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PREVIEW ALL MLB Games, articles, info, etc, Saturday 9/5/15

Home Forums MLB Service Plays PREVIEW ALL MLB Games, articles, info, etc, Saturday 9/5/15

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    Five To Follow MLB Betting: Saturday, September 5, 2015 Opening Line Report
    by Alan Matthews

    Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt
    Not a San Francisco Giants fan in the least, but it sure fun watching Tim “the Freak” Lincecum pitch for them when he was in his prime. As expected, his season is over because of hip surgery. Needless to say, you need your hips to be fairly flexible and be a good pitcher in the big leagues — especially someone like Lincecum who is a little guy and uses his legs/hips as his point of power. He was arguably the best pitcher in the National League in about a four-year stretch and won two Cy Young Awards (2008 & ’09) and led the NL in strikeouts both those years and in 2010. Doctors say Lincecum should make a full recovery, but one would think at a minimum his Giants career is over. He really hasn’t been effective all that much since 2011.

    Rays at Yankees (-168, 8.5)

    This game will have live betting at sportsbooks as it’s televised nationally on Fox Sports 1. It’s also the earliest-starting game of the day at 1:05 p.m. ET. I mentioned early this week that Yankees first baseman Mark Teixiera would at least miss the Boston series and he did. But it’s much worse than that. He has a major bone bruise and could miss the rest of the regular season. It’s another reason why I think the Yankees are going to cough up their wild-card spot. The Rays go with lefty Matt Moore (1-3, 8.78) here, and as you can see he has struggled in a return from Tommy John surgery, although he has made only six starts. But Moore has allowed at least four runs in all but one. He hasn’t faced the Yanks this season. Moore was sent down to Triple-A for a month, and this is his first start back. New York’s Nathan Eovaldi is a crazy 14-2 despite a 4.17 ERA. He gave up five runs in five innings last time out in Atlanta yet still won. One of Eovaldi’s losses was May 12 at Tampa Bay, allowing four runs over 7.1 innings.

    Key trends: The Rays are 0-5 in Moore’s past five on the road. The Yanks are 5-0 in Eovaldi’s past five vs. teams with a losing record. The “over/under” is 10-1 in the Rays’ past 11 in Game 2 of a series. The over is 4-1 in Eovaldi’s past four vs. teams with a losing record.

    Early lean: Yankees and over.

    Diamondbacks at Cubs (-212, TBA)

    Arizona is expecting back NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt from paternity leave for this game. The Cubs, however, are expected to be without stud rookie Kyle Schwarber likely the rest of the weekend with a rib injury. Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta goes for Chicago. Arrieta (17-6, 2.11) was the NL Pitcher of the Month in August, when he was 6-0 with a 0.43 ERA, becoming the first pitcher since Jim Kaat in 1974 to win six of six starts with an ERA below 0.75 in one calendar month. He pitched at Arizona on May 23 and allowed three earned in six innings in a no-decision. Goldschmidt is 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against him. Lefty Robbie Ray (3-10, 3.72) goes for Arizona. The Snakes have lost his past six, scoring two runs or fewer in five of them. He has never faced the Cubs.

    Key trends: The Snakes are 0-5 in Ray’s past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Cubs are 5-1 in Arrieta’s past six vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 6-0-1 in Ray’s past seven on the road. The under is 5-1 in Arrieta’s past six at home vs. teams with a losing record.

    Early lean: Cubs on runline.

    Twins at Astros (-169, 8.5)

    This feels like a broken record, but Twins closer Glen Perkins is out again. He’s dealing with back spasms. Kevin Jepsen takes over the role, and he has been about as good. The Twins start Ervin Santana (3-4, 5.40) here. He comes off his best start of the season, also against the Astros, shutting them out over seven innings on six hits and striking out a season-high 10. Before that, he had given up 31 earned runs in his previous 30.1 innings. Astros rookie Lance McCullers (5-5, 3.21) also faced the Twins last time out, allowing three runs over six innings. That was his second start since being sent down for a few weeks to conserve innings.

    Key trends: The Twins are 2-5 in Santana’s past seven. Houston is 6-0 in McCullers’ past six at home. The over is 4-1 in Santana’s past five. The over is 5-1-2 in McCullers’ past eight.

    Early lean: Astros and over.

    Rangers at Angels (-115, 8)

    There have been some terrible contracts in baseball history. And the Angels are on the hook for two of the five worst: to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, although the latter is having a huge season. Hamilton was traded by the Halos back to Texas earlier this season, with Los Angeles so eager to dump him that it ate about $80 million. Hamilton has been largely a bust with Texas too because his body his breaking down. Now the team is saying he likely will be limited to pinch-hitting the rest of the season because he can’t really run due to knee issues. You have to love guaranteed contracts. How do NFL players not have them? I digress. It’s Jered Weaver for the Halos here, who could make things really interesting in the wild-card race with a sweep of this series. And the way the pitching is lined up, they might. Weaver (6-10, 4.94) has been bombed in his past two, however, allowing 14 runs and 16 hits over 11.2 innings. He hasn’t faced Texas this year. Mike Napoli hits .344 off him with three homers. It’s lefty Derek Holland (2-1, 2.82) for Texas. He has made just four starts this year and had one of the best of his career last time out, throwing a complete-game three-hitter vs. Baltimore. Mike Trout is 9-for-26 with two homers off him and Pujols 6-for-18 with two dingers.

    Key trends: The Rangers are 1-4 in Holland’s past five on the road. The over is 4-0 in Holland’s past four vs. the Angels. The Angels are 7-2 in Weaver’s past nine vs. Texas.

    Early lean: Angels and over.

