's MLB Picks and Predictions For Friday 8/22's MLB Picks and Predictions For Friday 8/22

Some teams are fighting for their playoff lives, while others are just getting a look at their prospects. Our team of writers and handicappers gathered three of their top picks for Friday’s MLB action.

Washington Nationals (45-83) at Chicago Cubs (78-49)

The Chicago Cubs continue to make it clear they are not taking anything for granted as they continue their stretch against opponents with sub-.500 records.

The first-place Cubs look for a second straight victory in the opener of a weekend home set Friday afternoon against the lowly Washington Nationals, who snapped their longest losing streak since 1976 in their last game.

Chicago (78-49) held on for a 3-2 win over Cincinnati on Thursday to take two of three from the last-place Reds and win for the 18th time in 23 contests. Now the NL Central leaders face the team with the major's worst record in Washington (45-83), which ended a 12-game losing streak with a 4-3 win at Philadelphia on Thursday.

Chicago looks for a better outing versus Washington's John Lannan (6-12, 3.81) after he allowed four hits in seven innings of a 2-0 win over the Cubs on April 27 in his only appearance against them.

The left-hander, though, hasn't been as good of late, going 0-3 with a 5.76 ERA over his last five starts. He gave up eight runs and seven hits in four innings of a 13-6 home loss to Colorado on Saturday.

Pick: Chicago - Best line -270 SBG Global

Boston Red Sox (73-54) at Toronto Blue Jays (66-61)

The Toronto Blue Jays have given the Boston Red Sox problems all season, but in the middle of a close playoff race, Boston knows it can't afford for those struggles to continue.

The Red Sox look to avoid a seventh straight loss in Toronto on Friday when the teams open a three-game series.

Boston (73-54) is 2-6 against the Blue Jays (66-61) this season and plays them 10 more times in 2008. It was swept in its only trip to Toronto this season, getting outscored 23-9 over a three-game series in April. The Red Sox's average of 2.1 runs per game versus the Blue Jays is easily their lowest against any team they've faced this season.

The Blue Jays took two of three games in that series have won seven of nine overall, averaging 6.0 runs.

Shaun Marcum (8-5, 3.36) takes the mound for Toronto on Friday.

Marcum has won his last three starts while posting a 2.00 ERA. He pitched five innings against Boston on Sunday, allowing one run and five hits in a 15-4 win.

Marcum is 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA in five starts and five relief appearances versus the Red Sox. As a starter, he is 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA against them.

Pick: Toronto - Best line -105 SBG Global

San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants (55-72)

Last week, San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum was dominating another opponent before he took a line drive off his right knee and was forced to leave the game.

Any lingering concerns the club had about its ace's health, though, were dismissed in his last outing.

Lincecum looks to lead the Giants to their fifth win in six games in the opener of a three-game series against the NL West rival San Diego Padres on Friday night at AT&T Park.

It's been a largely frustrating season for the rebuilding Giants (55-72), who have the second-lowest scoring offense in the majors and the third-worst record in the NL.

The Giants have won four of five at AT&T Park, where their last five victories have each been decided by one run. They haven't won a home game by more than two runs since a 6-3 victory over Washington on July 22.

Pick: San Francisco - Best line -220 SBG Global … ugu-2.html

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