Saturday 4/8 MLB Picks and Predictions

by Taylor Smith
on April 8, 2017

There’s nothing better than weekend baseball action and for the first time during the 2017 MLB season, it’s here. The season officially got underway last Sunday with a mild three-game slate, but we’re not through an entire week of MLB games and coming to our first full weekend schedule.

The loaded schedule offers up 15 games for MLB bettors to peruse, with plenty of tantalizing upset specials in the making if things break just right. We will once again want to keep an eye out on any bad weather situations, as well as late scratches, both for starting pitchers and batters. Just yesterday there was some confusion with ESPN on who would be pitching for the Giants, while Buster Posey, Mookie Betts, Adrian Gonzalez and a number of popular hitters got the day off.

Random inactives and weather can dramatically shift how a game is perceived and bet on, and that’s not different with Saturday’s hefty slate. That’s why we list all of the concrete information we can find early in the day and push it out, along with our own insight and MLB picks. Here’s our take on Saturday’s game lineup:

Boston Red Sox +1.5
VS
Detroit Tigers -1.5
Total: 9
  • Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.71 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (9-7, 4.87 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear and cold, high of 59 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Red Sox -110, Tigers -110

Boston returns for game two of their series with the Tigers at Comerica Park after dropping game one on Friday. Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts all missed that game, yet the Red Sox still rallied and nearly won before losing, 6-5.

There could be even more offense the second time around, as the Sox could get some of the guys back they didn’t have yesterday. They’ll also be facing a solid but beatable Jordan Zimmermann, who got absolutely lit up to the tune of 7 runs in two innings when he last faced Boston in 2015. Zimmermann can still control games when healthy and on top of his game, but if we’re looking at his 5-5 home record (7.00 ERA) of a year ago, we’re not coming away excited.

There is similar inconsistency on the other side, as the 23-year old Eduardo Rodriguez will look to win his first start of the young MLB season. The blazing lefty showed marked improvement in the second half of 2016 and was not so surprisingly much more reliable (3-4 with a 3.71 ERA) away from the extremely hittable Fenway Park. Rodriguez can slay with his fastball, but he’s worked hard to round out his game to make his pitching less predictable. If he can stay true to the progress we saw last season, he could give a strong Tigers offense fits in Detroit on Saturday.

While either pitcher has the upside to dominate this game, it’s tough to see it lasting. That logic worked yesterday with both teams tacking on runs later in the game and Comerica Park’s hitter friendly atmosphere simply doesn’t promote a pitcher’s duel here.

Pick

Red Sox
6
Tigers
5
Minnesota Twins +1.5
VS
Chicago White Sox -1.5
Total: 8.5
  • Adalberto Mejia (0-0, 7.71 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (5-8, 3.73 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear and windy, high of 67 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Twins EVEN, White Sox -120

Adalberto Mejia will try to raise his stock in the majors with a strong performance on Saturday, as the Twins and White Sox continue their AL Central clash in Chicago. Megia was forgettable in his only MLB action a year ago, giving up five hits and two runs in just two short innings of work. While last year’s showing wasn’t good, it was a small sample size and the lefty wrecked during the spring (1.88 ERA).

It will be interesting to see what Mejia can do with his first start, while the far more experienced Gonzalez will be looking to move to 2-2 against the Twins. Gonzalez didn’t notch a win versus Minnesota last year, but still worked them over, allowing just one run on six hits across seven innings (1.29 ERA).

The pitching edge goes to the White Sox on paper, although this doesn’t have the makings of a game where neither side chimes in with some runs. Minnesota’s offense has proven to be dangerous early in the year, but with the lack of reliability in their pitching going into this one, we’ll side with the Sox.

Pick

White Sox
5
Twins
3
Cincinnati Reds +1.5
VS
St. Louis Cardinals -1.5
Total: 8
  • Bronson Arroyo (2014 stats: 7-4, 4.08 ERA) vs. Michael Wacha (7-7, 5.09 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear, high of 75 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Reds +155, Cardinals -180

We’re just as surprised as you are to see Bronson Arroyo starting in this game, as he tries to lead the Reds to a win against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The 40-year old is back in the majors after a two-year absence and he’ll look to prove he can be a regular part of Cincy’s rotation in a tough matchup with the Cardinals on the road. Arroyo handed in a 4.08 ERA last we saw him with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it’s unclear what he’ll provide after being out of baseball the past two seasons.

