The Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish is coming off a breathtaking performance, but I’d bet against him when his club hosts the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Sunday. In his first 2013 start, Darvish threw a near-perfect game, going 8 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and striking out 14. So why not expect the same? First, he developed a bit of a blister on his finger. While it has been reported it won’t keep him out of the game, it will likely impact his effectiveness a bit. Second, his opening gem was against a weak Houston Astros line-up; this contest is versus a vastly stronger Angels offence. The difference should mean some regression – after all, he did deliver a 4.23 ERA versus LA in 2012, which was worse than his average performance last season.
Another factor is that Darvish is squaring up against Jered Weaver, who looked quite impressive against stronger Cincinnati Reds hitters in his first start. He gave up two hits, two walks and one run over six innings while striking out four. While Weaver had a couple of rocky starts at Texas last year, his last one (a seven-inning win in which he allowed two runs) was quite good. Opt for the Angels at 2.27.
Another pair of aces meet in Cincinnati, hoping to defy the offense-friendly stadium they’re pitching in. The Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg squares off against the Reds’ Johnny Cueto. While Strasburg didn’t pitch at Great American Ball Park in 2012, he has experience throwing in high run-scoring stadiums and has done well in those environs. In games pitched at the National Leagues’ two most offensively prolific ballparks last year – Coors Field in Colorado and Chase Field in Arizona – Strasburg threw 12 innings and gave up just seven hits and four runs.
While some pitchers might struggle at Cincinnati’s stadium (which was fourth in terms of run scoring in the NL last year), that wasn’t the case with Cueto. He went 10-3 there with a sterling 2.79 ERA. These pitchers should be able to carry that success over to this contest and keep the combined run total below 7.0 runs, which can be had at 1.75. With two strong bullpens as well, the likelihood of getting over that number is unlikely.