Home run (Safest bet)
Choose the Miami Marlins (1.65) to win at home against the San Diego Padres.
It may seem odd to predict a victory for the Marlins on Saturday as a “safe bet,” but stick with me on this one. A key factor in this contest is Jose Fernandez pitching for Miami. Fernandez, who was the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, was very sharp in his first start, allowing just one run in six innings against the Colorado Rockies. Like that opener, Fernandez is throwing at home in this tilt.
In 16 career home starts, Fernandez is 10-0 with a 1.21 ERA (in contrast, he’s 3-6 with a 3.50 ERA in away games). In this game, he gets to face a Padres lineup that has been one of the worst through the first week of the season. As a result, expect Fernandez to carve up his opposing hitters.
San Diego pitcher Andrew Cashner will likely have less luck. Cashner can be dominant at Petco Park – where he put up a 1.95 ERA last season – but on the road, his performance is not as impressive. He posted a mediocre 4.00 ERA as the visiting pitcher. Unlike the sputtering Padres offence, the Marlins have begun the season on a surprisingly strong hitting note, ranking among the top teams in runs scored per game coming into the weekend.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Pick the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves to combine for more than 6.5 runs at 1.82
With the Nationals’ gold-plated pitcher Stephen Strasburg going against the Braves’ front-line starter Julio Teheran in Atlanta, the expectation would be a pitchers’ duel. Don’t bite on such an event. There are a handful of reasons. The first is that neither pitcher has a strong track record against the opposing lineup. Braves hitters own a robust .305 batting average (with a .384 on base percentage and .458 slugging percentage) in 151 plate appearances versus Strasburg. Teheran has been somewhat better against the Nationals, but not decidedly so. In 106 plate appearances, Washington batters have a .274 batting average with a .343 on base percentage and a .421 slugging percentage.
Beyond the head-to-heads favouring hitters, Strasburg looked a bit shaky in his only start so far this year. He yielded four runs in six innings in his 2014 debut versus a mediocre New York Mets team. Finally, neither pitcher is in their historically stronger pitching environment. Over their careers, Strasburg owns a 3.50 ERA on the road (compared to 2.57 on the road) while Teheran has a 3.51 ERA at home (3.35 on the road).
The upshot: despite the talent of these two pitchers, the hitters have a good chance to breakout.