Home run (Safe bet)
Go with the Texas Rangers, on at 1.55, at home versus the Toronto Blue Jays.
The two clubs in this Friday matchup have been wholly mediocre. So what gives the Rangers separation here is their starting pitching far outclasses what the Blue Jays will offer.
Texas’ Yu Darvish has been an ace this season. In seven starts he owns a 2.33 ERA and he’s coming off his best outing of the season, where he came within one out of pitching a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox. He’s been better at home this year (2.00 ERA) and has been very consistent all year. He’s thrown a quality start (six innings-or-more of work; three runs or less allowed) in all but one of his appearances.
On the other hand, Drew Hutchinson is a far less reliable pitcher. While his overall ERA is okay (4.37), he’s been trending in the wrong direction. He hasn’t thrown a quality start in any of his last three outings and, during that stretch, he’s given up 12 runs in 19 1/3 innings, which does not portend good things.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
In Houston, the Astros and the Chicago White Sox will not surpass 8 runs combined; take it at 2.08.
The White Sox have been an above average hitting team, but even with that pedigree, pitching will prevail in this game. Chicago’s great batting has come primarily at home. On the road, the White Sox are scoring fewer runs per game and putting up considerably weaker numbers in the batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage categories. As for Houston, they’re the weakest run-scoring club in the American League so expectations are always low.
With two offenses not primed for success, the pitching should come to the fore – especially when there are two guys throwing who are on form. I’m still not a believer in the Astros’ Collin McHugh over the long run, but he’s put up a good ERA (2.81) this year and his fielding independent pitching, which is a statistic meant to be even better at reflecting performance, is a more robust 2.31. He’s also coming off a good performance against a solid Baltimore Orioles line up (6 1/3 innings pitched; two runs allowed).
The White Sox’s Jose Quintana is very reliable. He’s delivered seven quality starts in eight tries and when he’s faced weak teams – those with winning percentages under .500 like the Astros – he has a very good 2.52 ERA.