Pittsburgh Pirates vs San Diego Padres
The Pittsburgh Pirates will keep pace in the National League Central race on Thursday when they prevail at home against the San Diego Padres.
I’ve been tough on Pirates’ starter Gerrit Cole this year. I wasn’t sure whether the first overall pick of the 2011 draft was ready for the big leagues (after all, fellow 2011 high-first-rounder Trevor Bauer has struggled in his big league opportunities so far).
The truth is Cole has settled into his job nicely and has given his club consistently good starts. In fact, he’s registered a quality start (six inning or more pitched; three earned runs or fewer allowed) in each of his past six outings.
What’s also notable is that the team is 3-0 in his past three appearances. In other words, as the pennant race has gotten hotter, he’s kept his cool all the more. One final point: In his only outing against the Padres, Cole when a solid six innings and allowed just two runs.
Padres pitcher Ian Kennedy has pitched reasonably well since being acquired by San Diego (3.86 ERA), but he’s stumbled in his past two road outings (10 1/3 innings; nine runs allowed). Even if Kennedy brings his “A” game to this one, the importance of the contest will push the Pirates to victory. Take Pittsburgh at 1.53.
Cleveland Indians vs Houston Astros
If you’re looking for a safer bet, personal and team motivations will easily drive the hometown Cleveland Indians past the Houston Astros.
Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez could possibly be a free agent (the team does hold an option on his contract). He is a professional who gives his all regularly, but knowing that each of his final starts could have an impact on his future undoubtedly will have him hunkering down all the more. In fact, Jimenez has been using the whole second half of the season to prove just how worthy he is. In ten starts since the All Star break, the pitcher owns a nifty 1.83 ERA.
Regardless, his fellow Indians also have a group motivation to triumph in this contest. They are right in the thick of the Wild Card race and know they must win at a healthy clip from here until the end of the season to enjoy October baseball. Home has been a great spot for the club, which has a 45-30 record when playing in Cleveland.
In contrast, the Astros are abysmal. They were the first club to reach 100 losses and, not surprisingly, have lost each of their past two series. Houston starter Dallas Keuchel is one of their better ones, but even he has a 5.17 ERA. If you want an easy option, take the Indians, who are on at only 1.36.
Back the Pirates to beat the Padres at 1.53
Back the Indians to beat the Astros at 1.36