Take the Kansas City Royals, on at 1.42, to win on the road against the Chicago White Sox.
I’m returning to this series (one that I looked at over the weekend) on this Monday because I have tremendous confidence in Kansas City Royals’ starter James Shields. Once nicknamed “Big Game” James, Shields had been a little quiet over the past couple of season with the Royals and it’s probably because he wasn’t pitching in too many meaningful contests for a weak Kansas City team. But this year, he’s in a pennant race and is stepping up nicely. In his past two starts, the former All-Star has thrown 15 1/3 innings and allowed just five hits, one walk and zero runs, while striking out fourteen batters. He’s locked in.
In contrast, White Sox pitcher John Danks have very little to be proud of in 2014. He’s 9-11 with a 5.05 ERA. Recent work does not suggest a turnaround: In his past four appearances he’s 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
In Chicago, look for the Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds to combine for more than 7 runs; take it at 2.05.
This game represents one of those situations where struggling lineups face wobbly pitching. Who will prevail? I’m saying the hitters. Both clubs are near the bottom the National League in run production, but the Reds have shown a slight uptick in the major hitting categories – batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage – this month. Since the promotion of such players as Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, the Cubs have swung their bats better collectively. In the past month, they’ve out-performed their overall batting average and slugging percentage – and that’s occurred primarily without their star slugger Anthony Rizzo, who may be back for this game.
In both offensive instances, they will be given a great opportunity to succeed thanks to the pitchers. Superficially, Reds’ starter Alfredo Simon looks good (14-10 with a 3.48 ERA). But digging deeper causes concerns. First, he’s had a lot of luck this year. His fielding independent pitching (FIP), which is scaled like ERA but is a better indicator of performance, is 4.38. This means that he hasn’t pitched as well as his ERA indicates and is due for a correction. Second, it appears that correction has been starting to come. In his past two games his owns a 6.55 ERA. Third, Simon has pitched 178 1/3 innings, which is a number more than 60 innings greater than any total he’s put up previously in his seven-year Major League career. In other words, fatigue should be a serious issue.
As for the Cubs’ starter Travis Wood. He’s just been plain awful this year. He’s 8-12 with a 5.03 ERA and in his last four outings, his ERA has skyrocketed to 6.38.