MLB Preview and Picks For Friday, 4/21
Happy Friday, faithful readers! Welcome to today’s edition of our free Major League Baseball picks and predictions. We’ll use this space to sort through all 15 games and tell you which contests should be drawing your attention from a betting perspective.
There appears to be a strong mix of aces and gas cans on the hill around the league, so this makes for an interesting slate all around. We’ll let you know which games you should be attacking and which you should be avoiding. Let’s jump right in.
- Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 5.23 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (2-1, 1.86 ERA)
- Weather: 7 mph winds, high of 78 degrees, 34% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Red Sox -110, Orioles -110
Drew Pomeranz is back out on the mound for Boston on Friday, as he’ll shoot for his third solid start in a row to get 2017 rolling. Pomeranz dominated the Orioles in an easy win in his debut and then had some trouble against the Rays, but managed 10 strikeouts.
This will be take two against the explosive Orioles, who will now be in their own backyard when they meet up with the dangerous lefty. Pomeranz certainly had trouble against Baltimore a season ago (five earned runs in two innings), but his season debut should offer encouragement.
There isn’t a clear matchup disadvantage for the Orioles. They’re 12th in the majors at connecting against southpaws, tend to play their best ball at home and have face Pomeranz already this year. There is a very decent chance they sport lively bats going into this one, while they also will be pushing the more than capable Dylan Bundy onto the mound.
Bundy has been on top of his game to this point this year, giving up just four total runs across three starts and zero dongs. He’s maintaining complete control in his starts and even limited these Bo Sox to three runs in an appearance earlier this year. That tilt was on the road, which could allow for improvement at Camden Yards, where Bundy was at his best in 2016 with a 5-3 mark and a respectable 3.14 ERA.
Boston does remain quite the challenge to face as a pitcher, as the Red Sox crush right-handed pitching (1st in MLB) and have the power to take anyone deep. That surprisingly hasn’t shown up yet this year, so it’s worth wondering if something breaks in this matchup and the Bo Sox teef off.
The pitching talent makes the Under very possibly here, but the offense talent, park and weather does not. Instead, we could rely on two very potent offense in a rivalry clash and bet on the Over, with Baltimore holding firm at home, where they’re already a strong 4-1 on the year.
- Bartolo Colon (1-1, 4.24 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (2-0, 1.59 ERA)
- Weather: 8 mph winds, high of 65 degrees, 32% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Braves EVEN, Phillies -120
The aging Bartolo Colon toes the rubber for the Braves on Friday, as we get a battle for the bottom of the NL East between Atlanta and Philadelphia. Colon and the Braves look to have the disadvantage on the road, as Jeremy Hellickson gives the Phillies the clear pitching edge and this Phillies offense is fresh off of slapping around Noah Syndergaard (what??).
Colon can still spin some good yard, surprisingly enough, as the 43-year old has delivered two separate outings of one-run ball. The ground ball pitcher remains crafty and knows when to pick his spots, so we can’t rule out an annoying gem against an erratic Phillies team. After all, it would make perfect sense for Philly to stink up the joint a night after wiping the floor with one of the best arms in the game.
There is further evidence backing your interest in Colon, too, as he handled these Phillies with relative ease a year ago, going 3-1 with a solid 3.03 ERA. The Phillies have only been a middling group of hitters against right-handed pitching (14th) so far this year, too, while they’ve for some reason struggled (2-4) to find any consistency at home.
We still tend to favor Hellboy on the other side, as Hellickson is a fine young talent and without a doubt the more tantalizing arm. Hellickson has been solid through three starts, but his K numbers have not been there (no more than 2 strikeouts in any start this year) and it’s worth wondering if he’s gotten insanely lucky with ground balls and foul balls. Perhaps, but there’s no denying Hellboy is in a solid spot at home, where he went 7-4 with a respectable 3.16 ERA in 2016.
This isn’t that scary of a matchup, either, as Hellickson survived the Braves (3.43 ERA across four starts) last year and they really don’t have much power outside of Matt Kemp and Freddie Freeman. Ultimately, if Hellickson can turn up the dial on his K work and limit the impact from Atlanta’s mashers, we like him to get the win in this spot. Alternatively, neither of these pitchers are giving up much this year, so we can shoot for the Under.
