Home run (Safe bet)
Pick the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1.50 to prevail over the Colorado Rockies at home.
These Sunday matches tilt together teams that are in opposite comfort zones. Through the end of baseball’s first half, the Pirates were the second-best team in the National League when it comes to home winning percentage. So playing at PNC Park is clearly a joy for them. At the other end of the spectrum, the Colorado Rockies are the worst road team in the NL. In other words, they won’t be happy to be in Pittsburgh.
Beyond those general trends, Pittsburgh also has the advantage of using Jeff Locke in this game. The left-handed pitcher is on a roll. In his past three starts, he’s thrown 22 1/3 innings and conceded just four earned runs. Rockies’ starter Tyler Matzek offers a less promising line. He’s 1-4 with a 4.87 ERA in his seven starts this year. In his two previous outings, he’s given up nine earned runs in just six innings of work. While both those games were at Coors Field, which is a very difficult place to pitch, you have to wonder how confident Matzek is coming into this game after his recent poor results.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Go with the Chicago Cubs, on at 2.00, to win on the road at the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Quite simply, I intend to ride Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta as a dark horse pick until his momentum starts to wane. Right now, there are no signs that’s happening any time soon. Arrieta is 5-1 with a 1.95 ERA. Over his past four starts he’s been one of baseball’s best pitchers, going 2-0 with a 1.91 ERA and striking out 30 in 28 1/3 innings pitched. Perhaps, I wouldn’t trust the Cubs’ subpar offence to back him if it wasn’t for the fact that Arizona’s lineup is nearly comparable in run production. (In other words, the two offences are a wash, leaving the pitching particularly important in this game.)
As for Diamondbacks’ starter Josh Collmenter. He is certainly solid (7-5 with a 3.80 ERA), but just not at Arrieta’s class at the moment. One final point to consider: Arizona is absolutely terrible at home. Their 17-31 record at Chase Field is the worst in the NL.