Home run (Safe bet)
Take the Detroit Tigers, on at 1.60, to grab a road victory over the Houston Astros. Sure this one seems obvious, the Astros are scuffling and the Tigers are a top team with former MVP Justin Verlander on the pitcher’s mound. But if you dig deep there is some risk here – albeit risk that should be overcome.
The big question mark is Verlander. He may be a six-time All-Star, but he’s in the midst of one of his worst seasons in his ten-year career. (In fact, only one other campaign has been similarly bad performance and that was way back in 2008.) Verlander owns a 4.82 ERA and leads the league in earned runs allowed.
Still, there are some reassuring factors amid the gloom and doom. First, his fielding independent pitcher (FIP), which is scaled like ERA but tends to give a better sense of performance, is a more reasonable 4.08. This suggests he’s been the victim of some bad luck. Second, his velocity remains high (he can still pump up his fastball into the mid-90s). This indicates he’s not dealing with injury and just needs to find command. (If it were injury there would be more concern; what’s required is a tweak to regain success). Finally, he’s coming off a good performance – seven innings; five hits and two runs allow; eight strikeouts against Cleveland. So he has momentum.
He also gets to face a team that has been struggling offensively big time as of late. Through Wednesday, the Astros had scored just seven runs in their last six games. With Brad Peacock pitching for Houston (2-4 with a 4.50 ERA) that type of production will not be enough.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Look for the Oakland A’s to score first in their contest at the Miami Marlins; take it at 1.53. There are numerous reasons to go with this wager. The first is that the A’s, who bat first as the visiting team, are the best run-producing club in all of the Major Leagues. The Marlins have been good – ranked ninth out of thirty teams – but just not as productive.
Then there are the pitchers. Oakland starter Jesse Chavez has been great overall (2.71 ERA), but has been particularly sharp to open games. He has a 2.40 ERA in the first inning over fifteen games. He’s been even better in the second inning of games (1.20 ERA).
On the other hand, the Marlins’ pitcher Anthony DeSclafani hasn’t looked good as evidenced by his 7.59 ERA. Even worse has been his opening work in games. He’s given up seven earned runs in eight total innings over the first and second frames this year.
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