Home run (Safest bet)
Pick the St. Louis Cardinals, on at 1.56, to win at home versus the Chicago Cubs.
This Sunday game is a pitching mismatch. A year ago, the Cubs’ Travis Wood was an All Star, but for most of this season he’s lost the plot. The left-hander is 8-11 with a 4.72 ERA in 2014. What’s particularly troubling for the purposes of this matchup is his road struggles. In fourteen away starts, he possesses a woeful 5.56 ERA.
On the other hand, Cardinals’ starter John Lackey has given St. Louis just what they’d hoped for when the club acquired him at the trading deadline at the end of July. The team has won four of his five starts and, beyond one terrible appearance right after the trade, he’s rattled off three consecutive quality starts (six innings or more pitched; three or fewer earned runs allowed).
Consider the fact that St. Louis has the third-best home record in the National League, and Chicago has the third-worst road record and the outcome of this game definitely points in one direction.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
In Seattle, expect the Mariners and the Washington Nationals to score fewer than 6.5 runs; take it at 1.95.
You’ve got good pitchers in an offence-adverse ballpark in this contest. The Nationals’ Tanner Roark has been excellent all season (12-8, 2.81 ERA). Moreover, he should have certain momentum is in his favour in this game. In his past two outings, Roark has delivered a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings of work. The Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma is having a near carbon copy campaign as Roark’s. Iwakuma is 12-6 with a 2.83 ERA. Despite a bad start last time out, the Japanese import has generally been strong lately. In his past five starts, Iwakuma owns a 1.99 ERA.
Of course, aiding both pitchers is the fact that this contest will occur at Safeco Field. Despite efforts to make the venue more hitter friendly, it ranks second-to-last in the Major Leagues (out of thirty teams) in run scoring, according to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors.
Now, the one fear here is that Washington does rank third in the National League in run production. But so much of that is about what Nats hitters do when their at home. When they go on the road it’s a different story. The team boast vastly different numbers at home (.269 batting average/.334 on base percentage/.399 slugging percentage) than when they’re the away team (.234/.304/.376).