Home run (Safe bet)
Take the San Francisco Giants, on at 1.63, to win at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I’m not yet fully on the Tim Lincecum bandwagon, but with the right match up – like this game on Friday – he’s worth a punt. Lincecum has pitched expertly in his past three outings. The former two-time Cy Young award winner, who saw his ERA in the 5.00 range at the start of June and was written off by many pundits as washed up, has allowed just one run in his past 23 1/3 innings. All his pitches are working and, while he doesn’t have the velocity he possessed in the past, he’s pitching with confidence.
The Diamondbacks have done well against Lincecum this year – fifteen runs scored in 16 innings pitched – but was before this current run so expect Arizona hitters to come out a bit surprised and flat footed.
Even if Lincecum regresses somewhat, he has the advantage of pitching against Mike Bolsinger. The Diamondbacks’ rookie has struggled mightily in his maiden Major League season. He’s 1-5 with a 5.13 ERA. He’s coming off an outing against the Atlanta Braves where he allowed ten hits and five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings pitched. He did perform well against the Giants in a home matchup on June 22 (7 2/3 innings; one run allowed), but Bolsinger’s woes have primarily been on the road where he has a miserable 6.09 ERA.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Go with the Chicago Cubs at 1.96 to prevail in a home game against the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves are vying for the top of the National League East and the Cubs are destined to be at the bottom of the NL Central, but this pick is all about an endorsement for Chicago starter Jake Arrieta.
Having watched a number of Arrieta’s starts this year, I’ve seen him put it all together – spotting the fast ball and the off-speed pitches and going after hitters in all counts. His numbers reflect that dominance as he’s 5-1 with a 1.78 ERA. In fact, he’s been nearly unhittable in his past five outing, going 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA.
Braves pitcher Alex Wood has been a solid performer this year as evidenced by his 3.14 ERA. But a couple of peripherals suggest he might be vulnerable. He’s throwing on the road where he isn’t his best (3.53 ERA compared to 2.68 at home). Also his fielding independent pitching (FIP), which is scaled like ERA but tends to be a better indicator of performance is worse than his ERA (3.46). This indicates he’s been having a bit of luck.