64 degrees. 10% chance of rain.

Here we have a good old fashioned revenge game as Bartolo Colon will pitch for the Braves in the stadium he called home for the last several years. Baseball’s favorite elder statesman will be taking the mound for his eighth different big league club as the Braves look to even their opening series with the Mets.

Colon, now 43, remains improbably steady. He went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA for the Mets last season and provided stability to an injury-riddled rotation. The Braves brought him in as a free agent over the winter to bring some veteran leadership to a young staff very much in the midst of a rebuild.

He’ll be doing battle against his ex-teammate, Jacob deGrom, who missed the end of last season with a nerve issue in his throwing elbow. While his strikeout numbers were down on the year, deGrom was still one of the more consistent pitchers in the National League when healthy in 2016. He was extra impressive against Atlanta, as he allowed just four runs across 19.2 innings of work in his three starts.

The season opener between these clubs was a pitcher’s duel before the Mets broke it open late, and it’s easy to see a similar contest in this one. Colon will be motivated to show his former team what they’re missing, but the Braves drop to 0-2 against tough New York pitching.

Pick
Mets
4
Braves
2
New York Yankees -1.5
VS
Tampa Bay Rays +1.5
Total: 7.5
  • Michael Pineda (6-12, 4.82 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (1-2, 8.59 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Yankees -128, Rays +108
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Dome)

The Yankees hit up Tropicana Field one last time on Wednesday, as they clash with the division rival Rays to wrap up an intense three-game series to open up 2017. Tampa Bay handled the young Yanks easily on Sunday and figure to do the same at home in this one.

Michael Pineda toes the rubber for New York, as he tries to bounce back from a shaky 2016 run that saw him go 6-12 and put up an ugly 4.82 ERA. He’ll take on Alex Cobb, who has dealt with some rough injury look but still has the natural talent to be a major problem for offenses. That could especially be the case for these young Yankees bats on the road.

It’s a bit much to expect Cobb to come out firing on all cylinders, but Pineda has been extremely volatile and New York’s offense runs hot and cold. Asking Cobb to be serviceable while Pineda potentially implodes isn’t asking too much. New York’s bats can heat up fast, but we don’t love them to do it in this spot.

Pick
Rays
5
Yankees
3
Cleveland Indians +1.5
VS
Texas Rangers -1.5
Total: 8.5
  • Danny Salazar (11-6, 3.87 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.32 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Indians -110, Rangers -110
  • Weather: Sunny and windy, high of 71 degrees. 0% chance of rain.

We get a battle of aces at Globe Life Park on Wednesday, as the usually steady Cole Hamels goes to work at home against the slightly more volatile Danny Salazar. Both pitchers are typically elite and can pile on the K’s, but also can be vulnerable against elite offenses. That puts us in a dangerous guessing game, in a game that could toe the line between offensive explosion and a pitcher’s duel.

It’s usually safe to roll with the latter, but any game with strong offense in the hittable Globe Life Park is asking for trouble. That really hasn’t translated into major difficulty for Hamels, who was a solid 5-2 at home in this park in 2016, but did have some issues (4.40 ERA). Hamels playing at home doesn’t tell us enough in this spot, as Salazar wasn’t that bad (2 earned runs in 5 innings) in one start against these Rangers a year ago.

The pitching matchup could easily break even, which takes us to the offenses. Both teams were in the top 10 a year ago both in terms of strikeout rate and runs scored per game. Needless to say, we’ve got a tough matchup between a team that was in the World Series a year ago and a hosting club that wants to be this year. Hamels gives the slight edge on the mound and the Rangers at home as a whole is tough to deny.

Pick
Rangers
5
Indians
3
Colorado Rockies -1.5
VS
Milwaukee Brewers +1.5
Total: 9
  • Tyler Chatwood (12-9, 3.87 ERA) vs. Wily Peralta (7-11, 4.86 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Rockies -115, Brewers -105
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Roof)

Colorado hits up Miller Park for the third day in a row, as the Rockies and Brewers duke it out for game three of a four-game series to open up the 2017 season. The Rockies survived an intense first game on Opening Day, but game three just might provide some serious fireworks with Chatwood normally being a merely passable arm and Peralta – who once boasted intriguing K upside – now struggles to remain a constant force due to a lack of control or general consistency.

The writing on the wall suggests anything but a pitcher’s duel in this one, and in the extremely hittable Miller Park, it’s rather likely we get a high-scoring affair. Colorado doesn’t always maximize their offensive potential away from Coors Field, but they certainly have the bats to give Peralta nightmares. The Brew Crew can add some pop to this game just as easily, but we’ll take the Rockies in a favorable spot.

