Sunday’s Dodgers vs Cardinals contest in Los Angeles will be an intriguing pitching match-up. On the one hand you have the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. An established ace, Kershaw has been dominant this season, as evidenced by his National League-leading 1.35 ERA. On the other, you have Shelby Miller, who has been a rookie sensation, posting a fantastic 1.74 ERA of his own.
So who wins this game? I’m saying Kershaw. First, Kershaw owns Dodger Stadium: this year, in six starts, he’s 4-1 with a 0.80 ERA at home. This performance, while spectacular, is not a complete anomaly. For his career, he’s 38-18 with a 2.24 ERA at home (comparatively, he’s 28-21 with a 3.23 ERA on the road). In other words, it’s foolish to bet against Kershaw when he’s on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium.
Second, there is a major issue with Miller. The right-hander relies too heavily on just two pitches – a fastball and a curve (he uses those two options nearly 98% of the time). While they are clearly good pitches, over time a starting pitcher’s inability to mix in more types of pitches is generally an advantage for the hitter. Starting pitchers see batters multiple times in a game, so the latter tend to have an easier time adjusting to a limited repertoire. (In contrast, relief pitchers can get away with few pitches.)
As a rookie, Miller has been able to sneak by with two pitches as teams haven’t been familiar with him, but there are sign that, in this modern era of video, clubs are getting better prepared. In Miller’s last outing against the San Diego Padres, he gave up five hits, three walks and three runs in just 5 2/3 innings of work. Those aren’t horrible numbers, but they represented one of his worst performances of the year. I don’t think Miller will fall apart in this one, but I don’t believe he’ll dominate like Kershaw. Take the Dodgers, on at 1.63, to triumph over the Cardinals.
Matt Cain will continue his return to form when his San Francisco Giants host the Colorado Rockies. Six starts into 2013, Cain had an appalling 6.49 ERA. While he hasn’t improved to his career average in that stat (his season ERA is now 5.12, compared to a career 3.35), Cain has certainly improved. What has hurt the three-time All Star this season is his propensity to give up home runs. But that’s been a problem he’s primarily faced on the road. In away games, he’s yielded eleven homers; at home he’s given up just two.
Not surprisingly, he’s posted a better ERA at home and, if you take away his first start of the season at AT&T Park (when he gave up nine runs in just 3 2/3 innings versus the Cardinals), he’s actually been sharp when in San Francisco. In his other four starts there, he has allowed eight runs in 28 1/3 innings pitched (good for a 2.54 ERA). Admittedly, Cain was torched for six runs in 6 1/3 innings in his one appearance against the Rockies this year, but that was at Coors Field, where he gave up three home runs. He’ll bounce back here. Take the Giants at 1.56.