Home run (Safe bet)
Opt for the Washington Nationals to win at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1.57
This Sunday pick is really a validation of Doug Fister. While the Pirates are a good team (though they’ve posted just a .500 winning percentage over their past twenty games), Fister has be absolutely dominating recently. In his past two starts he’s thrown 14 1/3 scoreless innings – and won both games. Over his past five he’s 4-1 with a 1.06 ERA. The fact he’s throwing at home just bolsters his cause. He’s 6-1 with a 2.01 ERA when pitching in the District of Columbia. Keep in mind that when Fister is on a roll, he is nearly unstoppable. In 2011, he went on a late-season tear where he won his final eight starts. We may be seeing Fister enter a similar zone.
The Pirates’ Edinson Volquez has been solid lately (2-1 with a 3.77 ERA in his past five starts). But the key issue with Pittsburgh is they’re missing their star offensive player, Andrew McCutchen. The team has performed admirably since McCutchen hit the disabled list, but they’ll have a tough time against a top-shelf pitcher like Fister.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Take the Chicago Cubs at 1.78 to prevail on the road against the New York Mets.
Again, I’m keying on a starting pitcher to determine the result in this game. In this case, it’s Jake Arrieta. Admittedly, Arrieta has cooled off a bit after having a period in which he didn’t allow more than two runs in seven consecutive starts. Still, he’s coming off a strong 7 1/3 innings of work versus the Brewers, in which he allowed two runs. So the upshot is he hasn’t really unraveled.
Aiding him in this one is that he’s facing a Mets lineup that is a complete struggle. In the past four weeks, New York hitters are batting .219 with a .275 on base percentage and a .317 slugging percentage. These are all terrible numbers. In fact, even the lowly Cubs have performed better over the same period, logging a line of .249/.305/.388, respectively.
Chicago faces a pitcher in Rafael Montero, who has thrown just one quality start (six innings or more pitched, three runs or less allowed) in his five Major League opportunities this year. In his past two outings he’s given up eight earned runs and fourteen hits in just 8 2/3 innings of work.