We are starting the fourth series of matchups in MLB, and while the sample size is very small, a few early trends have already emerged. Things are as good as expected in Chicago and Washington as the Cubs and Nationals have each breezed through the first two weeks with just a single loss. Things are worse than expected in Atlanta and Minnesota (especially in Minny, where there were some heightened expectations after a better-than-expected season in 2015), and San Diego has some real hitting concerns. They have been shut out and MLB-record five times in their first nine games, and three of the non-shutouts were in Coors Field.
But there are a few surprises as well. Both Philadelphia and Cincinnati are at .500 or above and have shown some glimpses they can be reasonably competitive. The Cardinals are just 5-4, but their +24 run differential (and a weekend visit from Cincinnati) portends some better things to come, and the NL West looks like the Dodgers and Giants could be at each others heels all summer long.
The weekend isn’t full of great NL matchups, but it is highlighted by the Giants and Dodgers getting together for a second time this season and giving us the second Kershaw/Bumgarner gift tonight. That’s where we will focus for tonight’s free pick.
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Today’s Free Pick:
San Francisco Giants +165 at Los Angeles Dodgers -172 (Total: 6)
Madison Bumgarner (1-0, 3.27 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.20 ERA)
Here we go again. Two of the best and most recognizable pitchers in MLB will toe the rubber tonight in another matchup of two rivals and playoff hopefuls. They met for the eighth time in their careers last Saturday with neither getting a decision in a well-pitched 3-2 Dodgers victory in 10 innings. They will both look to be even sharper tonight and help their team take an early division lead.
The Dodgers are big favorites, which is to be expected anytime they are throwing Kershaw at home. But there is some definite potential value in getting Bumgarner at +160 or greater. He has beaten Kershaw in ALL THREE of his starts at Dodger Stadium in his career. It isn’t that Kershaw is getting shelled, it is simply that when two dynamite starters link up, there just isn’t a HUGE advantage either direction to justify a large money line gap.
And just for a little added intrigue, not only has Bumgarner gotten the victories, he has also bested Kershaw at the plate. He has belted two homeruns against the filthy lefty, something more than a few everyday position players would love to be able to boast.
I know taking a long shot money line isn’t the most conservative way to snap an early-season MLB losing streak, but the value here is too great to ignore.