- Mike Fiers (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (1-1, 4.50 ERA)
- Weather: Irrelevant (Dome)
- Moneyline: Astros -120, Rays EVEN
After taking three of four from the Angels in Houston, the Astros will hit the road again and take on the Rays in Tampa Bay tonight. Tampa is fresh off a three-game midweek sweep of the Tigers, so both teams are coming into this one in good form. The first game of the three-game weekend series will pit Mike Fiers against Alex Cobb.
Fiers was fine in his first start of the season against the Royals, but had a rough go of it in his most recent outing against the Mariners. He’s picked up eight strikeouts through five games, though, so perhaps he’s starting to rediscover the plus-strikeout potential he showed during his time with the Brewers two years ago. It’s worth noting that he’s shown reverse split tendencies throughout his career, as well.
Cobb is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and the results have been mediocre through his first handful of starts this season. He’s struck out just 11 in his first 18 innings while allowing 21 hits and 10 runs. Cobb is a premier ground ball pitcher when he’s feeling it, though his GB% has been down to begin ‘17.
The Astros still haven’t hit their collective stride offensively, while the Rays have been swinging it well of late. Houston is plenty capable of breaking out at any time, but Tampa Bay feels like a good bet to get to Fiers here. We’ll side with the Rays, but we also wouldn’t be surprised if the Astros put plenty of runs on the board.
- CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.47 ERA) vs. Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 12.15 ERA)
- Weather: 10 mph winds, high of 65 degrees, 15% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Yankees -115, Pirates -105
Here’s another spot to make money on the Yankees, who are flat out rolling these days (9-1 in their last 10 games) and have a top 5 offense at the moment. New York’s bats could cool off any any moment, but doing so against a beatable young pitcher like Tyler Glasnow doesn’t exactly strike us as the time for it to happen.
Glasnow will toe the rubber for his third career start and he gets the unenviable job of trying to pick up his first career win against the 5th best team at connecting on righties (2nd in dongs). Glasnow certainly has plenty of talent and upside, but he hasn’t impressed early on, allowing 9 runs and 7 walks in his first two starts.
This looks like a matchup for the Yanks to exploit, plus we can probably take solace in a suddenly seasoned Sabathia, who is doing fine work to start his age 36 campaign. The wheels could come off at any moment for C.C., but he’s looked fantastic and was unsurprisingly at his best in 2016 (6-4, 3.26 ERA) when he wasn’t pitching in the ever hittable Yankee Stadium. He gets a positive shift at PNC Park, while the Pirates have been among the worst against hitting versus southpaws (28th in the league) so far this year.
New York’s bats will be dangerous here and we shockingly trust Sabathia. That could be a death trap, but we’ll ride the Yankees to a win and thanks to their offense we don’t mind targeting the Over.
- Tanner Roark (2-0, 3.50 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (0-0, 1.89 ERA)
- Weather: 9 mph winds, high of 58 degrees, 16% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Nationals +124, Mets -144
Tanner Roarks and Jacob deGrom combine their efforts for a potential pitcher’s duel tonight at Citi Field. Roark has been fairly sharp through two starts, as he’s given up zero dongs and kept offenses largely in check with ground balls. That might be a little more difficult to accomplish against a heavy-hitting Mets lineup, but he could be gifted by the absence of Yoenis Cespedes, who will sit this one out with an injury he sustained on Thursday night.
That’s an even bigger boost when you consider Roark’s success against these Mets (1.27 ERA across 21 innings last year) and the fact New York ranks 28th right now against right-handed pitching. Down an absolute masher, the Mets could find it tough to produce high level offense against a solid pitcher.
Luckily the Mets are at home and have another ace toeing the rubber in deGrom. That didn’t help them last night when they had Thor on the mound, but deGrom has opened up the year in strong form and this is where he was at his best a year ago (5-3, 2.11 ERA). He’s also coming off a 13-strikeout performance in his last start, so it’s fair to say he’s feeling it at the moment.
The Nats are loaded and hit well against righties, but the Mets seem to be in a better spot here at home. We’ll back deGrom and hope he doesn’t burn us like Thor did on Thursday night. Take the Mets to win and with the pitching, the Under makes sense.
- Jon Lester (0-0, 1.00 ERA) vs. Tim Adleman (0-0, 2.25 ERA)
- Weather: 9 mph winds, high of 60 degrees, 36% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Cubs -185, Reds +160
Jon Lester gets the nod for the Cubs and will shockingly be shooting for his first win of the season despite tossing some excellent ball. Lester sports a nasty 1.00 ERA but has not gotten help from his surprisingly lethargic offense, but this could be a decent spot for him to notch his first win of 2017.