    Braves at Nationals (-200, 7.5)

    Best batting line ever for Washington’s Bryce Harper on Thursday (he wasn’t even a sure thing to play). He was 0-for-0 against the Braves with four walks, four runs scored and an RBI. No player had posted that line since 1914. And Harper joined Larry Doby, Joe Morgan and Rickey Henderson as the only players in history to score four runs with zero at-bats in a game. Harper will face Shelby Miller (5-12, 2.56) here. I love previewing Miller’s games at this point. He hasn’t won in 19 straight starts despite allowing two earned runs or fewer 12 times in that stretch. Miller also has gotten only two runs or fewer of run support 14 times in that run. Unluckiest pitcher this century? He is 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts vs. Washington this season. Ian Desmond is just 1-for-17 off him. Harper 3-for-14 with two RBIs. Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 4.13) hasn’t won since Aug. 10. He has faced the Braves once this season, allowing two runs over seven innings in a win back in early May.

    Key trends: The Braves are 0-6 in Miller’s past six vs. teams with a winning record. The Nats have won four straight in Game 3 of a series. The under is 5-0 in Miller’s past five on the road.

    Early lean: Nats and under.


    MLB betting cheat sheet: Houston, we have a problem

    Here’s a comprehensive look at betting notes for the weekend major-league schedule:

    Houston, We Have A Problem…

    The Astros have lost four of their last six overall, and Texas is hot on their heels. The Rangers have won six of seven and 15 of their last 20 overall, and trail Houston by only two games. The Astros will host the Twins in a three game series at Minutemaid Park this weekend, and Houston has the second best home record in the American League (46-23). Minnesota is just 27-38 on the road this season.

    Giant Slump

    It wasn’t long ago that the defending champs appeared like they were going to catch the Dodgers in the NL West, but they now sit 6.5 games back of LA in the standings. They have lost six straight, three of those losses coming to the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. The Giants will be in Colorado over the weekend, and the Rockies have won four of the last six meetings in this series, including an 11-3 victory in Game 1 on Thursday.

    Baltimore Bad Bet On The Road

    The Orioles have really hit hard times, coming into Toronto tonight as losers of 12 of their last 14 overall. They now sit just three games out of the cellar in the AL East, with no realistic hope of making the playoffs. They’ve lost eight of their last nine on the road, and they’ve lost 48 of their last 68 here at Rogers Center.

    Hitting Notes

    *Josh Donaldson was 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the win over Cleveland on Wednesday, and he has a major league best 111 RBIs this season. He’s done the bulk of his damage at home in Toronto, where he’s hitting .342 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs.

    *Jason Heyward is swinging a hot bat, hitting .392 over the last seven days. He’s been better at home in St. Louis, batting .323 at Busch Stadium, compared to just .263 on the road.

    Pitching Notes

    *Jake Arrieta tossed a no hitter against the Dodgers his last time out, giving him a major league best 17 wins on the season. His next start comes at home against Arizona on Saturday, and this looks like a potential trouble spot. The D’Backs are one of the few teams that have hit Arrieta, tagging him for six runs on seven hits over six innings earlier this season.

    Totals Streak

    Over the last few years, we’ve come to think of San Diego’s PETCO Park as one of the most pitcher friendly in the majors. That’s quickly becoming a myth here in 2015. According to ESPN Park Factors, PETCO ranks in the top 10 in home runs. The Padres have seen the total go over at a rate of 21-3-2 in their last 26 games versus a right-handed starter.

    Injury Notes

    *Yasiel Puig remains sidelined for the Dodgers with a hamstring injury. He’s expected to miss at least the first half of September.

    *Matt Cain has been placed on the 15 day DL by the Giants, he’s suffering from right elbow inflammation.

    Weather Notes

    * Early forecasts show wind blowing out to left field at Kauffman Stadium when the Kansas City Royals host the Chicago White Sox Saturday.


    Moore’s starts have led to losses for Rays
    Stephen Campbell

    The Tampa Bay Rays are a paltry 1-8 in Matt Moore’s last nine outings.

    Tampa is scheduled to send Moore to the bump once again Saturday opposite Nathan Eovaldi and the New York Yankees.

    The Yanks are presently in the -165 ballpark at sportsbooks. At the time of writing, the total was off the board.


    dave essler

    Saturday MLB Thoughts

    D-Backs-Cubs: Tough to get in front of Arrieta – but he did throw a ton of pitches in that no-no against the Dodgers. The last time he threw that many, the next game was the ONLY game he’s allowed runs in some time. Goldschmidt should be back but Aaron Hill is questionable. Ray has been better on the road – but Wrigley’s dimensions may cause the same issues Chase Field does – so I can’t take AZ here. Lean under – somewhat “ballpark inflated” total, perhaps.

    Pirates-Cardinals: Tough to ignore the fact that even with Morton the Pirates are +130, which would preclude me from laying the price with the Cardinals. The Pirates haven’t played well coming in but are very good against LHP so if McCutcheon is healthy, and they’re resting Walker on Friday – perhaps the Pirates. But, if the weather and the umpire are right, over.

    Giants-Rockies: San Francisco has been in semi free-fall mode while the Rockies have apparently woken up. I’m not sure Peavy is the best option to stop that – so unless the Giants rally from the early 2-0 deficit Friday AND use little pen, I’ll take the Rockies, again.

    Dodgers-Padres: Again, I can’t take Alex Wood – simply because we’ve played the Padres against LHP more often than not. Ross is obviously the Padres’ best option, so barring any Friday fiasco – the Padres.

    Rays-Yankees: New York might have their mojo back now – putting up early runs on Odorizzi and beginning an lengthy AL East homestand where they know they can distance themselves in the Wild Card race at least. Eovaldi has been better at home, and although we do like Moore, I’m not sure with the Rays inconsistent bullpen I can take the generous price.

    Tigers-Indians: You have to like Salazar and the Indians, but my how times have changed, installing them as -150 road favorites. Simon is at least capable – so we’ll see what the Tigers RL is going for. I am not laying that price with the Indians, who are capable of anything – we want consistent teams that have real reasons to play if we’re using real money.

