MLB-Regular season-Friday essentials

Hottest team: Dodgers (9-2 last 11, 55-11 last 66)
It’s absolutely jaw-dropping to see the numbers above. So many units. The 90 wins you can see in the standings today — Aug. 25 — have only been available for viewing this early in 1998 (Yankees) and 2001 (Mariners). Seattle won 116 games. It’s unlikely that the Dodgers get there due to all the attrition they’re currently facing, particularly with their pitching, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try. It’s ridiculous that one of the only two losses they’ve suffered since Aug. 12 came after Rich Hill completed nine no-hit innings on Wednesday, so L.A. is indeed going to take the field for its last three home dates until Sept. 4 as the best team in baseball despite the absence of Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Cody Bellinger, three of the game’s top talents.

The -185 range they opened at may appear inflated given the travel from Pittsburgh and the fact Kenta Maeda (11-5, 3.88 ERA) suffered their last loss and takes the mound tonight, but have some respect when you consider fading them. Curtis Granderson and Adrian Gonzalez homered to aid yesterday’s bounce-back win, so maybe reinforcements have arrived. Milwaukee +167, huh? The Brewers are worth a look, as the early public has already committed to. Chase Anderson (7-2, 2.83) looked sharp in his return from the DL. Travis Shaw is questionable due to a foot injury.

Coldest team: Tigers (4-14 last 18)
Although it pulled out a 10-6 win in Thursday’s brawl-marred series finale against the Yankees, Detroit hasn’t demonstrated much passion all season. Although the Tigers responded to avoid being swept after being outscored 23-6 in the first two games, they were bickering among themselves in the dugout after teammates called out Victor Martinez for fraternizing with Gary Sanchez during one of the skirmishes. That’s all family business, sure, but they look like one unhappy family.

Beyond whatever suspensions MLB hands down in the coming days, this team is stuck together on a six-game road trip that begins in Chicago against a young White Sox team resurgent enough to win three of five from the Twins. The youth movement is invested in playing spoiler, especially at home, where they’re 7-4 at home this month. Justin Verlander (9-8, 3.96), who got into it with Martinez in a widely viewed argument, has a chance to set the tone on the trip and is heavily favored (-160) over Sox veteran Miguel Gonzalez (7-10, 4.44). He should be fired up and has pitched the Tigers to wins in four of his last five starts, giving up just three runs over 29 innings in the victories.

Hottest pitcher: Parker Bridwell, Angels (7-1, 2.92 ERA)
The rookie won his first two decisions, then was rocked in a 10-0 home loss to the Mariners on June 30. The Halos have won all eight of his starts since, six of them coming by a single run. Bridwell has walked more than single batter only once in that span, which is the same game (Aug. 3 vs. Phillies) where he’s surrendered more than two earned runs. He faced Houston, which opened as a slight favorite (-114), in his major league debut last season.

Coldest pitcher: Jake Odorizzi, Rays (6-7, 4.74 ERA)
He got rocked in his last start, giving up seven runs and eight hits at home against the Mariners. Worst yet, he walked a season-high five batters and has pitched in just three Tampa Bay victories over his last 14 outings. Given their postseason aspirations, the Rays badly hope he snaps out of it in the series opener of the weekend’s only interleague series. St. Louis (-158) is favored with Michael Wacha (9-6, 4.08) on the mound.

Biggest UNDER run: Rockies (5-1 last six, 14-5 last 19)
Colorado had a run in which the low side went 10-1-1 from June 28 to July 9, and it was part of what brought them back down to earth. With the Rockies’ wild card grip growing increasingly tenuous, they better figure things out offensively before what their season’s dreams fade. They had lost four straight before rallying for a 3-2 win in Kansas City to avoid being swept on Thursday afternoon and have managed over four runs in a single game only twice in the last 16 games. The Rockies run into Braves ace Julio Teheran, who despite a down year (7-11, 5.02), blanked them over seven innings just 11 days ago. Chad Bettis (0-0, 1.93) has been great since his return from battling cancer. The Atlanta-Colorado total is at 9.

Biggest OVER run: Phillies (8-3 last 11)
Powered by Rhys Hopkins tying a big league record shared by Toronto’s Carlos Delgado and Colorado’s Trevor Story with eight homers in his first 15 career games, the Phillies have a pulse. Although they lost three of four to the Marlins, Philadelphia is another team exhibiting a pulse through an infusion of youth as we speed towards September. The rookie and Tommy Joseph batting in the No. 5 spot behind him each hit three and has joined Hopkins on a tear, up to 19 homers and providing insurance in the lineup. The Phillies hit 11 of the 21 homers in the home series against Giancarlo Stanton’s Marlins and now run into a Cubs offense that had been hot until last night’s upset loss to the Reds. The over is 6-2 over Chicago’s last eight, so both Jerad Eickhoff (3-7, 4.46) and Jose Quintana (8-10, 4.27) will have to be on their game. The Phils-Cubs total has been set at 9 too.

Matchup to watch: Royals at Indians (-130, 9.5)
The two preseason AL Central favorites enter this series separated by six games after the Tribe hammered Chris Sale’s Red Sox again following Kansas City’s late-inning loss. If the Royals can make Progressive Field a friendly venue over the next few weeks, they’ll have a shot at winning the division despite the current standings.

All seven of the remaining meetings in this series will be played in Cleveland. The Royals opened their final homestand against the Tribe by being outscored 15-1 over the first two games last weekend before salvaging Sunday’s contest 7-4.

Thus far, these teams have split 12 matchups, but this series opener will have a new variable, Indians lefty Ryan Merritt. Known for his memorable scoreless turn in last year’s ALCS Game 5 despite just one regular season start, Merritt hasn’t been able to crack the rotation and will be making just his fourth appearance this season. Only a handful of Royals have ever faced him in the bigs, and only Eric Hosmer has a hit against him.

After Hosmer’s heroic 3-run homer helped salvage a loss to the Rockies and hinted of a potential magical run, momentum came to a halt when Colorado’s Pat Valaika smacked a late go-ahead 2-run homer off reliever Mike Minor and the offense failed to rally.

Ace Jason Vargas (14-7, 3.59) will look to get them back on track while setting a new career-high for wins after failing to last five innings against the Tribe in a 5-0 loss on Aug. 19. Vargas is 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA against Cleveland this season over four starts and surrendered just two runs over his first 20.2 innings against them before last weekend’s letdown.

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