Wacha is on the other side and while he’s regressed from his previously elite form (just 7-7 with 5.09 ERA in 2016), there is still some hope the 25-year old can rebound and get it going again in 2017. Facing the Reds at home is as good an opportunity as any, as Wacha went 4-0 with a staggering 1.37 ERA against them in 2015. Wacha wasn’t the same guy in 2016, of course, and if he can’t revert to his old form for this contest, both sides could have pitching issues.

The silver lining is Busch Stadium is a good place for pitchers, meaning this game could be reasonably contained even if both of these guys struggle. Wacha seems to have the better shot at rebounding quicker, of course, while the Cardinals also boast the more efficient offense. Look for the Cards to take care of business at home in this one.

Pick

Cardinals
6
Reds
3
New York Yankees +1.5
VS
Baltimore Orioles -1.5
Total: 8
  • Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 23.63 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (0-0, 3.38 ERA)
  • Weather: Mostly clear and windy, high of 63 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Yankees EVEN, Orioles -120

The Yankees and Orioles will hit Camden Yards for the second time in their three-game series. Game two brings both Masahiro Tanaka and Kevin Gausman back to the mound, both of which made starts to open the year for their respective teams.

Tanaka tries to rebound from a rough outing last Sunday, when he got bounced by the Rays. Tanaka gave up seven runs off of eight hits and will need to be in far better form to handle a potent Baltimore offense on the road. The Orioles didn’t have an answer for Tanaka the one time they faced him last year, however, when they were held to 5 hits and 0 runs across 8 innings of work.

Gausman continues to be fairly underrated in the majors and he fed off of that with a solid performance in his first start of the year, holding the Blue Jays to just five hits and two runs across five innings. Gausman was especially trouble for offenses at home last year, where he posted a strong 2.67 ERA and went 6-2 as a starter. Gausman specifically slayed the Yanks in 2016, as well, going 3-1 with an elite 1.10 ERA.

This one really could go either way from a pitching perspective, but the Yankees are a young team that is going to find it difficult to win on the road. Baltimore excelled at home as an offense a year ago and that’s also where Gausman has shined the most. Tanaka could limit the O’s offense here, but overall we still like Baltimore.

Pick

Orioles
5
Yankees
4
Toronto Blue Jays +1.5
VS
Tampa Bay Rays -1.5
Total: 8
  • Aaron Sanchez (15-2, 3.00 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (1-0, 2.57 ERA)
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Dome)
  • Moneyline: Blue Jays +110, Rays -130

Toronto goes back to Tropicana Field for the second night in a row as they try to take down the hated Rays. Aaron Sanchez will toe the rubber for Toronto as he tries to build on an awesome 2016 performance. He just might be able to do that versus Tampa Bay, a team he destroyed in 2016, limiting them to one run on 11 hits (0.64 ERA) across two starts.

Tampa Bay won’t love to see Sanchez again, but at least they have an impressive arm of their own in case their offense sputters. Chris Archer is without a doubt the superior talent between these two pitchers and he’ll look to build off of a dazzling Opening Day start, where he gave up just two runs and struck out five in a 7-3 win over the Yankees.

Archer promises to improve from there, as he has some of the best K upside in all of baseball and hopes to leave a shaky 2016 campaign far behind him. Even during his struggles a year ago, Archer, for the most part, had a hold on a powerful Jays offense, giving up just 8 runs across four starts. His solid 3.09 ERA was far from elite, but it showed Archer wasn’t out of his element with the tough matchup.

Archer’s upside and Tampa Bay’s form to start the year should give MLB bettors plenty of optimism in Tampa Bay’s favor heading into this one. Provided Archer is as good as he was last week and Tampa Bay’s offense isn’t dead, we like the Rays at home in this one.

Pick

Rays
4
Blue Jays
2
Washington Nationals (n/a)
VS
Philadelphia Phillies (n/a)
Total: n/a
  • Jeremy Guthrie (2015 stats: 8-8, 5.95 ERA) vs. Aaron Nola (6-9, 4.78 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear and cool, low of 39 degrees.
  • Moneyline:

A Max Scherzer start almost didn’t go as expected, as Scherzer was plenty fine in a Washington win, but Philly rallied late to threaten in the bottom of the ninth on Friday. What a way to kick off a new series, right? Indeed, the Phillies came to play in game one and they will surely rise up with a far better matchup in game two.

This second game of the series pits former Royals star pitcher Jeremy Guthrie against rising Phillies ace, Aaron Nola. Last we saw the right-handed Guthrie, he was barely keeping his head above water with Kansas City, posting an 8-8 record with a brutal 5.95 ERA in 2014. Odds are things haven’t gotten much better, meaning this could be a terrific matchup for Philly at home.

