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MLB • Friday Service Plays • 4/22/16

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    Five to Follow MLB Betting: Friday, April 22, 2016, Opening Line Report
    by Alan Matthews

    Here’s guessing that Mets third baseman David Wright can’t wait to get to the plate on Friday in Atlanta after Thursday’s day off. Wright no doubt would like to get the sour taste out of his mouth from Wednesday in Philadelphia when he had perhaps the worst game of his career at the plate. Wright was 0-for-6 with four strikeouts. He missed on 10 of his 12 total swings. Entering the game, his previous high miss percentage in a game dating to the start of the 2015 season was just 45.5 percent. Wright hadn’t struck out more than twice in a game this season.

    Twins at Nationals (-170, 7.5)

    This is your interleague matchup of the weekend — and apparent mismatch of the weekend — so Minnesota loses the DH. It’s the second straight series in an NL park for the Twins as they finished off a set in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon. They go with Kyle Gibson (0-2, 3.57) here. Minnesota has scored just five total runs in his three starts. Last time out, Gibson took a no-decision in allowing two runs and four hits over seven innings against the Angels. He has had some control problems with 10 walks in 17.2 innings. Gibson has never faced Washington. But Daniel Murphy has seen him and is 2-for-3 with an RBI. It’s not clear if Nats outfielder Jayson Werth will play here. He left Wednesday’s game with tightness in his left hamstring and then got Thursday off. Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.69) is off to the best start of his career, but the Nationals haven’t scored much in his two starts. Gonzalez has allowed only seven hits in 13 innings. Joe Mauer has seen him more than any Twin, going 5-for-17 with two homers.

    Key trends:
    The Twins are 3-8 in Gibson’s past 11 series openers. They are 2-7 in his past nine interleague games. Washington is 5-0 in its past five at home. The “over/under” has gone under in six straight Gibson starts vs. teams with a winning record.

    Early lean:
    Nationals and under.

    Rays at Yankees (+104, 8)

    Lefty Matt Moore (1-0, 2.95) is scheduled for Tampa and in the early going he looks back to pre-Tommy John surgery form. Last time out, Moore allowed two runs and five hits over 6.1 innings against the White Sox while striking out 10 and walking none. This will be his first road start of the year. He was 1-2 with a 6.94 ERA in five away starts last year. Moore pitched once against the Yankees in 2015, allowing two runs in 4.2 innings. Alex Rodriguez is 3-for-10 with an RBI and five strikeouts against him. Mark Teixeira is 2-for-5 with a double. New York enters having lost three straight series. The Yankees turn to lefty CC Sabathia (1-1, 5.06). He lasted just 4.2 innings in his last start vs. Seattle, allowing three runs and seven hits. Sabathia wasn’t very good in 2015, either, but was 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in two starts vs. the Rays. Evan Longoria hits him hard, batting .385 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 64 at-bats. Logan Forsythe is 6-for-15 with two homers.

    Key trends:
    The Rays are 6-0 in Moore’s past six starts. The Yankees are 0-5 in their past five against a lefty. The under is 6-1 in Moore’s past seven.

    Early lean:
    Rays and under.

    A’s at Blue Jays (-129, 8.5)

    On paper, this looks to be the best pitching matchup of the day. It’s ace Sonny Gray (2-1, 2.33) for Oakland. He had his third straight quality start last Saturday, allowing one earned run over six innings on seven hits. He struck out six. Gray threw a season-high 114 pitches. Gray made one start against Toronto last year and allowed two runs and nine hits over seven innings in a no-decision. Jose Bautista is 5-for-10 with a homer and two RBIs off him. Former teammate Josh Donaldson is 2-for-3. The Jays entered the spring thinking Aaron Sanchez (1-0, 1.35) would come out of the bullpen, but he won a rotation spot with his performances. Sanchez has allowed just 10 hits in 20 innings over three starts while striking out 20. Sanchez pitched two scoreless innings vs. Oakland in 2015. No Oakland batters have more than one official at-bat against him.

    Key trends:
    The A’s are 0-4 in Gray’s past four road starts. The over is 7-3 in his past 10. The under is 6-1 in Sanchez’s past seven at home.

    Early lean:
    A’s and under.

    Mets at Braves (+163, 7.5)

    If you are wondering, Wright hit .310 against Atlanta pitching last season with two homers and five RBIs in 29 at-bats — Wright only played 38 regular-season games total in 2015. Wright hasn’t had much success off Atlanta starter Bud Norris, going 1-for-11 with six strikeouts. Norris (1-2, 6.23) didn’t deserve a win last time out in allowing four runs and seven hits in 5.1 innings vs. Miami but got it. Norris has allowed 22 hits in 17.1 innings this season. He’s just not very good. Neil Walker hits him the best of the Mets, going 9-for-23 with a double, homer and five walks. What’s up with Matt Harvey (0-3, 5.71)? His velocity is bit down thus far, but the Mets think he’s simply pressing. Harvey, who says he feels fine, has struck out only nine batters in 17⅓ innings. Harvey made one start vs. Atlanta in 2015 and lost despite allowing a run in 6.2 innings. Freddie Freeman is 0-for-6 off him.

