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Thursday's Diamond Notes
Hottest team: Pirates (8-2 last 10)

Who’s leading the NL Central at the quarter-pole point? It’s not the Cubs and it’s not the Cardinals. Instead, it’s the team that parted ways with its best pitcher and position player in the offseason. Pittsburgh continues its nine-game homestand after pulling off a two-game interleague sweep of the White Sox. Granted, the Pirates took advantage of the South Siders with four victories over Chicago this month, but Pittsburgh has also won series against San Francisco and Milwaukee in May.

The Pirates welcome the Padres for a four-game series at PNC Park where Pittsburgh owns a 14-6 record this season. Chad Kuhl takes the ball in the series opener as the right-hander is coming off a pair of quality starts as the Pirates defeated the Giants and Brewers. The Pirates have won four of Kuhl’s last five starts overall, including a 3-0 record at PNC Park.

Coldest team: Dodgers (1-9 last 10)

There are few people, if any that thought after 42 games the Dodgers and Marlins would own the same record. But that is the case after the defending National League champions dropped their sixth consecutive game on Wednesday, falling at Miami, 6-5. Although the Dodgers erased a 5-1 deficit to tie the game, L.A. fell to 1-4 this season against the Marlins, while losing nearly nine units in the process.

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The Dodgers try to avoid the sweep this afternoon as Kenta Maeda heads to the mound. Maeda is winless in his last four appearances, including a loss to Miami as a -255 favorite at Dodger Stadium last month, 3-2. Los Angeles looks to improve on a 3-8 record in its last 11 games as a road favorite, as the Dodgers try to salvage this final game before traveling to Washington to face the Nationals this weekend.

Hottest pitcher: Kevin Gausman, Orioles (3-2, 3.18 ERA)

Baltimore has dropped 16 of its first 19 games away from Camden Yards, but the Orioles may have a good shot at winning at Fenway Park tonight. Although the Red Sox and Orioles are on opposite sides of the AL East race, Gausman has been the silencer of Boston bats when he takes the mound. Last season, Gausman posted consecutive scoreless efforts against the Red Sox, including a 7-0 victory at Fenway Park last August. Fast forward to this season, as Gausman has allowed two earned runs or less in five consecutive starts, while coming off a home win over the Rays in his last outing.

Coldest pitcher: Eric Lauer, Padres (1-2, 8.27 ERA)

Lauer didn’t last long in his last start against the Cardinals, yielding four home runs and six earned runs in less than three innings of a 9-5 home loss. It’s the second time in four starts this season that the southpaw has been tagged for six runs, as the Padres have lost in three of his four outings. In the three losses, San Diego has allowed at least six runs, while the Padres travel to Pittsburgh owning a 2-6 record in the last eight road contests.

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

Detroit’s four-game OVER streak was snapped in Wednesday’s 6-0 home loss to Cleveland. The Indians slowed down a Tigers’ offense that had plated at least four runs in eight consecutive games, including 15 runs scored in the first two wins over Cleveland. The Tigers square off with the Mariners for the second time this month as Detroit travels to Seattle. Last weekend, the Tigers scored 14 runs in the three-game set, while cashing the OVER in the final two games. Southpaw Matthew Boyd takes the mound, as he has cashed the UNDER in three consecutive outings.

Biggest UNDER run: Phillies (5-1 last six)

Philadelphia has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season at 24-16 and its pitching staff takes a bulk of that credit. Behind the Diamondbacks, the Phillies own the second best ERA in the National League at 3.38, while allowing only 146 runs, which is the least amount in the NL. The Phillies pulled away from the Orioles on Wednesday, 4-1 as Philadelphia has allowed three runs or less in seven straight games. Philadelphia travels to St. Louis for a four-game set as Vince Velasquez is coming off a 12-strikeout performance in his last outing against San Francisco.

Matchup to watch: Rockies vs. Giants

The National League West has been owned by the Dodgers the last five seasons, but that streak is in jeopardy due to their slow start. Arizona sits atop the division, but Colorado and San Francisco are hot on the Diamondbacks’ trail as the Rockies visit the Bay Area for the teams’ first meeting of 2018.

Colorado had a rare Wednesday off after splitting a two-game road set at San Diego, as the Rockies had their six-game road winning streak in Tuesday’s 4-0 defeat. Chad Bettis looks to bounce back from a shaky performance in his last outing against Milwaukee by allowing seven earned runs in five innings of an 11-10 loss. Bettis picked up a no-decision as his record entering tonight’s action is 4-1 on the season, while Colorado has won four of his five starts away from Coors Field.

The Giants failed to pull off a sweep of the Reds on Wednesday after falling behind early 4-0 in a 6-3 defeat. San Francisco has compiled a solid 5-1 record in its past six home series openers as Jeff Samardzija is coming off a pair starts in which he allowed five earned runs each to the Pirates and Phillies. Last season, Samardzija struggled against the Rockies as San Francisco posted a 1-3 record in his four starts, while giving up 21 earned runs in 24.1 innings of work.

Betcha didn’t know: The Blue Jays have been completely inconsistent this season, as evidenced by a 22-21 record. Toronto blew out the Mets on Wednesday, but the Jays have lost five straight games off a win. The Athletics head north of the border after taking two of three from the Red Sox in Boston, as Oakland looks to improve on a 4-1 record in its last five road series openers.

Biggest public favorite: Red Sox (-165) vs. Orioles

Biggest public underdog: Tigers (+150) at Mariners

Biggest line move: Braves (+105 to -100) vs. Cubs

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
HEADLINES
Akins: Diamond Trends - Sunday
Red Sox outlast Braves, 'over' hits
Indians reliever Miller back on DL
Marlins' Prado to DL; Riddle recalled
Mengden tosses 2-hitter; A's top D'Backs
Flaherty shines as Cards top Pirates
Pirates activate OF Marte off DL
Reynolds HR helps Nats beat Miami
Nola-led Phils top Jays and lead NL East
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