Nola presents a challenge for the talented Nats, as Philly’s top young arm flashed brilliance at times over his first two seasons as a pro. There is still serious inconsistency with Nola, who hasn’t performed great against the Nats specifically. Washington dinged him up last year (5.40 ERA in 4 starts) and had just as much success in 2015 (5.40 ERA in 2 starts).

It’s possible this is the turning of the tide and Nola’s improved game gives the Nats a tough out, but Washington has a blazing offense and we got to see a good taste of that on Friday. Maybe they won’t go nuts here, but we don’t see them losing.

Pick

Nats
6
Phillies
4
Atlanta Braves +1.5
VS
Pittsburgh Pirates -1.5
Total: 8
  • RA Dickey (10-15, 4.46 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (5-4, 4.20 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear, high of 61 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Braves +120, Pirates -140

The veteran that just won’t go away, R.A. Dickey, makes his debut with the Braves as he battles Chad Kuhl and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 42-year old knuckleballer is quickly fading away, as he was too erratic to trust in Toronto last year and is now in an even worse spot with the Braves.

On the other side we have Kuhl, who flashed his upside on the road (2.72 ERA) in 2016, but struggled immensely (7.03 ERA) at the normally pitcher friendly PNC Park. The 24-year old righty isn’t close to elite, but he’s a capable starter who tends to limit the long ball. That could bode well for him against a team like the Braves that doesn’t have much offense out of deep ball chasers like Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp.

Neither of these teams have exactly been easy to get behind this year, but the Pirates are at home and offer far more offensive upside. If Kuhl can keep it together for 5+ innings, Pittsburgh should be fine.

Pick

Pirates
6
Braves
4
Chicago Cubs -1.5
VS
Milwaukee Brewers +1.5
Total: 8.5
  • Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA) vs. Tom Milone (3-5, 5.71 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear, low of 52 degrees. Roof should be open.
  • Moneyline: Cubs -190, Brewers +165

We’re still waiting for the defending champs to truly hit their stride at the plate. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell have all struggled in the early going, but you know they’re going to find it eventually. And when they do, they’re going to score boatloads of runs. So far, though, it hasn’t really happened.

Journeyman Tommy Milone will look to keep the Cubs baffled in his first start of 2017. The lefty spent last season with the Twins, where he struggled to the tune of a 5.71 ERA in 19 appearances, including 12 starts. He’s already made an appearance out of the bullpen this season, and that didn’t go well either. Milone pitched two innings and gave up a pair of runs against Colorado on opening day.

Kyle Hendricks will be looking to build off of his career year. The Professor led the majors with a 2.13 ERA and finished third in NL Cy Young voting behind Max Scherzer and teammate Jon Lester. He’s a pretty solid strikeout arm (22.8% last season) and uses his change-up often to induce grounders (48.4% GB). He went just 1-2 against the Brewers last season, but did put up a decent 3.22 ERA in those four starts.

While I’m not sold that Hendricks can duplicate the success he had in 2016, it’s impossible to imagine the Cubs not being able to do damage at the plate against Milone. He’s a fringe big leaguer at best, and sooner or later the Cubs are going to start swinging the bats the way we know they can.

Pick

Cubs
6
Brewers
3
Miami Marlins +1.5
VS
New York Mets -1.5
Total: 7.5
  • Adam Conley (8-6, 3.85 ERA) vs. Robert Gsellman (4-2, 2.42 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear, low of 42 degrees. Chilly and windy.
  • Moneyline: Marlins +105, Mets -125

Zack Wheeler made his much-anticipated return to the mound on Friday night after missing each of the last two seasons after Tommy John surgery. It didn’t go so well. The Marlins got to him early and plated five runs in the second and third innings combined. Miami got a strong effort out of lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who will need to be strong all season long if the Marlins are to make a push in the NL East.

Tonight we have a matchup between two guys that quietly pitched very well last season. Robert Gsellman was pressed into duty with all the injuries to Mets’ starters and was exceptional. If you look at his peripherals, though, he figures to be due for some regression this season. He has no real standout pitch, and his strikeout rate in seven big league starts last season was better than anything he’d ever done in the minors. His 2.42 ERA will surely come up with more exposure this year.

Adam Conley has the makings of a top of the rotation guy, but until he’s able to harness his command he’s going to struggle on occasion. He throws an excellent sinker with velocity, which helps him maintain strong ground ball and strikeout rates. The walk rate over 10 percent was his problem last year. His lack of command creates unforced traffic on the basepaths, which is typically his downfall.

