Home run (Safe bet)
Take the Cincinnati Reds (1.62) to capture a home victory against the Philadelphia Phillies.
There aren’t a lot of obvious mismatches in this Friday slate, but with Johnny Cueto on the pitcher’s mound for the Reds, Cincinnati is a really reasonable pick. Cueto has been one of baseball’s best pitchers in 2014. He currently leads the National League in ERA (1.68) and has pitched even better at Great American Ballpark (1.31).
He’ll face up against a Phillies club that is scuffling mightily. Their 7-13 record over their past 20 games coming into this weekend is among the worst in baseball. Moreover, the team’s lineup is below league average in runs scored.
The only reason for pause here is the Phillies have pitcher Cole Hamels going. Historically an ace, Hamels has been consistently solid this year. He’s thrown a quality start (six innings or more pitched; three runs or fewer allowed) in four of his last five outings. That said he is facing a Reds lineup that’s on the upswing. Though they are a below average offence overall (and are missing star Joey Votto), they’ve seen appreciable upticks in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage over the past week. In addition, they definitely hit better at home. Their performances in all three of the above-mentioned categories is better at Great American than on the road.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Go with the Baltimore Orioles, on at 1.90, at home versus the Oakland A’s.
The A’s are definitely the better team coming into this contest. Their offence leads the American League in run production, they boast a far better record than the Orioles and they happen to be a good road team.
So why go with the Orioles? The key is Oakland starter Tommy Milone. He is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Major League pitchers when it comes to home/road splits. This year, he’s 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five home games. But take him out of his preferred environment, and it’s a horror show – 1-3 with a 5.60 ERA. If you’re thinking this difference might just be a reflection of small sample size, think again. In 34 career appearances at home he has a 3.01 ERA; in 40 away games he owns a 4.68 ERA. The upshot is that Milone who is facing an above-league-average Orioles lineup should scuffle.
His pitching opposition, Wi-Yin Chen has a below par 4.26 ERA, but his fielding independent pitching (FIP), which is a better indicator of performance comes in at a much more reasonable 3.57.