Home run (Safe bet)
Go with the Seattle Mariners, on at 1.33, to triumph at home over the Houston Astros.
I hate picking on the Astros – as they’ve found themselves on the losing end of this “safe bet” category a decent amount lately – but this contest on Monday is too good to pass up.
The reason: Seattle has Felix Hernandez pitching. Pundits have been foretelling King Felix’s demise for the last few years. The knock is that he’s such a workhorse (he’s thrown more than 200 innings per year for each of the past six years) that he’ll start to wear out. This just doesn’t seem to be the case. So far this season, he’s been dominant. Hernandez is 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 28 1/3 innings.
What’s additionally worth noting about his work so far this season is he’s pitched brilliantly against top teams. In particular, versus the American League West division leading Oakland A’s, he’s gone (2-0 with just three runs allowed in 15 1/3 innings). While he has little experience against Houston’s struggling lineup (they’re last in the American League in runs scored per game), the fact that he’s dominated better opposition augurs well here.
Houston will counter pitching-wise with Dallas Keuchel along with a very weak bullpen. Keuchel has produced a solid 3.50 ERA. But if you look at an advanced statistic called fielding independent pitching, which tends to be a better reflection of how someone’s pitched, Keuchel’s performance weakened to 4.47.
Squeeze Play (Gutsiest call)
The Milwaukee Brewers and the San Diego Padres will struggle to put big numbers on the scoreboard; take under 7.5 runs at 1.82 in the game.
When you look at Milwaukee’s hitting prowess thus far this season – they rank fourth in the National League (out of fifteen teams) in runs scored per game – it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be slowed down at home.
Nevertheless, even if the Brewers put some runs on the board, the combination of San Diego’s Andrew Cashner and Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta pitching for these two teams, will keep the overall total below what one would normally expect. Both these starters are vastly underrated. Cashner owns a 1.27 ERA in 2014 and Peralta is sporting a 1.96 ERA.
A couple of secondary statistics also suggest a low scoring affair. Cashner has held Brewers hitters to a .143 lifetime batting average in 34 career plate appearances. Peralta is particularly excellent pitching at home. In two starts at Miller Park, he’s 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA (in his one away game he was saddled with a more middling 3.60 ERA). Admittedly the sample set is small for Peralta, but add the fact he’s facing a Padres lineup that’s dead last in the NL in run production and you can expect a strong performance.