The New York Mets picked the right time – and the right pitcher – to face the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday. To put it mildly, the LA club is struggling. Before Thursday, they’d lost four in row, including being shut out three straight times. The Dodgers’ starter in this one, Aaron Harang, has been up and down this year, but has a history of subpar performances against the Mets. Lifetime, he’s 3-3 with a 6.05 ERA against New York’s National League team.
Still, the big story here is RA Dickey. After going 44 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run, Dickey (11-1 with a 2.31 ERA overall) had a weak performance last time out, yielding five runs in six innings against the New York Yankees. But he should bounce back pitching on the road in LA. Knuckleballers like Dickey often require the right conditions to throw well (usually calm winds and dry weather) – he’ll have both in LA. In fact, in Dickey’s only start at Dodger Stadium, he threw 5 2/3 innings and allowed just two hits, no runs and no walks while striking out six. Pick the Mets at 1.67 on the back of a strong Dickey performance and pass on the slumping Dodgers at 2.20.
Look for a bounce-back performance from Bud Norris when he gets the starting assignment for the Houston Astros against the Cubs in Chicago. Norris’ overall record in 2012 isn’t impressive – he’s 5-4 with a 4.81 ERA – but the inflated ERA really reflects his efforts to pitch while injured. While carrying a sprained knee and a hip flexor injury, he went 0-3 with a 13.09 ERA in his final three starts before going on the disabled list on in mid-June. He should be healthy now, which should trigger a return to the form he showed just before the injuries – in 26 innings over four earlier starts he allowed just one earned run.
As for the Cubs starter, Paul Maholm, he doesn’t have the same injury excuse. As a result, the fact that he hasn’t won a game since May 9 is not promising. Go with Houston at 1.95 instead of Chicago at 1.85.