    Twins-Astros: This one looks easy – under. McCullers should, as a RHP, keep the Twins off the board for the most part. Santana is quite capable, as we found out last week – and the Astros haven’t seen him – much. This looks like an even better F5 under bet.

    White Sox-Royals: Both teams are typically at their worst against left handed pitching – so my instinct is to play the under.

    Oakland-Seattle: Yes, Felix has some of hie mojo back – but on the road against a team that’s seen tons of him I’d have to take the A’s at that price. Neither bullpen is worth much – but both starters should last long enough to make the under a viable option.

    Angels-Rangers: I thought Weaver and the Angels would open at more than -120. I guess I am stuck in July when that price clearly would have been closer to -150. At 7.5 it’d be tempting to look at the over, but instinct says let it go to 8 and take the under.


    steve merril

    screen shot saturday

    Diamondbacks @ Cubs — Chicago’s Jake Arrieta has not allowed an earned run in his last three starts while beating the Braves, Giants, and Dodgers. Arrieta has an incredible 27/3 strikeout/walk ratio in his last 21 inning of work. However, one of Arrieta’s worst outings this season came in Arizona back in May when he allowed 6 runs and seven hits in six innings of work. All three of Robbie Ray’s wins this season have come away from Arizona; he owns a 2.64 ERA and 1.17 WHIP on the road. I’ll take Arizona (+200) in this game on Saturday afternoon.

    Braves @ Nationals — Atlanta’s Shelby Miller has a winless streak of 19 straight starts. He has allowed 2 earned runs or less 12 times, but he has also received 2 runs of support or less 14 times. Miller has faced the Nationals twice this season, giving up 6 runs and 11 hits in 12 innings of work. It’s kind of hard to play Atlanta right now as they have seemingly packed things up for the last month of the season, but there’s value in taking the Braves +1.5 runs (-120) in this game.

    White Sox @ Royals — Chicago’s Jose Quintana is 0-6 with a 4.68 ERA in 16 career starts against the Royals. He faced the Royals and Danny Duffy back on August 9th in Kansas City; neither pitcher picked up a decision in that game. Quintana allowed 4 runs and eight hits in 6.2 innings while Duffy gave up 3 runs and four hits in 3.1 innings of work. I lean Over 8 (-115) in this game on Saturday night.


    Coach Fletcher

    Saturday Scouting Edge

    10:05 am Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

    The Amazing Eovaldi Goes for NYY

    There’s not much you can say about Nathan Eovaldi. He certainly knows how to bring out the best in his teammates. Eovaldi is merely 14-2 this season. That’s pretty special. What is amazing is that he is 14-2 with a 4.17 era. He’s now gone 13 straight starts without a loss. The Bronx Bombers continue to give him unbelievable support, like the 20 runs they scored in his last start. Eovaldi has been improving as the year goes on as well. In his last 9 games he is 9-0 with a 3.32 era. At home Eovaldi is 5-0 with a 3.08 era. He draws Matt Moore who goes for the Rays. Moore is 1-3 on the season with an 8.77 era. His era in his last 3 starts is a frightening 10.66 which is barely higher than his road era of 10.50. Moore has spent the past 7 weeks in Triple-A Durham where he went 2-1 with a 3.30 era. The Yanks opened at a surprisingly low -170.

    10:07 am Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays

    Price Out to Stop the Bleeding

    The bleeding in this case stems from a 10-2 pounding at home dished out by the Orioles on Friday night. Oh, and the fact that the Yankees have trimmed the Blue Jay lead to a slim half game. The Jays probably couldn’t have picked a better guy to get back in the win column. Price is 13-5 with a 2.47 era. He’s allowed 3 runs or fewer in 24 of his 27 starts. Let that sink in for a while. Price has 21 quality starts on the year and has thrown at least 6 innings in his last 13 straight starts. He’s 8-3 in his last 15 games with a 2.29 era. He’s 1-1 with a 2.82 while pitching for the Jays. Going against Price will be Mike Wright. Wright is 2-3 with a 4.99 era and was just reinstated from the DL. He’s probably be held to a pitch limit of about 60. Toronto opened at a gigantic -290.

    11:20 am Arizona D-Backs at Chicago Cubs

    Arrieta Comes Back After No-No

    Normally it makes sense to go against a pitcher who has just tossed a no-hitter in their next start. Statistics back this up. But I don’t think there are any statistics anywhere to keep bettors off Jake Arrieta tomorrow. Arrieta is 17-6 for the season with a 2.11 era. He has already notched 190 strikeouts. He no-hit the first place Dodgers last Sunday while fanning 12. August was a fine month for Jake. All he did was go 6-0 with a 0.43 era. He’s notched 14 quality starts in a row. His era for his last 3 games is 0.00. In his last 3 he has gone 21 innings allowing just 8 hits and zero runs while fanning 27. His era in his last 7 is 0.74. Would anyone in their right mind go against him? The Cubbies opened at -220.

    4:08 pm Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

    Salazar as Strong as Ever

    Danny Salazar got some extra rest last week due to an illness. He lost 6 lbs and felt very weak. So the Indians gave him 8 days rest and he came back and struck out 10 Blue Jays in 7 innings of work. He gave up 6 hits and 2 runs and won the game for the Tribe. Salazar has had an excellent year. He’s 12-7 with a sub .500 team and carries a 3.27 era. He’s 4-2 with a 2.12 era in his last 7 and 7-6 with a 2.98 era in his last 15. Salazar is 7-5 with a 3.35 era on the road. He’s going against Alfredo Simon who is 11-9 with a 5.09 era. Simon is a hard one to figure. After his 1 hitter over the Rangers, Simon has come back to give up 14 runs on 15 hits in the last 9 ½ innings in two unproductive losing efforts. The visiting Indians opened as -163 favorites in this one.

