Home run (Safest bet)
Pick the Los Angeles Dodgers, on at 1.75, at home over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Dodgers and the Pirates are two teams going opposite directions and they’ll continue their trajectory on Thursday. The Dodgers are enjoying a hot streak that has put them back in contention in the National League West and their starter in this game, Dan Haren, should continue that trend.
After dealing with numerous injuries over the past few years, Haren has appeared healthy and pitched consistently well in 2014. In ten starts, he’s delivered a quality start (six innings or more pitched; three earned runs or fewer allowed) in eight appearances.
In his first season in Los Angeles, he’s made the most of throwing in the pitcher friendly environment of Dodger Stadium. In four games at home, the Southern California native is 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA (compared to a 3-3 record and a 3.72 ERA on the road). Finally, he’s done very well throughout his career against Pittsburgh hitters. In 111 plate appearances, Pirates batters have a feeble .198 batting average versus Haren.
In contrast to Haren’s feel-good season thus far, Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano has struggled. Last year, Liriano was fantastic, but this season he’s not only seen his ERA skyrocket to 5.06 but his peripheral stats like hits allowed per nine innings and his walk ratio have also gotten significantly worse. As a result, there’s no reason to expect him to be strong here.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Go with the Atlanta Braves (2.00) to pick up a road win against the Boston Red Sox.
In many ways, this is a wager against Boston starter Jake Peavy. He is in the midst of a particularly horrible run of performances. In his past three starts, he’s allowed 16 runs in 16 1/3 innings pitched. He’s just become so very hittable, allowing 28 hits in that stretch.
He also happens to face a Braves lineup that has seen improvements at the plate over the past two weeks. In that period, they’ve posted a combined .251 batting average, .338 on base percentage and .408 slugging percentage. While those numbers aren’t gaudy, they’re much better than their overall statistics in those categories of .236/.300/.383 respectively.
For the Braves, Mike Minor gets the starting assignment. He started the season in the disabled list, but has been solid in his five starts since returning (3.90), but, more than anything, has shown particular promise during his past two outings. In those games, he held batters to a minuscule .188 batting average.
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