MLB Picks for Sunday 4/2 – Cubs Over Cardinals and More
Happy Semi-Opening Day! The 2017 MLB regular season kicks off today with three games before a meatier 12-game slate hits us on Monday. The World Series champion Chicago Cubs will begin their title defense in the nightcap on Sunday against the Cardinals, while the Yankees face the Rays and the Diamondbacks host the Giants in a couple of divisional showdowns.
We’ll be here all season long to help you break down the action and hopefully win some cash along the way. Let’s not waste any more time and get right to it, shall we? Here’s how Sunday’s MLB action will go down.
New York Yankees -1.5 (-106) at Tampa Bay Rays +1.5 (-102) 1:00 pm ET
- Masahiro Tanaka (2016 stats: 14-4, 3.07 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (9-19, 4.02 ERA)
- Weather: Irrelevant (Domed stadium)
- Total: 7
The season gets underway Sunday afternoon from Tropicana Field down in Tampa Bay. Considering the Yankees hold spring training in Tampa, they get to stay right where they’ve been for over a month now. Masahiro Tanaka will take the hill opposite Chris Archer.
Archer will be looking to bounce back from a fairly down 2016. While his 9-19 record was suboptimal, he still boasted a strikeout rate better than 27 percent, which is an elite mark. Archer was also uncharacteristically prone to giving up the longball, as he allowed 30 home runs last season, as well.
Tanaka, meanwhile, was his typical steady self atop a shaky Yankee rotation. His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but the 28-year-old remains a calming force and is really the lone fixture among the team’s five starters. This team has undergone a youth movement that started last summer, and they now have their eyes firmly set on the future. Gary Sanchez will look to build off of his tremendous rookie campaign, while Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin will each begin their first full big league seasons.
Archer didn’t enjoy much success against New York last season. In his three starts, he allowed nine runs across 21 innings and took the loss each time. On the flip side, Tanaka went 4-0 in five starts against the Rays, and allowed just 11 runs in over 34 innings of work.
Archer will be eager to start the ‘17 season in better form, so it’s easy to see him going out there and having his A-stuff. The Yankees will likely enjoy the better season of the two clubs, but the Rays win this one thanks to a strong outing from their ace.
San Francisco Giants -1.5 (-126) at Arizona Diamondbacks +1.5 (+116) 4:00 pm ET
- Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (13-7, 4.37 ERA)
- Weather: Irrelevant (Roofed stadium)
- Total: 8
Speaking of big name starters that struggled last season, Zack Greinke’s debut season in Arizona went about as poorly as possible. Just a season removed from leading the league in ERA with the Dodgers, Greinke’s ERA ballooned to 4.37, and he wasn’t the same pitcher in terms of precision or longevity. The Diamondbacks will be hoping that their $200-plus million man can right the ship now that he should be more comfortable with his new surroundings.
On the other side, we have Madison Bumgarner coming off of his finest season as a Major Leaguer. While he’s primarily known for his postseason prowess, MadBum upped his game in a big way last season. The burly southpaw went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA along with a career-high 251 strikeouts in more than 226 innings.
Now that AJ Pollock is back (barring some sort of unforeseen injury), Arizona should be better than they were last year when they were one of baseball’s big disappointments. Greinke was terrible in his new home park last season, going just 5-5 with a 4.81 ERA across 13 appearances.
Greinke is poised to bounce back this season, and he should be able to put his Chase Field struggles behind him. Bumgarner isn’t the same pitcher on the road that he is at home. His road ERA (3.39) was quite a bit higher than his mark at AT&T Park (2.14). The D-Backs jump on him early in this one and get Greinke a win on Opening Day.
Chicago Cubs -1.5 (-125) at St. Louis Cardinals +1.5 (+115) 8:30 pm ET
- Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA) vs. Carlos Martinez (16-9, 3.04 ERA)
- Weather: Partly cloudy, 72 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
- Total: 7.5
The defending champs get underway in the nightcap against their closest rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs were baseball’s best team wire-to-wire last year, winning 103 regular season games before rolling through the playoffs and toppling the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. They’ve lost a few key contributors (Dexter Fowler, David Ross, Jason Hammel), but this team is poised to contend for the next several years.
The Cardinals missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2012. They battled injuries and inconsistency in the starting rotation, and the five-man unit doesn’t look any more settled heading into ‘17. On the bright side, Dominican fireballer Carlos Martinez looks primed to break out as a legitimate ace. He went 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA last season and struck out nearly 22 percent of all hitters he faced. Curiously, he struggled more at home than he did on the road. Martinez posted a 3.60 ERA at Busch Stadium compared to a 2.45 mark away from home. Martinez also went just 1-3 with a 4.80 ERA in five starts against Chicago.
One year after losing Jason Heyward to Chicago in free agency, St. Louis struck back and stole Fowler away from the Cubs. Expectations will be high considering many believe the Cardinals overpaid to get him to leave Chicago, but he is a versatile presence at the top of the lineup and plays a solid center field.
Aside from veterans like Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta, this is an incredibly young lineup. Aledmys Diaz was a Rookie of the Year candidate last season, while Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty will bring good power from the corner outfield spots.
They’ll have to deal with Jon Lester in this one, coming off of a stellar run through the postseason. The 33-year-old absolutely dominated the Cardinals in two starts last season, going 2-0 with a microscopic 0.87 ERA in three starts against the Cubs’ chief rivals. Starting the season on the road is less than ideal for the world champions, but nobody can match the firepower in their lineup.
The Cubs get to Martinez early in this one and Lester carries them from there.