Our handicapper begins a new weekly feature series by looking at the surprise Cincinnati Reds and peaking into next week's schedule with MLB odds projections for a Pirates-Cardinals series.
You hear it every year when a baseball season is young. A team expected to contend comes out of the gate slow, while another team nobody thought could make the playoffs gets off to a fast start and the same three words are used to describe them both: Hey, it's early.
Among the teams off to a fast start after being set as huge long shots on MLB futures odds are the Cincinnati Reds. Saddled as a 100/1 shot to win the NL Central Division, the Reds are instead leading the group with a 7-3 record entering the weekend, tied with a couple of other National League squads for the best record in the majors. That hot start was cooled a bit Thursday night in a 5-1 loss to the Brewers, but it's still good enough to have put 6.5 units of profit in the pockets of any baseball bettors following Cincinnati.
Another old adage to remember is, "Time will tell and you-know-what will smell." You might recall I picked the Reds as having the best chance to lose 100 games, and while that means they'll need to go 55-97 the rest of the way I still believe it's a battle between them and San Diego for the worst record in the Senior Circuit.
Yanks Lose Slugging Backstop For Month
Injuries are always an important factor in handicapping baseball, and the Nationals are having their depth tested early with a 3rd-string shortstop in the lineup. It started a week ago when Trea Turner strained a hammy and continued into the week when veteran Stephen Drew went down with the same injury leaving Wilmer Difo to man the middle. The good news for manager Dusty Baker is that he does have outfielder Adam Eaton to plug into the leadoff slot in place of Turner, and he should have Turner back when the 10-day DL stint is up. Washington opens a weekend series with the Phillies on Friday as -200 chalk at SBR's top sportsbooks.
The New York Yankees also lost a key member of the lineup when catcher Gary Sanchez strained a bicep muscle and will be lost until mid-May. New York has managed to win four straight since the injury, which could linger well into the season and affect Sanchez's power stroke. Austin Romine has assumed No. 1 catching chores, and the Yankees open an interleague series with the Cardinals on Friday, their Sunday night matchup part of our free baseball picks schedule.
Looking Ahead To Next Week
There are plenty of crucial series on next week's docket, but two we'll be watching closely are a pair of division rivalries taking place for the first time in '17. In the NL, we have Pittsburgh visiting St. Louis, those teams expected to give the Cubs their toughest competition only to currently sit tied for last in the division. The series gets underway Monday, and we'll be following the opener that should find Ivan Nova on the mound for the Bucs against Cards righty Lance Lynn. St. Louis has been the underdog on the MLB odds in both of Lynn's two starts, but that should go the other way for this one with my projection of the Redbirds on a -125 price.
Over in the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros head into the weekend tied atop the division and collide for the first of four Monday in the Bayou City. Houston won seven of the 10 battles at Minute Maid a year ago and 13 of the last 18 at home. Totals, which ran from 7½-9 in Houston were fairly level at 4-5-1 (O/U/P) in '16, and Houston should have a pronounced advantage in starting pitching over Anaheim in this long set.