Home Run (Safest bet)
Go with the Chicago Cubs - on at 1.81 - to prevail on the road in Cincinnati against the Reds.
Casual fans know that the Cubs are cellar dwellers in this year’s National League Central tables, but many are not aware of how far the Reds have slipped. The club has been in a massive tailspin, posting a 7-13 record in their past twenty games and are only barely above the Cubs in the standings. With Joey Votto injured, the lineup has lost its central piece. The pitching staff has also been thinned thanks to Homer Bailey being shelved on the disabled list.
This latter fact is the reason that Dylan Axelrod will get the start for Cincinnati in this Thursday contest. In parts of four Major League seasons, Axelrod hasn’t shown he can be a regular success. His lifetime ERA in 49 big league appearances is 5.29. Last year, when he got twenty starts for the White Sox, he posted a 5.68 ERA.
He’ll face a Cubs lineup that is all of a sudden interesting. Chicago has promoted top prospects like Jorge Soler and Javier Baez to the Majors in recent weeks. While most teams languishing at the bottom of their division might not be playing with great emotion in the season’s waning days, the Cubs’ inclusion of these guys, who are looking to prove themselves for next year, means they’ll have more motivation than would normally be expected from a losing team.
Throw in the fact that Jake Arrieta, the Cubs’ best starter at 7-4 with a 2.53 ERA, gets the pitching assignment for the Cubs and they are well-placed for victory.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Pick the Colorado Rockies – 2.65 - to win on the road at the San Francisco Giants.
There’s good reason why this is a long shot. Colorado is the National League’s worst road team and their lineup is so depleted due to injury. Stars Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer are all out of the Rockies’ lineup.
Still, there is enough here to go on if you want to be a bit risky. The first fact is the Giants have been very subpar at home this year. They’re currently eleventh out of fifteen teams in home winning percentage. An even greater factor cutting Colorado’s way is San Francisco’s choice of pitchers. Yusmeiro Petit gets the spot start here. Petit has been excellent in the bullpen (1.84 ERA in 27 appearances), but he has struggled mightily when he’s been given the ball to begin a game. In six starting opportunities, he owns a 6.32 ERA.
The Rockies will counter with Jordan Lyles, who has shown a knack for winning in 2014. Despite his team’s poor overall record, Lyles is 6-1. He’s done particularly well on the road where he’s 2-0 with a solid 3.57 ERA.