MLB News and Notes April 4

MLB News and Notes April 4

Sunday Night Baseball - Cards vs. Cubs
By ASA

Injuries to starters Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder – two former All-Stars – and Matt Clement put a major dent in the St. Louis rotation. This was a dent that was expected to give the Cardinals two straight losing seasons for the first time since the 1994-95 seasons. Sunday night starter Todd Wellemeyer, along with Braden Looper and Kyle Lohse, has done an excellent job of not only keeping St. Louis afloat but propelling them to first place in the National League Central Division.

Following a midseason trade from Kansas City to St. Louis last year, Wellemeyer bounced back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen. The aforementioned injuries provided him with a consistent spot in the starting rotation and he has responded. He has gone 2-1 in six starts with 36 punch outs in just 37 innings. Wellemeyer has been especially tough at home with a 3.00 ERA and .231 batting average against.

Wellemeyer will no doubt have his work cut out for himself against Chicago’s league-leading offense. The Cubs are hitting well from top of the order to the bottom, leading baseball in runs per game, team batting average and team OPS. They have scored five or more runs in 17 of their 28 games and are a threat to light up the scoreboard on a daily basis. They’ll need to continue to score runs in support of starter Jason Marquis.

Marquis has been this season what Marquis will always be: a back -of-the-rotation hurler with an ERA hovering around 4.50. His career ERA is 4.55 and he seems destined to remain around that number for the rest of his career. That doesn’t mean he can’t win this game, though. His two best outings this year have come on the road, limiting Colorado to two runs over seven innings and Philadelphia to two runs over five innings. Marquis had solid outings against his former Cardinal teammates last year, going 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA.

Like its starting rotation, St. Louis has benefited from surprisingly strong efforts from a relatively unknown lineup. With well-known names Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein playing elsewhere, the Cardinals came into this season with question marks around the diamond. A majority of those questions have been answered with Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, Adam Kennedy and Skip Schumaker providing support for the always unpitchable Albert Pujols.

The difference-maker in this game could be home-field advantage. Both St. Louis and Chicago have benefited from a home-heavy schedule to open the season and both have taken advantage. The Cardinals have gone 12-6 at home this season while Chicago has gone 11-6 at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The Cubbies haven’t fared nearly as well away from home, going just 6-5 and averaging three fewer runs per game.

Chicago has enjoyed some success at Busch Stadium recently, though, going 7-2 in St. Louis last year. Additionally, the Cards and Cubs heavily favored the under in St. Louis last year, going 6-2-1 with the under. Those nine contests averaged just 7.8 runs per game with only one game reaching double digits.

NL Central battles are almost heated affairs, especially when it features the Cubs and Cardinals. With two games of the series already in the books, tempers could flare between the division rivals. Don’t miss out on the action as this game promises to bring entertaining television and even better betting.

VegasInsider.com

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NATIONAL LEAGUE

N.Y. Mets (15-13) at Arizona (21-9)


The Mets try to continue their dominance of the DBacks and win this three-game series when they send southpaw Johan Santana (3-2, 3.05 ERA) to the mound to face Arizona’s Dan Haren (4-1, 3.13) at Chase Field.

Arizona bounced back from Friday’s 7-2 loss in the series opener and scored a 10-4 victory on Saturday. Despite that result, New York is still 21-7 in the last 28 meetings with the Diamondbacks and 14-3 in the last 17 outings in the Arizona desert.

Arizona, which hasn’t lost two in a row since losing the second and third games of this season, has alternated wins and losses in its last five outings. The DBacks are on streaks of 37-17 at Chase Field (12-4 this season), 8-2 at home against lefties, 35-16 overall against southpaws, 21-7 against the N.L. East.

The Mets have won four of their last six, but they’ve alternated wins and losses in their last five contests on the road, where they are 6-8 for the season.

Santana is 3-1 on the highway this season with a 2.57 ERA and the Mets have won his last three overall, including Tuesday when he held the Pirates to two runs on two hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 5-4 victory. In two career starts against Arizona (both with the Twins, Santana has allowed a total of one run on six hits in 16 innings.