    Key trends:
    The Mets are 7-0 in their past seven Friday games. They are 6-1 in Harvey’s past seven with five days of rest. The Braves are 0-5 in their past five against right-handers. The over is 7-1 in Harvey’s past eight on the road.

    Early lean:
    Mets and over.

    Dodgers at Rockies (+125, 11)

    L.A. had to fly out of Atlanta on Thursday evening for this series opener. The Dodgers go with lefty Scott Kazmir (1-1, 6.43) here. He was fantastic in his season debut in shutting out the Padres on one hit over six innings. But those are the Padres. His past two starts were both against the Giants, and Kazmir lasted four innings in both, giving up 10 runs and 14 hits combined. So who knows what he is yet. Kazmir didn’t face the Rockies last year. For Colorado, it’s top pitching prospect Jon Gray making his season debut. I always monitor Gray because the Cubs were considering taking him at No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft but instead wisely chose Kris Bryant. Gray went No. 3 to the Rockies. An abdominal strain landed Gray on the disabled list to start the season. He was 0-2 with a 5.53 ERA in nine starts last year as a rookie. Gray made one start vs. L.A. and allowed two runs in 4.2 innings in a loss.

    Key trends:
    The Dodgers are 3-7 in their past 10 series openers. The Rockies are 6-1 in their past seven Friday games. The over is 5-0 in Gray’s past five at home.

    Early lean:
    Rockies and over.


    Preview: Twins at Nationals

    GAME: Minnesota Twins (5-11) at Washington Nationals (11-4)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 7:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Nationals Park, Washington, District of Columbia

    Reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper is on a hot streak for the ages and will lead the Washington Nationals into a three-game series against the visiting Minnesota Twins on Friday night. Harper tops the major leagues with 22 RBIs and is tied with Colorado’s Trevor Story for the league lead with eight homers.

    Harper has clubbed six homers during a sizzling eight-game RBI streak in which he has knocked in 17 runs for the NL East-leading Nationals, who are coming off a four-game split at Miami. Washington, which went 4-3 on its seven-game road trip, has won five in a row at home. The Twins, who opened the season with nine consecutive losses, finally posted their first road victory on Thursday in the finale of a four-game, home-and-home interleague series against Milwaukee. Minnesota sends right-hander Kyle Gibson to the mound to face left-hander Gio Gonzalez in the series opener.

    TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), MASN (Washington)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Kyle Gibson (0-2, 3.57 ERA) vs. Nationals LH Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.69)

    Gibson has improved in each of his three starts, going a season-high seven innings but failing to factor in the decision despite limiting the Los Angeles Angels to two runs on four hits. Gibson struggled with his control in each of his first two turns, giving up eight walks in 10 2/3 innings, and has had little margin of error for which to work while receiving a total of six runs of support. A winner of 24 games the past two years, he has never faced Washington.

    Gonzalez was in line for the victory last out time out, only to see closer Jonathan Papelbon blow the save in a 3-2 loss at the Philadelphia Phillies. The 30-year-old Gonzelez overcame four walks by striking out eight and permitting one run on a solo homer among his four hits allowed. Gonzalez, who is 2-3 with a 7.00 ERA in seven career starts versus Minnesota, also came up empty in his season debut despite six scoreless innings of three-hit ball versus Atlanta.


    1. Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy had a 12-game hitting streak snapped on Thursday.

    2. Twins RF Miguel Sano is 8-for-18 with a pair of homers during a five-game hitting streak.

    3. Both teams struggled in interleague play in 2015, each posting an 8-12 record.

    PREDICTION: Nationals 5, Twins 2


    Preview: Rays at Yankees

    GAME: Tampa Bay Rays (7-8) at New York Yankees (5-9)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 7:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

    The Tampa Bay Rays are one of the lowest scoring teams in baseball, but they put up a season high in runs en route to posting their fourth win in five outings. The Rays look to continue their good fortune at the expense of a team struggling to find its offense on Friday as they open a three-game series against the host New York Yankees.

    Evan Longoria homered in Tampa Bay’s 12-8 victory over Boston on Thursday afternoon and has six hits, four RBIs and four runs scored in his last five games. The 30-year-old is 24-for-64 (.375) with six homers in his career versus Friday starter CC Sabathia while his 41 RBIs at the new Yankee Stadium are the most by a visiting player. While the Rays are ascending in the American League East, the Yankees have plummeted to the bottom after mustering just 18 runs en route to losing seven of their last eight contests. Veteran Mark Teixeira went 0-for-3 in Thursday’s 7-3 sweep-clinching setback to Oakland to fall to 1-for-18 in his last six contests, but is 2-for-5 in a small sample size versus Friday starter Matt Moore.

    TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), YES (New York)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays LH Matt Moore (1-0, 2.95 ERA) vs. Yankees LH CC Sabathia (1-1, 5.06)

    Moore penned a brilliant performance in his last outing on Sunday, striking out 10 without walking a batter in 6 1/3 innings in a 3-2 victory over Cleveland. The 26-year-old has allowed just five hits in each contest this season and six runs total in 18 1/3 innings. Moore owns a 5-2 career mark versus New York, with a 3-1 record at Yankee Stadium.

    Sabathia’s 200th start with the Yankees wasn’t a cause for celebration, as the southpaw labored through 4 2/3 innings to take the loss on Saturday against Seattle. The 35-year-old came undone in the fifth, with all three runs he allowed coming in the frame. Sabathia is no stranger to facing the Rays, has he’s tangled with the division rival on 38 occasions (13-14, 3.73 ERA).


    1. New York CF Jacoby Ellsbury collected three hits on Thursday, eclipsing the sum total of his previous six contests (2-for-18).

    2. Tampa Bay 2B Logan Forsythe is 7-for-15 with six runs scored during his four-game hitting streak.

    3. Yankees C Brian McCann is 1-for-18 in his last six outings.

    PREDICTION: Rays 3, Yankees 1


    Preview: Athletics at Blue Jays

    GAME: Oakland Athletics (9-7) at Toronto Blue Jays (8-9)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 7:07 PM EST
    WHERE: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario

    The Oakland Athletics have more than just made themselves at home – they’ve put their feet up and are looking for leftovers in the refrigerator. The majors’ lone undefeated team on the road (6-0), the Athletics aim to extend their overall winning streak to six contests on Friday when they open a three-game series versus the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Oakland opened its 10-game road trip with a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees, with Jed Lowrie collecting six hits in the set – including an RBI single in Thursday’s 7-3 triumph. The Athletics will send ace Sonny Gray to the mound on Friday against Toronto, which dropped the final two contests of its three-game series to Baltimore while registering one-run decisions in each of its last four outings (2-2). Former Athletics standout Josh Donaldson had an RBI and run scored for the second straight game and is 2-for-3 with an RBI in his career versus Gray. Toronto will send right-hander Aaron Sanchez to the mound to open its six-game homestand.

    TV: 7:07 p.m. ET, CSN California (Oakland), Sportsnet One (Toronto)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Athletics RH Sonny Gray (2-1, 2.33 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Aaron Sanchez (1-0, 1.35)

    Gray allowed one earned run for the second time in three quality starts in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Kansas City. The 26-year-old did a better job with his control, however, as he walked just one batter after issuing seven free passes in his first two outings. Gray owns a 1-1 career mark in three starts versus Toronto, with his last encounter resulting in a no-decision despite permitting just two runs in seven strong innings.

    Sanchez put forth his third strong outing of the season on Sunday and finally saw something to show for it as he allowed one run on two hits in seven innings in a 5-3 win over Boston. The 23-year-old has yielded just four runs and 10 hits in 20 innings in 2016, but his seven walks in the last two outings leave a bit to be desired. Sanchez will make his first career start versus Oakland after tossing two scoreless innings of relief against the Athletics.


    1. Toronto 1B Justin Smoak has three hits in as many contests after going 1-for-12 to start the season.

    2. Oakland CF Billy Burns has four extra-base hits and three runs scored during his five-game hitting streak.

    3. Blue Jays RHP Jesse Chavez has been sidelined with a balky back for three games, although manager John Gibbons told reporters that the reliever is expected to return soon.

    PREDICTION: Athletics 5, Blue Jays 2


    Preview: Indians at Tigers

    GAME: Cleveland Indians (6-7) at Detroit Tigers (8-6)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan

    The Cleveland Indians failed to win one of their first three series at home but look for better luck on the road as they start a nine-game trip on Friday against the Detroit Tigers. The Indians rallied from five runs down to tie Seattle on Thursday before dropping a 10-7 decision in 10 innings as the back end of their bullpen continued to struggle.

    Cleveland needs to get closer Cody Allen (8.53 ERA), who gave up a three-run blast by Robinson Cano on Thursday, and Bryan Shaw (17.36) on track as it takes on the Tigers, Minnesota and Philadelphia during the trek. Josh Tomlin gets the nod for the Indians against veteran right-hander Justin Verlander, who has sandwiched two quality starts around a rough outing to start his campaign. Detroit has dropped three of its last four games, including a 4-0 defeat on Thursday at Kansas City. Ian Kinsler continues to shine for the Tigers, notching four straight multi-hit efforts to raise his batting average to .365.

    TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland), FSN Detroit Plus

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Josh Tomlin (1-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Justin Verlander (1-1, 7.16)

    Tomlin was solid in his first start of the season on Saturday before leaving with a right hamstring cramp, but he is expected to be ready to face the Tigers. The 31-year-old gave up one run and four hits over five innings in beating the New York Mets, striking out six without issuing a walk. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 4-for-5 with a home run against Tomlin, who is 3-5 with a 6.20 ERA in 10 career games (six starts) versus Detroit.

