Home run (Safe bet)
Pick the Oakland A’s to win on the road versus the Houston Astros.
The A’s have faltered a bit this month, but don’t expect them to scuffle in this Monday matchup. Houston is a terrible home team (they rank thirteenth out of fifteen American League teams in home winning percentage). At the same time, the A’s are above average on the road and are 8-5 against Houston in 2014 coming into this series.
A’s starter Jeff Samardzija hasn’t been dominating since coming over from the Chicago Cubs in early July (he owns a 4.07 ERA in nine starts for Oakland), but the Astros should help him get back on track. Houston is a below-average offence, that doesn’t boast a particularly good track record against Samardzija. In 105 career plate appearances, Astros’ batters possess a .245 ERA and a .295 on base percentage. These numbers bode well for the A’s starter.
Scott Feldman has been incredibly uneven this season. For example, in his last outing against the New York Yankees he gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings for the win. But in his start before that at the Boston Red Sox, he was smacked about for seven runs in 5 1/3 innings. Nevertheless, his overall trend has been heading downward as the season has progressed. In May, his ERA was 3.02, by the end of June it was up to 3.92 and now it’s 4.37. With Oakland hitters like Coco Crips (.417 batting average in 16 plate appearances), Josh Reddick (two home runs in 15 at bats) and Derek Norris (.714 batting average in nine plate appearances), all with good histories against Feldman, this might be a day for the Astros’ starter to struggle.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
In San Diego, look for the Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers to combine for fewer than 7 runs; take it at 1.83.
Padres’ pitcher Eric Stults has a tough matchup against a strong Brewers lineup, but his recent performance suggests he’ll be up to the challenge. On July 27, Stults had a horrible 5.22 ERA on the season, but since then he’s found his form. The left-hander hasn’t yielded more than two runs in any of his past four games and over his past two appearances, he’s tallied a strong 2.25 ERA. Of course, being at Petco will help his cause as well. He’s currently riding a streak of 13 1/3 innings without giving up an earned run at his home ballpark.
Matters should be a bit easier for Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse. He faces the worst run-scoring lineup in the National League. In addition, Lohse squared off against the Padres with great success earlier in the year. On April 23, he went seven innings, giving up just five hits and one earned run. That game was in Milwaukee, so Lohse will benefit from the even friendlier pitchers’ park nature of Petco in this one.