The Mets struggled against Chen on Friday night, but they profile overall as an excellent lineup against lefties. On the flip side, Gsellman is probably coming back to earth this season. It’ll still be blustery and chilly in New York, which should keep the bats relatively in check. Miami could make it three in a row here.

Pick

Marlins
4
Mets
3
Kansas City Royals +1.5
VS
Houston Astros -1.5
Total: 7.5
  • Danny Duffy (0-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear, low of 65 degrees. Roof should be open.
  • Moneyline: Royals +160, Astros -185

Here we have a matchup between two of the better southpaws in the American League. Danny Duffy looked every bit the ace of the Royals in the opener, as he breezed through the Twins. Duffman allowed a run on three hits with eight punchouts in six innings of work, only to have his bullpen crater in the late innings.

Keuchel looked like his Cy Young self, too. The Astros’ ace dominated the Mariners on opening night, pitching seven shutout innings and allowing just three hits along the way. Keuchel induces weak contact grounders when he’s at his best, and that was certainly the case in that one. 13 of the 21 outs he recorded came via the ground ball.

Keuchel is also a guy that thrives at Minute Maid Park. During his 2015 Cy season, the bearded lefty went an amazing 15-0 in his home yard and posted a microscopic 1.46 ERA. He’s excellent at neutralizing lefties, as well, and it just so happens that the Royals’ two best hitters (Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer) swing from that side of the plate.

Houston’s bats haven’t truly come to life yet, but the top-six in their order have a history of crushing left-handed pitching. Duffy’s a tougher customer than most, but if the Astros can get to him early then Keuchel should be able to close the deal himself.

Pick

Astros
4
Royals
1
Oakland Athletics +1.5
VS
Texas Rangers -1.5
Total: 8.5
  • Kendall Graveman (1-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (0-0, 5.68 ERA)
  • Weather: Cloudy and windy, low of 62 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Athletics +155, Rangers -180

Texas finally got into the win column last night after three straight losses to open the season against Cleveland. The bats came alive and did serious damage against A’s right-hander Raul Alcantara, and the Rangers will be looking to build a little momentum here.

They’re a good bet to do so with Yu Darvish taking the ball. The strikeout artist was roughed up in the season opener against the Indians, but the A’s don’t present nearly as many matchup problems as Cleveland did. Darvish has curiously posted an ERA over five against Oakland over the last three seasons, but we can take that with a grain of salt. The A’s don’t strike out a ton as a team, but Yu has major K upside any time he takes the hill.

He’ll be opposed by Kendall Graveman, who pitched well enough to earn a win on opening day over the Angels earlier in the week. Graveman typically gets by as an elite ground ball pitcher, but he had the strikeout pitch going against the Halos. He struck out seven over the course of his six innings, and got another five outs via the ground ball.

Graveman certainly has some promise, but we’re going to ride the ace in this one. Texas has a sizable advantage on the mound in this one, and they should be able to carry the momentum from last night at the plate over into tonight’s game.

Pick

Rangers
7
Athletics
3
Los Angeles Dodgers -1.5
VS
Colorado Rockies +1.5
Total: 9.5
  • Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.29 ERA) vs. Jon Gray (0-0, 11.25 ERA)
  • Weather: Partly cloudy, low of 42 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Dodgers -200, Rockies +170

We have quite the tricky situation here, don’t we? We have the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, going up against an explosive offense in baseball’s preeminent hitter’s haven. Kershaw is fully capable of dominating even in such poor pitching conditions, but Coors Field obviously presents a unique challenge. Over the last few years, he’s fared just fine there, having posted a 2.81 ERA across four starts, including a complete game.

Kersh will be squaring off against the Rockies’ ace, fireballer Jon Gray. Gray got off to a decent start on opening day against the Brewers, only to come crashing down in a fourth inning during which he conceded five runs. He posted a 4.30 ERA in 14 starts at Coors last season, which is actually decent considering the yard. Gray knows how to miss bats, which is obviously key here.

The Dodgers’ offense has been very hit-or-miss in the early going. They put up 10+ runs on two separate occasions against the Padres in the first series, but the bats have fallen silent in each of the other three games. It is worth noting that a lefty has started for the opponent in each of LA’s two losses to this point, which was a major weakness for them last season.

Even with the Coors Field setting, we’re not ones to bet against Kershaw. This is a low implied total for a game in this ballpark, but we’re still leaning towards taking the under.