    Verlander earned his first victory last time out, allowing three runs and seven hits (two homers) to defeat Houston. The 33-year-old, who has recorded 158 career victories, struggled in his only home start of 2016, permitting seven runs and 10 hits over 4 1/3 frames versus Pittsburgh. Carlos Santana has recorded six homers and 10 RBIs but is batting only .208 against Verlander, who is 18-18 with a 4.43 ERA in 43 career starts versus the Indians.


    1. Cleveland OF Rajai Davis has hit safely in seven straight games (10-for-31) after he homered and knocked in three runs Thursday.

    2. Detroit 1B Miguel Cabrera is off to a slow start (.232, six RBIs) but is batting .353 with 40 homers in 147 career games against the Indians.

    3. The Indians have won five of the last seven meetings but went 7-11 in the 2015 season series.

    PREDICTION: Tigers 5, Indians 4


    Preview: Cubs at Reds

    GAME: Chicago Cubs (12-4) at Cincinnati Reds (8-8)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 7:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio

    Jon Lester is off to a strong start in his second season with the Chicago Cubs, but he’ll have a tough act to follow when he takes the ball Friday for the second contest of a four-game road set against the Cincinnati Reds. Lester looks to keep the Reds on their heels after being no-hit by Jake Arrieta in Thursday’s series opener.

    The Cubs have dominated the Reds so far this season, winning all four meetings by a combined 38-6 margin. The most recent contest was the most lopsided yet, as Chicago outhit Cincinnati 18-0 in a 16-0 victory. Lester is facing the Reds for the second time this season after allowing three runs and five hits over six innings in a no-decision April 11. The Cubs have won seven straight against the Reds dating to last season.

    TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, WGN (Chicago), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Jon Lester (1-1, 2.21 ERA) vs. Reds RH Jon Moscot (0-0, 4.76)

    Lester has recorded three straight quality starts to begin the season and hasn’t allowed more than five hits in any of his outings. The 32-year-old is coming off his best performance of the season, but he was a tough-luck loser despite striking out 10 and allowing one run over 7 1/3 innings. Lester has faced the Reds five times since the start of last season, going 1-0 with a 3.82 ERA.

    Moscot began the season on the disabled list but made his 2016 debut Sunday at St. Louis. The 24-year-old allowed three runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings but didn’t factor in the decision in a 4-3 loss. Moscot is making just his fifth big-league start and his first against the Cubs.


    1. Reds CF Billy Hamilton, who was not in the lineup for the series opener, is 5-for-7 with a homer against Lester.

    2. The Cubs hit five home runs Thursday and have eight in four games against Cincinnati this season.

    3. Chicago CF Dexter Fowler went 2-for-5 with a walk Thursday and has reached base an MLB-best 37 times in 16 games.

    PREDICTION: Cubs 6, Reds 2


    Preview: Mets at Braves

    GAME: New York Mets (7-7) at Atlanta Braves (4-11)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 7:35 PM EST
    WHERE: Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia

    Matt Harvey has surprisingly been the weakest link in the New York Mets’ heralded rotation this season, but the right-hander looks to return to form when they visit the Atlanta Braves on Friday to begin a weekend series. Harvey has yet to win a game but starts the series opener with an extra day of rest, and hopes adjustments to his mechanics – in particular with runners on base – will translate into better results for a Mets team that has won five of its past seven.

    Second baseman Neil Walker has fueled New York’s 4-2 start to its current road trip, slugging five homers in the past six games and collecting four hits in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss in 11 innings at Philadelphia to raise his average to .293. The Braves are trending in the wrong direction again, losing two in a row in extra innings following a four-game winning streak that was preceded by a 0-9 start. Atlanta committed three errors in Thursday’s 2-1,10-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving the Braves 14 in 15 games. Atlanta shortstop Erick Aybar was in a 2-for-31 slump before hitting a pair of doubles Thursday.

    TV: 7:35 p.m. ET, SNY (New York), FSN South (Atlanta)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Mets RH Matt Harvey (0-3, 5.71 ERA) vs. Braves RH Bud Norris (1-2, 6.23)

    Harvey has struck out just nine hitters in 17 1/3 innings – he averaged 8.9 punchouts per nine innings while going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last season. He allowed five runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings Saturday at Cleveland and has given up 12 runs (11 earned) and 20 hits through three starts. Harvey is 1-2 with a 2.75 ERA in three career starts against the Braves, giving up one run on six hits in taking the loss in his lone 2015 start against Atlanta.

    Norris allowed four runs on seven hits and gave up two homers in 5 1/3 innings Saturday at Miami, but it was enough to secure his first victory of the season. The 31-year-old started his season by holding the Nationals to three runs in seven innings, but gave up five runs on nine hits over five frames April 11 at Washington. Norris is 1-2 all-time against the Mets in six career starts, giving up three runs on seven hits in seven innings in losing his only start against New York last season.


