Braves Trek To Meet Strasburg, Nats
They've been meeting 18 times per year since the Washington Nationals were located in Montreal, and thanks to realignment in 2013, the Nats and Atlanta Braves will play 19 times in the regular season. On Monday afternoon, the two AL East foes will match up for the third of six preseason meetings when Washington sends its ace to the hill against Atlanta.
First pitch from Space Coast Stadium in Melbourne is slated for a little past 1 PM (ET), and the Nationals are -130 to -135 favorites behind Stephen Strasburg at most shops monitored by SBR odds. The Braves will have Paul Maholm on the mound and are getting +110 to +120, depending where bettors shop for MLB odds.
It's the fourth start for Strasburg and a quick glance at his strikeout numbers this spring might suggest he's in midseason form. The hard-throwing righty has racked up 13 K's in just under nine innings, and we should see him work four frames today. But Strasburg's other numbers -- 5.19 ERA, .324 BAA & 1.62 WHIP -- tell another story as he works himself into form for an Opening Day start on April 1.
He'll still be working on a few things today and won't be inclined to show Atlanta hitters his A stuff just yet. Strasburg will meet the Braves for real at some point in the April 12-14 series at Nationals Park, but is expected to get a taste of their lineup today with the regular outfield trio (Upton Brothers plus Jason Heyward) expected to be in the starting lineup.
Maholm climbs the hill for his fourth spring assignment, and Atlanta's MLB.com site reported he could be stretched to five innings. Control has been an issue for the southpaw with six free passed in 8.1 innings, four of those walks in a scoreless stint last week vs. the Yankees.
A warm, sunny day is in the offing, but with a decent 15 mph wind from the SE (in from left-center). I'll make the first of my MLB picks on the underdog Braves.
Redbirds In Tampa For Grapefruit Clash With Yankees
Traveling due west from Melbourne, we head to our second game of the day in Tampa for the second and final spring meeting between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees.
The clubs met last week when the Cards took a 7-6 walk-off victory over the Yanks thanks to some sloppy New York defense, and the odds point to the pinstriped crew gaining a little revenge today. New York is priced at -120 with Hiroki Kuroda on the mound while Lance Lynn takes his turn for St. Louis.
A big topic of conversation around Steinbrenner Field today will be Derek Jeter who is expected to start and DH for the Yankees. It's just the second time this spring for the New York captain to be in the lineup, and Jeter has vowed he'll be ready to go when the regular season begins after breaking his ankle in last October's ALCS.
Kuroda is also making just his second appearance of the exhibition and should get three more starts before the regular season starts. It's Lynn's third go, and the first two have been a bit shaky.
Gimme' the Yanks today as small home chalk.
2010 Series Rematch As Rangers Host Giants
Last but not least, a recent World Series rematch is on tap out in Arizona where the Texas Rangers entertain the San Francisco Giants. The one o'clock local start should find near perfect weather conditions at Surprise Stadium, and a dandy pitching matchup awaits fans as Madison Bumgarner is on tap for the defending champions against Texas' Yu Darvish.
The Rangers are carrying a -125 moneyline for the contest with the Giants +105 on the return.
Darvish has been damn near perfect in his two appearances covering five innings, holding batters hitless while issuing just two walks against five strikeouts. Bumgarner has been somewhat hittable but escaped spring jams to fashion a 3.18 ERA despite 13 baserunners in less than six innings of work.
Small home chalk will once again be my free sports pick for this contest.
My picks: Braves +110, Yankees -120, Rangers -125 at Bookmaker
Preseason: 4-5 (-$1.40)