    4:10 pm New York Mets at Miami Marlins

    Colon on 16 Inning Scoreless Streak

    Like Old Man River, Bartolo Colon just keeps rollin’ along. He’s gone up and down all season. You never know what to expect when he starts a game. I can tell you he is 12-11 on the year with a 4.42 era. Incredibly, Colon is riding a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless frames. 15 of those innings are courtesy of the Philadelphia Phillies who Colon stopped on 9 hits in two appearances totaling 15 innings. He had a one inning appearance against the Bosox where he allowed 1 hit and fanned two in a single inning. Bartolo has been in his effective mode in the last 7 starts. He’s gone 3-1 with a 2.83 era. If we stretch out to his last 15 starts Colon is 4-7 with a 4.32 era. Obviously he has caught his second wind. Colon is currently the second oldest player in the Major Leagues behind LaTroy Hawkins who has him by 7 months. Both are 42. The Mets opened at -156.


    Preview: Rays (66-68) at Yankees (75-58)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Yankee Stadium
    Date: September 05, 2015 1:05 PM EDT

    Mark Teixeira’s absence has done nothing to slow the New York Yankees’ offense. In fact, it seems to have provided a spark.

    Nathan Eovaldi has taken full advantage of the added run support and will look to help the Yankees win for the seventh time in eight games when he faces the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.

    The Yankees (75-58) have averaged 8.9 runs in their last seven since Teixeira – the club’s leader with 31 homers – was sidelined by a bone bruise on his right shin.

    Greg Bird, who has been filling in for Teixeira at first base, hit a two-run homer for the second straight game Friday, and Alex Rodriguez hit his 27th of the season in a 5-2 win over the Rays (66-68).

    Brian McCann also homered for the wild card-leading Yankees, who pulled within one-half game of Toronto for the AL East lead. New York’s only other hit was an infield single from Brett Gardner in the eighth.

    “We need to hit the ball out of the ballpark and we did,” manager Joe Girardi said.

    The Yankees have scored often with Eovaldi (14-2, 4.17 ERA) on the mound, especially recently. He wasn’t very sharp Sunday, allowing five runs in five-plus innings against Atlanta, but he still was credited with a 20-6 victory that extended his unbeaten streak to 13 starts. The right-hander is 9-0 with a 3.32 ERA and a major league-high 7.89 run-support average in that stretch.

    “Any time you get a lead, you want to try to go after the hitters as much as possible,” Eovaldi said. “You try to pitch like it’s a 0-0 ballgame all the time. It’s a good feeling, getting a lot of run support.”

    The Yankees didn’t have enough to back him against the Rays on May 12. Eovaldi gave up four runs in 7 1-3 innings of a 4-2 loss. Tampa Bay has dropped three of the last four meetings, though, despite Evan Longoria’s homer that followed the two he hit in Wednesday’s defeat at Baltimore.

    James Loney had two of the nine hits for the Rays, who still have three teams in front of them for the AL’s final playoff spot.

    “We got the hits but couldn’t get anything across,” manager Kevin Cash said.

    Matt Moore (1-3, 8.78) looks to help get Tampa Bay back on track as he takes a major league mound for the first time in over a month. Moore made six starts after he returned July 2 following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, but after losing his last three with a 10.66 ERA, the Rays sent him to the minors following his last outing Aug. 1.

    The left-hander went 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA in five starts and showed enough to earn a spot back in the Rays’ rotation. He’ll replace Nathan Karns, who has been reassigned to the bullpen.

    “He went down, he did what was needed, what was asked,” Cash told MLB’s official website. “We decided, given the matchup coming up against the Yankees, all the lefties, all the switch-hitters, the short porch in right – figured we’d take a crack at it with a left-handed pitcher.”

    Lefties are hitting .306 off Moore this season, but it’s unclear if he’ll have to face Jacoby Ellsbury after he left Friday’s game after the fourth inning with a stomach issue.


    Preview: Orioles (65-69) at Blue Jays (76-58)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Rogers Centre
    Date: September 05, 2015 1:07 PM EDT

    Chris Davis is looking like his 2013 self, but if the power surge is to continue, it’ll have to come against an ace he’s seen plenty of without yet showing off his home run trot.

    The Baltimore Orioles face David Price on Saturday, and the Toronto Blue Jays are in danger of losing consecutive games for just the second time since they acquired the former Cy Young winner.

    Davis homered twice for the second straight game in Friday’s 10-2 win in Toronto, giving him five in three contests and making him the first Baltimore player with 40 in multiple seasons.

    The Orioles (65-69) have won consecutive games following a crippling 1-12 span, and it was also their third straight over the Blue Jays.

    “(Toronto) is playing well, they’re obviously at the top of the division, making a run for it,” Davis said. “It was big for us to come in here and have the kind of game that we had.”

    The Blue Jays (76-58), now one-half game up on New York, didn’t homer for the third time in four games and fell to 7-29 when failing to do so for the third-worst winning percentage in baseball behind Cincinnati (8-41) and Baltimore (7-33). Edwin Encarnacion went hitless for a third straight contest after his 26-game hitting streak.

    Toronto is 26-7 dating to July 29, and it dealt for Price (13-5, 2.47 ERA) the next day.

    The left-hander, who had his start moved up a day to rest Mark Buehrle, will be trying to bounce back from his first loss with Toronto, though it was hardly a poor outing. He gave up three runs and six hits with nine strikeouts in seven innings of Monday’s 4-2 home defeat to Cleveland, falling to 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA in six starts since joining the Blue Jays.

    Baltimore has done a better job of chasing him from games sooner. Price allowed a run and six hits with 12 strikeouts in a 3-0 loss in Detroit on July 18, but that was the only time in his last six starts against the Orioles he made it beyond six innings. He’s 1-2 with a 3.97 ERA in that span.