Pick
Rockies
9
Brewers
6
Seattle Mariners +1.5
VS
Houston Astros -1.5
Total: 8
  • James Paxton (6-7, 3.79 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (1-1. 4.15 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Mariners -105, Astros -115
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Roof)

The usually mediocre Paxton hopes to pick up the momentum to ended 2016 with, possibly pushing him towards a career best run in 2017. That just might start on Wednesday versus the Astros in Houston, as he has an enviable showdown with Charlie Morton. Morton’s 2016 was shaved down by injuries and the 33-year old will aim to bounce back with a healthier run.

Paxton is out to prove 2016 is the correct version of himself and Morton will want redemption, but it’s not crazy to think neither will get their wish. Both offenses offer major blow up potential and after a very slow Opening Day game (Astros won, 3-0), we could be in for some fireworks.

The slight edge resides with the more reliable Paxton, who could help the Mariners stay clean early, just long enough for Seattle’s offense to take over in this one.

Pick
Mariners
6
Astros
4
San Francisco Giants -1.5
VS
Arizona Diamondbacks +1.5
Total: 9.5
  • Matt Moore (13-12, 4.08 ERA) vs. Taijuan Walker (8-11, 4.22 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Giants -115, Diamondbacks -105
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Roof)

The Giants and Diamondbacks continue their four-game season-opening series on Wednesday, with veteran pitchers Matt Moore and Taijuan Walker facing off. Moore and Walker can both handle even the best of offenses, but offer up a shaky matchup that could truly go either way.

That’s terrific news for both offenses in a rivalry game in a hitter’s park. The early edge could be in Walker’s favor, who last faced the Giants in 2015 but delivered 7 delightful innings, notching a win and posting a blistering 1.29 ERA. Moore isn’t chopped liver here, as he actually performed well versus the Diamondbacks in 2016, getting a 2-1 record and posting a respectable 3.71 ERA.

Overall, we aren’t taking Walker’s dominance of the Giants in 2015 lightly, nor the fact that the D’Backs have an explosive set of bats and are at home. Moore could easily keep them quiet, but this could be a good spot for them to let loose.

Pick
Diamondbacks
6
Giants
4
Los Angeles Angels -1.5
VS
Oakland Athletics +1.5
Total: 7.5
  • Garrett Richards (1-3, 2.34 ERA) vs. Jharel Cotton (2-0, 2.15 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Angels -120, Athletics EVEN
  • Weather: Mostly cloudy, high of 68 degrees. 0% chance of rain.

We get game three between the Halos and Athletics on Wednesday night, as the two face off in a four-game series to start the year. It’s an interesting matchup on the surface, as Garrett Richards has the potential to be an ace for L.A., but a solid start to 2016 was cut short by a torn ligament in his elbow.

How Richards responds early on could be telling for the Angels’ chances to make a run at the playoffs, but on the surface he’s a considerable asset in this matchup. Neither team provides particularly scary offense, but the Halos at least have Mike Trout and as a group don’t strikeout at an alarming rate. That could be bad news for Cotton, who has some K upside but is far from proven in the majors.

Oakland might carry the early edge at home, but neither offense is overly threatening and on paper Richards seems to give the Halos a better chance defensively.

Pick
Angels
4
Athletics
3
San Diego Padres +1.5
VS
Los Angeles Dodgers -1.5
Total: 7
  • Trevor Cahill (4-4, 2.74 ERA) vs. Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 ERA)
  • Moneyline: Padres +225, Dodgers -270
  • Weather: Mostly sunny, high of 81 degrees. 0% chance of rain.

San Diego heads back to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday to compete in game three of a four-game series to kick off the new year. The series got started off horribly on Opening Day, with the Dodgers doing as they pleased in a 14-3 win. The Padres will look to get things back on track on Wednesday, but could need an elite performance out of Cahill.

There are certainly worse arm talents than Cahill, but he’s got his work cut out for him going into this matchup, both with L.A.’s potent offense firing on all cylinders and the uber effective Rich Hill staring him down from the other side. Hill enjoyed a stellar campaign in 2016, posting an amazing 1.83 ERA in six regular season appearances with the Dodgers.

We don’t need to get too cute here. The Dodgers are at home, have the clear edge in pitching and have by far the more explosive offense. We’ll take them to tack on another win in this season-opening series.

Pick
Dodgers
7
Padres
2
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