Home run (Safe bet)
Choose the Texas Rangers (1.38) to win at home versus the Houston Astros.
This Texas derby on Friday will feature two strong pitchers in the Rangers’ Yu Darvish and the Astros’ Scott Feldman, but the result will go as expected with the Rangers prevailing.
At first glance, Feldman’s sterling performance so far this year (2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings) would set up Houston for a potential victory. Feldman even has a reasonable lifetime record against Rangers hitters (combined in 117 plate appearances he’s held members of the Texas roster to a .241 batting average). Nevertheless, the cons outweigh the pros here. First, Feldman, who previously pitched for the Rangers, has a bad track record at their stadium. The right-hander owns a subpar 4.40 ERA in 101 appearances at Globe Life Park in Arlington (formerly known as Rangers Ballpark).
Second, even if he keeps his club in the game, the Astros bullpen has been one of the worst in the American League so far (tied for third in most runs allowed). The offence probably won’t offer a lifeline either as it rates last in the league in runs produced per game. A final factor: The Astros had a night game in Toronto on Thursday and then had to take a three-hour-plus flight down to Texas for this game. They just won’t be at their sharpest.
As for the Rangers, Darvish should dominate. He’s held Houston hitters to a career .171 batting average in 89 plate appearances. Moreover, while Texas has been near league average in runs scored per game, they’ve been a lot better than the Astros.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Take the Philadelphia Phillies, on at 2.08, to prevail in a home contest against the Miami Marlins.
Casual baseball fans reading this are probably saying to themselves, “Where’s the upset here!?!?” But if you look at the standings you’ll see that the Phillies have started the season at the bottom of the National League East, while the Marlins have been at or above a .500 winning percentage all year. Toss in the fact that Marlins ace Jose Fernandez is getting the start and you’ll start to understand why a Philadelphia win would be a surprise.
That said, I think it’s going to happen. Here’s why: Fernandez has not been the same pitcher on the road has he has been at home. In his career, he’s an amazing 11-0 with a 1.14 ERA in Miami, while he’s a so-so 3-6 with a 3.50 ERA in away games. Admittedly, he shined in his only previous start at Citizens Bank Ballpark, pitching a seven inning shutout and allowing just one hit. But the lineup that day included relatively weak hitters in Freddy Galvis and Delmon Young. Moreover, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were still working through nagging injuries. I expect Philadelphia’s lineup, which now includes Cody Asche and Marlon Byrd and has Howard and Utley in better shape, to be stronger here.
Phillies starter A.J. Burnett has been solid through two games (3.86 ERA) and very few hitters on the Marlins roster have experience against him. That will proved difficult against a pitcher like Burnett, who can produce a devastating arsenal of pitches.