MLB News and Notes April 19

MLB News and Notes April 19

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Chicago Cubs (27-17) at Houston (25-20)


The red-hot Cubs send left-hander Ted Lilly (4-4, 5.33 ERA) to the mound at Minute Maid Park to face the Astros and starter Brian Moehler (1-0, 4.58) in the opener of this three-game series.

Chicago posted a 4-3 win over the Pirates on Sunday to finish a 10-game homestand with an 8-2 mark. However, Lou Pineilla’s club is just 8-9 on the highway this year, including 2-5 in the last seven.

Houston avoided the weekend sweep against in-state rival Texas with Sunday’s 5-4 win. The Astros went 7-3 on its 10-game road trip and now return home, where they’re 11-6 this season.

The Cubs beat the Astros two of three earlier this season and have won six of the last eight matchups with their division rivals. The host is 12-4 in the last 16 series clashes.

The Cubs have won each of Lilly’s last three starts and only once in his last five starts has he allowed more than three runs. That came in his most recent start against San Diego on Wednesday, when Lilly yielded four runs on six hits in six innings, but still won 8-5 at home.

For his career, Lilly is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts against Houston. He saw them twice last season and allowed a combined four runs on 10 hits in 14 innings as the squads split the two games. Finally, the Cubs are 4-1 when Lilly opens a series, but just 2-5 in his last seven on the highway.

Moehler’s made his first two starts as an Astro on the team’s just-concluded trip and allowed a combined three runs on 13 hits over 10 innings, leading Houston to wins in Los Angeles (7-1) and San Francisco (6-3). Last time he saw the Cubs was in 2006 as a starter for the Marlins and he held them to three runs on eight hits in seven innings of a 9-3 victory. For his career, Moehler is 1-0 with a 3.91 ERA against the Cubs in 23 innings of work.

Chicago is 5-2 on Mondays but just 2-6 in its last eight on the road against right-handed starters. Meanwhile, the Astros are 8-1 in their last nine at home, 5-1 in their last six against southpaws and 52-25 in their last 77 at home against southpaw starters.

In head-to-head battles between these rivals, the under is on streaks of 18-6-1 overall and 16-5 at Minute Maid Park. For the Cubs, the under is 43-17-4 in their last 64 on the road and 20-6-3 in their last 29 on the road against right-handed starters. Finally, the Astros have topped the total in seven of their last nine at home, but the under is 5-2 in their last seven against N.L. Central foes, 7-3 in their last 10 on Mondays and 9-4 in their last 13 at home against southpaws.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


AMERICAN LEAGUE

Tampa Bay (25-19) at Oakland (24-21)


The streaking Rays head west to take on the A’s at McAfee Coliseum, with James Shields (4-3, 3.05 ERA) ready to toe the rubber against Oakland’s Joe Blanton (2-6, 3.69) in a battle of aces.

Tampa Bay has won eight of its last 11, but comes into this one after a pair of tough late-inning losses in St. Louis, falling 9-8 in 10 innings on Saturday and 5-4 on Sunday, when the Cardinals scored all five runs in the last four innings.

Oakland is back home after a disastrous nine-game road trip that saw them go 2-7, including Sunday’s 5-2 loss in Atlanta. On the bright side, the A’s have won nine of their last 12 at home, including the last four in a row.

The Rays took six of 10 against the A’s last season, including the last three in a row (all at home). However, they are just 5-24 in their last 29 visits to Oakland and 24-56 in the last 80 series clashes.

Shields has been outstanding in four of his last five outings, giving up a total of four earned runs in 32 1/3 innings over those four starts. His other start was a disaster in Boston, where he gave up seven runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 12-4 loss on May 3. That defeat at Fenway Park dropped Shields to 1-2 on the road with a 6.10 ERA.

Shields beat the A’s twice last season, giving up a combined three runs on 13 hits in 16 1/3 innings, winning 12-2 at home and 4-1 in Oakland. For his career, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA against the A’s, allowing nine runs (all earned) in 20 innings. The Rays are 6-1 in Shields’ last seven starts against A.L. West competition and 6-2 in his last eight against teams with a winning record, but just 7-19 in his past 26 road outings and 1-10 in his last 11 on the road against winning teams.

