Welcome back to the second installment of Friday Night Lines, where the ultimate goal is to be a weekly home for casual baseball bettors or even baseball fans who don't want to gamble but just enjoy reading picks for Friday night. Many of you have gone through a long week at work and now it's time to kick back with some of America's pastime on a Friday night with a beverage of your choosing.
One of the more annoying things early in the season for a baseball writer is the constant need to remind everyone how early it is. We do need to do it, to be clear. I don't need someone out there thinking I believe without equivocation that Yermin Mercedes is going to win MVP or anything like that. Lots of casual fans need reminders that this is a marathon and not a sprint, especially after the 60-game season in 2020.
A dirty little secret here: Sometimes we're reminding ourselves, too. I debuted this column last week and spent my entire Friday night living and dying with every single pitch in the three games I picked, as if the weight of the entire season here was on my shoulders in the first entry.
Good thing it wasn't. My Braves over Zack Wheeler picked worked out well. The Astros let me down and a late Diamondbacks' offensive barrage took me off what looked like a sure under for seven-plus innings.
I was pretty broken up about it, even waking up Saturday morning. I should take my own advice and realize it's a long season. Deep breaths, everyone. We've got plenty of time. Let's get right back on the proverbial horse.
Season record: 1-2 (1-2 last week)
All lines are courtesy of William Hill Sportsbook.
And as always, best of fortune to our gambling friends.
The main event for the weekend happens in gorgeous San Diego. I already previewed the series with six things to know and, among them, is that the Dodgers are the monster everyone thought they would be. They are the better team here and there's little question in my mind. They are good enough that they sat their two best players, re-configured their rotation and didn't use their most important bullpen arms Thursday night and still won. They haven't lost a game in regulation since a funky Opening Day loss that included some fluky plays.
They can't win every game. Even if they set the wins record at 117 this season, that leaves 43 more losses to go. Heading into the three-game series, I believe the Dodgers are going to take two of three. We're going to go with the Padres to grab the series opener.
The Padres have just returned home from a week-long road trip and they'll have the extra juice here from a returning Fernando Tatis Jr. It'll be the first time all year they have both him and Trent Grisham in the lineup. The southpaw Weathers isn't stretched out as a starter, but he might be able to get through the lineup multiple times and the Dodgers do not hit lefties as well as righties. The Padres' bullpen this season has been amazing, too, and they'll be aggressive in trying to get this win.
Pick: Padres to win (+135)
Astros at Mariners, 10:10 p.m. ET
After storming out of the gate with a 6-1 start, the Astros are now reeling, having lost five in a row. They've been outscored 33-13 in those games and have looked every bit that bad. There's context behind some of that, of course, which is that four regular starters, including Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez were placed on the COVID injury list. Once they get through protocols, they can return, so it's possible that happens in time for Friday night's game in Seattle.
If that scares you off, so be it. I totally would understand it. The possibility of those guys returning teamed with the Astros being too good to keep losing might cause many to want to bet on them or just avoid the game.
I like the Mariners, though.
They are going well right now, having won five of their last six games. Sure, four of those games were seven-inning doubleheaders (OK, one went eight) against the Orioles, but they still have to be feeling pretty confident right now.
More than anything, though, this pick is about Kikuchi. As my brilliant colleague Mike Axisa laid out a few days ago, Kikuchi is poised for a breakout season and he's armed with a new weapon in the cutter. I like a good outing from him and the Mariners offense does enough to grab another W.
Pick: Mariners to win (+101)
The Yankees are using Nelson as an opener with Michael King to come in and get length after that. It's a bit of a "taste of your own medicine" to use it against the Rays, right?
Anywho, I'm just sitting here waiting for a Yankees offensive explosion. They are hitting just .231. They are averaging just four runs per game and they rank 14th in the AL in runs. Sure, they are missing 2020 home run champion Luke Voit, but the rest of the personnel is there. Gleyber Torres has a 77 OPS+. Gio Urshela has a .295 on-base percentage. Aaron Hicks has been brutal. Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .175 with a paltry .275 slugging percentage. Clint Frazier is better than he's hitting.
They return home -- where they hit better -- and get to face relatively soft-tossing Wacha. They hit him last week and this time around I like them to hit him even harder. Some might be attracted to the over (9.5) here due to the Yankees' pitching situation, but I don't really trust the Rays' offense for much. They are 5-8 and two of those wins were 1-0 Tyler Glasnow starts.
Yes, the Rays have owned the Yankees in 2020, but the Yankees won their last matchup and that monkey is off their back. Things will start evening out now.
Gimme the Bronx Bombers with an offensive onslaught.
Pick: Yankees cover -1.5 runs (+120)