    “They’ve got a powerful lineup over there,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “If you don’t pitch well, they can pound you.”

    Matt Wieters is 15 for 44 with a home run and six doubles off Price, and Steve Pearce (5 for 15 with a home run), Manny Machado (5 for 18 with a homer) and Adam Jones (13 for 47) have all at least been respectable against him. Davis is 5 for 18, but Price is one of three of the 23 pitchers he has at least 18 at-bats against without homering.

    The Orioles will probably end up leaning heavily on the bullpen with Mike Wright (2-3, 4.99) facing a pitch-count limit after making a rehab start Tuesday. Wright was activated Friday after being on the disabled list since a July 31 relief appearance with a strained calf. He’s filling in for Miguel Gonzalez, who landed on the DL with shoulder tendinitis.

    Manager Buck Showalter said Wright will be limited to around 60 pitches. The rookie lost his last three starts with a 12.19 ERA back in June, but his season with Triple-A Norfolk has been dominant with a 9-1 record and 2.22 ERA in 15 games.

    His last start came in a 5-4 loss in Toronto on June 19 after giving up four runs and three hits with four walks in 1 1-3 innings.


    Preview: Brewers (58-75) at Reds (55-77)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Great American Ball Park
    Date: September 05, 2015 6:10 PM EDT

    Because the award hasn’t been given to a player on a last-place team in 28 years, Joey Votto might not be given enough serious consideration to win the NL MVP.

    Nevertheless, Votto looks to continue arguably MLB’s best second-half performance Saturday when the Cincinnati Reds try to deny the visiting Milwaukee Brewers a fifth straight win in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.

    Votto, a four-time All-Star, probably won’t be the first player from a bottom-feeding club to win the NL MVP since Chicago’s Andre Dawson in 1987. Washington’s Bryce Harper and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt are among the top candidates.

    Since the All-Star break, however, Votto leads the majors with a .399 average, 59 walks and a .576 on-base percentage while ranking among MLB’s best in runs (39) and slugging percentage (.748).

    The first baseman hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning of a 7-4 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday that gave the Reds their first series win since July 28-30. It also capped a six-game trip in which he homered three times and reached base in 18 of 27 plate appearances.

    “I’m starting to play up to a standard I’ve set for myself,” Votto told MLB’s official website. “Hopefully, you get an opportunity to help the team win and do your part to feel like you’re supporting every win.”

    Votto went 6 for 10 with a homer as Cincinnati dropped two of three at Miller Park last week. He’s batting .306 with four home runs against Milwaukee (58-75) this season but is 3 for 22 at home.

    Votto went 2 for 3 off Game 1 starter Matt Garza (6-14, 5.56 ERA) before homering in the ninth of last Saturday’s 12-9 win. Garza had been 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his previous four starts against Cincinnati (55-77) before allowing seven runs over 3 2-3 innings.

    The right-hander will try to avoid becoming the first 15-game loser in the majors.

    “I don’t think I can get any further down,” he said. “This is already bottom. I just have to keep fighting and keep going. The worst thing I can do is quit and mentally check out.”

    Jay Bruce is batting .367 with three home runs in 30 at-bats against Garza, while Todd Frazier is hitting .316 with three homers in 19. Jason Bourgeois is 3 for 3 off him this season.

    The Reds, who begin a 10-game homestand after Friday’s series opener was postponed, have hit .218 while dropping 11 of 12 at Great American Ball Park. They haven’t won two in a row at any venue since Aug. 12-13.

    Milwaukee seeks its first five-game winning streak since an eight-game run June 28-July 5. Hernan Perez had three hits and Domingo Santana hit his fourth home run in Thursday’s 5-3 home win over Pittsburgh.

    Jonathan Lucroy singled to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games.

    The Brewers have batted .343 while averaging 6.8 runs over the past five games. They’ll try to keep it going in the opener against rookie John Lamb, who is 0-3 with a 5.24 ERA in four starts since being acquired from Kansas City in the Johnny Cueto deal.

    The left-hander lost 4-1 at Milwaukee on Sunday, allowing two runs while striking out eight in six innings. He’s fanned 29 and walked five in 22 1-3 innings.

    Cincinnati will start another rookie in the nightcap in Keyvius Sampson, who is 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA in his last three starts.

    The right-hander hopes to fare better than last Saturday when he gave up six runs over 3 2-3 innings. Scooter Gennett had three hits off Sampson (2-2, 6.43).

    Milwaukee hands the ball to Wily Peralta (5-8, 4.30) in Game 2. He opposed Lamb last weekend and gave up one run over seven innings to improve to 3-1 with a 3.74 ERA in his last four starts.

    Adam Lind is batting .457 with four home runs in his last 10 games against Cincinnati.


    Preview: Diamondbacks (65-70) at Cubs (76-57)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Wrigley Field
    Date: September 05, 2015 2:20 PM EDT

    Jake Arrieta is eager to get back on the mound for the first time since throwing his first no-hitter.

    He’ll try to become the majors’ first 18-game winner and capture his seventh straight start Saturday when he faces the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks, who will start a pitcher winless in his last nine outings.

    Arrieta (17-6, 2.11 ERA) struck out a season-high 12 with one walk in Sunday’s 2-0 victory at the Los Angeles Dodgers for his first no-hitter. He became the first Cubs pitcher since 1950 to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning three times in one season in 2014, and finally finished one off this year.

    ‘It’s something that everybody wants,’ he said. ‘It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. I’ve been close on a couple of occasions, and tonight I was just fortunate that everything aligned right.’

    The outing capped an August in which he won all six starts while posting a 0.43 ERA. The right-hander is second in the majors in ERA and opponent batting average (.195) to the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke, and is 11-1 with a 1.07 ERA in his last 14 outings.

