Kate Barrington  |  Tue 16th Apr   | MLB

The Los Angeles Dodgers have waited for three weeks for their ace pitcher to be back on the mound. On Monday (10:00 PM EST), three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw will be making his much-awaited 2019 MLB debut as he goes up against the returning Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and the Cincinnati Reds at the Dodgers Stadium.

Kershaw, 31, has already passed his minor league rehab with flying colors, as he struck out six batters and allowed five hits over six innings in his second rehab start with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate in Tulsa.

Kershaw’s return from injury isn’t the only reason why this Dodgers-Reds series is going to be exciting. The Dodgers Stadium return of Puig and Kemp, who were shipped to Cincinnati last December, certainly adds more drama to an already much-hyped confrontation.

The Cincinnati Reds are +1.5 run underdog over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Cincinnati Reds Team Preview

It’s no secret that Puig and Kemp have been waiting to face their old team again. After helping the Dodgers reach the World Series in back-to-back years, the two All-Star caliber sluggers found themselves expendable parts as the Dodgers began to insert more youth to their core.

Puig (.163 with six RBI) and Kemp (.163 with three RBIs) are off to a slow start but don’t expect them to pull their punches against the Dodgers. These players have something to prove and there’s no doubt that their emotions will eventually spill into the field.

The Reds, who started the season with a dreadful 1-8 slate, revived their postseason chances after racking up four straight victories last week. A 9-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday brought them back to earth, yet there’s a feeling in the air that things are finally clicking for Cincinnati heading into the fourth week of the season.

Los Angeles Dodgers Team Preview

The Dodgers opened the season like a ball of fire after winning eight of their first 10 games. However, issues have begun to surface on the third week as inconsistency in their pitching and batting ranks cost them six straight games.

All of a sudden, the Dodgers found themselves only one game above .500 with a 9-8 record. Still, nobody is counting out this Los Angeles team that looks deep enough for another deep postseason run, especially now that they have Kershaw returning from shoulder inflammation.

Cincinnati Reds vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Betting Pick

The Dodgers might have finally accepted the harsh truth that Kershaw will no longer throw as hard as he did during his heydays. It’s also probable that they have also set their expectations low for his season debut. Let’s admit it, the guy hasn’t faced elite major league sluggers since the early part of Spring Training, and that would cost him a few runs here and there.

As for the Reds, they are pinning their hope on Luis Castillo to put up another stellar performance on the mound. The 26-year-old righty has been a handful for opposing batters so far, sporting a 0.92 era with 25 strikeouts. He will give Cody Bellinger and the rest of the guys a lot of problems early on, but I believe the Dodgers batters are just too good to figure it out in the later innings.

Having said of that, I think the Reds batters – especially Kemp and Puig – will come alive in the series-opener against the Dodgers. I expect them to chip in key hits late to win a close game by at least two runs.

Bet The Cincinnati Reds +1.5 run underdog over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Kate Barrington