I realize it’s only spring training right now, but we’ve already gotten some bad news regarding this year’s Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game, which will be held in Washington, D.C. Defending champion Aaron Judge says he’s one-and-done with the event. The good news? We might finally see Bryce Harper in it since it’s in his home park. Here are two MLB Opening Day picks, which is Thursday, March 29. Check back for the latest MLB betting lines on the week of Opening Day.
When: 3:30 PM ET, Rogers Centre (MLB Extra Innings)
Speaking of Judge, he will begin defense of his 2017 American League home-run crown in Toronto. Of course, Judge set the MLB rookie record with 52 bombs last year on the way to winning AL Rookie of the Year honors. Judge also hit 33 homers at Yankee Stadium, which was a single-season franchise home record. The previous mark of 32 was set by Babe Ruth in 1921, when the Yankees played at the Polo Grounds.
The big story line here will be Judge and new addition Giancarlo Stanton and where they will bat in a murderers’ row lineup with Judge. Stanton was acquired this offseason from the Miami Marlins and led the majors with 59 bombs last year. Thanks to the Stanton addition, the Yankees are favored to win the AL East and generally co-favorites to win pennant with the World Series champion Houston Astros. New York hasn’t won the pennant since 2009.
Who Will Also Be Debuting on Opening Day?
This will also be the debut of new Yankees manager Aaron Boone. The former third baseman is best known for hitting an 11th inning, Game 7 ALCS homer at the old Yankee Stadium to carry the 2003 Yankees into the World Series. Boone is also known for blowing out his left knee a few months later playing a pick-up basketball game and being released six weeks after that. The injury led to the Yankees trading for Alex Rodriguez. Boone spent last year with ESPN. He replaces Joe Girardi. Boone must have a lot to offer or he wouldn’t have convinced GM Brian Cashman to hire someone who hasn’t even coached, never mind managed, since his playing career ended in 2009.
The Jays are largely the same as last year but might not have one key player for Opening Day in shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki is still nursing an ankle injury from LAST JULY! Tulo struggled last season with just seven home runs and 26 RBIs with a .249/.300/.378 slash line in 66 games.
The starting pitchers for this matchup haven’t been named yet.
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers (ESPN)
When: 7 PM ET, Dodger Stadium (ESPN)
The Dodgers return to their home field for the first game that counts since losing Game 7 of the World Series there to Houston – that day’s starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, was bombed and has since signed with the Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers are the National League favorites entering 2018 after leading the majors with 104 wins last year. They still haven’t won a World Series since 1998. L.A. has been rather quiet this offseason to get under the luxury tax.
The Giants were very busy this offseason after a disastrous 2017 saw them finish tied for the worst record in the majors. They traded for two franchise icons in Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria and Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Will that be enough to catch L.A. in the NL West? Probably not, but a wild-card spot is doable. Remember, the Giants have made the playoff in every even-numbered year this decade. They won the World Series in 2010, ’12 & ’14 and lost in the NLDS to the Cubs in 2016.
One concern entering the season is closer Mark Melancon. He told reporters after his spring training debut on Wednesday that he’s still not feeling 100 percent. Melancon pitched in a game on Wednesday for the first time since undergoing an operation to release pressure on the pronator muscle of his right forearm in September.
What Has Mark Melancon Has to Say About That?
“It’s progressing,” Melancon said. “I don’t think we expected it to be perfect from day one. Part of having surgery is going through that.”
This will be the best pitching matchup of Opening Day in the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (barring injury). Bumgarner hurt his shoulder early last year in a dirt bike accident and that essentially killed the Giants.
What more can you say about Kershaw? He’s coming off a historic seven-year run, during which he has captured three Cy Young awards (2011, 2013 and 2014), an MVP award (2014) and four major league ERA crowns (2011-14) and has averaged 17 wins and 232 strikeouts with a 2.10 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. However, back problems have shortened each of his past two seasons, costing him a combined 96 Dodgers games and limiting him to 48 regular-season starts, only 13 of which have come after the All-Star break. If healthy, he has no peer.
Expert MLB Opening Day Betting Predictions
The Yankees and Dodgers will be both favored and are the picks.