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MLB-Regular season-Weekend preview

Hottest team: Indians (10-2 last 12)

There are two teams that opened as favorites of -360 or higher on Friday. One of them is Washington against Miami with Max Scherzer on the mound. The other is the AL Central-leading Indians, who have pulled away in the division to lead the Twins by 12 ½ games after pulling off a three-game sweep of in-state rival Cincinnati. Cleveland has pretty much sewed up a playoff berth for the third straight season as the Tribe is coming off their sixth consecutive victory – all against teams sitting below the .500 mark.

Cleveland welcomes in the team owning the worst record in baseball, the 36-85 Baltimore Orioles. The Wynn sportsbook in Las Vegas had the Tribe as high as -400 favorites on Thursday night with Carlos Carrasco getting the ball. Carrasco is seeking his 15th victory of the season, while Cleveland has won six of his past seven starts (all as a favorite of -170 or higher). Carrasco beat the Orioles earlier this season at Camden Yards, 2-1 as he limited Baltimore to six hits and one run in 7.1 innings of work in April.

Coldest team: Pirates (1-5 last six)

The NL Central race has tightened up with five games separating the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals for the top spot. The Pirates were hanging around but have gone backwards at the wrong time by losing five of six since a brief three-game winning streak on their recent road trip at Colorado and San Francisco. After getting swept in a two-game set at Minnesota, the Bucs dropped the opener of their home series with the Cubs last night, 1-0 to fall to 61-61 on the season and 6 ½ games out of the second Wild Card spot in the National League.

The Pirates have lost six of their last seven Game 2’s of a series at home as they try to turn around that trend with Trevor Williams on the mound. Williams has won four of his past five starts, while not allowing a run in the four victories. The former Arizona State standout defeated the Cubs at Wrigley Field earlier this season, 6-1 as a +170 underdog by allowing one earned run in six innings of work.

Hottest pitcher: Cole Hamels, Cubs (2-0, 1.00 ERA)

In his final start as a member of the Rangers, Hamels was tagged for seven runs in five innings of a 15-3 home defeat to the Athletics on July 23. Since getting dealt to the Cubs at the trade deadline, the southpaw has yielded three runs in three starts, while Chicago has won all three of Hamels’ outings. The first victory came at PNC Park over the Pirates, as Hamels will look to beat Pittsburgh again on Friday night. Hamels received a no-decision in his previous outing against Washington on Sunday as the Cubs hit a walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning to edge the Nationals, 4-3.

Coldest pitcher: Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks (3-2, 4.83 ERA)

Arizona continues its series with San Diego at Petco Park as the Diamondbacks are stuck in a logjam for the top spot in the NL West. The D-backs are winless in Ray’s last six starts dating back to July 12, while his last victory came on June 27 at home against the Marlins. Although Ray has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last two starts, he has failed to pitch past the sixth inning in three straight outings. Since 2017, the D-backs own a perfect 5-0 record when Ray starts against San Diego, while Arizona has scored at least nine runs in four of those wins.

Biggest OVER run: Mets (6-2-1 last nine)

New York was showcased in a horrible light on July 31 when the Mets were drubbed by the Nationals, 25-4. However, the Mets’ offense has woken up the last few days as they scored 16 runs in Wednesday’s blowout of the Orioles. New York topped that mark less than 24 hours later by dropping a 24-spot on the Phillies in the opening game of a double-header on Thursday. The Mets scored six more runs in the second game last night, but fell to the Phillies, 9-6 to cash a third straight OVER. Tonight, runs should be at a premium as the Mets send out Noah Syndergaard opposite Philadelphia ace Aaron Nola, who has seen the UNDER cash in three starts against New York this season.

Biggest UNDER run: Rays (6-0 last six)

Tampa Bay picked up its third consecutive series victory as the Rays took the final two games over the Yankees in the Bronx. The Rays’ pitching staff has been terrific of late by allowing two runs or less in five of the past six games, including yielding two runs in the last two wins at New York. Tampa Bay plays the third leg of its AL East road trip at Boston this weekend as the Rays have limited the high-powered Red Sox to four runs or less in four straight meetings. The Rays are riding a six-game UNDER streak in road series openers dating back to the start of July.

Matchup to watch: Astros vs. Athletics

By the end of the weekend, the Oakland A’s can be in first place of the AL West. Yes, that is a true statement, assuming the A’s pull off a home sweep of the defending champion Astros. Although Oakland lost the finale of its home series to Seattle in 12 innings, the A’s still took two of three from the Mariners to improve to 17-4 in the last 21 games at the Coliseum.

The Astros ended a five-game losing streak in Wednesday’s 12-1 blowout of the Rockies, while also picking up their first home win since July 14. Houston is one of the rare teams to possess a better record on the road than at home as it owns a magnificent 41-18 mark away from Minute Maid Park this season. Charlie Morton is coming off four straight quality starts for Houston, while the Astros have won six of his 10 road outings this season.

The A’s have yet to beat the Astros in six meetings at the Coliseum as they try to break through with veteran Edwin Jackson on the mound. Jackson has turned into a valuable pickup for this Oakland rotation as the right-hander has yielded one run in his past three starts, while the A’s are 3-0 in this stretch. In spite of Oakland’s struggles against Houston at home, the A’s did capture three of four from the Astros in their previous series at Minute Maid Park prior to the All-Star break.

Betcha didn’t know: The other big matchup out west this weekend highlights the lone interleague matchup as the Dodgers travel to Seattle to face the Mariners. Wade LeBlanc takes the hill for the M’s in Friday’s opener as Seattle has won nine of his 10 starts at Safeco Field this season. However, the Mariners have struggled at home recently by going 3-6 in their last nine at Safeco, while compiling a 2-6 record in their past nine interleague contests.

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