Home run (Safe bet)
Pick the Los Angeles Dodgers (1.55) to win at home versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.
I’m staying on the Zack Greinke train for this Sunday contest. The man has been one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball this year. He hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of his 10 starts.
His 8-1 record reflects the best winning percentage in the National League (he also led that category in 2013). Finally, he goes against a Pirates lineup that has yet to figure him out. In 117 plate appearances, Pittsburgh hitters own a .211 batting average and .252 on base percentage against Greinke.
The Pirates will go with Edinson Volquez. The right-hander started the season really well – posting a 1.93 ERA through his first five starts, but since then he’s been highly unreliable. In his last six appearances, he’s only delivered one quality start (six innings or more pitched; three runs or fewer allowed). What’s particularly worrisome for the pitcher is his propensity to yield walks – a characteristic he kept in check at the start of the season – has returned. He gave up only six base on balls in his first six starts. In his last five outings, he’s given up 14 free passes. That does not augur well for Volquez.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Pick the Miami Marlins, on at 1.95, to win at home versus the Atlanta Braves.
Many might think that the Marlins early bubble of success will have to burst at some point, but if it does it won’t happen here. Miami and Atlanta are currently neck-and-neck at the top of the National League East but the separator here will be home field advantage – and the starting pitching.
The Marlins have been dominating at home this season, posting a 20-8 record in Miami. Atlanta has also relied on home success (18-12 at home; 10-13 on the road), which makes a road proposition like this a bad situation for them.
Pitching-wise, this is also an advantage for Miami. Nathan Eovaldi has been a key member of the Marlins’ pitching rotation. His overall numbers are 4-2 with a 3.36 ERA, but he’s been peaking as of late, going 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his past two starts. Of course, like the rest of his team, Eovaldi is strong at home. He owns a 2.54 ERA (six start) at Marlins Park versus a 4.50 ERA (five starts) on the road.
The Braves counter with Aaron Harang, who started the season magnificently, but seems to be fading a bit. In his past two starts he’s allowed six runs in 11 1/3 innings. Being on the road probably won’t improve that trend. In four road appearances he has a 4.07 ERA compared to a 2.83 ERA at home.