Home run (Safe bet)
Go with the Chicago White Sox at 1.65 at home versus the Houston Astros.
This Thursday match-up is a really nice opener to the second-half of the baseball season – if you’re a White Sox fan. They get to send their hottest pitcher, Jose Quintana, to the pitchers’ mound for this contest. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his past four outings. He’ll compete against a terrible Astros lineup that has some power but very little else. Houston’s lineup has only one healthy regular on offence (Jose Altuve) who owns a batting average .237. That’s not good. Not surprisingly, Quintana beat the Astros in his only appearance against them this season.
Chicago hitters will face Scott Feldman who hasn’t been as reliable as the Astros probably hoped when they signed him as a free agent in last off-season. Overall, he has a 4.33 ERA, but in his past four outings, he’s been even worse, posting a 5.40 ERA. He’s yet to face the White Sox this season, but Chicago is hovering right around the league average in run production, which means they should be able to yield enough scoring to back a strong Quintana.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Take the visiting Texas Rangers, on at 1.87, to prevail at the Toronto Blue Jays.
Both of these teams limped into the All-Star break. The Blue Jays are 2-8 in their past ten games, while the Rangers are 1-9 over the same period. Each team has suffered injuries as well. The Rangers lost with Prince Fielder and Jurickson Profar and the Blue Jays are without Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind.
So what’s the separator here? Toronto has home field advantage but the Rangers still have Yu Darvish. Despite his team being last in the American League West, Darvish has found a way to win – he owns an 8-5 record. Moreover, the Blue Jays are a club he has a good record against. In 67 lifetime plate appearances, Toronto hitters have a weak line of .200 batting average, .284 on base percentage and .300 slugging percentage.
After winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2012, the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey has become a bit of a wild card. He can dazzle, but he can also be hit hard. While he pitched well going into the mid-season hiatus (1.82 ERA), the gamble here is that he’ll have an off-day. Still, even if he doesn’t Darvish’s work against Toronto hitters should carry his club.