The visiting Atlanta Braves will ride the momentum of a form pitcher past the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. Braves starter Paul Maholm is on a roll, having thrown 20 1/3 scoreless innings. Typically, I’d bet against such a positive streak continuing (I usually believe they fall apart in a big way when the pitcher throws a fastball that has an average velocity in the mid-80s), but the unique circumstances of this match up suggest that, even if the left-hander Maholm gives up some runs, he’ll be in command in Pittsburgh. The first is the Pirates' terrible performance against lefties: in four games against left-handed starters this year, the Pirates have hit a feeble .125 and have mustered just four extra base hits in 120 at bats. Another reason Maholm should perform well is PNC Park will not feel like a road start. The former Pirate will actually be making his 100th appearance at the ballpark and he has a very respectable 3.75 ERA there.
Finally, Pittsburgh starter James McDonald is a big cause for concern. While historically he’s pitched well at home, his decreased velocity so far in 2013 have some experts worrying that his 5.27 ERA is not an anomaly but a suggestion of things to come. If you’re looking for low-risk bet, this is the one: pick Atlanta at 1.65.
While I expect Maholm to keep rolling, I’m looking for another pitcher to change directions when the Chicago Cubs play the Milwaukee Brewers. Chicago starter Edwin Jackson is off to a bad start: in 16 1/3 innings pitched he has a 6.06 ERA. But if you look deeper into the statistics, his numbers actually tell a different story. An advanced statistic called FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) actually indicates he’s had bad luck in his two poor starts.
While the Brewers have turned a corner and are playing pretty well as of late, they’ve done so in part on the back of performances from players who are exceeding expectations. Most notably, Yuniesky Betancourt, who has been a key contributor, is swinging an unexpected hot bat and is unlikely to maintain his current form. Throw in the fact that Milwaukee plans to go with pitcher Hiram Burgos, who will have the pressure of his first Major League start, and backing the Cubs at 2.00 is the right choice.