Blanton has struggled in front of the home fans, going 0-5 with a 3.66 ERA in seven starts. However, he has allowed an identical two earned runs in each of his last four outings, including Wednesday when he surrendered two runs on four hits in seven innings of a 2-0 loss in Cleveland.

For his career, Blanton is 2-3 with a 6.06 ERA in seven starts against the Rays. In August last season he gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings of a 14-3 road loss. The A’s are 9-4 in Blanton’s last 13 when facing a winning team, but 3-9 in his last 12 overall, 1-4 in his last five against the A.L. East and 1-6 at home this year.

Tampa Bay is on runs of 4-0 against the A.L. West but 29-75 on the road against right-handed starters and 41-96 in their last 137 away from Tampa. Oakland is in the midst of streaks of 4-0 at home, 6-0 against the A.L. East, 4-1 on Mondays and 6-2 at home against righties, but just 1-4 in the last five in Game 1 of a series.

The over is 4-0 in the last four head-to-head matchups, but the under is 6-1-2 in the last nine in Oakland. The over is 10-4 in the Rays’ first game of a series, 5-2-1 on the road against right-handers and 6-2-1 on the highway overall. For the A’s, the under is on runs of 5-0 in a series opener, 6-2-1 against the A.L. East and 4-1-1 at home.

ATS ADVANTAGE: TAMPA BAY

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Re: MLB News and Notes April 19

Monday's MLB Tip Sheet
By Brad Young

The brief three-game interleague series that highlighted the past weekend is now over, and baseball returns to its traditional schedule. There are just eight games on Monday’s schedule, with five games in the National League and three in the American. Most teams are using today as a travel day with a full slate of games scheduled for Tuesday. Now let’s take a look at four of Monday’s main matchups.

**Cubs (Lilly) at Astros (Moehler)**

-Caesars Palace opened Chicago as a $1.30 road ‘chalk’ over Houston, with the total set at 10. This National League Central contest is slated to start at 7:05 p.m. ET.

-Chicago southpaw Ted Lilly (4-4, 5.33 ERA) is riding a personal three-game winning streak after upending San Diego Wednesday as a $1.20 home favorite, 8-5. The 32-year-old went six innings, yielding four runs on six hits with a walk and 11 strikeouts.

-The combined 13 runs toppled the eight-run closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 2-1 his last three starts.

-Lilly went 1-0 against the Astros last year in two starts, going a combined 14 innings while surrendering four runs on 10 hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts. The Cubs prevailed as a $1.10 home ‘chalk,’ 9-3, while losing as a $1.55 home favorite, 5-3.

-Houston hurler Brian Moehler (1-0, 2.70 ERA) is off Wednesday’s no-decision against San Francisco. The UNC Greensboro product was reached for three runs on eight hits (one home run) with no walks and two strikeouts over five innings.

-The Astros eventually prevailed as a $1.20 road favorite, 6-3, while the combined nine runs landed directly on his closing total. Both of Moehler’s outings this year have occurred on the road, each resulting in wins for Houston.

-The 36-year-old has not started against the Cubs the last few seasons.

**Reds (Arroyo) at Dodgers (Penny)**

-Caesars Palace installed Los Angeles as a $1.55 home favorite over Cincinnati, with the total listed at 8½ ‘over’ (minus $1.15). This matchup is scheduled to start at 10:10 p.m. ET.

-Cincinnati pitcher Bronson Arroyo (2-4, 6.08 ERA) picked up a no-decision against Florida Wednesday despite tossing seven scoreless innings. The right-hander allowed five hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

-The Reds eventually prevailed as a $1.35 home ‘chalk,’ 7-6, while the combined 13 runs eclipsed the 9 ½-run closing total. The ‘over/under’ has alternated his last six starts.

-Arroyo went 1-1 against the Dodgers last year in two starts, tossing a combined 12 2/3 innings while being tagged for two runs on 12 hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. The Reds prevailed as a $1.10 home ‘chalk,’ 4-0, while losing as a $1.17 road underdog, 2-0. The ‘under’ prevailed in both contests.

-Los Angeles counters with Brad Penny (5-4, 5.09 ERA) who enters this contest mired in a personal two-game losing skid. The 29-year-old fell to Milwaukee Tuesday as a $1.02 road underdog, 5-3.

