Home run (Safe bet)
Choose the Atlanta Braves (1.51) to win at home against the Chicago Cubs.
This game on Sunday is exactly what the Atlanta Braves need. The club came into this series having lost eight of nine games, but during that stretch they faced strong teams in the form of the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins (yep, the Marlins, especially at home where they played the Braves in this series of games, are good). Now, they get a struggling Cubs team.
The Braves have Alex Wood pitching, who has been excellent at Turner Field. In three home starts he has a 2.00 ERA. He’s never faced Chicago before, but considering the Cubs possess a below-average offence, he should do well.
Chicago gives Edwin Jackson the pitching assignment. There is no doubt that Jackson has the talent to succeed, but he struggles to put it all together. In seven appearances this year, he’s delivered a quality start (six innings or more pitched; three runs or fewer allowed) only two times. While the Atlanta lineup has been woeful as of late, they can take heart in the fact that stars Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman have fantastic histories against Jackson. Versus Jackson, Upton owns a .545 batting average in 12 plate appearances and Freeman has a .636 batting average in 11 at bats.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Pick the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants to combine for less than 6 runs in Los Angeles; go with it at 2.00.
Picking the under is always a tough proposition – especially when the line is on the low side. Adding to the concern here is the fact that both the Dodgers and the Giants rank above league average in runs scored per game this season.
But, fear not, if ever there was a game poised for being a pitchers’ duel it’s this one. To begin with, a healthy Clayton Kershaw is probably the best pitcher currently in baseball. The Dodgers’ left-hander proved he was fit in his first outing since coming off the disabled list on May 6. That day, he threw a seven-inning shutout, striking out nine batters. That game was on the road against the Washington Nationals, while this contest is at home where he is typically his best. In 96 career starts at Dodger Stadium, he has a sterling 2.20 ERA.
Kershaw will face Tim Hudson, who doesn’t have as good a history at Dodger Stadium (4.47 ERA), but who has been particularly sharp in 2014. Overall, he sports a 1.99 ERA and is currently riding some excellent momentum. He’s pitched at least seven innings in every start this season and, in his last four games has not yielded more than two runs in any one contest.
As for these two clubs’ respective offenses, their year-long numbers may be good, but neither has been on a tear recently. In the last eight games coming into the weekend, the Giants have only scored more than three runs in a game twice. As for the Dodgers. They’ve averaged less than three runs a game over their last four contests.