Pick

Dodgers
5
Rockies
2
Cleveland Indians +1.5
VS
Arizona Diamondbacks -1.5
Total: 7
  • Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (0-0, 3.60 ERA)
  • Weather: Mostly clear, low of 59 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Indians -110, Diamondbacks -110

Zack Greinke didn’t exactly look like his old Cy Young self in the opener, but he still put forth a promising effort. He was out there for only five innings, but allowed a pair of runs on four hits and struck out four Giants. His velocity isn’t where it once was, but Greinke is the type of guy that has the precision to make up for any shortcomings on the velo front.

Trevor Bauer will start tonight for the Tribe, assuming he doesn’t gash his pitching hand playing with a drone. Bauer’s always been something of an enigma. He has all the talent in the world, yet struggles to harness it on a regular basis. He’ll have huge strikeout games, then the next time out he’ll get chased in the third inning. If you’re trying to pick games, projecting what Bauer is going to do is fairly maddening.

Bauer is a solid strikeout arm and actually has reverse splits for his career. With AJ Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt and others, Arizona certainly has their fair share of plus right-handed bats. This is also a revenge game for Bauer, who started his career with the D-Backs. He’s probably not particularly vengeful, though, so make of that what you will.

Cleveland has a rather thunderous lineup, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Greinke endure a rough outing. He’s historically a guy that keeps the ball in the ballpark, but moving from Dodger Stadium to Chase Field isn’t an easy transition for any pitcher on that front. It’s quite tempting to pound the over on any game taking place in a hitter-friendly park between a pair of robust offenses. So, you should do that.

Pick

Diamondbacks
7
Indians
5
San Francisco Giants -1.5
VS
San Diego Padres +1.5
Total: 7
  • Madison Bumgarner (0-0, 3.86 ERA) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 24.30 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear and cool. Low of 55 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Giants -220, Padres +190

Through the first five games of the season, the Padres have faced Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda and now get Madison Bumgarner. San Diego was always going to struggle this season, but that’s a tough cast of characters to have to fight through to start the campaign. Poor, poor Padres.

We’ll see what Bumgarner can do for an encore. On Sunday against the D-Backs, the burly southpaw took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and launched a pair of moonshots off of Zack Greinke and Andrew Chafin. He eventually took the no-decision against Arizona, but now gets to face a largely unproven San Diego lineup. Strangely enough, MadBum didn’t exactly dominate at Petco Park last season. In his three starts in San Diego, he went 1-1 and allowed 10 runs in 21 innings.

On the flip side, we have Jhoulys Chacin, who was quickly obliterated by the Dodgers in his opening day start. The veteran journeyman lasted just 3.1 innings and coughed up nine runs on eight hits, including a grand slam to Joc Pederson and a solo shot to Yasmani Grandal.

The San Francisco lineup may not be as daunting as LA’s, but they’ve still got plenty of pop. Chacin is a borderline big leaguer at this point, and the Giants’ lefty bats should feast on him just as the Dodgers’ did. Bumgarner will do his thing on the other side and shut down a watered-down Padre lineup, as well.

Pick

Giants
7
Padres
1
Seattle Mariners -1.5
VS
Los Angeles Angels +1.5
Total: 8
  • Felix Hernandez (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 4.76 ERA)
  • Weather: Mostly clear, low of 49 degrees.
  • Moneyline: Mariners -120, Angels EVEN

For the second night in a row, we’ll cap things off with the Mariners visiting the Angels in Anaheim. Felix Hernandez will look to get into the win column for the first time this season opposite veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco.

While Hernandez’s velocity has been gradually slowing over the last couple of years, he still pitched well enough in Houston on Monday to earn the victory. He only lasted five innings, but struck out six while allowing two runs on five hits. He came out of the game after hurting his groin covering first, but the injury isn’t expecting to hamper him moving forward. In four starts against the Halos last season, Felix went 2-2 and allowed 12 runs in 29 innings.

Nolasco took the “L” on opening day after giving up three runs on seven hits on Monday night in Oakland. He was touched up for a pair of homers, one by Khris Davis and the other by Steven Vogt, which certainly isn’t new for him. Nolasco conceded 26 dongs in 2016, which was among the most by any pitcher. Current Mariners Nelson Cruz (3), Robinson Cano (2) and Danny Valencia (1) have taken Nolasco deep in the past.

The Mariner bats have been sluggish out of the gates, but Nolasco is nothing close to a No. 1 starter anymore. They should be able to get some traffic on the bases and put some runs across. Hernandez isn’t the dominant starter he once was, either, but he has a way of surviving and limiting the damage against him for the most part.

Pick

Mariners
5
Angels
2
MONEYLINE
DECIMAL
FRACTIONAL
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