-The 6-foot-4 hurler was roughed up for five runs on nine hits (one home run) with a walk and six strikeouts over six innings. The combined eight runs failed to eclipse the nine-run closing total, ending a string of six straight ‘over’ outings for the right-hander.

-Penny beat the Reds April 21 as a $1.35 road favorite, 9-3, going six innings while allowing one run on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The combined 12 runs toppled the nine-run closing total.

**Royals (Hochevar) at Red Sox (Lester)**

-Caesars Palace lists Boston as a $1.60 home ‘chalk’ over Kansas City, with the total set at 9½ ‘under’ (minus $1.15). This American League matchup is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. ET.

-Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar (3-2, 3.94 ERA) improved to 3-1 his last four starts after blanking Detroit Wednesday as a $1.23 home underdog, 2-0. The 6-foot-5 hurler tossed six scoreless innings on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

-The two runs never seriously threatened the nine-run closing total, helping the ‘under’ improve to 4-1 when the right-hander is pitching.

-Hochevar, a two-year veteran, has never started against the Red Sox in his brief major league career.

-Boston left-hander Jon Lester (2-2, 3.95 ERA) has received four no decisions his last five starts after Wednesday’s encounter with Baltimore. The 24-year-old was reached for two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts over six innings.

-The Red Sox ended up dropping that contest as a $1.20 road favorite, 6-3, while the combined nine runs landed directly on the closing total. The ‘over’ had prevailed his previous two outings.

-Lester, a three-year veteran, has not started against the Royals the past few seasons.

**Rays (Shields) at Athletics (Blanton)**

-Caesars Palace opened Tampa Bay as a $1.25 road favorite over Oakland, with the total set at 7½ ‘under’ (minus $1.15). First pitch is slated for 10:05 p.m. ET.

-Tampa Bay hurler James Shields (4-3, 3.05 ERA) heads to the hill for the first time since Wednesday’s setback to New York as a $1.40 home ‘chalk,’ 2-1. The 26-year-old right-hander went 7 1/3 innings, surrendering two runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

-The combined three runs went ‘under’ the 8 ½-run closing total, helping the ‘under’ improve to 3-1 his last four outings.

-Shields went 2-0 against the Athletics last season in two starts, going a combined 16 1/3 innings while allowing three runs on 13 hits (two home runs) with two walks and 17 strikeouts. The Rays triumphed as a $1.32 road underdog, 4-1, and as a $1.25 home favorite, 12-2.

-Oakland’s Joe Blanton (2-6, 3.69 ERA) dipped to 1-3 his last five starts after falling to Cleveland Wednesday as a $1.45 road underdog, 2-0. The former Kentucky Wildcat pitched seven innings, surrendering both runs on four hits (two home runs) with two walks and four strikeouts.

-The two runs never seriously threatened the eight-run closing total, enabling the ‘under’ to improve to 3-1 his last four outings.

-Blanton went 1-1 against the Rays last year in two starts, tossing a combined 12 1/3 innings while being reached for seven runs on 18 hits (two home runs) with three walks and 11 strikeouts. The Athletics prevailed as a $1.33 road ‘chalk,’ 5-3, while losing as a $1.15 road underdog, 14-3.

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Re: MLB News and Notes April 19

Examining starting pitcher records
Jacob Wheatley-Schaller

A pitcher’s record really shouldn’t be used to gauge how well he has pitched. There are too many other factors - including how well his offense played, and the strength of the bullpen behind him - that have nothing to do with the pitcher’s skill, but have a large effect on his record. Today, I’m going to take a look at pitchers who have gaudy records at this early stage of the year, but haven’t actually pitched all that well, and could thus be good fades going forward.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (7-0)

Matsuzaka has a nice ERA (2.15) to go along with his undefeated record, but he actually hasn’t pitched all that well.  His strikeout rate is slightly down from last year, but the walks are even more concerning.  Last year he walked 3.5 batters per nine innings, which is not very good, but serviceable.  This year that number is up to 5.3, which is horrendous.  Despite his mediocre K/BB ratio, Matzuaka has maintained a very low ERA.  There are three reasons for this.  The first is that he’s been fortunate to allow only four home runs thus far, even though he’s allowing more fly balls than last season.  Secondly, he has a BABIP of .224.  With his line drive rate (17.7%), we would expect a BABIP of around .297- he won’t be able to maintain such a low rate.  Finally, he’s stranded 85.2% of baserunners, which is a very high rate, and unsustainable. These three factors have combined to make a very average pitching performance look like a great one, and he’ll likely be a good fade on Thursday against the Royals.