Haren has been perfect in front of the home fans, going 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA, including Monday’s 5-3 win over the Astros when he allowed three runs on five hits in 7 2/3 innings. Prior to that outing Haren hadn’t allowed more than one earned run at Chase Field. In his lone career start against the Mets, Haren allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings of a 3-2 win for the A’s in 2005.

The over is 5-1 in Santana’s six outings in a Mets uniform and 4-1-1 in Haren’s six starts as a DBack.

The under is 6-1-1 in the last eight series matchups, 9-3 in Arizona’s last 12 Sunday games and 16-6-2 in the Mets’ last 24 against winning teams. However, the over is 14-6-1 in New York’s last 21 road games, 6-2-1 in its last nine overall, 8-3-2 in the DBacks’ last 13 home games and 5-2 in Arizona’s last seven when facing a southpaw. 

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


Chicago Cubs (18-12) at St. Louis (19-12)

The Cubs try to take two of three in this weekend series at Busch Stadium when Jason Marquis (1-1, 4.45 ERA) returns to the mound opposite the Cardinals’ Todd Wellemeyer (2-1, 4.14) in a nationally televised affair.

Chicago scored a 9-3 victory on Saturday after dropping Friday’s contest 5-3 in 11 innings. The Cardinals are now 5-2 in their last seven (all at home) and 13-7 at Busch Stadium this season. Also, the Redbirds are 5-2 in their last seven against Central Division foes.

The Cubs have followed up a six-game winning streak by going 3-6 in their last nine, and they’re just 7-6 on the road. On the bright side, Lou Piniella’s club is on positive runs of 17-9 overall, 9-4 as a road underdog and 25-10 against Central Division foes.

The Cubs went 11-5 against the Cardinals last season, including winning seven of nine in St. Louis.

Marquis was roughed up in his last outing when he allowed five runs on 10 hits in five innings of a 10-7 home loss to the Brewers. In his two road outings this season (both no-decisions), Marquis has given up four runs on 12 hits in 12 innings (3.00 ERA).

Against the Cardinals last season, Marquis made four starts with the Cubs going 3-1, including 2-1 at Busch Stadium. He held the Cardinals to a total of four earned in three of the four starts, with the lone bad outing (six earned runs in five innings) coming in a July 26 start in St. Louis. He ended up with a 3.60 ERA versus the Redbirds in 2007.

Wellemeyer has been feast or famine in six starts for St. Louis, giving up four earned runs or more in three starts, but limiting the opposition to two runs or less in the other three. He’s allowed an identical four runs on seven hits in six innings in his last two, a 7-4 loss in Pittsburgh on April 23 and a 4-3 home loss to the Reds on Monday.

The Cubs are 4-1 in Marquis’ last five outings against N.L. Central Division squads, but just 1-4 in his last five against teams with a winning record. Meanwhile the Cardinals are 12-5 in Wellemeyer’s last 17 starts and 7-3 with him on the hill at home.

The over is 4-1 in Marquis’ five starts this season, 4-1 in his five career outings against St. Louis, 6-1 in his last seven starts overall and 4-0 against N.L. Central Division teams. However the under is 6-2 in his last eight starts on the highway. Also, the over is 4-2 in Wellemeyer’s six outings this season (2-1 in St. Louis), but the under is 5-1 in his last six when facing Central Division foes.

The under is 8-4-1 in the last 13 series meetings at Busch Stadium (1-1 this weekend) and 5-3-2 in the last 10 meetings overall. The under is on further streaks of 40-17-3 for Chicago on the road, 6-2-1 for the Cardinals overall and 5-2-1 for the Cardinals at home.

ATS ADVANTAGE: CHICAGO CUBS


AMERICAN LEAGUE

Tampa Bay (16-14) at Boston (19-13)

It’s a battle of southpaws at Fenway Park when the Rays’ Scott Kazmir (13-9, 3.48 ERA in 2007) makes his season debut against the Red Sox Jon Lester (1-2, 4.31).