    “I’m just focused on Arizona and pitching against them, and then trying to win as many games as we can leading into the postseason to try to put ourselves in a good position,” Arrieta told MLB’s official website.

    Arrieta is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in two career starts against the Diamondbacks, with Aaron Hill 7 for 17 against him and Jarrod Saltalamacchia 3 for 4 with two doubles.

    The Cubs (76-57) will continue this three-game set when they face Robbie Ray (3-10, 3.72), who is 0-6 with a 5.40 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break. Ray allowed one run in 5 2-3 innings Monday in a 5-4 loss at Colorado in which the bullpen blew a three-run lead in the ninth to cost him the victory.

    The left-hander has never faced Chicago, though he has seen Austin Jackson (1 for 5 against him), Chris Denorfia (3 for 3) and Dexter Fowler (2 for 3).

    Arizona (65-70) expects to welcome back Paul Goldschmidt on Saturday after he missed the last two games while his wife gave birth. Goldschmidt, who has a 1.000 OPS with 97 RBIs, is 0 for 4 with two walks against Arrieta.

    “Fly in and be ready to play (Saturday),” manager Chip Hale said. “I have not heard from him, so I’m assuming that’s what the plan is going to be. If he needs more time, he’ll let us know.”

    The Cubs will be without rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber for at least three days while he deals with a mild rib cage strain.

    They didn’t miss him in a 14-5 rout Friday. Another rookie, Addison Russell, notched his first career two-homer effort and Anthony Rizzo drilled a grand slam, going deep for the second straight game in Chicago’s second-highest scoring effort of 2015.

    ‘Hitting’s contagious,” Russell said. “Everyone wants to get a knock. You just want to get the next one.”

    Former Chicago catcher Welington Castillo had a double in three at-bats in his return to Wrigley Field.


    Preview: Pirates (80-53) at Cardinals (86-48)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Busch Stadium
    Date: September 05, 2015 4:05 PM EDT

    The Pittsburgh Pirates may have loosened St. Louis’ grip on the NL Central, but they’ll need Charlie Morton to change his luck against the Cardinals to inch any closer.

    Morton and the Pirates get that chance Saturday as the pivotal division series against the Cardinals continues at Busch Stadium.

    The Pirates ended a four-game losing streak Friday with a 9-3 victory which was just their eighth in 29 games at Busch Stadium since the start of 2013 – including a 1-2 showing there in the 2013 division series.

    A win Saturday would give Pittsburgh its first series win in St. Louis since April 26-28, 2013, and more importantly cut into the Cardinals’ 5 1/2-game division lead.

    The Pirates (80-53) need to improve on their 8-21 road record against the Central to chew into that deficit, starting with five games in as many days in St. Louis and Cincinnati. Pittsburgh is 22-32 against its own division.

    “One of the things we need to be mindful of – and I share this with the guys – is that past performance doesn’t need to predict future performance,” manager Clint Hurdle told MLB’s official website. “Past performance needs to be used as information for present success.”

    The Pirates, four games up on the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card race, can build off a 17-hit performance in the opener that moved their season record at Busch to 2-5. The hit total was their most against the Cardinals since June 29, 2012.

    Morton (8-6, 4.22 ERA) was on the disabled list with a hip injury during Pittsburgh’s first two series against St. Louis this year and didn’t line up to pitch in the next two.

    The right-hander is 2-10 with a 5.58 ERA in 16 starts against the Cardinals and the Pirates have lost each of his last nine outings against them – a span in which he is 0-7 with a 5.13 ERA. Morton is 1-4 with a 6.38 ERA in eight road starts against the Cardinals.

    St. Louis (86-48) has lost two straight, but manager Mike Matheny said his team wouldn’t alter its playing style this series.

    “For us to change how we’ve gone about it and build this series up would be crazy,” he told MLB’s official website. “We get that there is a lot of build-up to this, and hopefully there is a buzz in this stadium all weekend long and into next week.”

    Jaime Garcia takes the mound for his first start against the Pirates in three years.

    Garcia (7-4, 2.03) has won his last four decisions and the Cardinals have been victorious in his last six starts. The left-hander holds a 2.08 ERA during that time.

    The stretch includes his roughest outing of the year, though, in a 7-5 win over San Francisco on Sunday. Garcia – 1-1 with a 0.84 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh – surrendered season highs in hits (10) and earned runs (four) in 6 1-3 innings while finishing with a season-low one strikeout.

    St. Louis was held scoreless Friday until rookie Stephen Piscotty’s RBI double in the eighth. Piscotty is hitting .426 with 12 RBIs during a career-best 11-game hitting streak.

    Brandon Moss also kept swinging a hot bat, recording his fourth multi-hit game in a row on the tail end of an eight-game hitting streak in which he is batting .464.

    Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay entered in the sixth and went 0 for 2 in his return from a left wrist injury that sidelined him in late June.

    Andrew McCutchen was back in the lineup for the Pirates and went 2 for 4 after missing a game with left knee soreness.


    Preview: Phillies (53-82) at Red Sox (62-72)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Fenway Park
    Date: September 05, 2015 4:05 PM EDT

    The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t been shy about throwing the two pitching prospects they received for Cole Hamels into the mix.

    Alec Asher’s next audition comes in Saturday’s visit to the Boston Red Sox, who have been one of the best offensive teams in the majors since right before the deal was finalized.

    Asher is the second pitcher from the July 31 trade with Texas to start in the majors for the Phillies after Jerad Eickhoff debuted Aug. 21. The 23-year-old impressed by going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but his MLB debut wasn’t as glamorous.

    Asher surrendered four runs and eight hits with two home runs in 5 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 9-4 home loss to San Diego. It probably wasn’t the beginning the right-hander had hoped for, but his interim manager saw promise.

