The Chicago Cubs will capture a rare road win against the Pirates on Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Cubs starter Edwin Jackson has been underperforming compared with his results over the past couple of seasons. But his 5.76 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story. In effect, one terrible performance – an eight-run lashing in 4 2/3 innings by the San Diego Padres back on April 30 – has drastically impacted his overall numbers.
As a team, the Pirates have hit .203 lifetime against Jackson in 129 plate appearances. Jackson also holds a respectable 3.20 ERA in four starts at PNC Park. Pittsburgh’s Jeanmar Gomez does have a 2.78 ERA, mixing between starting and pitching in relief.
But there are two concerns with the right-hander. The first is his high walk rate. He’s given 14 free passes in just 32 1/3 innings. That suggests that he’s getting a bit lucky with stranding runners on base. The second is he’s coming off a weak performance against a subpar Houston Astros team. In that game, he lasted just 4 2/3 innings and gave up four runs. In fact, he hasn’t lasted more than five innings in any of his five starts this season.
The Pirates bullpen has been excellent this year, but they are over taxed, which might come back to hurt them in this one. Pick a Cubs upset at 2.20.
Consider going with another surprise win when the Minnesota Twins visit the Detroit Tigers. Scott Diamond has struggled at times this season (see his 4.99 ERA for proof).
But those problems have occurred almost exclusively at home. On the road he’s 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA. He also has an excellent track record against Tigers hitters, having held them to a cumulative .205 batting average. Beyond Miguel Cabrera who is batting .500 against Diamond, other key players – Jhonny Peralta, Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter – are a combined 5 for 32 (.156 batting average) against the left-hander.
The Twins also benefit from the Tigers’ weakest starter getting the pitching assignment. Rick Porcello owns a 5.92 ERA and Twins hitters have always enjoyed facing him – to the tune of a .311 batting average and a healthy .493 slugging percentage. Look for Minnesota (2.50) to earn the unexpected victory.
Best bets: Minnesota to upset the Detroit Tigers at 2.50
Chicago Cubs to shock the Pittsburgh Pirates 2.20