Boston, which got swept in Tampa Bay last weekend, is looking to turn the trick on the Rays after crushing Tampa in the first two games of this series by scores of 7-3 and 12-4. Even with the two straight wins, the Red Sox are still just 4-6 in their last 10 games, but Terry Francona’s club is 13-5 at home in 2008 and 40-17 in its last 57 at Fenway dating to last season. Also, the Sox are 15-5 in Lester’s last 20 trips to the mound, including 7-1 against A.L. East foes, 4-1 in his last five on Sundays and 6-2 in his last eight at home.

Tampa Bay is still on an 8-3 run, all against A.L. East opponents. However, the Rays are now 6-7 on the road this season after going 32-86 in their previous 118 on the highway. With Kazmir on the hill, they are on streaks of 12-5 against winning teams, 4-1 on Sundays and 4-1 on the highway but just 2-5 against A.L. East foes.

Going back to the end of last season, Tampa has won four of six from Boston, but the Red Sox are still 43-10 in the last 53 meetings overall and 94-43 in the last 137 clashes at Fenway Park.

Kazmir is coming off an elbow injury that delayed the start to his season, but he should take the mound with confidence today as has a 2.66 ERA in 17 career starts against Boston, although he’s just 6-5 in those contests. Last year in six starts against Boston, he went 1-3 despite a 2.78 ERA. In three of those outings covering 19 innings, Kazmir didn’t allow a single run, and in three starts at Fenway, he surrendered just three earned runs in 19 innings, but Tampa Bay went just 1-2.

Lester was outstanding in his last outing Tuesday, blanking the Blue Jays on one hit over eight innings, but he got a no-decision as Boston prevailed 1-0, scoring in the bottom of the ninth. Even with that effort, Lester is just 0-1 with a 4.01 ERA in four starts at Fenway this season.

The Red Sox were 4-0 in Lester’s outings against Tampa Bay last season, but Lester allowed at least four earned runs in three of the four and finished with a 5.56 ERA against the Rays.

The under is 7-3 in Kazmir’s last 10 starts against the Red Sox, 4-1 in his last five against them at Fenway and is 6-1 in Lester’s seven outings this season. The under is also 7-1-1 in Kazmir’s last nine versus winning teams, 4-1-1 in his last six on the road and 7-1 in Lester’s last eight overall.

Also, even though the first two games in this series have topped the total, the under remains 7-3 in Tampa Bay’s last 10 overall, 6-2 in Boston’s last eight overall and 4-2 in the last six series meetings.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER

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Sunday MLB Gameday

Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies will be looking to knock Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants for a loss on Sunday afternoon. Here's your MLB Gameday:

Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

Jose Contreras (2-2, 3.98 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (2-4, 3.26 ERA)

Contreras hasn't been striking out a lot of batters so far this season (just 16 over his first five starts), but he's been a pretty solid pitcher for the White Sox. The righthander gave up four earned runs in each of his first two outings versus the Tigers, another four earned runs versus the Yankees on April 22, and he's held the Orioles to one run twice.

Halladay has been tagged with a loss in each of his past three starts, although he did manage to go the distance in each of those contests. In fact, the righthander has tossed four straight complete games with only a 1-3 record to show for those outings. Halladay has walked just seven batters while striking out 31 over his six starts so far this season.

San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies

Tim Lincecum (4-1, 1.73 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (3-3, 2.70 ERA)

Lincecum is helping Giants fans forget about the struggles of Barry Zito. The young righthander has gone 4-1 with a no-decision in his six starts this season, and he's managed to keep his ERA under 2.00. Lincecum's worst outing of the year came on Tuesday versus the Rockies, but he gave up just three earned runs over seven innings.

Hamels bounced back from a couple of rough outings to pitch a strong game against the Padres last time out (7 1-3 innings, two earned runs on five hits, six strikeouts). The lefthander gave up just two earned runs over his first three starts of the year, but he then surrendered nine earned runs over consecutive losses to the Mets and Brewers.

Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies

Derek Lowe (2-1, 2.88 ERA) vs. Aaron Cook (4-1, 2.41 ERA)

Lowe gave up six runs in a no-decision versus the Marlins last time out, but only three of those runs were earned. That kept the righthander's ERA under 3.00 for the season. Lowe has allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his six starts so far in 2008, but he's only managed to pick up two wins for his troubles, with one defeat and three NDs.

Cook has been on fire for the Rockies, as he's earned the victory in each of his last four outings. The righthander surrendered just six earned runs over 28 innings in those starts to drop his ERA below 2.50 in 2008. Cook held the Giants to just two unearned runs on Tuesday, giving up 10 hits and two walks and fanning three over seven innings.

New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks

Johan Santana (3-2, 3.12 ERA) vs. Dan Haren (4-1, 3.13 ERA)

Santana could only manage a no-decision in his start versus the Pirates on Tuesday, but he allowed just two earned runs on two hits over 5 2-3 innings of work and struck out seven batters. The lefthander has allowed more than three earned runs in only one start so far this season (on April 12 versus the Brewers), and he's struck out 39 batters.

Haren has also allowed more than three earned runs in only one start this year - that came on April 23 when the Dodgers got to him for five earned runs over 4 2-3 innings. The righthander has picked up either a win or a no-decision in each of his other five outings, and he only walked seven batters (while striking out 29) in his six starts in April.

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Saunders isn't pitching like any ordinary Joe

On any baseball gambler's list of top money pitchers before the start of the major league season, it would not have been a surprise to see Boston's Josh Beckett and the New York Mets' Johan Santana rank near the top.

Nor would it have been news for the list to include San Diego's Jake Peavy, Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia and Arizona's Brandon Webb.

But the Angels' Joe Saunders? That would have been a reach when you consider that Saunders had only a 15-8 record in 33 career starts before this season.

Yet, Saunders has been cash in the bank for the Angels with a 5-0 record in six starts heading into today's game against Baltimore.

Saunders, who joined Frank Tanana as the only pitchers in team history to go 5-0 in April (and was joined the next night by Ervin Santana), will start against the Orioles' Steve Trachsel (1-3) at Angel Stadium.

The Angels are favorites for today's game and will be riding several positive trends.

Dating to last season, the Angels are 9-2 in Saunders' last 11 starts against a team with a winning record and they are 9-3 in Saunders' last 12 home starts overall.

Then there are the negative trends that Baltimore will bring to the field.

The Orioles are 3-12 in their last 15 games when Trachsel has started against a team with a winning record, and they are 1-7 in Trachsel's last eight road starts.

------

After one month of play, Las Vegas oddsmakers have updated numbers on the American League pennant race and the Angels are listed at 9-2, which is behind Boston (2-1) and the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees (4-1), according to sportsbook.com.

latimes.com

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Sunday's best MLB bets
COVERS.com

L.A. Dodgers at Colorado -120, 9½

It usually takes a team a while to figure itself out when a new manager comes in to take charge of the club, especially if that guy is Joe Torre. But after a rocky start, it seems as though Torre has his Dodgers on the right track now. They’ve won eight straight heading into today’s matchup with the Rockies and are pounding the cover off the ball even though their big offseason signing, Andruw Jones, is still struggling with a terrible .163 batting average and just one dinger.

This is a great price on a Derek Lowe start too. He’s held each of his last seven opponents to three or fewer runs.

Pick: Dodgers


San Francisco at Philadelphia -180, 7½


If you’re ever going to bet on the San Francicso Giants, you’d better make sure Tim Lincecum is on the hill. He suffered his first loss of the year in his last outing – a three-run, seven-inning effort against the Rockies – but he hadn’t allowed a run over his two starts that preceded that one.

Lincecum has already earned more than three units for bettors on the year as he gets ready to share the mound with Cole Hamels today. Hamels rebounded in his last outing with a win after two rough starts, but it’s hard to look past Lincecum as the underdog.

Pick: Giants

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