    “I liked him,” Pete Mackanin told MLB’s official website. “I liked his stuff. I liked his approach. He got behind too often, he left the ball up in the zone a little too often. It’s understandable when a guy is in his first major league appearance in front of his home (fans).”

    Fenway Park figures to provide an even more demanding setting. The Red Sox (62-72) opened the series with Friday’s 7-5 win, and for all their struggles, they’re 18-13 in their last 31 at home. Dating to July 30, they’ve hit an MLB-leading .295 and averaged 6.0 runs, which trails only Toronto and the New York Mets.

    Philadelphia (53-82), meanwhile, has a 6.48 ERA over a 3-8 span and is in danger of dipping to 30 games under .500 again after peeking out over that mark July 22. The Phillies haven’t won a series at Fenway since 1999, going 4-11 with a 7.53 ERA out of the starting staff.

    Boston’s Mookie Betts is hitting .341 on a 10-game hitting streak, and Jackie Bradley’s .400 average over his last 25 contests trails only Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor (.402).

    David Ortiz has come around with a .348 average, nine homers and 23 RBIs in his last 26 games. Xander Bogaerts is hitting .362 in his last 24, and the shortstop’s .321 average is 22 points higher than his career on-base percentage entering the season.

    “Coming up in the minors, I know I’ve always had good (offensive) numbers,” Bogaerts said. “Last year, I kind of got away from my whole approach that I always had coming up. Some stuff went on last year that we all know. But this is a new year, fresh.”

    They’ll try to keep bringing the support for Wade Miley.

    Miley (10-10, 4.57 ERA) has made it through at least six innings in his last six starts, but the last two haven’t been impressive, going 0-1 with a 6.39 ERA. He hasn’t surrendered a home run and has only issued two walks, but he’s been incredibly hittable with a .386 opponent batting average.

    The left-hander has at least improved in his last three home starts with a 2-0 record and 2.14 ERA after going 4-4 with a 5.34 mark in his first nine there.

    Jeff Francoeur (3 for 4), Cody Asche (2 for 3) and Darin Ruf (2 for 4 with a home run and a double) have had some success off Miley.

    Boston’s Pablo Sandoval was scratched from Friday’s game because of back tightness, and Hanley Ramirez has missed seven straight with a sore right shoulder.


    Preview: Braves (54-81) at Nationals (69-65)

    Game: 3
    Venue: Nationals Park
    Date: September 05, 2015 7:05 PM EDT

    While other players may also be chipping in, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman are taking on the leading roles in the Washington Nationals’ sudden uprising.

    The star sluggers look to stay hot against the historically bad Atlanta Braves on Saturday night when host Washington tries to tighten the NL East race with its fourth straight win.

    With Friday’s opener tied in the 10th inning, Harper and Zimmerman delivered singles ahead of Michael Taylor’s walk-off, three-run homer in a 5-2 victory. The Nationals (69-65) had evened the game in the ninth on a pinch-hit, RBI single by Matt den Dekker.

    Harper went 2 for 3 with his 32nd home run to raise his average to .396 over his last 15 home games. The right fielder is 4 for 9 with 11 walks in 21 plate appearances over his last five overall.

    “He’s been patient enough in viewing it as ‘OK, I’m not going to expand my zone,” manager Matt Williams said. “If they chose not to pitch to me, then I’ve got somebody behind me who can pick it up.”

    Zimmerman picked up two more hits as Washington won for the ninth time in 11 games at Nationals Park. The first baseman is batting .404 with seven homers and 23 RBIs over his past 12 overall.

    The Nationals now hope to trim more off their deficit after closing to within five games of the first-place New York Mets, who suffered an extra-inning defeat at Miami.

    Harper and Zimmerman might have a tough time extending their torrid stretch since they’re a combined 4 for 20 lifetime off scheduled starter Shelby Miller (5-12, 2.56 ERA).

    Miller, however, is trying to avoid a 20th consecutive winless start, a run of futility that is the longest by a Braves pitcher since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. The right-hander is 0-11 with a 3.13 ERA while getting one or no runs from the offense 13 times during the streak.

    “I’ve never seen anything like this,” manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB’s official website.

    Miller had been 2-0 with an 0.85 ERA in five meetings versus Washington before giving up five runs over five innings in a 6-1 loss June 30. He’ll have to be careful with Jayson Werth, who is batting .370 during a six-game hitting streak, and Yunel Escobar, who is hitting .464 in his last eight.

    The Braves (54-81) have lost 10 straight and 17 of 18, 11 in a row on the road, and eight consecutive games in Washington. They haven’t lost 11 straight since 1982 and last dropped 12 in a row on the road in 1942, when the franchise was in Boston.

    An anemic offense has been the biggest problem for Atlanta, which is batting .219 and averaging 2.2 runs during the 10-game skid.

    Gio Gonzalez (9-7, 4.13) will try to keep them scuffling as he looks to build on only his second quality start in his last eight. After posting a 10.22 ERA in dropping three straight, he allowed three runs over six innings but did not factor in Monday’s 8-5 loss at St. Louis.

    The left-hander had been 0-7 with a 5.32 ERA over an eight-start stretch versus Atlanta before giving up two runs over seven innings in a 9-2 home win May 8.

    Freddie Freeman, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles Friday, had a pair of doubles versus Gonzalez in May and he’s 9 for 27 with two home runs lifetime off him.


    Preview: Indians (65-68) at Tigers (61-73)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Comerica Park
    Date: September 05, 2015 7:08 PM EDT

    Danny Salazar battled through a draining illness in his last outing to extend an impressive run that ranks him as one of the AL’s stingiest pitchers over the last two months.

    The Detroit Tigers only wish they could pinpoint what’s been wrong with Alfredo Simon lately.

