Home run (Safe bet)
Go with the Miami Marlins, on at 1.75, to win at home versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. When in South Beach, the Marlins have been the pick this year and this Friday game is no different. No team in the National League has performed better at home than Miami. They have a fantastic 22-11 record there. Moreover, they face a team in the Pittsburgh Pirates who are among the circuit’s worst road clubs at 12-18.
The pitching matchup also favors the Marlins. Nate Eovaldi is a consistently solid performer who has only gotten better as the year has progressed. Overall, he’s 4-2 with a 3.27 ERA in 13 appearances, but in his last four starts he’s 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA. Not surprisingly, considering the team’s overall success at home, Eovaldi is excellent at Marlins Park. In seven starts there, he’s 3-1 with a 2.49 ERA (in away games, he’s 1-1 with a 4.29 ERA).
Last year, Pirates’ starter Jeff Locke showed great promise, but in two starts this season he’s had one good performance and one bad one. Considering he’s facing a Marlins lineup that ranks second in the National League in hitting, it’s hard to expect the better version of Locke will show up. Especially considering in a small sample set Marlins hitters have crushed the Pirates’ pitcher. In 48 plate appearances, Miami batters have a .342 batting average, .447 on base percentage and .474 slugging percentage.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Look for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to steal a win on the road against the Atlanta Braves at 1.85. The Angels roll into Atlanta at just the right time. Coming into this series, the Braves have a subpar 9-11 record in their past twenty games. Over the same stretch, the Angels are two games over a .500 winning percentage.
For this one, the Braves send Aaron Harang to the pitcher’s mound. Most pundits have been predicting Harang’s demise most of the season. He got off to a good start and the expectation was the aging pitcher wouldn’t be able to sustain it. To his credit, he has been quite consistent, having registered six quality starts (six innings or more pitched; three runs or fewer allowed) in his last seven appearances. But there are recent signs that his charmed run may be coming to an end. Most notable, he’s walked ten batters in his last two starts. Pitchers without control are bound to start paying for added base runners, and it appears that Harang is on that cusp.
C.J. Wilson gets the pitching nod for Los Angeles. He’s coming off a strong performance against the Chicago White Sox in which he went 7 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits, two walks and one run, while striking out six. Look for him to continue that momentum here.
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