There is danger at Great American Ballpark, as this park is a home run hitter’s dream and the Reds have a lethal lineup. Lester knows them well, though, and was just fine in five appearances versus Cincy a year ago, going 2-1 with a respectable 3.03 ERA.
The Reds are going to get some runs here (perhaps 2-3), whether it’s off Lester or not. The key here will be whether we can trust Chicago’s offense, which hasn’t been awful but has also not consistently been elite. I’m not sure they’re to be scared of Adleman, who was fine in his 2017 debut but wasn’t exactly dazzling (3.97 ERA) in two appearances against the Cubs in 2016.
Adelman could easily hold his own, but with this matchup, he’s a tough bet to roll with. We love Lester here and hopefully the Cubs offense finally gets him the support he deserves. If they can do that, the Cubs are an easy pick and we might have a shot at the Over.
- Nate Karns (0-0, 4.38 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (0-0, 3.50 ERA)
- Weather: 18 mph winds, high of 81 degrees, 24% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Royals +142, Rangers -164
Cole Hamels looks to get back to his elite form on Friday, as he hosts a weak Royals offense. Kansas City does not offer scary power and have not shown up much (2-5) on the road this year, plus their flat out run production (41 runs) is severely lacking.
As positive of a matchup as this appears to be for Hamels, we need to consider he’s at home in a pitcher’s park, so even KC could fire off here if he’s not on top of his game. He hasn’t exactly been his high level self to get 2017 rolling, either, but he thrived in this very matchup in 2016 (2-0, 1.35 ERA with 16 Ks) and obviously could do so again. I still think he gives up 2-3 runs, though, just because this is where he had some of his worst outings last year.
Kansas City just isn’t a team to fear in this spot, and they’ll have a beatable arm in Nathan Karns on the road against a lethal Rangers offense. Karns is on the hunt for his first win and hasn’t been delivering elite stuff so far, so it’s quite the gamble to bet he’ll suddenly do so on the road in this matchup. Instead, look for Hamels to be good enough to get the win, while Texas plays a huge hand in this game hitting on the Over.
- Corey Kluber (1-1, 6.38 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (0-3, 6.75 ERA)
- Weather: 7 mph winds, high of 47 degrees, 4% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Indians -165, White Sox +142
MLB fans get a potential pitcher’s duel in Chicago on Friday night, as Corey Kluber and Jose Quintana both try to bring their best stuff. Neither pitcher has been their elite selves at all this year, but will hope to be on top of their game in a tough divisional clash.
Cleveland has the natural advantage here, as Kluber has proven to be the more dominant arm in the past and the Indians also have the far more abrasive offense. The Indians also come in hot, having won three straight games.
Kluber has not been great to start 2017, but he murdered the Sox last year (1.35 ERA, 2-0) and was at his best on the road. He could still give up some runs in this one, but Chicago has not sported a very good offense (per usual) and ranks 29th in the majors against right-handed pitching.
It does not look good for Chicago’s offense heading into this one, which likely means we need an amazing performance out of Quintana to keep this one interesting. Like Kluber, Quintana hasn’t gotten into any kind of a groove this year and now gets a very powerful Indians offense.
The silvering lining for Quintana is Cleveland has been merely a middle of the pack unit against southpaws so far in 2017, while this was a favorable matchup for him a year ago (2-2, 2.41 ERA). Still, I trust Kluber and the Indians more in this spot. We could have a pitcher’s duel that favors the Under, but I’ll take Kluber and The Tribe to make it out on top.
- Adam Wainwright (0-3, 7.24 ERA) vs. Wily Peralta (3-0, 2.65 ERA)
- Weather: Irrelevant (Retractable Roof)
- Moneyline: Cardinals -120, Brewers EVEN
These two teams brought the lumber last night, and we could have more fireworks at Miller Park here tonight. Adam Wainwright has lost each of his first three starts of 2017, and he’s really been knocked around. He hasn’t lasted more than five innings in any start yet, and has already surrendered 12 runs on 24 hits this season. Facing a red-hot Brewers offense is exactly what the doctor did not order for the veteran right-hander.
Milwaukee will counter with Wily Peralta, who certainly has done well to garner a reputation as a terrible big league starter in the past. However, he’s showing signs of turning things around to start this season. He’s throwing as hard as he’s ever thrown in the past (touching 98), and he’s been doing a solid job inducing grounders.