    1. The Braves already have been defeated four times in their final at-bat and Thursday’s loss dropped Atlanta to 1-3 in extra innings.

    2. New York struck out 17 times and finished 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position in Wednesday’s defeat.

    3. Atlanta C Tyler Flowers went 5-for-9 with three RBIs in the three-game series against the Dodgers.

    PREDICTION: Mets 5, Braves 3


    Preview: Phillies at Brewers

    GAME: Philadelphia Phillies (7-9) at Milwaukee Brewers (7-9)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The Milwaukee Brewers continue to give up runs in buckets but will welcome a struggling offensive club when the Philadelphia Phillies visit Miller Park on Friday for the opener of a three-game series. Pitching has been a sore spot for the Brewers, who have permitted at least four runs in 10 consecutive contests.

    Milwaukee continued its pattern of losing in lopsided fashion, dropping an 8-1 decision to Minnesota in the finale of a four-game, home-and-home interleague series. The Brewers fell to 7-9 with the loss and have been outscored by a staggering 66-17 in the nine defeats. The Phillies know what it’s like to feel like a punching bag, getting outscored 33-5 in a five-game span before averting a three-game sweep with a 5-4, 11-inning victory over the New York Mets on Wednesday. Philadelphia lost all seven meetings with Milwaukee in 2015.

    TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, TCN (Philadelphia), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Phillies RH Aaron Nola (0-2, 5.68 ERA) vs. Brewers RH Zach Davies (0-1, 19.29)

    Nola is coming off the worst outing of his brief career after he was battered for seven runs on seven hits over five innings against Washington while serving up a homer for the third straight start. The 22-year-old went seven innings in each of his first two turns, striking out 17, but the Phillies have scored a combined six runs in his three starts. Nola pitched better away from home as a rookie, giving up only four of his 11 homers in 42 2/3 innings.

    Davies was promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs to start in place of an injured Matt Garza on Sunday at Pittsburgh, but it turned out to be a forgettable season debut as he lasted only 2 1/3 innings and was pounded for six runs (five earned) on eight hits. He also walked three and did not strike out a batter, showing the control problems that surfaced over the final month in 2015, when he gave up 15 walks in 34 innings. He’s still seeking his first home win.


    1. Milwaukee and Philadelphia have the worst run differentials in the majors at minus-33 and minus-30, respectively.

    2. Brewers LF Ryan Braun is 7-for-13 with five RBIs during a four-game hitting streak.

    3. Phillies SS Freddie Galvis is riding a six-game hitting streak.

    PREDICTION: Phillies 5, Brewers 3


    Preview: Red Sox at Astros

    GAME: Boston Red Sox (7-8) at Houston Astros (5-11)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

    The Houston Astros arguably were the most surprising team in baseball last season, but they are tied with Minnesota for the worst record in the American League through 16 games this season. The struggling Astros (5-11) have lost seven of their last nine games and will attempt to start turning things around when they host the Boston Red Sox on Friday.

    Houston was swept in three games by Texas – including Thursday’s 7-4 loss – and the shaky start has overshadowed the play of Jose Altuve, who already is one-third of the way to his career high in homers with five. “I think the only reason I have right now is, I’m getting older and I’m developing my strength, because I’m not even trying to hit homers,” Altuve told reporters of his power surge. “I feel I’m getting good pitches to hit and I’m putting a good swing, obviously, on the ball to hit a homer. I’m kind of surprised. I know a lot of people are surprised I have five homers, but I’m surprised, too.” Boston is struggling with four losses in five games and suffered a 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday as marquee free-agent addition David Price continued his struggles by being mauled for eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-6 with a home run while his sixth-inning double was the 1,500th hit of his career.

    TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, NESN (Boston), ROOT (Houston)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH Steven Wright (0-2, 2.13 ERA) vs. Astros RH Collin McHugh (1-2, 6.39)

    Wright pitched well in both of his losses and has allowed a total of only three earned runs. The 31-year-old knuckleballer has struck out 11 and walked three in 12 2/3 innings – a better ratio than last season, when he fanned 52 and issued 27 walks in 72 2/3 frames. Wright has posted a 7.20 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against Houston.

    McHugh pitched seven scoreless innings in one start and has been torched in the other two. He has allowed 21 hits in 12 2/3 frames and didn’t even make it out of the first inning in one outing. McHugh is 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox and has kept David Ortiz (0-for-7) in check while having issues with Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt (both 3-for-8).


    1. Ortiz is batting .350 with six homers and 34 RBIs in 29 career games against the Astros.

    2. Houston LF Colby Rasmus recorded two homers and three RBIs on Thursday for his ninth career multi-homer performance after failing to go deep in eight consecutive contests.

    3. Bogaerts is 5-for-7 with three runs scored over his last two games.

    PREDICTION: Red Sox 10, Astros 8


    Preview: Rangers at White Sox

    GAME: Texas Rangers (10-6) at Chicago White Sox (10-6)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 8:10 PM EST
    WHERE: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, Illinois

    The Chicago White Sox are struggling to score runs, and part of the reason is the season-long struggles of Jose Abreu. Chicago has scored three or fewer runs in eight of its last nine games and Abreu is batting just .190 entering Friday’s opener of a three-game series against the visiting Texas Rangers.