    Simon hasn’t been the same since he beat the Cleveland Indians in mid-June, and he’ll oppose Salazar looking to help the plummeting Tigers avoid a 13th loss in 15 games Saturday night at Comerica Park.

    Salazar’s 2.05 ERA in nine starts since July 10 leads the AL after he allowed two runs and struck out 10 in seven innings of Monday’s 4-2 win at Toronto. Salazar (12-7, 3.27 ERA) admitted to being tired throughout that outing after being forced to miss his scheduled start against the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 28 because of an illness.

    ‘He didn’t take any hitters off, because you can’t,’ manager Terry Francona said. ‘We were keeping an eye on his endurance. I’m glad we waited a few days or that would have been more of an issue.’

    Saturday marks the right-hander’s fourth straight start on the road, where he’s 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA in his last five. Salazar is 1-1 while pitching seven innings in both outings this season at Comerica Park, giving up four runs and striking out 17.

    Detroit roughed him up in Cleveland on June 23, though, scoring each run in Salazar’s 4 1-3 innings in a 7-3 victory. Miguel Cabrera has a homer among three hits off Salazar this season and is hitting .364 in their matchups lifetime.

    The last-place Tigers (61-73) have won nine of 13 meetings this season despite losing Friday’s series opener 8-1. Simon (11-9, 5.09) had a 2.58 ERA after pitching five scoreless innings in an 8-1 win over Cleveland on June 14, but he’s gone 4-6 with a 7.84 ERA in 13 starts since while allowing at least four runs 11 times.

    Detroit hoped the right-hander was getting back on track after pitching a one-hit shutout against Texas on Aug. 20, but he’s given up 14 runs in 9 1-3 innings while dropping back-to-back starts.

    Simon gave up a career-high four homers in Sunday’s 9-2 loss to Toronto. He hasn’t allowed any while posting a 2.12 ERA and winning all three of his starts against the Indians this season.

    Michael Brantley has hit Simon well this year, though, and is 10 for 17 with four doubles in their career matchups. Brantley went 2 for 5 with an RBI double Friday to increase his average to .322, second in the AL to Cabrera’s .360.

    Brantley is hitting .438 with two homers and six doubles in his last 15 at Detroit.

    Jerry Sands hit a two-run homer and added a triple for the Indians (65-68), who have won seven of nine. They’re still fighting for the AL’s second wild card, but would need to jump four other teams.

    ‘I don’t do anything differently against them than anyone else,’ said Sands, who is 6 for 13 in four games against the Tigers this season. ‘It is just one of those things that you can’t explain.’

    Detroit has been outscored 102-43 during a 2-12 stretch and has dropped six of seven at home. Cabrera drove in the only run Friday for the Tigers, who learned before the game they will be without shortstop Jose Iglesias for two weeks.

    Iglesias fractured his right middle finger after he was hit trying to bunt in Thursday’s loss at Kansas City.


    Preview: Mets (74-60) at Marlins (56-79)

    Game: 2
    Venue: Marlins Park
    Date: September 05, 2015 7:10 PM EDT

    As the New York Mets continue their push toward the postseason, Bartolo Colon seems to be hitting his stride.

    Riding a 16-inning scoreless stretch, Colon tries to win a third consecutive start against the streaking Miami Marlins on Saturday night.

    Colon (12-11, 4.42 ERA) went 1-4 with a 6.08 ERA in his first seven starts following the All-Star break, but he’s struck out 17 and walked three over 15 innings in the last two. In between those outings, the 42-year-old fanned two during a scoreless inning of relief in a 3-1 loss to Boston last Saturday.

    ‘He’s incredible,’ teammate Michael Conforto said after Colon struck out nine in eight innings of Monday’s 3-1 victory over Philadelphia. ‘He’s masterful with the way he pitches, so it’s very fun to watch.’

    It hasn’t been much fun for Colon’s recent opponents.

    “When he’s on like (Monday), his ball is moving everywhere,’ Phillies veteran Jeff Francoeur said. ‘People are like, he throws 85 percent fastballs and that’s true to an extent – but his fastball can range from 85 to 93 (mph). … He knows how to pitch.’

    Colon has looked strong while going 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA and not walking a batter against the Marlins (56-79) this season. In his last visit to Miami on Aug. 3, the right-hander gave up a run in eight innings of a 12-1 victory.

    It appears Colon won’t have to face Giancarlo Stanton, who is not expected to be activated from the disabled list for this series. The All-Star slugger has been on the DL since June 27 with a hand injury.

    “It’s day to day,” manager Dan Jennings told MLB’s official website. “It’s just a matter of when the wrist and the soreness goes out of the hand.”

    Miami hasn’t missed Stanton while totaling 24 runs during a four-game winning streak. Martin Prado’s two-out RBI double in the 11th inning Friday was his fifth hit of the night and gave the Marlins a 6-5 victory.

    ‘It would be easy to cash it in right now, because this season on the front end hasn’t turned out the way we all thought,’ Jennings said. ‘But you have a group of guys who come out every night ready to do battle.’

    The loss snapped a season-high seven-game road winning streak for New York (74-60), which owns a five-game lead over Washington in the NL East.

    Prado is batting .415 with nine RBIs in his last 10 games, and .382 in 14 against the Mets this season. He’s 4 for 13 when facing Colon in 2015.

    Brad Hand (4-4, 4.54) is 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA in six starts since joining the Marlins’ rotation last month. However, he gave up five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-4 loss at Washington on Sunday. The left-hander allowed five hits in four scoreless innings of a 5-1 loss to New York on Aug. 4.

    Yoenis Cespedes, who went 1 for 2 against Hand earlier this season, has homered in each of the last three games while going 7 for 15 with five RBIs. He’s hit 11 of his career-high 29 home runs in 31 games since joining the Mets, but has never homered in four consecutive contests.

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