MLB summer exhibitions start Saturday

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

July 17, 2020 10:55 PM

Your long wait to see Major League Baseball finally ends Saturday with exhibition action when the Mets play the Yankees at 7 p.m. on ESPN2, and the Indians visit the Pirates on the MLB Network (same bat time). 

One other Saturday game won’t be nationally televised. That’s the Phillies at the Nationals at 6 p.m. ET.

So far, so good for restart efforts in team sports. The MLS was the canary in the coal mine, successfully maintaining a bubble after losing two teams early to coronavirus infections. The NBA is holding firm in Orlando through early practices. MLB has left it up to its 30 franchises to maintain local bubbles through initial preparation. No outbreaks, though a few players have gone into quarantine. 

With the start of an abbreviated 60-game regular season now less than a week away, baseball must past litmus tests with teams starting to play head-to-head. You can watch many of those exhibitions on TV. Here’s this week’s remaining national broadcast schedule (all times Eastern). 

Sunday: Mets at Yankees (MLB Network, 7 p.m.), Chicago White Sox at Cubs (ESPN, 8 p.m.)

Monday: Mets at Yankees (MLB network, 7 p.m.), followed by the Los Angeles Angels at San Diego (10:30 p.m.)

Tuesday: Houston at Kansas City (MLB Network, 3 p.m.), followed by Colorado at Texas (9 p.m.)

Wednesday: Colorado at Texas (MLB Network, 9 p.m.)

Many other games will be aired through the week on a tape-delayed basis around the clock on the MLB Network. 

Results count for REAL beginning Thursday night with the Yankees at the Nationals (ESPN, 7 p.m., projected starting pitchers are Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer), followed by the Giants at the Dodgers (ESPN, 10: 30 p.m., projected starting pitchers Johnny Cueto vs. Clayton Kershaw). 

If you’d like to see the full season national TV schedule for games on ESPN, FOX, and FS1, please click here

WIN TOTALS AT CIRCA SPORTS SUGGEST AN EXCITING PLAYOFF CHASE

Circa Sports posted its updated Regular Season Win totals for all 30 MLB teams on twitter Friday night. A 60-game sprint makes it difficult for teams to pull away from each other. Even if a few powers win their divisions easily (no sure thing in a small sample size), there will be very tight races for some divisions and all wildcards. 

Let’s run through the numbers. This year’s unique schedule format will have all “East” teams playing only each other. Same for all “Central” teams, and all “West” teams. Everyone plays their four divisional rivals 10 times each (40 games), then 20 interleague games. With that in mind, let’s present the win totals in three separate hunks. Note that all Over/Unders are -110 both ways unless otherwise listed (if you see a -115 in parenthesis, that’s the favorite, with the other direction only laying -105). 

AL East: Yankees 37 (Over -115), Rays 33.5 (Over -115), Red Sox 29.5, Blue Jays 27.5 (Over -115), Orioles 20.5 (Under -115).

NL East: Braves 33.5 (Over -120), Nationals 32, Mets 32, Phillies 31, Marlins 24 (Under -115)

Only two projected doormats (O’s and M’s). That’s going to create a lot of virtual pick-ems through the regular season. Little margin for error. Little room for team health issues. 

AL Central: Twins 34.5, Indians 32.5, White Sox 31.5 (Over -120), Royals 24.5 (Under -115), Tigers 22.5 (Under -115). 

NL Central: Reds 32.5 (Over -115), Cardinals 32, Cubs 31.5, Brewers 30 (Over -120), Pirates 25 (Under -115). 

Clearly the weakest of the three hunks, with Kansas City, Detroit and Pittsburgh all projected to struggle. Frankly, it’s mostly a bunch of .500 caliber teams (or slightly better) who may be boosted past 30 wins because of soft schedules. 

AL West: Astros 35, A’s 33.5 (Over -120), Angels 30.5, Rangers 28.5 (Under -115), Mariners 24 (Under -115).

NL West: Dodgers 38 (Under -115), Padres 31.5 (Under -115), Diamondbacks 31, Rockies 27 (Under -120), Giants 24 (Over -115).

It’s possible that the Dodgers, Astros and A’s will run roughshod over the rest. The market thinks the Padres have a chance to make things interesting. 

See any smart bets? 

MLS FEATURES “EL TRAFICO” SATURDAY NIGHT

Though you can’t have much actual traffic when fans aren’t allowed to attend games, the fabled “El Trafico” rivalry between LAFC and the Los Angeles Galaxy will be renewed Saturday night at the “MLS is Back” tournament in Florida (games in Kissimmee, bubble in Orlando).

That will be Game 2 of a nationally televised evening doubleheader to close out the second rotation in Group F. Standings entering tonight: Portland 1-0-1, LAFC 0-0-1, Houston 0-0-1, LA Galaxy 0-1-0. The big surprise in the group so far was Houston tying LAFC 3-3 as one-goal underdogs.

Here are early odds. Starting times Eastern. 

Portland vs. Houston (8 p.m., ESPN)

Three-way: Portland plus 111, Houston plus 210, draw plus 268

Goal Line: Portland -0.25 goals (plus 116), Houston plus 0.25 goals (-105)

Over/Under: 3 goals (Over -105, Under -116) 

LAFC vs. LA Galaxy (10:30 p.m., ESPN)

Three-way: LAFC -147, Galaxy plus 323, draw plus 324

Goal Line: LAFC -0.75 goals (-118), Galaxy plus 0.75 goals (-104)

Over/Under: 3.25 goals (Over -111, Under -110) 

Despite that surprising tie, LAFC is still the market favorite to win the event. It will need to improve its form in short order. 

LAS VEGAS STILL A COVID HOT SPOT

We don’t want to lead with the Nevada case counts every single day. That gets repetitive. If you’re a local that’s already gambling responsibility, you don’t need to be warned every morning.

That said, Nevada continues to post alarming numbers, and Las Vegas is one of the most contagious cities in the country, based on current data. 

Nevada reported 1,380 new confirmed covid cases to worldometers.com Friday. That was a slight drop from 1,447 the day before. But it’s the third day in the last for over 1,100…and an extension of July’s surge. 

Twitter follower “sundown,” whom you longtime gamblers may remember from sports betting forums in the not-too-distant past, alerted me that Nevada’s three-day positivity rate near 24%, and its seven-day rate near 19% rank with the worst in the nation. (Most of “Nevada’s” counts are in Clark County, home of Las Vegas.)

Other Stories of Interest

*Yasiel Puig tests positive (ESPN)

*How much talent is the WNBA missing this season? (538)

*Time is running out on NFL pandemic protocol clock (CNBC)

*Usual rules don’t apply in NFLPA/Owner negotiations (NBC Sports)

*Canceling College Football isn’t enough (Chronicle of Higher Education)

*Vaccine trials could begin soon in Las Vegas (news3lv.com)

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