    Abreu is just 2-for-27 over his last seven games and has gone 10 contests without a multi-hit performance. “When you’re hitting .190, you’re a .190 hitter and there’s a reason why you’re doing it, probably because you’re chasing pitches,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. “Is he better than that? Do we expect more of him? Absolutely, and we have confidence he’s going to do that. As soon as he stops chasing it, he’s going to be just fine.” Texas has won four consecutive contests after finishing off a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros with a 7-4 win on Thursday. Ian Desmond smashed a three-run homer off reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and went 4-for-11 in the series after being 5-for-46 entering it.

    TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest Plus (Texas), CSN Chicago

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Rangers LH Martin Perez (0-1, 3.44 ERA) vs. White Sox LH Jose Quintana (1-1, 2.55)

    Perez has worked at least six innings in each of his three starts and has allowed just 15 hits but doesn’t have a victory to show for it. He has struggled with his control by issuing 11 walks in 18 1/3 innings – an alarming rise from 2013, when he walked just 37 in 124 1/3 innings. Perez is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two career starts against the White Sox and has struck out Abreu in three of their four confrontations.

    Quintana has started off strong, allowing a total of five earned runs over his first three starts. He has struck out 18 while walking only three and didn’t issue a free pass in two of his three outings. Quintana is 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA in four career starts against Texas and will look to control Prince Fielder, who is 4-for-15 with a homer, two doubles and four walks against him.


    1. Rangers SS Elvis Andrus is 12-for-28 with six RBIs during his eight-game hitting streak.

    2. Chicago CF Austin Jackson is 2-for-25 over his last nine contests.

    3. Texas 3B Adrian Beltre went 3-for-4 with a homer on Thursday and is 7-for-14 in his last four games.

    PREDICTION: Rangers 5, White Sox 4


    Preview: Orioles at Royals

    GAME: Baltimore Orioles (10-4) at Kansas City Royals (10-5)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 8:15 PM EST
    WHERE: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

    Two American League division leaders face off when the Baltimore Orioles visit the Kansas City Royals on Friday to begin a three-game series. Baltimore leads the AL East at 10-4 after winning its last two against Toronto as Manny Machado extended his hitting streak to 14 contests while the Royals are 6-2 at home on the way to a one half-game lead in the AL Central.

    Machado is one of three Orioles (Brian Roberts and Eddie Murray) to start a season by hitting safely in 14 straight games and can set a new career high on Friday. Baltimore will send Yovani Gallardo to the mound to try and improve on the team’s 3-3 record on the road. Kansas City (10-5), which won four of seven against the Orioles last season, took two of three versus Detroit earlier this week. Eric Hosmer has recorded at least one hit in 11 consecutive games for the Royals and reached base in 23 straight regular-season contests, dating back to the 2015.

    TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, MASN2 (Baltimore), FSN Kansas City

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles RH Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 5.63 ERA) vs. Royals RH Chris Young (0-3, 7.90)

    Gallardo has given up nine runs over 11 innings in his last two starts after producing a solid performance in his season debut. The 30-year-old Mexican, who signed as a free agent in the offseason, has walked six and struck out nine in three outings with his new team. Omar Infante (1-for-12) has struggled against Gallardo, who has been dominant in two career starts versus Kansas City (1-0, 1.93 ERA).

    Young is coming off one of his best seasons (11-6) but has not carried over that performance, permitting 12 runs over 13 2/3 innings in his first three starts of 2016. The 36-year-old Texan had his best outing at home, allowing two runs and three hits over five frames. J.J. Hardy is 0-for-9 with three strikeouts versus Young, who is 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against Baltimore.


    1. Orioles RHP Darren O’Day has not allowed a run in eight outings (7 1/3 innings) this season and Baltimore is 8-0 in games he has pitched.

    2. Royals 3B Mike Moustakas is 6-for-16 with a pair of homers during his four-game hitting streak.

    3. Baltimore rookie LF Joey Rickard has reached base in his first 14 major-league games, recording at least one hit in 13 of them.

    PREDICTION: Orioles 6, Royals 4


    Preview: Dodgers at Rockies

    GAME: Los Angeles Dodgers (10-6) at Colorado Rockies (8-7)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 8:40 PM EST
    WHERE: Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

    The future of the Rockies largely depends on young arms such as Jon Gray, who makes his 2016 debut Friday when Colorado hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers to kick off a three-game series and seven-game homestand. Gray – the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft – suffered a strained abdomen in spring training, but saw his fastball return to 99 miles per hour in his rehab starts after making an adjustment to his mechanics, telling reporters: “I feel great, 100 percent. I can’t wait to get started.”

