Cole Hamels' return to form will see him lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a victory at home against the Miami Marlins on Saturday. Hamels' cumulative ERA for 2013 – 4.78 – doesn’t look too good, but it’s an example that small sample sizes can be misleading. In the left-hander’s first two games he was hit hard, giving up 12 runs in just 10 2/3 innings pitched. Since then, he’s thrown four consecutive quality starts (six-plus innings pitched; three or few runs allowed). His strikeout totals over that stretch have shown he’s returned to some dominant form: he’s struck out 27 in 27 innings of work. He’ll feast on a terrible hitting Marlins line-up that is at its worst when facing left-handed starters.
Hamels' pitching opponent is Jose Fernandez, whose luster has faded somewhat. He certainly has the talent to succeed at the Major League level but it’s becoming clear he needs some more polishing. After giving up just one run in his first 11 innings pitched, he’s been roughed up for 11 runs in his most recent 13 innings. Moreover, he’s been shaky on the road, where he’s 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA. It’s not great value to pick the Phillies (on at 1.40), but it’s a very solid, safe choice.
The miserable Houston Astros will hope that pitcher Lucas Harrell will continue to impress when they host the Detroit Tigers. The sinkerball pitcher is 3-2 with a very respectable 3.60 on a club that has won just eight games coming into this weekend. In particular, Harrell has done some of his best work when pitching at home. This year he’s 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA at Minute Maid Park, which is in line with what he did last year there (6-3, 2.34 ERA).
Despite that talent, it’s a bit too much to wager on him carrying the Astros to victory – after all he’s facing one of baseball’s most successful starters when it comes to striking out batters, Max Scherzer. Already this year, Scherzer has 46 strikeouts in just 31 1/3 innings. He’s also 3-0. This is particularly notable as the Astros lead the American League in strikeouts. In other words, it’s a good match-up for Scherzer. As a result, avoid picking a favorite and opt for going under 8.0 runs at 2.00 as both pitchers are poised to be on form in this one.