The command hasn’t been there (11.9 percent walk rate), but something tells me Peralta is in for a good start in this spot against an overrated Cardinals lineup. St. Louis has some sluggers, but at first glance the Brewers have a massive advantage in this game. They’ve been playing better than the Cardinals have to start the season, and Wainwright’s troubles look likely to continue against the smoking hot bats of Travis Shaw, Eric Thames et al.
- Justin Verlander (1-1, 5.71 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (1-1, 1.47 ERA)
- Weather: 7 mph winds, high of 59 degrees, 2% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Tigers -145, Twins +125
At first glance, a start against the Twins would look like a get-right spot for Justin Verlander after the former Cy Young winner was blasted by the Indians in his most recent outing. Once you do a little digging, though, this matchup isn’t as glorious as it initially appears.
Minnesota hasn’t exactly been dominating with the bats (21st in runs), but they have some fearsome hitters that could prove problematic for JV. They haven’t been striking out as much as a team through the first few weeks of the season, though they do come into this one riding a four-game skid.
Verlander will be looking to put the aforementioned Cleveland start behind him. He was smashed for nine runs on 11 hits in just four innings as the Tribe crushed the Tigers last Saturday afternoon. He definitely won’t pitch that poorly here tonight, but we aren’t totally convinced he’ll just mow through the Twins, either.
Former All-Star Hector Santiago will take the mound for Minnesota. He’s pitched excellently thus far, as he’s given up just three earned runs through his first 18.1 innings of work this season. He won’t blow you away with velocity, and there’s reason to believe this hot start may be due for some regression. Santiago has allowed a hard hit rate of nearly 42 percent. That, of course, is awful.
The Tigers are fairly banged-up right now, so we’ll see what kind of lineup Brad Ausmus is able to pencil in for this one. Betting on either team here feels like a trap. Verlander should out-pitch Santiago, but early season baseball tends to be fairly unpredictable considering we have no real trends with which to work yet.
- Johnny Cueto (3-0, 3.79 ERA) vs. Tyler Chatwood (1-2, 3.54 ERA)
- Weather: 11 mph winds, high of 46 degrees, 16% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Giants -125, Rockies +105
After a couple of weeks on the road, the Rockies are finally back at Coors Field. They’ll be facing a Giants team against which they won three of four games in San Francisco exactly a week ago. Tyler Chatwood will toe the rubber for Colorado opposite Giants co-ace Johnny Cueto.
Cueto has really been the only Giants starter to maintain any sort of success thus far on the young season, and even he hasn’t been as elite as he normally is. He’s won all three starts, but his 3.79 ERA is exactly a full run worse than it was in 2016. It’s certainly worth noting that he’s one of few pitchers to actually enjoy pitching at Coors over the years. Since 2014, Cueto is 3-0 in three starts with a 1.23 ERA in baseball’s premier hitting setting.
The Giants won’t be particularly eager to see Chatwood, who completely dominated them the last time they met. Chatwood pitched a complete game shutout in which he surrendered just two hits and struck out four last Saturday at AT&T Park. Of course, pitching there is a bit different from pitching at Coors. Chatwood has been awful at his home ballpark. In 16 starts there over the last three seasons, he’s 5-8 with a 5.74 ERA. Chatty isn’t the same guy at home as he is on the road.
The pitching matchup is obviously tilted pretty substantially in the Giants’ favor, but that tends to matter less in this ballpark. The Rockies bats have been producing better than San Francisco’s in recent days, but they haven’t exactly been setting the world ablaze, either. It wouldn’t be that surprising to see this game fail to live up to the lofty implied total.
- Alex Wood (1-0, 1.00 ERA) vs. Taijuan Walker (2-1, 3.94 ERA)
- Weather: Irrelevant (Retractable Roof)
- Moneyline: Dodgers -140, Diamondbacks +120
After splitting four games last weekend at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will reunite to do battle in the desert over the weekend. Lefty Alex Wood gets the nod in place of Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers opposite promising right-hander Taijuan Walker for Arizona.
The Dodgers want to give Maeda an extra day of rest, so Wood rejoins the rotation after working last weekend out of the ‘pen against these D-Backs. He was excellent in relief of Maeda last Saturday night, pitching 3.1 perfect innings while striking out three in an eventual 8-4 LA victory.
Walker is coming off of his best outing during his brief career as a Diamondback. He picked up the win last Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, limiting LA to just a run on four hits over the course of five innings while striking out seven. The strikeouts have been there (16 in 16 innings), and he’s walked only six so far.