    Gray rejoins a staff which owns the worst ERA in the majors at 5.55, but the rotation posted a 2.72 ERA over the last seven games. The Rockies are coming off a 3-3 road trip, winning two of three against the Chicago Cubs before losing a series to the Cincinnati Reds while Los Angeles began a six-game trek by taking two of three from the Atlanta Braves. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (.355) continued his hot start by going 6-for-11 against Atlanta with a home run and two RBIs after collecting three hits Wednesday. Los Angeles on Friday gives the ball to Scott Kazmir, who turned in a pair of subpar starts – both against the San Francisco Giants – after an excellent debut with the Dodgers.

    TV: 8:40 p.m. ET, SportsNet LA (Los Angeles), ROOT (Colorado)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers LH Scott Kazmir (1-1, 6.43) vs. Rockies RH Jon Gray (2015: 0-2, 5.53)

    Kazmir allowed four runs and seven hits in four innings of a 4-3 loss to the Giants on Saturday and received a no-decision after yielding six runs and seven hits in four frames of a 9-6 setback in San Francisco on April 10. While the 32-year-old Texan didn’t get the desired results Saturday, he told reporters: “I felt great. The fastball had more life to it. The changeup was there. It was probably the best I felt all year.” Kazmir, who is 17-10 with a 4.17 ERA in 41 April starts, allowed one hit and struck out five in six scoreless innings of Los Angeles’ 3-0 victory in San Diego on April 5.

    Gray lost to Los Angeles 4-1 in September after allowing two runs, six hits and two walks while striking out a season-high eight – Gonzalez twice – in 4 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old Oklahoman, who recorded seven no-decisions among his first nine career starts last season, was 0-1 with an 8.27 ERA in five starts at Coors Field. Gray walked 14 and struck out 40 in 40 2/3 frames in 2015 with a 1.62 WHIP and .319 batting average against while yielding four home runs.


    1. Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez (.367) recorded his 1,000th career hit in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Cincinnati.

    2. Dodgers OF Carl Crawford (back) is expected to rejoin the team Monday after playing two rehab games with Triple-A Oklahoma City and one with Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

    3. Los Angeles won 11 of 19 meetings last season and is 24-14 versus Colorado over the past two years, and 10-9 at Coors Field during that span.

    PREDICTION: Dodgers 9, Rockies 8


    Preview: Pirates at Diamondbacks

    GAME: Pittsburgh Pirates (8-8) at Arizona Diamondbacks (9-8)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 9:40 PM EST
    WHERE: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

    The Arizona Diamondbacks look to build on an impressive road trip Friday as they return home to begin a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have lost six of their last nine. The Diamondbacks went 7-3 on their just-completed road trip against and stand above .500 for the first time this season.

    First baseman John Jaso is batting .429 during his 11-game hitting streak for the Pirates, who moved back to .500 with Thursday’s 11-1 rout of San Diego. Pittsburgh also has received a welcome boost from catcher Francisco Cervelli, who owns a five-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 13 of his first 14 games. Arizona begins the weekend riding high after completing a four-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park and appears to have found their leadoff hitter in second baseman Jean Segura, who is experiencing a rebirth while hitting .338 with three home runs, 10 RBI and three stolen bases in his first season with the club. “These guys give me the trust to be the player I want to be,” Segura told “They give me the confidence to run when I want, when I feel comfortable. They trust that I can be the guy I was three years ago.”

    TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Arizona

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates LH Jonathon Niese (2-0, 3.50 ERA) vs. Diamondbacks LH Patrick Corbin (1-1, 2.75)

    Niese is seeking his third straight victory after tossing seven shutout innings against Milwaukee on Saturday. “He works quick, gets early contact, throws a lot of strikes, keeps you on your toes,” shortstop Jordy Mercer told reporters. “Three in a row could get hit to you really easily. It’s fun playing behind him.” The 29-year-old is 3-3 with a 5.93 ERA in seven career starts against Arizona, including 1-2 with a 6.26 ERA in four outings at Chase Field.

    Corbin, who has been Arizona’s most consistent starter early this season, took another step forward Sunday as he held San Diego to three runs (one earned) over 6 2/3 innings. Corbin threw 105 pitches, marking the first time he had thrown above 100 pitches since 2013. The 26-year-old New Yorker, who missed the entire 2014 season because of Tommy John surgery, allowed two runs over six frames in his only previous start against the Pirates on Aug. 7, 2012.


    1. Pittsburgh has gone 9-3 in its last 12 games at Chase Field, including 3-0 last season.

    2. Segura is 15-for-40 during his nine-game hitting streak against the Pirates.

    3. The Pirates were 27-6 against NL West opponents last season.

    PREDICTION: Diamondbacks 5, Pirates 4


    Preview: Mariners at Angels

    GAME: Seattle Mariners (7-8) at Los Angeles Angels (7-9)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 10:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California

    Mike Trout is heating up as the Los Angeles Angels – fresh off a 5-5 road trip – host the Seattle Mariners on Friday to kick off a three-game series and six-game homestand. The 2014 American League MVP and two-time runner-up went 5-for-6 in his last two games, including a two-run homer, and could continue raking as he is a career .354 hitter with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 65 at-bats against Friday’s starter – Seattle ace Felix Hernandez.

