Home run (Safe bet)
Pick the Washington Nationals (1.45) to win at home versus the San Diego Padres.
No player will be happier that this game is being played in Washington than Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg. He’s off to a bad start this year (5.33 ERA) but that performance is a reflection of his work on the road. In two away games he has a 9.00 ERA in 10 innings pitched. In three home games, he has a 3.18 ERA and has shown signs of domination, striking out 27 in 17 innings of work.
San Diego pitcher Robbie Erlin actually has better numbers overall (4.15 ERA), but he’s trending the wrong way. He’s failed to deliver a quality start (six innings or more pitched; three runs or fewer allowed) in each of his past two appearances. Facing a Washington offence that’s ranked third in the National League in runs per game will make his job all the harder.
Final point: The Padres have played well at home this year (7-6) but have yet to find their footing on the road (3-6).
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
The Chicago Cubs and the Brewers will combine for fewer than 8 runs in Milwaukee; take it at 1.95.
This may seem a bit crazy when you look at Chicago pitcher Carlos Villanueva’s horrific 10.93 ERA. How will he alone not give up more runs than the line?
Let’s break it down. First, Villanueva’s ERA is a reflection of bad pitching performances in two of the NL’s toughest ballparks. He was shelled for nine runs in three innings against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, which ranks first in the league in run production, and then he allowed five runs in four and 2/3 innings versus the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. The Cubs home is currently playing fifth in the league (out of 15 teams) in run scoring. He now gets to go to Miller Park, which is dead last in this category. This pitcher friendly environment will help Villanueva.
The path for Matt Garza, who starts for the Brewers, is easier. Though he’s been middling so far in 2014 (4.50 ERA), his weaker performances have come against lineups better than the Cubs. The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies all have scored well more runs per game than Chicago. The one team the pitcher faced that was comparable to the Cubs in terms of scoring – the Atlanta Braves – Garza dominated, allowing one run and two hits in eight innings pitched. Expect a similar performance here.