Home run (Safe bet)
Look for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Phillies to combine for more than 9 runs in Philadelphia; Take it at 2.00.
Quietly, both Toronto and Philadelphia have been very good offensive teams this year. Both rank above-average at runs produced per game in their respective leagues and, in this Monday tilt, get to face pitchers who are primed to give up runs.
The Phillies send Kyle Kendrick to the pitchers’ mound. Though his ERA sit at a reasonable 3.52, his fielding independent pitcher (which is a better indication of how he’s throwing) is a weak 4.71. In particular, he’s struggled at home, where he has a 4.91 ERA. Finally, Blue Jays hitters have a robust .310 batting average and .570 slugging percentage in 110 plate appearances versus Kendrick.
JA Happ gets the call for the Blue Jays. This will mark his first big league start in 2014. Last year, in 18 starts at the Major League level, he put up a not-so-great 4.56 ERA. The fact that he hasn’t started a game this year, likely means he isn’t stretched out, which will require the Blue Jays’ bullpen to play a larger role than normal in this contest. Toronto’s relief corps is the four-worst in the American League this year when it comes to preventing runs.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Pick the St. Louis Cardinals, on at 2.00, to win on the road at the Atlanta Braves.
The wager here depends on the performance of Aaron Harang. Atlanta’s starter looked nearly invincible through his first five starts. In that stretch he allowed just three runs in 31 2/3 innings pitched. He didn’t give up more than a run in any of those games. But his peripheral stats suggested that there had been quite a bit of luck in the journeyman’s success, and in his last outing in Miami he was crushed for ten hits and nine runs in 4 2/3 innings. While you shouldn’t expect a similar outburst from an underachieving Cardinals’ lineup, it’s hard to imagine an ace-like performance here.
On the other hand, St. Louis pitcher Shelby Miller has the ability to shut down the Braves’ line up. In his last four starts he’s given up a total of four runs in 23 innings. His Achilles heel has been his propensity for allowing walks. But he should get help in that category from the Atlanta lineup. The Braves are below the league average at coaxing base on balls. In his one career start at Turner Field, Miller was solid, yielding two runs in 5 2/3 innings. So he should be primed to outperform Harang in this one.