    “He hasn’t swung the bat that poorly up until this point,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia told reporters about the 24-year-old Trout, who raised his average 66 points to .286 after the outburst. “But some hits just haven’t fallen in. He definitely has better timing in the box and hopefully he’s gotten 50-whatever bats out of the way and he’s where he needs to be.” The Mariners, meanwhile, are 4-2 on their nine-game road trip after a 10-7 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday. It was a rare offensive explosion – highlighted by Robinson Cano’s three-run homer in the 10th inning – for Seattle, which has scored four or more runs three times in its last 12 games. Hernandez permitted two earned runs over 18 innings in his first three starts of the season despite struggling with his control and opposes Nick Tropeano, who has performed admirably in replacing the injured Andrew Heaney in the rotation.

    TV: 10:05 p.m. ET, ROOT (Seattle), FSN West (Los Angeles)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners RH Felix Hernandez (1-1, 1.00 ERA) vs. Angels RH Nick Tropeano (1-0, 0.84)

    Hernandez recorded 13 walks against 20 strikeouts this season – lowering his lifetime ratio to 3.36:1 – after issuing a career high-tying six free passes in a 3-2 victory over the Yankees in New York on Saturday. “When I got into the game, it wasn’t there,” the 30-year-old Venezuelan and 2010 Cy Young award winner told reporters about his control. “There was a lot of movement on the ball. The ball was going everywhere. It was mechanics. I was behind the ball a little bit. I was all over the place.” Hernandez is 14-14 with a 3.30 ERA in 46 starts versus Los Angeles but 6-1, 1.34 in 11 turns over the past two seasons and has little trouble with the slumping Albert Pujols (.208, home run, seven RBIs 13 strikeouts in 53 at-bats).

    Tropeano received a no-decision after allowing one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 3-2 loss in Minnesota on Sunday after opening the season with a 4-1 victory in Oakland on April 11 with five shutout innings. It appears the 25-year-old New Yorker could remain in the rotation for quite some time after the Angels shut down Heaney (strained flexor tendon) this week. Tropeano is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts versus Seattle.


    1. Pujols (.148) is hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

    2. Hernandez shares the team record with 2,162 strikeouts set by Randy Johnson in 1998.

    3. Cano (.246) has six home runs while no other Mariner has more than two and his 14 RBIs are twice as many as his closest teammate (Nelson Cruz).

    PREDICTION: Mariners 2, Angels 1


    Preview: Marlins at Giants

    GAME: Miami Marlins (5-9) at San Francisco Giants (7-10)
    DATE/TIME: Friday, April 22 – 10:15 PM EST
    WHERE: AT&T Park, San Francisco, California

    When Barry Bonds makes his return to AT&T Park on Friday night, the San Francisco Giants may be wishing the slugger was still wearing their uniform as they prepare to host the Miami Marlins in the opener of a three-game series. The reeling Giants have dropped five in a row following a four-game sweep at home by Arizona.

    San Francisco scored a total of three runs in the past three games, hardly the type of offensive numbers produced during the halcyon days of Bonds, now the hitting coach with the Marlins. Jeff Samardzija will finally get a chance to pitch in front of the home fans for the Giants, who have dropped eight of their last nine. Miami had been winless at home before splitting a four-game series against National East-leading Washington. Jarred Cosart will oppose Samardzija in the opener of a 10-game road trip for the Marlins.

    TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, MLB Network, FSN Florida (Miami), KNTV (San Francisco)

    PITCHING MATCHUP: Marlins RH Jarred Cosart (0-0, 6.10 ERA) vs. Giants RH Jeff Samardzija (1-1, 3.72)

    Cosart has notched a pair of no-decisions despite two erratic performances, including an ugly effort last time out against Atlanta in which he allowed four of his five runs in the first inning and walked six in 5 2/3 innings. He was staked to an 8-0 lead against the New York Mets in his season debut but departed after 4 2/3 frames, giving up three runs and three walks. He lost his lone start to the Giants, allowing four runs in four innings.

    Samardzija saw his chance at a second straight victory disappear when he allowed a two-run homer in a 3-1 loss at the Los Angeles Dodgers, a game in which he was charged with three runs over six innings. The former Notre Dame product was magnificent in his previous turn, going eight strong innings and yielding two runs on six hits. Samardzija is 3-1 in 15 appearances (six starts) versus Miami but has been tormented by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (6-for-9).


    1. Marlins OF Ichiro Suzuki needs one hit to tie Frank Robinson (2,943) for 32nd place on the all-time list.

    2. The Giants are 3-for-35 with runners in scoring position during the five-game slide.

    3. Marlins LF Christian Yelich has reached base in all 14 games.

    PREDICTION: Giants 5, Marlins 3

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