Home run (Safe bet)
Take the Cincinnati Reds, on at 1.51, to win at home versus the Miami Marlins.
This Sunday pick is driven by home field advantage. Quite simply, the Reds are very strong at Great American Ballpark (fifth in the National League in winning percentage at their own venue) and the Marlins are dismal on the road (24-31 coming into this weekend in away games, which places the club fifth-worst in the circuit).
Adding to the Reds’ chances is the fact that Johnny Cueto gets the pitching assignment for Cincinnati. He’s been one of the best in the National League this year with a 13-6 record and a 2.04 ERA. Consistency has been the name of his game. He’s only given up more than three earned runs in a game twice all season. That run spans twenty-four games.
Brad Hand, who’s pitching for the Marlins, isn’t bad (4.03 ERA in nine appearances). But I just don’t expect him to outduel the more impressive Cueto.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Go with the Minnesota Twins at 2.50 to win on the road against the Oakland A’s.
It’s very hard right now to go against Oakland. After all, the club leads the American League in wins and winning percentage. But, coming into this weekend, there were signs that the A’s are, in fact, mortal. They had a middling 5-5 record in their past ten games before squaring off against the Twins.
One of the reasons for Oakland’s current lull is the work of Jason Hammel. In five starts since being acquired by the A’s, Hammel has been awful. He’s 1-4 with a 7.15 ERA with the green and gold. He did throw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays the last time out, but even that performance had reason for concern. He walked four and gave up seven hits, suggesting he was lucky to work around base runners.
As bad as the Twins season has been, the club’s starter in this game Phil Hughes has been a bright spot. The former Yankee has found a way to win as he currently leads the team with 11 victories. While his ERA is a mediocre 4.01, his fielding independent pitching (FIP), which is scaled like ERA but tends to be a better indicator of pitching performance, is an impressive 2.68. This suggests that he’s had a lot of bad fortune. This game is as good as any to see that luck change.