Home run (Safe bet)
Pick the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, on at 1.50, to win at home versus the Houston Astros.
After a brief flirtation with respectability, the Houston Astros are struggling again, which portends good things for the Angels in this Sunday game. In May, the Astros posted a 15-14 record and appeared to be turning the corner from a long stretch of futility. But since then (coming into this weekend) they’ve tallied a 12-18 record and haven’t looked good.
A key to Houston’s successful run had been their pitching and this contest’s pitcher, Collin McHugh, was a large contributor on that front. His overall ERA is 3.22, but McHugh has been struggling as of late. In his past five starts he owns a 4.45 ERA and in his past two that number has skyrocketed to 5.54.
In direct contrast, Los Angeles has been consistently strong. They’ve posted a winning record in every month this year and have handled the Astros nicely in their previous matchups (coming into this series, the Angels were 7-4 versus Houston).
Los Angeles pitcher Garrett Richards has proved himself to be one of the game’s most up-and-coming pitchers this year. He’s 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA. In addition, he’s had particular success against Houston this year. In three starts, he’s 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA versus the Astros.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
In San Diego, go with the Padres and the San Francisco Giants to score fewer than 6.5 runs at 1.90.
The big question with this game is are we seeing a rebirth of Giants’ pitcher Tim Lincecum? The two-time Cy Young Award winner had been a shell of himself over the past few years, but he threw a no-hitter two games ago and followed that up with eight innings of four-hit shutout ball. Whether Lincecum has fully returned is unclear, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that he threw his no-hitter against this very Padres team. This certainly gives him an emotional edge. Moreover, Lincecum has been sharp during his career at Petco Park. In 15 career starts there he owns a 2.68 ERA.
Padres starter Jesse Hahn has been excellent during his first year in the Major Leagues. He owns a 1.95 ERA in five starts and has two factors that are particularly pertinent to this contest. The first is he faced the Giants on June 24 and held them to two runs and four hits in six innings of work. The second is he’s currently riding a 12 inning scoreless streak at Petco – so you know he’s comfortable there.
Finally, it’s important to note these are two hitting lineups that are ice cold. The Padres have ranked last in the National League all season in run scoring, while the Giants hitting woes have come on more gradually. In the past two weeks they’ve delivered a .211 batting average, .260 on base percentage and a .308 slugging percentage. All of those are bad numbers.