Micah Owings (5-1)

Owings is a cool guy to root for, I’ll give him that much.  In only 88 career ABs, he’s hit five homers, to go along with nine doubles. He’s also been pretty solid on the mound, with a 4.18 ERA.

Both of those things are somewhat misleading though. Despite what ESPN may tell you, he’s not one of the greatest pitchers ever.  Yes, he’s hit .357/.419/.536 in his career, but 88 ABs is less than a month for an everyday player.  Because it’s taken him over a year to accumulate that many at-bats, we’ve all got it in our heads that he’s a great hitter.  I’m not saying he’s a bad hitter, but he’s not all he’s cracked up to be.

His ERA is also not indicative of his true skill.  In his young career, about 20% of balls in play against Owings have been line drives.  Given this, we’d expect his BABIP to be about .320.  In reality, it’s .275.  That luck on balls in play has allowed his ERA to be about half a run lower than it should be.

Ryan Dempster (5-1)

On the surface, it looks like the Cubs have found a new ace in moving Dempster into the rotation, as he has a 2.35 ERA after nine starts.  Let’s not go nuts here though.  His BABIP is extremely low, at .220.  And remember, this is still the same guy who had a 4.73 ERA last year, and walked 30 guys in 66.2 innings.  Pitchers’ ERAs don’t often decrease when they’re moved from the bullpen into the rotation.  Dempster could certainly end up being a solid starter, but he’s not as good as the early returns indicate.

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Re: MLB News and Notes April 19

Fargo: This week in baseball betting
By MATT FARGO

Monday, May 19

Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland A’s 10:05 PM ET


It will be interesting to see how the young Rays respond in this opening game in Oakland. Tampa Bay took the first game in St. Louis over the weekend but dropped the last two contests, both in the Cardinals last at-bats. Those losses are sometimes hard to overcome, even for perennially top teams so this could be the start of a downward spiral. Tampa Bay is 16-8 at home but just 9-11 on the road including 6-10 in its last 16. Oakland is back home following a dreadful 2-7 roadtrip.

Tuesday, May 20

Arizona Diamondbacks at Florida Marlins 7:10 PM ET


This is Game One between the two first place teams in their respective divisions. Arizona comes in as the hotter of the two with wins in five of its last six games while the Marlins have dropped five of their last six games. The Diamondbacks have the best home record in baseball and are still a game over .500 on the road. Florida had won four straight games at home prior to this past weekend where it dropped two of three to the Royals. Arizona took six of the seven meetings last season.

Wednesday, May 21

Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox 7:05 PM ET


This will be the season debut for Bartolo Colon for the Red Sox. He has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons as he has made only 28 starts and last year was easily the worst of his 11-year career. In three minor league starts, Colon went 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 0.50 WHIP while hitting 95 M.P.H. on the radar gun. He faces a surprisingly good Kansas City team that simply will not fold. He has faced the Royals 24 times and is 14-7 but he has posted a below average 4.88 ERA covering 151.1 innings.

Thursday, May 22

New York Mets at Atlanta Braves 7:10 PM ET


The final game of this series takes place on Thursday and it has the making of a pitching classic. Johan Santana toes the rubber for the Mets and while his numbers are good, they are not exactly spectacular. He is 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. One of those losses came against the Braves but it was a tough luck loss as he allowed only one run in seven innings. The Braves counter with Tim Hudson who is coming off his worst outing of the season. He was hit hard by the Mets in his last start against them in late April.

Friday, May 23

Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees 7:05 PM ET


The disappointing Mariners head to New York to take on the disappointing Yankees in the opener of this three-game set. Both teams were preseason division contenders but heading into the week, the Mariners are nine-games under .500 while the Yankees are four-games under .500. The Yankees look to have the best shot at recovering and turning their season around as slow starts have become a Yankee tradition. New York swept the Mariners to start the month by a combined score of 19-4 in the three-game series.