Vegas slightly prefers the Dodgers here, but the Diamondbacks may be in a better spot. They have an excellent history against lefty pitching, and the Dodger lineup is a bit watered-down thanks to some injuries. LA should fare better against Walker after seeing him last weekend, but this feels like a spot to take a home underdog.
- Hisashi Iwakuma (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (0-1, 5.51 ERA)
- Weather: 11 mph winds, high of 67 degrees, 3% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Mariners +115, A’s -135
After two decent outings to begin the season, Hisashi Iwakuma came crashing back to earth over the weekend against Texas. The Rangers crushed him for six runs on seven hits and chased him after the third inning back on Sunday in a game the Mariners eventually came back to win, 8-7.
Kuma’s fastball was topping out in the mid-80s, and it’s tough to survive at the Major League level throwing that softly. He’s been on a gradual decline over the last several years, which obviously doesn’t bode well for his job status near the top of Seattle’s rotation. He’ll be pitching tonight in a fine environment for arms, but he’s impossible to trust at this stage of his career.
The A’s will counter with youngster Sean Manaea, whose 2017 hasn’t gotten off to the start he’d have hoped. He allowed just one earned run in his last start against Houston, but also walked five over the course of five innings of action. He’s now walked nine in 16.1 innings so far, which isn’t exactly an ideal rate.
The strikeouts have been there for Manaea (28.2 percent this season), which should come in handy against a free-swinging Mariners team. The big left-hander has excelled in his home park over the course of his brief career (3.02 ERA), so we like him to limit Seattle’s production here. The A’s bats should do the rest against Iwakuma.
- Mat Latos (2017 debut) vs. Alex Meyer (2017 debut)
- Weather: 5 mph winds, high of 81 degrees
- Moneyline: Blue Jays +127, Angels -147
Holy runs, Batman! I wouldn’t have guessed that Mat Latos was still in a professional organization, yet he was recalled from the minors on Wednesday by the Blue Jays in order to start this game tonight in Anaheim. With Aaron Sanchez and JA Happ both injured, the scuffling Jays need someone to come in and give them some innings. So, Latos it is.
Latos looked like a legitimate ace-in-the-making during his early years with the Padres and Reds, but he’s been miserable over the last several years with the Angels, Dodgers, Marlins, White Sox and Nationals. You could say he’s bounced around a bit. That’s probably because he’s just not very good anymore. He’s compiled a 4.93 ERA over the last two seasons combined. While the Angels’ lineup has really struggled in recent days, this looks like a good get-right spot for them back in their home yard.
On the mound for the Halos will be Alex Meyer, who was one of the players that lost out on Anaheim’s No. 5 starter job in spring training. He’s struck out 18 batters in 15 innings thus far in the minors this season, and showed flashes of potential in a brief stint with the big club at the end of last season after coming over in the Ricky Nolasco trade at midseason.
Meyer struck out 24 in 21.2 innings for LA at the end of 2016, and the Angels will obviously be hopeful that his fireballing stuff can translate to the big league level on a long-term basis.
Considering Toronto has just been horrendous to start the season, we have to give the edge to the Angels at home here. We don’t trust either pitcher to fully shut down the other offense, so scoring shouldn’t be a huge task for either club.
- Adam Conley (1-1, 3.75 ERA) vs. Trevor Cahill (0-2, 4.76 ERA)
- Weather: 6 mph winds, high of 71 degrees, 3% chance of rain
- Moneyline: Marlins -120, Padres EVEN
The last game of the night features a pair of clubs from opposite coasts with the Marlins out west to face the Padres in a three-game weekend series. Adam Conley, fresh off a solid outing last weekend against the Mets, will take the ball for the Fish. The young southpaw has been a solid strikeout pitcher over his first few years in Miami, and he’s allowed a total of five runs on seven hits through his first 12 frames this season.
San Diego will throw veteran right-hander Trevor Cahill, who has seen a pair of similar outings through his first two starts as a Padre. He’s lasted 5.2 innings in both of his outings thus far, and eventually wound up taking the loss both times at the hands of the Dodgers and Braves. Cahill is an elite ground ball pitcher when he’s on top of his game, but he’s far from overpowering.
This figures to be a low-scoring affair. The Padres haven’t seen much of Conley in the past (just nine combined at-bats), while Cahill should see a benefit from pitching at pitcher-friendly Petco Park for the first time this season. Conley is the superior pitcher from a talent perspective, though the Pads do have some bats that can just mash lefties.
The Padres will start the weekend right with a W on their home field.