Home run (Safe bet)
Take the Boston Red Sox, on at 1.60, to win at home versus the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians are hot and the Red Sox are not, but it is Boston pitcher Jon Lester who will be the difference maker in this match up. This game works for the left-hander on many levels. First, he’s throwing at home, where he’s pitched his best this year (3.05 ERA versus a 3.91 ERA on the road). Second, the Indians have been woeful against left-handed pitchers in 2014. Cleveland’s 8-14 record against pitchers who throw from the left side (like Lester) is second-worst in the American League. Third, Lester has thrown even better than his respectable 3.52 ERA suggests. His fielding independent pitching (FIP), which is a better indicator of actual performance is 2.91. As a result, he’s due for a bit of a break.
Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin has put up a strong 3.12 ERA, but, in contrast to Lester, his FIP is 3.65, indicating a bit of a correction is due. On the road would be the place to expect it. He hasn’t pitched quite as well in away games (3.32 ERA) as at home (2.95).
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
In Chicago, look for the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers to score fewer than 7 runs; take it at 1.90.
This Thursday contest is as classic a pitching matchup as you can get. The Tigers’ Max Scherzer is coming off a string of shaky pitching performances, but the White Sox are precisely the team that can get him on track. The last time he pitched at U.S. Cellular Field, Scherzer threw six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and three walks while striking out seven. In his previous start against Chicago, he was almost as good, going six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and striking out ten. In other words, he’s had this team’s number in 2014.
The White Sox’s Chris Sale offers even more promise for top-notch pitching. He owns a 2.06 ERA and has only given up more than three runs once in eight starts this season. Being at home will help his cause. In six games on Chicago’s Southside, he is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
In general, both teams will benefit from throwing at U.S. Cellular. The stadium currently ranks twentieth (out of thirty teams) in Major League run production, according to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors.
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