Saturday, May 24

Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres 10:05 PM ET


All eyes will be on Jake Peavy as he will be making his first start since skipping his scheduled start on Monday. That is if everything goes well in the examination of his sore pitching elbow. He has complained of discomfort in his last four outings so this could be something more. The Reds send Bronson Arroyo to the hill and heading into his first start of the week on Monday, he is coming off his two best starts of the season. His ERA has dropped nearly two runs after allowing just one run in 15 innings.

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Re: MLB News and Notes April 19

Baseball Today

SCOREBOARD

St. Louis at San Diego (10:05 p.m.) The Cardinals send their newfound ace, Todd Wellemeyer, to the mound against San Diego ace Jake Peavy. Wellemeyer (4-1, 3.27 ERA) has won his last two decisions, while Peavy (4-3, 2.91) has dropped his last two.

STARS

- Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, scattered six hits and a walk over seven innings in a 4-0 victory over the Tigers. Johnson struck out five and improved to 4-1.

- Jose Reyes, Mets, homered and drove in three runs in a 11-2 rout of the Yankees.

- Mike Napoli, Angels, homered twice and drove in five runs in a 10-2 rout of the Dodgers.

- David Ortiz, Red Sox, homered twice as part of a 3-for-5 afternoon and drove in four runs in an 11-7 victory over Milwaukee.

- Ryan Braun, Brewers, homered twice and drove in four runs in an 11-7 loss to Boston.

- John Lannan, Nationals, went 7 1/3 innings and surrendered just four hits and a run, walking one and striking out five in a 2-1 win over Baltimore.

- Adam Dunn, Reds, went 2-for-3 with a solo homer in a 6-4 win over Cleveland.

- Nick Swisher, White Sox, hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in a 13-8 win over the Giants.

STREAKING

The Giants' Randy Winn tripled with one out in the seventh against the White Sox to extend his hitting streak to 13 games.
White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski singled twice against San Francisco to move his hitting streak to 10 games, longest in the AL.

GUILLEN HEATING UP

Blaming his poor start on cold weather, Royals outfielder Jose Guillen is suddenly earning that $36 million, three-year deal he signed in December. He homered and drove in four runs in a 9-3 win over Florida, and has gone 19-for-38 since May 7 to hike his average from .165 to .245.

LEE LOSES!

Cliff Lee finally looked human. Adam Dunn homered for the fourth straight game, and Joey Votto finished off the Indians starter with the first pinch-hit homer of his career in the Reds' 6-4 victory. Lee (6-1) had allowed only four earned runs and one homer all season for an ERA of 0.67. Now it's up to 1.37.

STRANDED IN ATLANTA

Oakland had at least one baserunner in every inning against the Braves on Sunday, but left runners stranded at third base in the second, sixth, seventh and eighth in a 5-2 loss. The A's were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, leaving them 4-for-40 in their last six games.

BIG SHOTS

David Ortiz homered twice and drove in four runs, helping Boston Beat Milwaukee 11-7. Kevin Youkilis added a two-run homer and Dustin Pedroia also went deep for Boston, hitting a solo shot ahead of Ortiz's first of the game. Not too be outdone, Ryan Braun hit a pair of homers, and J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder also went deep for the Brewers.

STAN STILL THE MAN

The St. Louis Cardinals honored Stan Musial in a pre-game ceremony, then made him proud on the field with a come-from-behind, 5-4 win over Tampa Bay. The Cardinals renamed Eighth Street in front of Busch Stadium "Stan Musial Drive" to honor the 87-year-old Hall of Famer, who had 3,630 hits during a 22-year career, all with St. Louis.

TWICE TOSSED

Astros manager Cecil Cooper was thrown out in the sixth inning of a 5-4 win over Texas by umpire Angel Campos, the second time he's been tossed in three games. He came out to argue when Michael Bourn was thrown out trying to steal second base. Campos also tossed Cooper when he argued a close play at the plate Friday night.

TYING TOMMY JOHN

Randy Johnson pitched seven scoreless innings for his 288th career victory as the Diamondbacks beat Detroit, 4-0. The 44-year-old Johnson (4-1) climbed into a tie with Tommy John for 24th on the all-time victory list. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five.

SPEAKING

"Once he got out of a couple of jams early on, he just started rolling, and then seemed like from about the third inning on he threw almost every pitch right where he wanted to."-Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said, after Randy Johnson pitched seven scoreless innings for his 288th career victory, tying Tommy John for 24th on the all-time win list.

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